Every once in awhile I get someone who, because of their position in world of business or society, wrangles with me on the worthiness of golf being used for anything other than a frilly game. Admittedly, golf can be whatever a person wants it to be, however, many of these top level misinformed business people take an adversarial attitude against golf. It generally only takes asking them two questions to find their attitude is based on something other than fact.
Statistically, six out of ten business executives today play golf regularly. That number has grown in the past five years and according to the studies I have done within the past three years shows golf being played by seven out of ten business people.
So, there is usually three or four people out of ten people I speak with who take a rather dim view of golf as being much more than a incredible waste of time. Unfortunately, these people hold a position of control in their company and their attitude towards golf suppresses a huge group of men and women who do play golf avidly and work for them or are customers of their business.
Generally, the anti-golf executives I meet will hammer golf’s image in business based on what they have read or heard about recently on a Fortune 100 company’s abuse of their business’ funds by taking congressmen out for expensive rounds of golf. True, there are those over zealous corporate executives who take pleasure in spending stockholders funds on expensive golf excursions. These few incidents makes my job a challenge. However, on the most part, these occurrences represent a microscopic percentage of how golf is really used in business.
Many business people I talk to see golf as not being something they interested in using for developing business, but when I drill down to find out what they do use for their clients’, employees’ and vendors’ gatherings I find they will spend thousands of the company’s funds on other activities that take up the same amount of time as a round of business golf and receive less of a return on developing business.
During a recent gathering I was invited to attend, I spent a hour of my time visiting with a gentleman who was quiet giddy about inviting his clients to his quarterly afternoon brunch and two hour lecture on bird watching. Another executive I visited with uses yachting for his client appreciation gathering. Of course, with the crowd I some times run in, there are the few who host a night at the Opera for their business’ gatherings. And, OH, yes, living here in Dallas, there is no getting around running into those executives who want spend the time or money on golf but will quickly fork over millions on a suite at the new Dallas Cowboy Football stadium or Mavericks American Airline Center.
What I find interesting is the customer participation or interest levels towards those activities these business people sponsor. When I ask them..
Out of all of the customers you invite to your customer appreciation or business gathering function, what is the acceptance or attendance level from the total number invited?
Here is where the conversation I have with these business people sometimes turns to them clinching their jaw. It seems, on average from the people I have visited with over the past three years, their non-golf activities have about a 30% to 40% attending from the total number invited. When I point out that the golf functions, golf tournaments, or one-one golf outings, I have have been involved with over the past 15 years have a 75% to 80% attendance factor the conversation changes to a…”Oh, Really?” moment.
Granted, I have not set up a controlled test to see out of the same list of invitees who prefers golf over bird watching, but I can extrapolate from my experience of being invited to both of these type of functions which I would prefer, and I am in the 60% of business people who play golf. I would say that would make golf better than a 60% bet for increased attendance.
Of course there have been the few executive who quickly caught on to where I was going with my questioning and politely excused themselves to go freshen up their Shirley Temple to keep from them having to admit that their activities usually are driven by their personal interests. Again, I concede to the fact that my use of golf as a business tool is based on my personal interest. However, my interest in business golf is back up with several years of using other activities to create a good opportunity to get to know who it is I am working for or doing business with.
What Works and Doesn’t
I have used everything from Bass Tournaments to Cooking Schools as activities to gathering people together in an attempt to get to know them better or as a business development activity. I can factually confirm none of them worked as well and is as complete in finding out the real person you are dealing with in business, than playing a round of golf with them. I will not argue the fact that personal interest is what floats many people’s boat and drives what activities are used in a business. I encourage business people to use what ever activity that interests them to bring their customers, employees and vendors together. In today’s economy I highly recommend every business consider doing something to gather their stakeholders in their business together to get to know them better.
I also recommend every business look for ways to find out who the person is they are doing business with. Trust is going to be a huge factor going forward in today’s business world and trust is a two way street in business. If you trust the person who comes to your bird watching just for the drinks, then go for it.
Don’t wave off things you do not understand as being worthless or trivial. Business people need to take their blinders off and start looking around for things to use to build business while keeping the business they have spent years building. To survive in the economy that is developing today businesses of all sizes, in all industries, need to get back to the basics of doing business. Get to know who it is you are doing business with and you will discover their needs and wants. Once you have that valuable information doing business with them should be that much easier to do.
Don’t discount the value of golf because you do not understand golf or have a misperception of what golf really is about. Golf is more than a game or a sport, it is a tool to use to get to a person’s true self and this cannot be experienced or understood by watching golf being played or listening to someone else who does not understand golf describe it. Try golf out either by learning to play or hiring someone to produce a business golf outing for you.
Learn how to play Business Golf then determine if it works for you or not. Either way, after learning what golf is about I am certain you will then understand why so many business people are playing golf. Golf is good for business and is one of the best investments a business can make towards developing new business and keeping the business you have.
Let me know how I can help