As we enter the New Year, it is an ideal time to reflect on not only our personal resolutions but our professional goals. Evaluating and establishing both long- and short-term goals is an essential step. It’s even more important to develop a personal blueprint for how you will reach these benchmarks. Committing to this exercise helped shape my career in many ways, from my start working every imaginable job on a golf course to my seat today in the corner office as the CEO of Cleveland Metroparks. Having been selected as only the sixth person to lead the agency in its 100 years, I knew I had very big shoes to fill. My life’s journey, work experience, and commitment to setting and achieving personal goals positioned me well to compete for this highly-coveted job. There are four key elements I credit with helping me achieve my goals, bringing me to where I am at today.


It is easy today to take your education for granted, but I have not. I worked five jobs during the time I was a full-time student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Balancing my workload, classes and a social life forced me to hone my time management skills. I worked hard to finish my degree, work and graduate with no outstanding student loans. I can attest that without my four-year degree, I would not be fit to serve in my current role. Don’t let this be a barrier in opening doors that otherwise will remain shut.

“I make it my daily mission to get out and make sure my staff sees me in action.”


How do you look at your life? Is the glass half full or half empty? I don’t look at the glass as either. If the glass is half empty, the job at hand is to fill it up and motivate others to move in the same direction. If the glass is half full, you have a strong foundation on which to build up upon. As the CEO, it is my job to set the tenor and tone of the agency. I make it my daily mission to get out and make sure my staff sees me in action.


Culture is critical and something I strongly believe in. I manage 950 full-time equivalent employees. I have worked hard at defining the vision, mission and strategic goals for the next 10 years. This also sets the expectations for our staff. Going through a week of onboarding gives our new hires every available tool to be successful. Our employees believe in what we do, how we do it and how we are willing to go the extra mile, every time.


Be the one with fire in your belly. I have never been the person who said no to an opportunity. Along the way, I have taken on unfamiliar roles and looked at each new challenge as an opportunity and owned it. I’ve done what I felt I needed to do to make progress toward my goals and set myself apart from the competition. Having the drive to see things through and take pride in an honest day of work are qualities inherent to successful superintendents. I love what I get to do every day and the foundation that was built through many long days weed-whipping, greens mowing and fly mowing make me appreciate where I am today.

I can say with certainty that reflecting annually on my long- and short-term goals was critical to my professional development. Professionals in the golf course industry are well positioned for success because of the work ethic and dedication required to do the job. As we begin a New Year, reflect on where you are and where you want to go. Ask yourself what are you doing to develop yourself professionally and how you will look at the next challenge in front of you?

Brian Zimmerman is the CEO of Cleveland Metroparks and former director of golf for the Milwaukee County Parks system.