March 8, 2016

I was pretty close to full out crying the other day…

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That’s Dave Luz, welcoming our first customer to CloverDTX, the first restaurant that Dave was completely responsible for opening.

The other day Dave told me he was leaving Clover. I can’t think of many things in my life that have caused me so much shock. I mean shocked to the point where I almost didn’t believe this could be true. I spent the next 4 days trying to understand what was happening, and trying unsuccessfully to convince Dave that he was making a terrible choice. I failed. He’s leaving.

Dave started at Clover just over a year ago, end of January 2015. He was our first Operations leader. Before Dave all of the restaurant managers reported directly to me. Yeah. Really. Can you believe how crazy that was? Dave came to us from The Cheesecake Factory. That’s where he’s returning. To the same job he left. He misses Cheesecake and wants to go back. We didn’t get in a fight. He doesn’t hate Clover. He just misses Cheesecake and wants to go back. It took me hours of asking the same question many different ways before I’ve come to accept that. But honestly, it’s still a bit hard to believe.

We’re on a tear at Clover right now. We’re up 100% vs. last year. That’s crazy. The company to date this year is the same as 2 of the companies we ran last year. And we’ve just gotten started with opening new restaurants. We have an amazing pipeline, and even more amazing managers to run the restaurants. It’s just a really exciting and potent time to be at Clover. That combined with all the wonderful people we work with and support, combined with the incredible good we’re doing to build local food systems and attack global warming, it’s a really vibrant time to be at Clover. Which is part of why I was so shocked.

But in addition to surprise there is sadness. Yeah, that heading is honest. I didn’t quite cry, but I did come close a few times, that spot where your eye lids are damming up water keeping it from spilling out.

And if I’m going to be totally honest, there’s some anger. But not a lot. I’m not a super angry sort of person. More than anger the feeling of being let down. There are few people in my life I trusted as deeply as I trusted Dave. It’s not a small thing for me to deal with. And I still feel he belongs here. I feel like I failed him and I failed Clover more broadly as a leader.

So it’s from this perspective that I went around last week talking to stakeholders. First to my board, who are amazing and helped me a ton. Then to leaders in our company in 1 on 1s, then to managers in 1 on 1s (actually 2 on 1s, Rob Christensen, an Area Manager at Clover, joined me for those). Then to investors last night.

In general I found that this just wasn’t as big a deal for others as it was for me. Which is a relief to some extent. Most people asked how this would impact there job, the answer was “none,” and people said “that’s too bad Dave’s leaving” and the conversations were over. I don’t know what I wanted. But it felt a little unsatisfying. While at the same time being a relief.

So what happens now? Dave will be around for a period to help with the transition. We now have an open hire for a senior operations manager. Rob Christensen, who is an Area Manager (meaning he managers restaurant managers) will take an interim role of leading our operations. Michael Minichello, Area Manager, just started here at Clover but has incredible and deep experience running Tavern on the Square prior to Clover and will be an important part of leading us forward. And Vincenzo Pileggi, Clover employee #5 has recently taken on the role of Director of Mobile Operations and will lead our trucks. Finally, Peter Bona who runs our logistics, will continue in that role.

So we’re in great shape, if a bit sad. And if you’re a Clover employee and want to talk about this my door is open.

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