FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Rod Thomas
August 20, 2013
He sums up his longevity in the job, and his success: “I’m always selling. I’m an old bartender. I like talking to people. And I’m blatantly honest … not always a good thing. The directors delegate and then stay out of my hair, they delegate – they let me run the club.”
From working in Banff – pumping gas at Lake Louise, bar business, King Eddie – then Caribou Hotel in Vancouver, with lots of other bar-entertainment industry detours along the way, Rod explains how he got back to Calgary: “I got a call from Jim Sherwood who was the general manager in 1982. I interviewed unsuccessfully for an assistant manager job. Four years later I was successful. I was promoted to General Manager in 1989. That was the same year membership in the club was opened up to women.”
Networking happens at 10 to 12 every day, as people meet for lunch in the lobby of Calgary’s august centre-ice gathering place – the Calgary Petroleum Club where veteran (he’s been there 25 years) General Manager Rod Thomas credits his longevity to - “I have people skills but I’m math impaired. I’m possibly dyslexic – but I memorized my gazinta tables in school. I have a great sense of humour and I’m smart enough to surround myself with brilliant people. I have a detail focused Assistant General Manager, Ted Clouthier who takes care of all those detail things I’m not good at. We have a lot of long term employees – one for 41 years. Our kitchen is fantastic, led by Executive Chef Liana Robberecht who has been with us 15 years.
His background is the beverage and entertainment side of the industry, it seems he’s become quite a foodie – because when he and his wife go on holidays with friends, he packs his knives. Rod Thomas, 1956 vintage from Killarney (not Ireland, the Calgary neighbourhood) - #3 of 4 boys. His mom was a stay-at-home type, his dad (the late Cy Thomas played in the NHL 47-48). Rod says the hockey gene, being divided 4 ways, didn’t take.
I asked Rod what qualities distinguish preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… people who deliver. I’m not impressed with promoters who use incentives, who give stuff away …
I asked what distinguishes him, why his customers/employers have best describes why they’ve chosen him?
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
. . . not much. What I’m cooking on Friday night.
What about this Friday?
. . . fresh pasta stuffed with Gorgonzola and squash
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or was a major turning point?
…. my dad, meeting my wife Marilyn when we were both working at Bumpers in Banff, when our son (we have two sons – a musician and a film maker) left for film school in Montreal at 18
I asked Rod how he sees business from the P-Club perspective over the next 90 days?
… competition is fierce – so many places competing for their business. Our membership is solid. We are untouched by physical damage during the flood – but business took a hit because our members couldn’t get downtown because downtown was closed and the Mayor was telling them to stay home! We have business interruption insurance.
Over the next 5 years?
… we are a meeting and banquet facility club. We aren’t an old boys club. There is no glass ceiling here. We need to work hard – to continue to focus on meeting the needs of our members, the newer and younger ones in particular.
Work life balance?
… golf membership at River Spirit, entertaining at home, gardening, wine area traveling with friends, shopping for pasta flour at Lina’s. I’ve really enjoyed my terms as National President of Canadian Society of Club Managers .
What are you reading?
… fiction mostly – David Baldacci, Jeffery Deaver. Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson.
… I lease something new every 4 years. Right now I have a 2012 Honda Pilot.