Business Relationships on the Golf Course
Business takes place all over the world in the strangest of places. Most people assume that deals are consummated in strict environments such as offices and seminar rooms. But if you ever watch older movies and sitcoms, you will notice that company executives tried to impress potential and existing clients by having them over to dinner, taking them to restaurants, or accompanying them to the theater. Extra-curricular activities played significant roles in cinching the deals. Perception was an important function in the deal making process. In fact, the true talents of the company were not always the deciding factors. Today's business deals are no different. Companies and individuals alike try to impress potential clients with their expertise, their talents, and their ideas. And, one place that has always been the center of deal making is the golf course. Consequently, TA Connections discusses business relationships on the golf course.
It has been a long standing joke that anyone who wants to close a deal should invite the client to an afternoon of golf or even to a weekend golf getaway. Images of sales reps quickly trying to learn the game by practicing their swings have made comical fodder for magazine readers and television viewers. The scenes were grossly exaggerated right down to the clothing chosen by those participants who had no knowledge of the sport. But one thing they all had in common was they understand the importance of business relationships on the golf course. They did what they had to do to make the arrangement work.
Moreover, so important is golfing to the art of doing business that the topic is discussed seriously in business magazines and is seen as a major influence on the volume of business conducted outside company headquarters. Those individuals that do not take advantage of the opportunity to network on the golf course when presented with the prospect are considered foolish and unable to see the bigger picture. They are not team players, they are short-sighted and narrow minded because golfing does provide several advantages that other networking does not.
While networking includes attending business breakfasts, club socials, and speaking to potential clients through online methods, frequently, the interaction is not of good enough quality to close a deal. For example, when business owners attend chamber of commerce breakfasts, everyone mills about handing out their business cards. That in itself is not a guarantee of any business. It does not even assure the participant of a phone call. Many cards get lost or thrown away, plus people just aren't interested. Some are forced to attend because their employers require it. On the golf course, however, you have the chance to spend quality time with someone. You are there for three to five hours and you get to know someone a little better than a quick chat over donuts and coffee. Being together for such a long period elicits conversation. The golf course allows players to create bonds or relationships with one another.
Further, golfing can be quite relaxing when it is not competitive. At business meetings, there is generally one goal and that is to get the client to sign on the dotted line. While golfing, the atmosphere is laid back. You don't have to win the game. You don't even have to play well. You just need to play graciously and enjoy your afternoon. With the pressures and distractions of the office removed, it is much easier to interact with someone you don't really know. For this reason, golf is considered the "corporation's sport" and many golf courses advertise this fact when soliciting new members.
So influential is a golf game on a business deal, that books have been written explaining the value of the game as a deal breaker. Volumes have been written discussing the etiquette surrounding business and golf, the importance of the game to a company, and why business owners must consider a golf club membership. Universities have started golf club associations, specifically to teach students the fine art of business on the golf course. By playing the game on real courses, the students not only learn the rules of the game, but they also learn how to interact on the course to compete in today's job market. Business golf etiquette and golf-business etiquette are common phrases now used to discuss the subject. And business golf is usually played a little different than regular golf.
But what makes the golf course the perfect venue for business versus other sports? The first reason is obvious in that golf is not a violent sport. Football, hockey and soccer are too fast paced. Who is going to put on equipment and roll around just to make a deal? There is too much chance of injury with some of these sports. Second, golf is a quiet sport, one where people can talk without the drone of the game's activities. Third, the rules of golf allow for interaction. Each shot takes some time to complete so that participants can play and talk at the same time. There are natural pauses in the game. Finally, golf is a gentle game. Yes, the participants can cheat, but that just adds to the mystery unraveling when getting to know someone. You decide in the end, based on those factors, whether you want to conduct business or not with your golfing adversary.
Business golf is more about learning the eccentricities of your opponent. The time spent on the game allows you to determine how the other person reacts to adversity. The player's true characteristics are often demonstrated when playing golf. In the office, people can mask their true feelings or become fake in order to stay in the boss' good books. On the course, however, many people react to the immediate and their real nature is exposed. Once you see these traits, you can decide whether you want to nurture those business relationships on the golf course or move on in another direction.
Indeed, TA Connections believes that business relationships on the golf course are fundamental to many business owners and deal making in general.