My new job: Stuart Finlay

We talk to GCMA members who have recently changed jobs to learn about their new role, and to share advice on successfully navigating the recruitment process. This week, we feature Prestbury’s new general manager Stuart Finlay.

What’s your new role?

I have recently joined Prestbury as the club’s general manager.

What does it involve?

Similar to my previous job at Radyr, my role is to lead the day to day operations of the club by working with the team at Prestbury Golf Club. The club was established in 1920 and is situated in the beautiful Cheshire countryside just 15 miles south of Manchester on the outskirts of Macclesfield. The course is highly regarded and boasts a Harry Colt designed course ranked by Golf World and National Club Golfer as one of the Top 100 in England. The course has also undergone a significant bunker refurbishment which is hugely exciting for the future of the club.

How did you find out about it?

The recruitment of the position was carried out in conjunction with Kevin Fish and Contemporary Club Leadership.

How are you finding it so far?

Excellent. The staff and members have been very welcoming which is what I was expecting following discussion with the previous General Manager and members of the board. As with all new jobs there is a huge amount to learn with regards to processes but also cultural differences between this club and my previous club in South Wales. My focus has been to get to know the staff and members, understand the club and try to identify the priorities for the coming weeks, months and years.

What’s the best thing about it?

Prestbury has a fantastic group of staff that are clearly very driven and motivated to progressing the club in partnership with the board of directors. The course is set in a stunning part of the country and the recent work on the course will undoubtedly improve the course playability and add to its already growing reputation. From a personal perspective Manchester and the surrounding area is a fantastic place to live for my family and I who are all settling well to the area.

What are the club’s goals for the next year?

The club are clearly ambitious given the investment in the course. The key aim at the moment is to provide the club with a period of consolidation whilst the changes to the course ‘bed in’ but as we come in to the main playing part of the season we have a members competitions to deliver along with  busy open calendar. The focus is on improving the level of service and enhancing the experience of both members and guests that visit the club which has already been discussed within the management team. 

Describe the application process stage by stage?

The application process as mentioned was delivered by Kevin Fish at CCL. The initial stage was a covering letter and CV which was submitted to Kevin. Candidates were then asked to complete an application form which covered key areas such as ‘Leading the Team’, ‘The member experience’, club governance and then a summary of why you felt you were the best person for the role. Kevin also asked candidates to complete a Lumina Spark which is a psychological evaluation. I really enjoyed listening to the results of this as I had been through the process before and it showed me how I had developed my hard and soft skills as I have progressed in my club management career. The last stage was an interview with the board of the club which was facilitated by CCL. This was an enjoyable process which I would highly recommend to other clubs.

Which people did you deal with through the process? 

The main people that I dealt with were the chair of the board and I also took the time to meet with the existing general manager but also play the course. This gave me an insight in to the club both from a playing and management perspective.

What have you learned from the process that would help fellow members? 

First and foremost be yourself in the interview process. I think many people when put in a stressful environment such as an interview try to conform to what the club think they are looking for. I was very clear about my strengths and weaknesses but that ultimately the strength lied within the team you have in place. Preparation is key. This can come in a number of ways such as meeting with club officials, playing the course, speaking to other managers with experience of interviews and doing online research of the club. 

What was the hardest question you were asked? 

I have to say that the interview process at Prestbury was challenging but also very enjoyable. During the interview process I was outlining some of the experiences I have had in previous roles and the interviewer asked ‘So would you see this as Stuart Finlay’s club?’. This was a question I was not expecting but was quick to outline that the GM’s role was to act of behalf of the membership as well as provide leadership to the senior management team. It was one of those moments that could certainly have turned out differently but this resulted in further questions about my leadership style and management approach which allowed me to further show my experience.

What do you think set you apart for the job – as in what skills/experience were they looking for? 

I think my experience at Radyr Golf Club was important and I was able to provide the interview panel with real life examples leading from the questions I was asked. I have being involved in a number of interviews both as the interviewer and interviewee. My advice to anyone with an interview coming up would be to prepare examples that you have experienced to answer questions. Panel’s are not looking for a text book answer but more around how you have dealt with situations in the past.  I was able to provide examples of how I have led previous teams and creating a cohesive team environment which I knew from my research was important to the club. I was also very clear about the further education I had taken via the Club Manager’s Association of Europe both in the UK and abroad. This allowed me to show the interview panel that I was always looking at increasing my knowledge that would be of use in the management of a private members club.

Do you have any other tips on getting a new job? 

  • Be yourself
  • Do your research
  • Relax (If you can) and remember they are hiring you, so it’s a great chance to showcase your skills, experiences and personality!
  • Be interested – Ask questions at the end of your interview which makes them think and remember you.

By GCMA Content Team

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