Business Points & Golf
Robert H. Miles talks about golf as an opportunity for business
relationships. Learn how a handicap in golf can be a strong hand
to play in golf.
Scoring Business Points on the Golf Course
Many people think that the business benefits of golf go primarily
to the big hitters - the senior executives of household-name corporations.
The AT&Ts, the J&Js and the P&Gs. After all, their
flags fly highest at the major national and international golf
tournaments for which they have the largest coffers to bankroll.
Those corporations whose businesses are most intimately associated
with the sport itself are even further privileged to have their
logos emblazoned on everything from baseball caps (for some curious
reason now the preferred adornment of golfers) to championship
trophies. Without a doubt, many an important negotiation or big
deal has been sealed with a firm handshake somewhere on or near
an 18th whole.
golf didn't begin in partnership with big business. Its
origins may be traced back to groups of successful, small
local entrepreneurs, in such off the beaten track places
as St. Andrews, Wawashkamo, and Tuxedo Park, who gathered
rain or shine to share a common experience, strengthen sometimes
strained relationships, and get some fresh outdoor air.
Deep down, today's golfing world, when taken as a whole, has
not changed that much. Business entrepreneurs still gather around
the little white ball for very much the same reasons as their
forbearers. And surprisingly, even the new professional level
of the game has become a good place in which small business opportunities
Let's look at this from the perspective of the august PGA Tour.
For all its premier branding and global reach, the Tour conducts
about 120 tournaments each year. What's in this for small businesses?
Well, for one thing, these tournaments are all local. And for
relatively nominal partial-sponsorship fees, local businesses
can provide a host of amenities for their customers. They can
offer hospitality and accommodations and a popular entertainment
venue to their tournament guests, which can give them much more
quality time to develop relationships with potential clients and
strengthen those with older ones.
They can offer ticketed access to the best golfers in the world.
They can fly their flag and pitch their tent alongside those of
the big sponsors. And they can reinforce their own brand in the
context of worthwhile funding raising events. All PGA Tour events
have a charitable component.
Small companies can also align with golfing on their own turf.
They can organize special golfing outings on their own, many of
which may be aligned again with local charity fund-raisers. Indeed,
over half of the professional players on the PGA Tour become involved
in local fund-raisers every year, often in their own home towns.
In addition, charitable volunteer organizations, such as the
American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the
Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which have a long term relationship
with the PGA Tour, sponsor over 1,000 golfing events around the
country every year.
So there are many opportunities for small businesses to benefit
from the sport of golf while providing them business development
opportunities and supporting worthwhile charities. Moreover, these
benefits aren't extended just to their customers and prospective
clients. There are many employee benefits as well.
Golfing outings help promote team building. They make it possible
for employees to get to know others at a deeper level in a short
period of time, and to do so in a more relaxed environment than
the workplace. Such events can be a welcome antidote to a long
offsite meeting or substitute for a formal rubber chicken event.
Golfing has also become a popular vehicle for helping employees
become involved in community and charitable activities. Many companies
give time off to employees who serve as volunteers in fund raising
But to be able to take advantage of all these benefits - customer
and employee - small businesses must overcome some minimal hurdles.
First, participants must have a rudimentary command of the game
of golf and an appreciation of its rules and etiquette. You certainly
don't want to impose such an event on someone who can't meet theses
minimal criteria, and yet you don't want to exclude members of
the company who aren't golf-savvy.
The age-old golfing tradition of the "handicap" can
be of help in this regard; indeed, that's why it was built into
the game. And if golfing proves to be a valuable venue for your
company, perhaps you should explore creative ways to help your
employees rise to company-sponsored golfing occasions.
One of the newer business issues which is worth considering as
your employees become more involved with those of other companies
on the playing field of golf is the impact of Sarbanes-Oxley on
what is fair play and what is out of bounds in such activities.
Guidelines on this score could keep us all out of the rough.
About the Author
© Robert H. Miles
Robert H. Miles is a global thought and practice leader and frequent
speaker in the fields of corporate transformation and executive
leadership. He is the author of BIG IDEAS TO BIG RESULTS (published
by FT Press/Pearson; March 2008; 256 pages; $27.95 hardcover).
He currently serves as Chairman of the management consultancy
Dissero Partners and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.