(Note: This story appears in the May 2021 issue of ED Magazine)
From restroom attendant to GM of Diamond Dolls — with a Buffalo Wild Wings stop in between — Sam Ramos knows the guest may not always be right, but “always deserves to win.”
Achance phone call from a friend in 2005 led Diamond Dolls General Manager Sam Ramos to make a dramatic change in his career path. At the time, Ramos was a full-time engineering student, working nights as office manager for a low wage at Rooms-To-Go and just scraping by.
His friend, Murray Zal, who then was Penthouse Club Tampa’s GM, called to offer Ramos a restroom attendant position at the club, explaining that the job wasn’t prestigious but far more lucrative than Rooms-To-Go. Ramos accepted the offer and earned his bi-weekly Rooms-To-Go paycheck on his first night, slinging towels, soap, and cologne. Soon after, he started his own restroom valet business, serving seven to eight clubs.
Ramos parlayed earnings from the valet business to buy into two sports bars with Zal, which they owned for a few years. Ramos subsequently managed corporate and individually owned sports bars, including Buffalo Wild Wings, before Zal asked him to take the reins at Diamond Dolls.
ED’s Legal Correspondent Larry Kaplan caught up with Ramos, who discussed his role as the MacGyver of the club.
ED: Diamond Dolls is your first GM position. How much autonomy do you have compared to earlier employers?
RAMOS: Jim (Dato), Murray, and Joanne (Neat) are great to work with. The most significant difference is that my superiors are allowing me to do my job. At Buffalo Wild Wings, there was considerable micromanagement, four to five different chiefs calling, wanting things done. With Jim and Murray, there is a chain of command, and it’s followed. Jim doesn’t overstep Murray with us; we don’t reach past Murray to Jim.
I get to know all of my people personally, asking about their kids, how things are going. Then they realize you care about something other than just making money. And it doesn’t cost the company a dime for you to care. — Sam Ramos
ED: Can you give me an example of something you’ve incorporated in your current position from your time in corporate America?
RAMOS: At B-Dubs, there was a lot more accountability to the management staff from higher-ups; district managers, regional managers, VPs. In our industry, it is often not there. The people just aren’t looked after. I’ve visited clubs where managers and staff are just mean to each other. We’re throwing a party 15 hours a day; there’s no room for negativity.
Although we know, at best, 10-20% of the entertainers we start will stick, I go over the rules, safety, the guests, the money, and how I run my club with every entertainer. If you lay the foundation for everyone, when they start, you increase the likelihood of getting everyone on the same page.
Motivating your people is critical. Pat, one of the owners at B-Dubs, had on his business card, “GM, General Motivator.” He said his job and my job when I managed there was to motivate the rest of the staff to do their jobs to the best of their ability, and that’s how we’d be successful.
I get to know all of my people personally, asking about their kids, how things are going. Then they realize you care about something other than just making money. And it doesn’t cost the company a dime for you to care.
ED: What is one aspect of your job that is an unexpected reality?
RAMOS: The exposure to things you see and hear in our industry is unlike anywhere elsewhere. When I took this job, I didn’t expect so much dysfunction in our world that comes together in one building yet actually works out quite well.
Also, you must be quick at problem-solving. Unlike the corporate world, there’s no SOP manual, book, or website to go to for how to handle every situation. There’s nothing cookie-cutter about what we do. You have to be the MacGyver of the strip club.
ED: If you had other club GMs in a room and could share some advice, what would you like to tell them?
RAMOS: I don’t believe the whole “the guest is always right.” But I do believe the guest always deserves to win. Also, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
Larry Kaplan has for 20 years been the Legal Correspondent for ED Publications. Mr. Kaplan is a business broker in the sale and purchase of adult nightclubs and adult retail stores and the Executive Director of the ACE of Michigan adult nightclub state trade association. Contact Larry Kaplan at 313-815-3311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.