Bob Husband

When Bob Husband visits one of the properties owned by Heritage Golf Group LLC, he doesn’t want his employees stricken with fear that he is looking for problems. Creating in them a sense of trust in their leader and a belief that he is there to support what they are doing only encourages a deeper dedication to their jobs, says the company’s president and CEO. That approach seems to be working, as the golf course operator’s revenue reached $75 million in 2006 and is expected to approach $100 million in 2007 with 2,500 employees. Smart Business spoke with Husband about how having fun and not being afraid to take chances creates a culture of empowerment and growth.

Consider the attitude. We encourage people to make the customer, member or the guest happy. It’s a lot harder to get new customers than it is to save the old ones.

Start off with the attitude and intelligence, and don’t necessarily hire from within the industry. Hire the most qualified people in terms of service, history and their attitude.

We do some testing of people and we do personality profiles. Do they enjoy people? Do they get along with people? Are they comfortable in social settings?

That goes hand in hand with attitude. Do you really enjoy what you are doing and get that across to others? Once you decide that person fits that mold, then you find out if they are smart enough to take the ball and run with it.

Be supportive. I make a very strong, concerted effort when I go to the properties to not be critical. I want them to think I am supportive.

If they don’t buy into what you are trying to sell, they won’t put their best effort forward. That, to me, is an absolute fundamental; that they believe you, they trust you and they know that what you say is what you’re going to do.

If they know that you’re going to do what you say and be responsible and that’s important to you, most people do want to do the right thing.

They want to avoid conflict. I want to avoid conflict. I don’t want people pointing to me and saying, ‘There’s the jerk that owns this club’ or ‘There’s the president of the company that owns this club.’ I really want them to feel we are a team.

Find the leaders. You run into a lot of different people and a lot of different situations. You find out very quickly who the person is at every facility that people turn to. That’s the person you are looking for. It’s not always the manager.

It’s important that every course has a person that everyone looks to as a leader. Sometimes, we’ll find that it is the general manager. Other times, we’ll find that maybe it is the department head. It’s a function of trying to find the best people to train the next level of people in terms of their knowledge and what people want. There’s some intense training that has to go on at the front end to make sure they understand what you’re trying to accomplish.

Be a good listener. There are certain business fundamentals that apply to almost every business. When you get outside of your sphere of knowledge, you have to get experts and listen to them. If you don’t listen to them, there is no reason to hire them or no reason to talk to them.

There are almost always people willing to give you an opinion about something. Usually, you can get some pretty good opinions. Usually, your first impression is your right impression, but with that goes the responsibility of having educated yourself about what it is you are looking for and what you are trying to do. Most of the time, you’re going to guess right.

Be decisive. There are a lot of times when people can talk you out of things when it’s really the right thing for you to do.

Just try to methodically go about assessing the risk the best you can. No one is ever perfect at that. It always seems the riskiest things are the things that you haven’t done before. Get the most information you can and go forward from there. The most difficult thing for a lot of people is to actually make a decision.

People will put off making a decision because of a lack of information. Sometimes you are forced into making a decision with 80 percent of the information. Sometimes you just have to, rather than trying to get 100 percent of the information, which you will never get.

Trust your instincts. First instincts are almost always right, given the fact you know a little bit about what you are doing. For example, everybody wants to own a restaurant. And yet, 85 or 90 percent of all restaurants fail.

It’s not necessarily a great thing to own a restaurant. If most of them fail, then why do you think you can succeed? Maybe you know something that other people don’t. Your failures and how you deal with those really define you.

You just have to get all the information you can, and jump. Sometimes the rest of the information is just not there and you’re never going to know until you try. Other people continue to do things because their gut tells them to do it even though they have tried it and it didn’t work.

That’s where you have to draw the line and say, ‘I’m not going to do this again.’

Don’t punish failure. You have to teach (employees) that failure is OK. If they are afraid to fail, then they won’t make the decision. If they feel like they can fail and you’re not going to jump all over them for doing that, then they have a sense of empowerment and a sense of ownership, and they will tend to make better decisions and more decisions.

They will fail, but you’ve got to expect that. Hopefully, they will ask questions and they’ll go through and do all their homework and everything else, but they will still fail. It’s how you recover that matters. Demonstrate through your own actions that it is an acceptable practice to make your own decisions and fail.

HOW TO REACH: Heritage Golf Group LLC, (858) 720-0694 or