A bad day on the golf course is better than a good day at the office, according to the saying.
But if done properly, a day on the golf course can be just a productive as a day in the office.
"Many a deal was cut unexpectedly on the golf course," says Jim Hatfield, an ex-chemical engineer turned corporate golf guru and Northeast Ohio franchise owner of the Colorado-based Premium Links.
Hatfield believes a golf game can be a great business opportunity but stresses the importance of golf etiquette and proper conduct on the course.
"You should approach it like you would any other project," he says. "You should have a plan instead of hoping for a positive result somewhere down the line."
Through Premium Links and his many speaking engagements, Hatfield outlines how to effectively use golf for business using what he calls his "six-hole rule."
Holes one through six
Hatfield suggests spending the first six holes getting to know as much as you can about your partner and his or her company.
"Find out about as much as possible and find out things that are germane to any potential business relationship," Hatfield says.
Holes seven through 12
Once he's found out more about his golf partner and the company, Hatfield uses the next six holes to get more specific about a company's products and operations, or any problems and issues the company may have.
"And, of course I try to tell them about the various types of things that my company can offer them," he says.
Spend the last six holes trying to zero in on three to six areas where you might have some potential for doing business and explore them. By now, you should know the person, his or her background, what he or she does and what kind of competitive pressures that person has.
The 19th hole
Don't forget to close.
"Most important is the 19th hole, when you go back to the clubhouse," stresses Hatfield.
This is when you capitalize on the day. At a minimum, you have to have an action plan come out of the 19th hole.
If things went well on the course, you'll be in a position to start evaluating your business opportunities. Develop a concrete plan to meet again and discuss a specific issue. Never leave with someone saying, "I will think about that and get back to you later."
"Don't be surprised by success," Hatfield says.
Instead, be prepared and have an order form available. You never know when a golf partner will become a client.
Hatfield offers one warning.
Don't assume that because you have a strategic plan, a tee time and a group of people that fit your company's prospect profile that you can go out and enjoy a relaxing game of golf, make a business connection and act like a fool.
"It's hard for your clients to have a good time if you are swearing and beating your clubs against the ground," warns Hatfield. "Playing golf for better or for worse -- and it can be either way -- allows people to display what they are really about."
In fact, you can learn a lot about people from the way they conduct themselves on a golf course.
"I'm going to find out how they handle pressure, how they handle stressful conditions and how they handle disappointment," he says.
There are a few simple rules and guidelines on how to conduct yourself on the golf course. Besides the basics:
- Don't make noise while others are shooting.
- Don't walk in the line of play.
- Keep up the pace of play.
Hatfield also suggests that if you choose to have a cold beer and bet on the game, keep both to a minimum. The idea is to have fun.
"Betting, as far as I'm concerned, just creates a lot of tension, which is exactly the thing you are trying to break down," he says.
Most often, inappropriate conduct on the course is a result of bad playing. Premium Links teaches good shot planning and strategies so that even a mediocre player can do well and keep stress down and morale up.
Hatfield says that bad golf is often "really a result of making some bad choices and having false expectations. Once you can reconcile what you can expect of yourself, then the bad conduct takes care of itself."
So, one last burning question -- should you ever play customer golf?
Hatfield says never play to lose. If you are going to lose, do it the right way by giving your opponent too many strokes. But never lay down. It's not good sportsmanship ... nor good business. How to reach: Premium Links, (440) 526-7694
Kim Palmer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is managing editor of SBN Magazine.