Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Culture

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends - Walt Disney

The culture of a golf facility is the quality that arises from a concern for service, protocol, and atmosphere. Creating The Culture takes vision, passion and total commitment. It is the sum of attitude, education, enthusiasm and language that distinguishes one facility from another and that is precisely why it is worth the effort.

There are many unique competitive differentiators in the golf industry. Buyers worry about green grass only distribution. They produce private label product in an effort to build their own brand and make their selection of goods exclusive. Clubs move to “Mill River” and modifications of same to produce pricing structures to inspire customer and member loyalty but the hardest and most meaningful competitive advantage for golf facilities to duplicate is to create an organization that consists of highly engaged associates who are totally focused on the customer. All definitions of culture point out the development of the intellect and the resulting enlightenment from training and education. Hopefully this manual will help to educate and inspire you and your staff to become such an excellent organization and rise above your peers.

Everyone has been to clubs where the atmosphere was decidedly negative. The staff walk around with a scowl and members spend an inordinate amount of time venting. It’s hard to determine in such an atmosphere what came first, the grumpy members or frustrated staff but placing the blame wouldn’t make the culture any more pleasant.

It seems in this case that a Leader with a totally rejuvenated outlook or a new Leader is needed. More to the point, someone needs to stand back a little and reevaluate the culture because once the course is built, the business plan and marketing put in place, the superintendent hired and the fertilizer and sand purchased the two variables that most shop owners/managers and/or head pros control are the merchandising and the culture.

Or consider the course where players arrive anticipating a pleasant, enjoyable round of golf with friends to encounter staff telling them at the bag drop where they can and can’t park, at the counter they only take coupons on Tuesdays and don’t take American Express. The starter hands them a list of do’s and don’ts and the marshal stops by a number of times to inform them how they are doing with time. Of course everyone is just doing their job and none of these individual incidents is necessarily a problem, but cumulatively the rules and the attitude with which they are delivered has the group convinced by the turn that they won’t be hanging around after the round, they won’t be buying anything in the shop to remind them of the experience. In fact, next month when they take a day off for golf they are going back to that course that had the water in the cooler on the cart and everyone including the maintenance staff wanted to know if they were enjoying the day and was there anything they could do for them – the “country club for a day” atmosphere.

Conversely, I had the pleasure a few years ago of being part of the team that opened a high-end club in North Carolina. My position on the team was two-fold. I was there to quarterback the opening of the shop and my other role was that of head cheerleader at the training session. We had the luxury of three full days to indoctrinate the staff about the culture the Leader envisioned and everyone’s role in its execution because we were able to organize it two weeks before the Grand Opening.

We invited the Footjoy and Zero Restriction reps to give product knowledge seminars about their products and they were both outstanding; going through all the features, benefits and buzzwords needed to intelligently talk to people about footwear and outerwear both as apparel and equipment. The question and answer afterwards was more of a discussion with the staff about how to fit people, how to sell the tough customers, how their respective companies were thrilled to be working with them and how unique this session was in what in both cases were long careers.

I spoke about shirts and the appropriate product knowledge involved with the different brands and fabrications. Since it was October, I finished up the session with a football analogy. We had just had three days of training camp, obviously opening day was coming right up and if everyone played their position the way we had been describing it we would win the members and their guests as fans. We could think of ourselves as going to the playoffs if, in a few months, people were talking about the warm, friendly atmosphere at the great new Tom Fazio golf course - they were. We could consider ourselves as getting to the Super Bowl if and when we were nationally recognized as a place you need to play - they have been.

This was a fulfilling opportunity for me but one that can be duplicated anywhere there is a Leader with a desire to take their level of service up a few notches, to raise the bar for their staff and create as a result a more meaningful culture.

Customers/members need to plan a day of golf anticipating an environment that appreciates their business and where there is camaraderie with the staff as well as their foursome. They need to feel it is fun to hang out a bit at the 19th hole and by the end of the day they want a memento from the shop that will remind them of the experience and tell others that see them wearing the logo what a great place they thought it was to spend a day. They need to be made more than satisfied and they need to view your facility and its culture as their provider of choice.

