Business Golf: Stay Ahead

I was playing golf with a golfing friend a few months ago and when I asked how his business was he said they were having problems “Staying Ahead”.  When I asked about what it was they needed to stay ahead of he said “Everything”.

Since I didn’t want to get into the twenty questions mood, we played on and we just had small talk for the rest of the round…then my Business Golf instincts kicked in while we were in the Grill having a cocktail and paying off the bets.  I asked my friend “How can I Help”.

He first looked at me with a puzzled look and then, being a savvy Business Golf himself, he remembered what we talked about in our greeting on the first tee and said…”I’m not sure you can.”..

Of course I was not going to let him brush me off that easy and I quickly bantered my reply, “Try me”… He said “OK” and waved the waitress over to instruct her to set us up for two drinks each…a good indicator that this talk was going to be a good one when he ordered four $20 martinis.

Now I was not out after the drinks, I was out to do what I do best and help out a fellow business person, and better yet, help a fellow Business Golfer (One of my first students).  He obviously was letting whatever he was dealing with bother him and I was hoping if nothing else he could use whatever it was off his chest…and I was right.

He owned a landscaping business for 15 years and was doing real well with it until corporate America dumped a lot of high salaried executives in the market who had the resources to buy up franchises for landscape businesses.  This was causing him to deal with a lot of cut rate competition, which lead to his employees starting to jump ship for the lure of higher salaries and cooler benefits.   Plus his customers hounding him to cut his rates to compete with the mega-crew companies was starting to affect his bottom-line.

As we started on the second round of martinis he was explaining that he had played some business golf with some of his customers recently.  He reported that his customers want to stay loyal and keep him in business due to his quality.  He figured that his trustworthiness he provided through the rounds of golf he has played with them was a contributing factor.  And he has been able to keep a few of his key employees from taking them out for a round of golf, but all of the shoring up was causing him from staying ahead of his competition.

Instead of him playing offense he spent all of his time on defense and was scoring only because the mega-crew yard companies (as he called them) could not hold up to quality. So he would loose a customer and then get them back in a few weeks, but it was causing huge gaps in his cash flow.

As we sucked on the last of the olives I provided my thoughts.  I suggested that he pull back to a core and look to adjusting pricing for customers who would commit to long term contracts of a year or more.  Plus, concentrate on building the loyalty of employees and customers. I didn’t have to tell him how or what to do…he was my star pupil.   So he agreed that he would look into it and we left each other for that day.

I ran into my friend the other day at a meeting I was speaking at and I asked him first what he was doing there and he said “Staying ahead”…Now it was my turn to look puzzled and he smiled as he put his arm on my shoulder remarking “I think it is time for another drink”…as he ushered me to the bar.

As we sat down he said he sold his business…which was a little shocking, but not nearly as shocking as the finish to this story.  He went on to tell me that he had me to thank for it…because he went back and did what I mentioned.  He cut back his 16 crews to 6.  He did the processing of the operations for a 6 crew to be profitable and then called his employees all out for a round of golf.  Whether they played golf or not, they were to be at the club for the day…NO Work…that got them there. 

After the round of golf he laid out the plan which he said made everyone squirm in their chairs because to them cutting from 16 crews to 6 meant layoffs.  But he said he would be interested in hearing if anyone had any better ideas.

He said the turning point of what caused him to be sitting with me that evening buying my drink came next when a little lady stood up and asked if he would let them meet amongst themselves so to gather their thoughts.  She asked for a week.  He said “by all means”.  He said “tell me where and when you want to talk”.  She looked around at every who was look at him and she said “OH, we will let you know”.  My friend told me that those words still bring a smile to his face.

He continued by telling me that the next week he got an email from the lady inviting him to a fiesta at her house where they would provide him their ideas.  He was very excited and rightfully so because at that fiesta he was provided a plan, not an idea, which blew him away.

All 80 employees were there sitting quietly as the lady presented him the plan on how they will turn the business around.  The plan was every employee would be a sales person.  Each crew foreman would take upon him or her self to solicit residence and businesses in their areas for business with each foreman committed to having his crew do work for free for potential customers facilities for three weekly visits so they can demonstrate their quality of work…and they do this on their own time.

Now it went back to is office committed to let them know in three days if this was something he wanted to do.  After three days he said, “What the heck, lets fo it”.

Within one month his crew foremen hired three more crews.  He started getting contracts coming in for two years from customers he lost months ago.  He wsa finally staying ahead.

At the end of three months he got another email from the same lady who presented the plan inviting him to another fiesta to ask a question.  He naturally accepted and this party proved to be his retirement party because at that fiesta he was presented a proposal to buy his business for a figure he never would see from anyone else.   Being blown away he asked to think about it.

He checked the deal out and it was real and he countered with wanting to continue to be a minority stockholder in the new company.  The new groups who is now the owners countered the offer with making him Chairman of the Board.

Now, I was stunned not by the stiff drink he bought but from the turn of events. When I asked what he thought was the biggest factor for them to pool that kind of money to buy him out he said with a big smile as he got up to leave…”Trust…they trusted me and I trusted them and we found away to Stay Ahead”.

Believe me folks, learning how to play Business Golf can make a difference if you let it.

Scot Duke is President of Innovative Business Golf Solutions, LLC and author of How To Play Business Golf.  Mr Duke uses his 30 years of business management experience to help business owners and executives develop their business to be more successful and mentor business people on how powerful of a business tool Business Golf can be towards solving many business challenges. More information on Mr Duke and Business Golf can is available at the Innovative Business Golf Solutions web-site.

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