Nevada is a virtual Mecca for golfers, and executives informally surveyed by Nevada Business Journal say plenty of business deals are swung on courses in the Silver State.
Michael Sizemore, head golf professional at Red Hawk in Sparks, estimates that at least half the golfers on the course tie in some work with their play, whether it’s drumming up business or hosting team-building with employees. “The benefit of golf from a business standpoint is that there are very few distractions,” Sizemore stated. “You have the client on the golf course with you for five hours, and I don’t know how else you can get a client’s ear for five hours.”
Golf is an ideal connector, working well on an individual basis or for groups, for new customers and for long-standing ones. The sport also offers an ideal way for business executives to connect with clients because the pacing of the game is conducive to conversation and communication, said Eric Pollero of American Golf. Pollero is operations manager for American Golf Corporation’s Las Vegas Golf Club and has also worked at The Badlands course. “Golf gets people out from behind their desks and out of their offices,” Pollero said. “In most other sports, you don’t have the time and the relaxed pace of golf. Businesses can take that opportunity to sell a product, or communicate an idea, and do it in a relaxed environment. Odds are, most people you could do business with either play golf themselves, have associates who play golf, or have always wanted to learn how to play. Its a win-win situation.”
Chris Fleiner of Sparks-based JLH Mailing & Fulfillment calls golf the universal game. He says golf knows “no age, no size and no sex,” adding, “It’s a game anyone can play, and it’s a great way to build business relationships. Plus, business golf is a low-pressure, low-key type of situation, not a high-pressure sales environment.”
Mike Beardslee, president of Las Vegas-based IT Strategies, is a member of TPC Summerlin and has played many of the private and public courses in the area. He favors golf because it creates somewhat of a casual atmosphere. Even when golf does not result in direct business, Beardslee said he usually builds a relationship with clients he invites to golf. He also enjoys going to courses solo and being matched with other golfers. He says he has met top casino executives and developers this way and often leaves with their names and phone numbers and permission to call them for an appointment.
A New Concept in Business Golf
Nevada is home to some of the best golf courses in the United States, offering a diverse selection of courses – high-end, low-end and everything in between. Golf courses throughout the state are capitalizing on the strong bond between business and golf by adding newer, better courses and enhancing existing courses with more amenities designed with the business golfer in mind.
Bob Babilino is vice president for Greens Worldwide, which developed the new Greens of Las Vegas – a unique, world-class putting and golf entertainment facility that opened in July. The concept attempts to eliminate negatives commonly found in golf, such as the length of time to play a round, the expense of many golf courses and the skill level required to play.
The natural-grass putting facility was founded by 2003 U.S. Masters Champion Mike Weir and current California Amateur Champion Eddie Heinen. The Greens of Las Vegas is “redefining golf through the art of putting,” Heinen said. The facility is designed to provide a completely unique golf experience made up of 24 of the most famous greens in the world. The Greens of Las Vegas also features two links-style, 18-hole putting courses. “It’s a user-friendly golf experience,” Heinen said of The Greens. The venue also features a sports bar and grill centered around the golf theme, complete with full-swing golf simulators and video games. The Greens is designed for golfers and non-golfers alike and provides a unique option for team-building opportunities and corporate events.
Babilino estimates more business is conducted on the golf course now than ever before, and his facility is designed to make it easy for time-stressed executives. “People have limited time to entertain customers,” Babilino said. “We designed The Greens of Las Vegas to provide easy access for both locals and the corporate visitor.”
Swinging for Charity
Tami Belt, owner of Blue Cube Marketing Solutions, said in addition to golfing with colleagues and prospects, she tries to participate in charity tournaments as often as she can. “In charity tournaments, you not only get access to people you could never get an appointment with from a cold call, but you are teammates,” she said. “It may only be for a day, but you’re on the same team, and that can begin to build a bond. In the scramble format of charity tournaments, everyone has the opportunity at one point in the round. That builds camaraderie.”
Chris Fleiner and Don Jassel, general manager and president of JLH Mailing & Fulfillment in Sparks, are avid golfers for both business and pleasure. They also host the JLH Charity Challenge golf tournament for their clients and prospects to further develop the business of business on the golf course. Customers sign up to play for charities they support, so donations reach many non-profits. As a side benefit, many of those playing are business leaders, business owners and executives who may have never done business with JLH, so Fleiner and Jassel are able to expose their company to new prospects.
In golf, as is business, it pays to think of others. A wide variety of companies, not-for-profits and corporations like JLH are showing increased interest in charity golf tournaments. These include the popular Founders Club in Las Vegas and a huge variety of other events and tournaments. Many of these tournaments are supported by corporate sponsors who receive recognition for their contributions. Clubs for golfers are emerging and golf still remains a popular way for executives to network and reward employees.
Minding your Mulligans
In Putt for Dough: Doing Deals on the Course, Jeff Wuorio writes that golf and business can go together like hand and glove, but only if one knows how to play the game. Not only can a round of golf be a wonderful way to break the ice, but it’s often a telling barometer of a teammate’s style.
Wuorio quotes Cindy Schendel who teaches a course called Business Golf at Aurora University in Aurora, Ill. “You’re really not out there talking about a merger or a contract. It’s more of what you see in me that would make you want to merge our business or extend a contract,” she explained.
Amateur Champion Eddie Heinen likes to quote a saying: “Golf doesn’t build character – it exposes it.” One can learn a lot about a person through the game of golf. “Check out their eye contact,” Heinen advised. “Observe their character and competitive level. Measure their attitude. Do they quit? Do they cheat? Do they show courtesy? Do they fly off the handle if they hit the ball off the water? Did they take two mulligans?”
Randy Bowling of Bowling Mamola Group, a Reno-based engineering firm, enjoys golfing with clients as a way to solidify relationships. Bowling said relationships can be built on a golf course by clarifying in no uncertain terms that, “most of us are no better or worse than the next person. On the course, we all lose balls, make silly shots, and look for the right opportunity to joke with each other.” Bowling added that golf can become a special treat for all involved. “It’s a way of telling the client, ‘You’re special to me, and I want to show you how special. Enjoy the day.’”