Here's Where I Got It Wrong
Learning to Speak the Language
I have had the pleasure (except for a few very long flights and a bout of food poisoning) of traveling to many parts of the world for business. While I do okay with some basic Spanish, I don’t speak Greek, Mandarin, or Swahili. Trying to communicate with someone that does not speak the same language is hard. Being multi-language capable is not only hard but it is a perishable skill.
When I entered the golf industry, I was not a PGA Member, I did not work at a golf course (other than on my short game) and I did not come from a golf family. I was a true outsider… a foreigner in a sense to the business and industry. Thankfully, over time I learned how to communicate effectively in the industry and the rest they say is history… Sort of…
A few years ago, I left the publishing/media world and joined what you might consider a start-up technology company; a business intelligence and benchmarking company that is carving out its place in the golf industry. I assumed that my experience, knowledge, and overall understanding of the industry would quickly contribute to the company’s success.
Day one, I felt like I landed in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language – it was not even a derivative of an Anglo-Saxon language but something very different - this was not golf ---- it was finance… Yikes. I’m a journalism, advertising and marketing grad from the oldest journalism school in the country – I don’t speak finance… Here’s where I got it wrong.
I thought I was joining a company that provided a technology platform to the golf industry and that I only needed to apply what I knew to this new role and it would be fine – in fact, it would be great….
To compound this challenge, the company is basically a start-up (although profitable) so we are very lean. We are growing rapidly so everyone in the company was and is very busy… I don’t mean 40 hours a week busy, I mean 60 hours a week busy… You’ve probably heard the expression “drinking from a firehose”… Fortunately, my partners and the team carved out time, are patient and are willing to help me learn this new language.
Over the last eighteen months, I have learned enough to not only communicate, but also have a reasonably cogent conversation about what we do, how we do it, the implications of our business and the ways the business will contribute to the industry (more on this in a future post).
I have not yet achieved the fluency needed for some of the deeper financial analysis, but I am light years ahead of where I was 18 months ago.
Here’s the point of this post. You don’t know, what you don’t know.
There is a need for a common financial language in the golf industry and it needs to transcend the CFO or Controllers office to the rest of the key positions at clubs and the industry at large.
In my opinion, every person in a leadership position at the club needs to learn this language and to be fluent in its structure, meanings, definitions and application. We need to get to the point where the common financial language used in fortune 100 businesses is the same as that used in the golf industry.
Words have meaning and financial words have very specific meanings. For example, if I asked you what the gross profit margin of your facility is – could you tell me to the decimal what the margin is? If I asked what the ratio of F&B labor expenses to F&B gross revenue is, would you be able to tell me? There are literally dozens (if not hundreds) of words, phrases and sayings that have a very specific meaning and if we are not aware of what they mean – and perhaps more importantly how to apply that knowledge, then we may be speaking golf, but we are not speaking golf finance.
With this learning experience (yes, a bit humbling), I would urge anyone that works in the golf business to find whatever resources they can (PGA, CMAA, Business School, Club Benchmarking) and to learn the financial language of business. It’s good to be multi-lingual.
For some tutorials on the language of finance in the golf industry, visit our video library www.clubbenchmarking.com/videos