RSM South Africa

Playing the Game of Business in the Sport of Golf

With the RSM Classic underway, a golf tournament hosted by Davis Love III the 2016 Ryder Cup Team USA captain, it’s exciting to see how the game of golf and business are closely related. The US PGA tournament is well sponsored with business giants such as RSM (6th biggest accounting firm in the world), Yamaha and Synovus. Apart from the real competition the tournament is meant to raise funds for charity through the renowned Davis Love Foundation.

It’s amazing how golf as a sport has grown, and many companies have started using it as a marketing tool and top executives use it to relax and unwind. To some, golf is just a boring waste of time. To others, it's an expensive hobby masquerading as a sport. However we can’t ignore the relevance of the sport in the business community. It is one endeavour that may have the power to multiply your business success.

In the words of sportswriter Grantland Rice, “Eighteen holes of match or medal play will teach you more about your foe than will 18 years of dealing with him across a desk.”

With such statements it goes without saying that a golf course is a widely accepted venue for conducting business and forwarding relationships. Analysts in various industries have gone on to link golf with character as they state that traits shown on a golf course relate closely with the player’s business and personal traits. The Starwood Hotel chain conducted an extensive survey (Boardroom to the Back Nine) of executives who golf, in which just about every respondent named this sport as an essential tool of business. Here are some of their results:

  • 97% of executives view golf with a business associate as a way to establish a close relationship
  • 92% use golf as a way to make business contacts. 
  • More than 50 % say there is no better way to get to know associates and clients. The second best way is a business meal. 
  • 45% say clients are more likely to give you their business if you golf together.
  • 59% believe that the way a person plays golf is the way he or she behaves in business. 
  • 92% say people who are stressed at work would get more relief if they golfed.

With the above in mind, many may rush to golf courses or host massive corporate golf days and, after all 19 holes, may still not have sealed a single deal or even developed a better relationship with their clients. So how then do you talk business in this environment?

Many people find it easy to talk at the 19th hole as everyone feels relaxed at this point. The time spent over food and drink, talking about the highlights of the game and mixing in business discussion is crucial. Another approach is to take the front nine as a time to get to know each other then bring business up on the back nine…provided the client doesn't seem to mind.

Whatever happens out there on the course or at the 19th hole, don't forget the all-important follow through. When you return to your office, make the promised phone call or visit and close the deal.

One caveat: you've heard the saying, "Fake it till you make it." But golf may be one of the exceptions. If you truly hate the game, pretending to have a good time probably won't work. The investment of time, money and energy is significant. So if that's your situation, the best golf advice might be… sell the clubs and use the money to take prospects out for a hearty meal instead.

Before you step foot on the golf course…

Serious golfers will tell you, golf is rich with traditions that should be respected. It's a wonderful game loaded with rules and etiquette - which can make the game very intimidating. But don't worry, most of us learn something new every time we play. Knowing etiquette and the Rules gives us confidence. Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power!"

Here are a few tips to help on the course:

  • Learn the rules. 
     
  • Respect the pace of the play. Always be ready when it's your turn to hit. Picking up your ball is always an option - just remember to drop it down on/near the green and finish the hole with everyone else so that you're part of the group. 
     
  • Don't prevent another player from having his or her best game. In other words, learn to know where you should stand and walk. And don't make noise. The sound of cell phones is ubiquitous these days, and though we all have them, most of us find them annoying when others use them in our presence, especially when concentration is key.

Client golf is about building and forwarding relationships. Don't get lost in your score. You can be a terrible golfer but a great person to be with on the course. Focus more on how you handle yourself. It's attitude not aptitude.

If you looking at starting to play golf then watch a few YouTube videos on lessons for beginners and don’t spend a lot of money on the game until you enjoy it. However if you are looking for great business in tax, advisory and assurance then look up RSM. Work with an advisor, who has studied the course ahead, we are your true business caddy, assisting you through every rough and those fast sloppy greens. We listen, we learn, we advise and you succeed.

Enjoy the game and grow the business.

Rufadzo Bonyongwa

Trainee Accountant, Johannesburg