Golf and business have been linked for as long as the game has been around. You can learn a lot about a person from playing a round of golf with him or her, as the game reveals so much about character, mindset and willpower. But it can also teach you a great deal about business.
Golf has had a major impact on my life. I was premed at Kennesaw State University before the relationships I made on the KSU golf team led me toward a business career. My golf coach invested in an e-procurement software company that I worked at after college and another golf friend gave me an opportunity to move into the logistics industry. I still find that playing with friends or participating in charity tournaments can unlock all kinds of opportunities.
While the relationships I’ve cultivated through the game are perhaps the best part, golf has also taught me a lot about entrepreneurship. Here are four lessons I’ve taken from golf and applied to my entrepreneurial career.
It pays to know the course.
One of the things professional golfers do before every tournament is walk the course and sometimes play a practice round. They’ll study the course, make note of various distances and chart out the slopes of the green. They understand the importance of knowing the course inside and out. Even amateur golfers recognize the advantage of playing on a course they’re familiar with. Having a home-course advantage means you know the areas to avoid, the best way to play every hole and where your best opportunities are to pick up strokes.
Similarly, in business, visibility is everything. If you don’t have a clear view of your market, audience and other areas of your business, how can you make informed decisions? Before launching a new venture or attempting to optimize your operations, gather as much information as possible. Analytics, forecasting and business intelligence should be tied into everything you do so that your decision making is always driven by the most up-to-date information.
Have a strategy.
Most golfers realize early on that you shouldn’t aim for the hole on every shot. Some shots require a different strategy. You need to take into account hazards, distances and the slope of the green, and plan out your attack for the entire hole in advance.
Business requires a strategy, too. Once you’ve collected as much information as possible about a particular situation, you need to map out how you’ll take advantage of it. This applies when implementing new software, starting a marketing campaign or launching a new product.
Also, make sure your plan is realistic based on your resources and budget. If a golfer knows they can’t hit a 350-yard drive, they should aim to hit around the water hazard or come up just short of it and set themselves up for their next shot. If you know you don’t have the resources to succeed at an initiative, look to obtain those missing pieces or choose a strategy that you can succeed at with what you do have.
Your strategy should be able to adapt to change, but it shouldn’t be thrown out with every small variation. If a golfer planned to hit the green and ended up in a sand trap, they need to make an adjustment. This doesn’t mean they’ll scrap their entire game plan for the round because of one mistake.
Focus on the long term.
In my first college tournament, I birdied the first hole. That was a good feeling. However, that didn’t end up being the best round of my golf career. I’ve had better rounds that started slower but remained consistent throughout the entire match. The lesson I learned was that it pays to focus on the long term. There are 18 holes in a round of golf. One good hole or one bad hole will not make or break your round.
The same goes for business. One good day or one bad quarter will not make or break your business or career. You need to focus on the long term and build something that can handle the inevitable ups and downs.
Many companies have failed because they prioritized immediate growth and sales over building something designed to sustain growth over time. Before you rush to catalyze your sales, make sure your supply chain, operations and other internal processes are ready to deliver a true competitive advantage.
You get out of it what you put into it.
When our coach looked for players for the KSU team, he didn’t look for the flashiest or the most naturally talented golfers. He wanted the ones who hit golf balls on a driving range until dark to perfect their game while no one was watching. Most golfers know that the more you play, the better you get. Consistent, deliberate work rewards every player. Those unwilling to make the commitment will quickly plateau.
As an entrepreneur, your success is directly tied to the amount of work you’re willing to put in. This will undoubtedly mean long hours as you get your business off the ground, go through growing pains and deal with the unpredictable things that come with running a business.
If you started a business to work less, you’ll be disappointed — either by the amount of work or your business’s lack of immediate success. If you are prepared to give a complete effort, identify and develop a strategy for fixing specific holes in your game and devote your full energy to your business, you will reach your goals.
Golf can be a valuable tool for any entrepreneur. It’s been a major contributor to my success.