Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have one of those great conversations with my assistant/mechanic/brother-in-law/great friend, Finn. We do it quite often and it is one of the best parts about working closely with someone you really enjoy being around. The talk revolved around a recurring theme with us: having a plan.
Our chat centered on the tale of two courses in the area. Course A has been around for a long time and is your typical country club in your typical town. Like many private clubs, Course A has fallen on hard times. It has seen memberships plummet over the past decade and the club is mired in debt. They have gone through six superintendents in the past ten to twelve years, and are close to losing another one.
Course B has only been in existence for a few years. They built in a remote locale, took their time during construction and built a truly authentic and unique golf course. They have gone on to build a hotel, a restaurant and are in the early stages of building a second course. By all appearances they are making things work in a market that is suffering as a whole.
So what is the difference between the two? Well, you dont have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that Course B has deeper pockets... but thats not the key factor. The biggest difference is that they have a solid vision of what they are.
From the outset, Course B has crafted a story that tells the tale of what they are as a whole, and they are making it work. Their mandate appears to be a perfect union of what they want the course to be, what they want the resort/amenities to be, and what they want people to think they are.
Course A is at the opposite end of the spectrum. They have prodded along for years without any unifying theme or overarching vision. They have done things as they have always done them, and never figured it would ever be a problem. The course is continually in reactive mode, and the decisions are usually of the knee jerk variety. Course A will continue to struggle to find an identity in a golf market that is shifting under their feet.
So what is the take-away lesson from these two scenarios? How can we look at these two examples and use them to not only improve our turf departments, but make our lives a little easier?
- Keep things simple. Course B had a very simple, direct vision. They understood what they wanted and they did it. Simplicity will always yield better results in the end.
- Be honest. It is great to aim high (I personally love to aim high and work backwardsyou usually end up exceeding your original expectations), but don't delude yourself into thinking that you have to be something that you are not.
- Flexibility is the key. Developing a plan and sticking to it is vital, but don't be rigid. Rigidity tends to break eventually, so build a measure of flexibility into your plan. We all know that our jobs can be upside down from time to time, so learn to go with the flow now and again.
- Be confident. Once you have decided on your course of action, be confident and stick with it. You have consulted, done your research, and formulated the best plan for you, believe in it.
- Don't be afraid to tear it down. We know that things are constantly in a state of flux on golf courses. The organic nature of the properties we maintain sometimes necessitate changes to the overall plan. Listen to others with a discerning ear, and don't fear change if change is what is required. It doesn't mean that you have to toss the whole plan, but it might mean that a few tweaks are in order.
- Communicate the vision to the key stakeholders (hows about that for corporate double speak!). But really, a plan is no good if you simply keep it to yourself. Tell others about it and let them hop on the bus. By having the key people in your operation on board, it builds in a measure of depth that you simply don't have if you are constantly going it alone.
Setting goals and having a simple, flexible plan can free up a lot of energy in your life. It doesn't mean that things won't change, or that you have to stick to it come hell or high water, it just makes things a bit easier.
We all know how to work hard, but having a solid vision of where you are going can make us work a bit smarter.