Boca West’s new GM says job means you’re “always on stage”

12:00 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018 Business
Matthew Linderman is the general manager of Boca West Country Club. Photo courtesy Boca West.

To call Boca West a country club doesn’t quite do the organization justice. It’s a mammoth operation that boasts more than 6,000 residents and pulls in more than $50 million a year in revenue.

Matthew Linderman came to work for Boca West Country Club in 2005, and longtime General Manager Jay DiPietro groomed Linderman as his replacement. In 2017, DiPietro retired and Linderman took over as the club’s first new GM in more than three decades.

Hometown: I grew up on Long Island. Now I live in Boynton Beach.

How your business has changed: The club business used to revolve around golf as the dominant force. Today it is more about the social experience — which for us is still very much golf with the addition of fun tournaments and events like Super Bowl tailgate, March Madness golf events and twi-night golf with a happy hour. In addition, we’ve jazzed up tennis and pickleball with social events planned around both.

We are constantly looking for fun ways to drive the social experience. We recently partnered with Lynn University and Florida Atlantic University to create an educational series for our members. Now those who have attended classes at local universities no longer have to leave their club to do so.

Healthy living seems to be the buzzword lately, but, in many ways, we have been ahead of that curve. Ten years ago, we built a state-of-the-art fitness center offering the latest and greatest classes and a fabulous spa with healthy cuisine lunch options. Today, we are preparing to introduce a new program in partnership with Boca Raton Regional Hospital for our members. The hospital will assist us with our wellness lectures and help our members with scheduling services at BRRH.

First job: When I was 12, I started my own landscaping business taking our family lawn mower around the neighborhood trying to make money. I would look around for anything I could do to earn some money. I lost my father when I was 11. It was difficult, but my family pulled through it. I eventually got my first hospitality job as a busboy at a country club on Long Island when I was 15. I did everything and anything I could to learn. I realized early on that this business was for me.

First big break in your career: When I was 20, I had the opportunity to work at the Rainbow Room in New York City and Rockefeller Center. It was my first exposure working in a five-star environment. Nearly 10 years later, I was asked to be the director of food and beverage at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, D.C. I was the youngest director with Four Seasons worldwide. This property exposed me to many incredible mentors and colleagues that I still call friends today. Managing at that high level of service to political figures and affluent customers from around the globe was an experience I will never forget.

Best business book you’ve read: John Maxwell and his collection of short reads. One in particular is Today Matters, which covers topics such as stretching your creativity and thinking to generate constant new ideas, and to reinforce staying the course on your promises and commitments. Another author I have truly enjoyed is Simon Sinek, whose books address the “inspired leader” concept.

Biggest challenge you face: Being one of the most renowned clubs in the country, it comes with challenges every day. I often refer to my past hotel experience where receiving the fifth star is a very difficult task, but maintaining it is much more difficult. However, a residential private country club where members live may be more challenging. We are always on stage and must always look for ways to raise the bar without missing a beat.

Biggest mistake you have made in business: I don’t think I could put a finger on the biggest mistake, but I can certainly say I have made many in my career. Something I teach our team is to remember we are not computers. This is a human business and we will make mistakes. What sets us apart from other clubs and properties is how we recover.

Most important trait you look for when hiring: A smile with sincere empathy. We are here to show care and concern for the members of this club. We can teach anyone who wants to be trained in this business but we cannot teach personality. In our new employee orientations, I make it very clear that we are now in a partnership that works both ways. We will invest the time and energy in their training in return for their carrying out what they have learned. I love employees who always stay busy looking for ways to help us improve on what we do each day. If I were to look for a third trait it would be active listening. Truly listening to members or co-workers is more difficult than one thinks.

What you see ahead for Palm Beach County: I believe the county will continue to grow and thrive. This is an exciting time for Boca Raton and Palm Beach County as a whole. The area is known throughout the world as a destination for golf, tennis, shopping and dining, as well as luxury real estate. I think the growth we are seeing in Boca with the recent hotels that have or plan to open cover vast price points, from the Hyatt Place to the Mandarin Oriental.

Where you are when you’re not working: Enjoying family time with my three dream girls. I am blessed to have a beautiful, special wife of almost 20 years and two teenage girls. I love soaking up everything family, whether watching them play volleyball, cheerleading or snuggled in front of the television for a movie marathon. I love just watching them smile — catching their smiles is challenging with the long hours we keep in the hospitality and club business.