Volume 4, Issue 12 – December 2014
Happy Holidays to all Crazy Town Citizens –
It has been an eventful and challenging year in the golf business. If you’re like most industry people I’ve spoken with, you’re looking forward to turning the page into 2015 and seeing 2014 in your rear-view mirror. By the way, that’s not true for everyone – we work with many businesses that had highly successful years. Regardless, there always seems to be a charge of optimism as we gear up, literally, for the PGA Merchandise Show in January (golf business people are “glass half full” kind of people) and I embrace the positivity.
In any sport or business, engaged folks are always looking for the next big thing, right? A massively talented up-and-coming phenom is typically hyped as “the new Jack, the heir to Gretzky or the next Jordan.” Most clear heads understand that these icons are one-of-a-kind individuals and that whatever the “next” anything is… it won’t be a direct replacement. This variety of hyperbole has a habit of setting folks up for disappointment.
I’ve recently taken notice of articles that suggest alternatives to golf as the ultimate sport for business. An article published just last week (http://www.aol.com/article/2014/12/03/the-golfer-s-substitute-exploring-what-might-replace-the-tradit/21001219/) explored a number of other choices. Poker, cycling and fishing were among the suggestions of business-wise options. The most curious thing about that article (which didn’t completely write-off golf as the champion of biz sports), is that it was written by a college Junior! Now, Northwestern is a fantastic university, but does it really make sense for an article about corporate relationship building to be written by somebody who’s still in school?
In 2013 and 2014, articles started popping up about cycling as the next big thing replacing golf for productive out-of-office business. It should come as no surprise that the folks promoting the power of the peloton were in the cycling business… and those in the media appeared happy to promote this “emerging trend” since it furthers their negative agenda on golf.
I have absolutely nothing against cycling or any other activity that people are passionate about. In fact, I’m just a huge fan of people who are passionate about anything that brings them great personal satisfaction. However, much like those singular athletes that inspire us cannot be supplanted, I do believe that golf is quite secure as the ideal sport for business people interested in getting a sense for each other.
Golf is the ultimate relationship and deal-making sport for several reasons, including the invaluable four-plus hours together (not counting the 19thhole time), the mutual enjoyment of a beautiful outdoor environment and the general camaraderie that the game inspires. However, the ultimate argument for golf is the window into the character and psyche of the player that any round provides. Perhaps surprisingly, this most meaningful truth about golf is one that the suggestors of its replacement either choose to ignore…or more likely, simply don’t understand. The mayor’s argument goes something like this…
Senior executives, especially business owners and C-level people on top of the pyramid, must be (or appear to be) decisive, secure, confident and rarely expose any cracks in their armor while in a professional setting. In fact, most big bosses go to great lengths to avoid even the possibility that they could be vulnerable, or heaven forbid, embarrassed… in the presence of associates, partners, vendors or anyone they do business with. Golf presents a rare situation, indeed.
A round of golf is a virtual guarantee of foolish looking moments, sub-standard performance and if I’m being really dramatic… utter humiliation. There may be no other scenario where a business leader would voluntarily allow themselves to be so vulnerable. And when leaders inevitably flip a divot over their ball, chunk a chip or shank one miserably into the woods, then we all get to see how they handle such adversity. It’s an absolutely unique and brilliant opportunity to get into the head of somebody you do business with… or prospectively so.
Do they whine? Do they make excuses? Do they cheat (OMG)? How seriously do they take themselves? Do they show genuine humility… or expose a raging temper? As an admitted arm-chair psychologist, golf is a goldmine.
As the sport for business, golf simply has no substitute. Cheers to a great 2015 and I wish you many wonderful moments with family and friends… on and off the course.
Happy Holidays from the HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)