Golf and Business--A lot Alike...

“Golf and Business- A Lot Alike…”
“Marketing” Magazine September, 2003

By David Elaimy

I’m a golf teacher. I help individuals strengthen all aspects of their golf game. And in the past seven years, I’ve begun to help corporations use golf as a way to strengthen business performance. It has been an exciting, evolutionary and very satisfying experience.

Think about it. Golf and business are a lot alike. Your success in both is determined by your approach –your thoughts, your emotions and your actions. Enhance your approach to golf and you’ll experience breakthroughs in your performance. Change your approach to business in the same way and you can reach new goals, achieve higher levels of financial performance and manage the creation of new business relationships.

Golf is the preferred sport of business. It also can be a powerful business tool. It’s a beautiful game whose players share experiences and develop the kind of relationships that are conducive to business success.

Golf also is a very challenging game. The skills golfers must develop to play their best are very similar to those required to generate business results. That’s why I designed my Transform Your Game Seminars to simultaneously create breakthroughs in golf performance and business relationships.

Building Business Relationships with Golf

Professional success is built on a foundation of strong relationships. That includes internal relationships with co-workers and colleagues as well as business vendors, partners, affiliates or clients. Building amazing relationships on the golf course should be a no-brainer, considering that you’re spending five hours in a lovely setting (away from the office) with good people.

But trouble is always lurking when your performance goes wrong and golf exercises its incredibility to bring you to your knees, gripping you with self-consciousness, self-loathing and despair. This scenario occurs daily and can damage what might be a new or fragile business relationship.

The reason that our clients are so successful with relationship building is that we create an environment where golfers are able to get out of their own way, increasing their ability to focus on their fellow playing partners. We’ve come to realize that other golfers care far less about what you’re doing (score, how far you can hit the ball) than the kind of playing partner you’re being.

Here we focus on the concept of “being a great playing partner” because the attributes that make someone a great playing partner on the golf course are identical to those found in successful executives. We ask our participants to list the characteristics that make up someone they consider to be a great playing partner. Here are the top five attributes they have identified:

• Patient
• Sense of Humor/Fun
• Positive Approach
• Considerate/Good Golf Etiquette
• Integrity

We recently had the opportunity to work with the McFarland Richards and Graf advertising agency on a relationship building seminar with a new client of the agency.

Managing partner, Jim McFarland said, “The seminar gave us the opportunity to get to know and really understand what kind of people the president of the company and the VP marketing really are. We accomplished in one day what it would have taken months to do.”

When you’re out of your own way you’re more aware and this awareness will allow you to learn a tremendous amount about your valued playing partners. They also will learn a lot about you. Because of this, we like to say, “You’re naked on the golf course”- meaning the game exposes aspects of a player’s character. Here are some of the things that are revealed about a person during a round of golf:

• Ability to Focus
• Response to Adversity
• Integrity/Honesty
• Sense of Humor
• Strategic Thinking (Conservative, Aggressive, None)
• Decisiveness
• Perspective
• Complacency
• Supportive of Others
• Emotional Control
• Patience

Two Applications for Business Golf
** Prospecting: Undoubtedly, the people you would most like to do business with are successful and tremendously busy. A great way to gain their attention is with a great golf invitation. Many times, we’ve seen clients react with surprise and delight about the caliber of prospects that have committed to taking a day out of their schedule to be involved with a unique golf event.

Naturally, you’ll learn a lot about your guests, insights that will assist you in the development of the relationship. Remember, most avid golfers tend to fall in love with the game and have a natural affinity toward others who share the affliction.

For the past several years, we’ve partnered with John Melchor, a VP with Manulife Wood Logan, who uses two different types of “prospect days.”

1. He rewards top producers by sponsoring a seminar they can use for inviting their prospects. In so doing, he is able to express appreciation while contributing to their continued success.
2. He also used the event to develop new relationships with top financial firms in Hawaii. Through the golf event he’s sponsored, he has connected with his most valued producers.

** Team Building: Being a great playing partner is a central theme in each seminar. Each team establishes what it is to be a great playing partner and then plays a round of golf together. We customize the golf game to facilitate the strengthening of communication—practicing strategic planning, responding to adversity and finding new ways to contribute as a team.

At the annual meeting in Orlando for the U.S division of a French chemical company, we customized a seminar around their new mission statement “Achieving Global Leadership,” and created a team tournament format where each player, regardless of playing ability, was encouraged to provide leadership and contribute to the team’s enjoyment and success.

If you’re a great playing partner and realize that business golf is not about selling, but about building relationships, your business-golf efforts will be rewarded with success. The connections and friendships you forge in golf will benefit you throughout your entire career and beyond.