This may seem obvious and a “goes without saying” description that everyone in the industry agrees is the experience they provide, however the execution does not always follow the hype. As Tony Robbins points out often and in many different ways “There are no decisions really made until there is action.” When it comes to making it a reality, enthusiasm tends to give way to confusion.

In Summary – Culture is a work in progress:

• Management must make the decision to proactively create customer loyalty and to measure the success of these efforts by the customer’s feedback.

• Management needs to institute an orientation program that involves more than a tour of the facility and a primer on keying a sale. It needs to indoctrinate, as soon as an employee is hired, the facility’s principles of customer service and its vision for the future.

• Management needs to establish policies that are customer-friendly and do away with any rigid guidelines.

• Management needs to educate and empower employees to make their facility and culture the best in the area.

• Management needs to institute the “ten foot rule” that all golf staff within ten feet of a customer will look them in the eye, greet them and ask if they need any assistance.

More specific actions:

Establish at the season’s first staff meeting that this season’s primary goal is to be perceived by everyone who plays here as the most customer friendly place to play.

Provide every player a 4x6 preprinted index card that thanks them for spending the day and asks for feedback on their experience.

Have weekly staff meetings and ask at each what was the most customer friendly thing that happened since last week’s meeting.

Set bi-annual evaluations with each staff member to discuss their contribution to the culture.

Make the “ten foot rule” second nature by mentioning it often. It is a practice now employed by almost every industry.

Challenge all employees on a regular basis to submit ideas for service efforts successfully employed elsewhere and not necessarily by other golf facilities.

This is the first chapter of “The Winning Golf Culture” which has been well received by all who have purchased it and made required staff reading at many facilities. The rest of the table of contents is as follows:

Table of Contents

The Culture

The Leader

The WOW Factor

The Intimacy Factor

Salesmanship is Service
a. Pre-servicing
b. Shop Salesmanship
c. Follow Up

Hire to the Culture

The Result

Blog Entries
a. Pump up the staff for the new season
b. Gentlemen’s (and Ladies’) Night
c. The Nordstrom Touch
d. Phil Owenby on “Cutting Edge Service”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Open to Buy / Buy Plan

There seems to be confusion at some facilities between an open-to-buy report and a buy plan. While they are both valuable retail tools they are not one and the same. A good definition of the difference is an article by Ted Hurlbut. Ted Hurlbut is the Principal of Hurlbut & Associates, a retail consulting and business advisory firm based in Foxboro, Massachusetts. He is focused on helping his clients increase sales, margins, profitability, and cash flow, and is particularly attuned to the challenges facing smaller, independent, entrepreneurial retailers. You can learn more about Ted, and Hurlbut & Associates, at

So what exactly is an Open-To-Buy?

The clearest and simplest definition is that it is a financial budget for retail merchandise. Let's look at this more closely.

An Open-To-Buy relates directly to retail merchandise, is structured specifically to address the needs of retailers, and is a tool designed to assist retailers manage and replenish their most significant asset, their inventory investment.

An Open-To-Buy is a budget, and involves the full range of budgetary functions. It begins with the planning process, is future oriented, provides guidance on how much to buy, and provides benchmarks for evaluating progress, and adjusting future plans.

An Open-To-Buy is a financial tool, in that the units of measure are typically dollars, usually retail dollars but sometimes cost dollars, and that it can be tied back to the financial control process.

An Open-To-Buy can work on any level that a retailer needs it to. It can be used to track merchandise at the company, department, classification or sub-classification level. In rare cases for a small retailer, it can even be used to track an individual item.

Fashion and Seasonal Merchandise versus Basic In-Stock Items

It is important to note from the start, that as a replenishment tool, an Open-To-Buy is not appropriate for all categories of merchandise. It is most appropriate for fashion merchandise where the specific items may change, but the departments, classifications and sub-classifications remain relatively stable, and seasonal merchandise where inventories are brought in at the beginning of the selling season, and need to be managed down to pre-determined ending level at the end of the selling season.

