The concept of field trips isn't new, but for students in the David Grutman Experience: The Class at Florida International University, an outing to a laboratory won't cut it.
Last evening, the 200 or so students taking local impresario David Grutman's class on entrepreneurship found themselves at LIV, his nightclub at the Fontainebleau, for a lesson in history, pop culture, and business acumen.
The nightclub was transformed into a postmodern classroom, with the students arranged at the club's famous booths and white folding chairs while Grutman took center stage at what he calls "the cluster," the area in front of the DJ booth where the nightclub owner places the A-listers who come to see and be seen.
Grutman was joined by Philip Goldfarb, president and chief operating officer for the Fontainebleau; and Jeffrey Soffer of Fontainebleau Development.
The three explained the intricacies of operating a megaresort that boasts 1,600 rooms and suites, multiple celebrity chef–driven restaurants, hundreds of employees, its own fishing boat, and one of the top-grossing nightclubs in the nation, according to Forbes.
The key to juggling it all? "It's the people who work here that make the Fontainebleau what it is," Goldfarb said. The FIU alum got a round of applause after noting that 128 FIU graduates are on the resort's payroll and encouraging the students to submit their resumés.
Then Grutman introduced his partner at Swan and Bar Bevy — Pharrell Williams — as 200 phones began to record the moment. Williams talked about the value of partnerships and how teaming up with the right person can strengthen your business model. "Some people are visionaries, and they need people to ground them. If you are not a visionary, stand next to someone with vision."
Williams then gave another piece of advice to the fledgling entrepreneurs: Go to Tokyo. He explained that if they wanted to succeed in the service industry, the best model they could find is in Tokyo. "Their service is based on humility," he said of businesses there.
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Before the class ended, Grutman had one more surprise up his sleeve. As the lights dimmed, the room transformed from a classroom back to a nightclub as DJ David Guetta manned the booth, joined by DJ Cedric Gervais.
In a phone call with New Times this morning, Grutman said he wanted to take his students to LIV so they could experience it. "A lot of kids don't get to be in this space. I think they were in awe of it." He admitted that even he's a little in awe of LIV, a place where the likes of Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland performed when it was known as La Ronde. "This is where the biggest performers of my parents' era performed," the 45-year-old said. "It's so cool that I'm putting the top performers of my generation here."
Ever the showman, Grutman strives to add a touch of flair to a typical lecture series. "I want to make learning fun. It doesn't have to be boring. I promise you, my students think twice about skipping my class."