“I’m lucky at finding great people and great mentors,” says a beaming David Sigman. “And now I have to pass it on to other future professionals.”
For the past three seasons, David has been general manager of the Santa Barbara Polo Club. I’ve known David since 2006, through most of his transformative permutations in Santa Barbara. There’s literally a spring to his step as he sits down to chat with me in the club’s lounge, a cozy room with wood paneling and photographs of winning polo teams.
David’s sunny demeanor is in part because the club is coming off a record-breaking opening day in April. “Polo is getting more and more popular,” he says, explaining that the season runs from April to October, with an exclamation point on September 8, when they host the S.B. Polo and Wine Festival.
Born in Los Angeles, David went to Cal Poly in 1998 to study psychology and then moved to Santa Barbara to pursue a Master’s at Antioch. “I realized I love group dynamics instead of therapy,” he admits. So he changed his focus to organizational management, which he calls “the best thing I’ve ever done.” He planned to return to L.A. after graduating, but he fell in love with his wife, Jayne. He also fell in love with the community of Santa Barbara.
While in grad school, David got a job at bouchon in 2005. “I love the one-on-one connection with the guest,” he explains. “That’s what inspires me about hospitality, and the polo club brings me back to that direct connection.”
In 2008, he went to work at Bacara as their meetings and events manager, and the next year helped reopen the Wine Cask. In 2011, he went back to Bacara as the director of catering. In 2012, El Encanto recruited his as their catering director, and then he went back to Bacara in 2015 to do sales. The polo club job came soon after.
David exalts the mentorship of two key people: Mitchell Sjerven (of bouchon and Wine Cask) and Kathleen Cochran, former manager of Bacara. “Mitchell taught everything about customer service,” says David. “Kathleen Cochran taught me how to be a leader. She took my strengths and made me stronger.”
He instills those lessons into his current team. “Your smile is your most successful tool,” says David, who reminds his employees about the importance of the “bookend” impressions, that first and last time you interact.
David Sigman answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your motto?
Fake it until you make it! All day every day. I’m convinced that you can change your day by forcing a smile. Working in hospitality demands this out of you.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Carl Jung. I studied psychology in both my undergraduate and graduate degrees and was inspired by Carl Jung. He was brilliant in how he looked at the world and how we dealt with it. “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become”.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I’m all about the fine dining experience and luxury travel. I can’t wait to check into a beautiful hotel and explore the property.
What is your most marked characteristic?
My goofy walk. I have one foot that points out right and the other straight. It’s my signature waddle and you can see me coming from miles away.
What do you like most about your job?
My team! I’m so fortunate to have an incredible team of professionals I get to surround myself with. I get so much satisfaction leading young professionals and watching them grow into powerful managers.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Snuggling on the couch with my wife and son watching Paw Patrol with a bowl of Cheese Puffs.
What is your greatest fear?
Not meeting or exceeding budgets and goals. In my personal life, my greatest fear is driving on the 405 at night.
Who do you most admire?
My amazing wife, Jayne Sigman. She is my inspiration, my rock, and best friend. I admire her love of life, patience, resiliency, and sense of humor.
What is your current state of mind?
What is the quality you most like in people?
Being able to laugh with me and at me! Have a freakin’ sense of humor and see the good in people even when they do not see it in others.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
I tend to try and find the good in all people. Sometimes you have dig deep to find it. The quality I most dislike in people is exaggerators and liars.
What do you most value in friends?
Consistency, loyalty, and trustworthiness. I’ve been blessed to have this amazing community of great friends.
Which words of phrases do you most overuse?
“I have an idea.” I use this all the time and I’m pretty sure my team cringes just a little bit inside every time.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I want to be able to play tennis. I just started and I love it but I’m absolutely horrible.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I could talk as fast as I think. I will get tongue tied, always at the wrong time. I also wish I could type as fast as I could talk.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being a husband to Jayne and a father to Lincoln. By far my greatest achievement. Everything else I’ve achieved in my life is a distant second.
Where would you most like to live?
On a corner on the Westside. I love where we live and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.
What is your most treasured possession?
My Velvet Elvis that hangs in my office. I’ve had it for 20-plus years and it has hung in every office I’ve ever been. The King is my good luck charm!
Who makes you laugh the most?
The Uncle. My uncle can you make you laugh with just a glare.
On what occasion do you lie?
Please don’t tell my wife, but every time I go to Whole Foods. I tell her I’m stopping to get eggs or whatever when I’m really just going to the bar and having a beer. Sorry babes.