In the case of fashion or seasonal merchandise, an Open-To-Buy answers the question of how much to buy, but not necessarily the question of which specific items to buy. For that, a detailed assortment plan is necessary, which lays out exactly what items will be coming in when, and provides a plan for how all of the individual items come together to form a compelling merchandise assortment

In contrast, an Open-To Buy is not appropriate as a replenishment tool for day-in and day-out basics. These staple items are more effectively replenished using an automatic replenishment program running off of pre-determined minimum and maximum inventory parameters. In the case of these in-stock basics, an Open-To-Buy may still serve a valuable budget and control function at a department or category level.


Like any budget, an Open-To-Buy starts with a plan, then compares actual results to that plan and quantifies any variances. Carefully considered planning is the critical first step in constructing an Open-To-Buy.

The planning process begins with building a sales plan. For small retailers, most sales plans are broken out by the month, although in some cases, especially highly seasonal businesses or categories, it may be more appropriate to plan sales by the week. The question to ask is a very basic one: "What is the most likely level of sales from stock (excluding special orders) by month (or week)?"

Once a sales plan has been developed, the next piece of the planning process is to build an inventory plan. The question to ask is this: "How much inventory do I need at the end of each month to support the next month's sales (in some cases the ending inventory may need to support more than just one month of future sales), as well as maintain effective merchandise displays?"

Article Source:

The sales plan numbers referred to are projections based on dollars and usually arrived at by analyzing last year’s sales and either adding or subtracting projected increases or decreases by percentage depending on all the obvious factors.

The inventory plan that this article mentions in the above paragraph is what I refer to as a buy plan, is measured in units not dollars and is as Ted Hurlbut points out the rest of the story. The merchandise buy plan guide explains how to base this unit plan on space, fixturing, categories and turns with the goal being “well-merchandised but not over-inventoried.”

The dollars and units approach is neither optional nor a debate between the two methods but in my mind, the only approach and the proper tools with which the small retailer can write appropriate orders per vendor and given their capacity. When a well developed Buy Plan is used in conjunction with an Open to Buy report and confirms that given existing inventory levels allow your planned buys in terms of dollars invested - a certain peace of mind develops that at least the planning part of the retail process is in sync.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Partnership Thought Through

I received this email from Mark Killeen and was compelled to post it in its entirety immediately even though I’m sure it has probably been sent to most of the readership of this blog. The terms “partner” and “partnership” are used in every sales pitch but rarely defined and often misrepresented. I’ve known Mark for years and he always responds to any situation as a true partner who is willing to think outside the box. It is this type of empathy in my mind that both well represents and defines these terms.

Most of the clubs I speak with lately say business is back when weather permits. Obviously Pima-Direct has its finger on the pulse of the industry and the vision and where-with-all to act accordingly.


Rounds Played Apparel Guarantee

Pima Direct has built our company to uniquely partner with the PGA Professional and shop manager to benefit Golf Shop Operations. This Spring season has been challenging in many geographic areas of the country due to inclement weather. Our business together depends on golfers playing golf and spending time with your staff. With this poor weather we are hearing your business concerns and want to help. First of all, we believe the worst thing you can do for your business is cancel orders from your best vendors. This practice insures you will not have the right product when your members and guests do visit your shop. That said, we understand the pressure you feel and want to alleviate some. As of today, we are implementing a "ROUNDS PLAYED APPAREL GUARANTEE" on all orders placed with Pima Direct from June 1st through June 30th and shipped by August 30th, 2011. If rounds are down for the season in your geographic area, we will offer you a rebate commensurate with the % your rounds are down up to 10%. Please call your local Pima Direct Representative today or reach our customer service team at 510-618-1200 for the details.

Thank you for your business and cheers to a great summer!

Mark Killeen
Managing Partner
Pima Direct