When I was in college in the early eighties I read a book by Mark McCormack (Arnold Palmer’s agent and the first true sports agent) entitled “Things They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School.” I am sure the book was filled with several best practices of business success, but one in particular has stayed with me for 30 years. It centered on the use of golf as a business tool.
This advice probably came from his connection with Arnold Palmer and later Jack Nicklaus. He stated that playing golf with business associates was beneficial for several reasons. From a sales perspective, it gave you four to five hours of unlimited contact in a relaxed setting where people would normally be open. (Obviously, this advice has been accepted by sale reps, since they all seem to have low handicaps.)
McCormack also stated that you can tell the measure of a man by playing golf with him. Golf is the one sport in which you keep your own score and call your own penalties. A person that cheats at golf usually cheats in other areas of their life. This observation has stuck with me during every round of golf I have played since.
My time constraints do not allow me the luxury of playing as much golf as I would like. Due to these constraints I typically limit playing to only with my sons or other close friends. If I am going to take five hours out of my schedule, I want to enjoy it.
Once I played in a golf tournament with a potential client. I was invited as a guest in his club’s member/guest tournament. Let me state that this was a man that could provide a significant amount of work to my firm.
Unfortunately, it was the worst experience I ever had on a golf course. The man turned out to break every rule of golf and common decency towards others. I put the experience behind me and later accepted a project with this client. Within a week I ended our involvement in the project.
In this case, golf mirrored life.
In these tough economic times it is equally difficult to find time to play golf and to turn down clients. However, in the end quality of life defeats money, so take Mr. McCormack’s advice and measure a person during a round of golf. You will only end up red in the face from a tan.