Where The Money is
By Benoit Gateau-Cumin
Monday, 22nd February 2021

Hotel and recruitment insights at 4Hoteliers.comFor so many years, hoteliers who made the decision to switch to club management were looked down upon by their 'true hospitality' colleagues.

After all, running a club used to be tantamount to regulating a flock of entitled folks proud to belong where their money would isolate them from the riffraff. A place where they could insist on keeping the Reuben on the menu and restrict access to a number of minorities including invented ones.

In so many words, running a private club was something a hotelier would do only if the job market was tight, the corporate world less hospitable, and there was willingness to go thru the often humiliating process of interview with an often not-so-politically-correct Board of Directors.

See, a club, especially one owned by its members, can abide by its own internal rules. Its Managing Director/COO has to sign a number of DND’s as when working for an individual celebrity in the rarefied world of Holmby Hills or Telluride.

Wanna change the rules on feeding birds on the golf course? Gotta deal with an ad hoc committee of members formed for that purpose. Wanna decide if construction should be interrupted during Jewish or Christian holidays? Need to set up another ad hoc committee to “work” on that decision. Should we create a “Junior Membership” at a discounted price in order to keep the demographics where they ought to be?

Can’t do it without a vote of the members, once an ad hoc committee has made its recommendations. A policy on gophers and squirrels (Caddyshack, anyone?) another committee will have to mull the issue over.

Discouraged yet?

Well, do not be. Whereas the General Manager of an above average hotel (say a 300-room flagged Just-Under-Four-Star property with one restaurant and substantial banquet facilities) will earn a base salary of $160K to $220K, the MD/COO of a private City or Country Club will earn between $350K and $500K. Whereas the GM of the 300-room hotel will be working no less than 60 hours week, the club MD will get away with 45 hours some of the time.

True, the finest private clubs do not hire from outside the world of hospitality. However, there is a lot one has to unlearn from making the switch from luxury hotel management to private club management: many luxury hotel groups pride themselves in operating restaurants that attract more Michelin stars than customers. No such things in a club: better be ready for that Sunday night Prime Rib tradition, and do not even think of serving it anything less than well-done. You don’t like a children’s menu? Sorry again.

When you run a traditional luxury hotel, you basically report to one sole individual, probably a Regional VP. The MD of a Private Club reports to an ever changing Board of Directors, that gets input from as many as hundreds of others. And that goes all the way to the brands featured in the bar: member so and so likes his Lagavulin 16-year-old single malt. Whereas his best buddy can only drink the Macallan Double Cask 15 years old.

In addition to very juicy compensation packages, Equity Clubs MD/COO also get immense stability: individuals who understands the “name of the game” can spend an entire career in the same location, whereas the “hotel guy” will have to expect to move every 3 years or so.

Where do I sign up?

Benoit Gateau-Cumin - Chief Recruiting Officer. Born and raised in France, Benoit managed to scoop up a French law degree prior to studying Hotel Administration at Cornell University. Upon graduation in 1975, he engaged in an eleven-year hotel management career that took him to Chicago, New York, Washington DC, San Diego, Istanbul, Jamaica and Hawaii. He held positions with Omni, Hyatt, Hilton International, ITT Sheraton and Méridien, as well as Honolulu’s unique Halekulani, consistently rated as one of the world’s best.

Benoit was bit by the “headhunting” bug in 1986, and has not relented yet. He founded The Boutique Search Firm in February 1992. His motto: small is beautiful. Benoit loves to mountain bike, take long walks with his wife Susana and their two dogs, and tinker with his budding collection of classic English sports cars.

benoit@boutiquesearchfirm.com / www.boutiquesearchfirm.com

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