Golf, growth and guffaws Featured

6:25am EDT April 29, 2004
I am tired, humbled and sore. I traveled 4,000 miles and paid a lot of money to feel this way.

After a week of basic training at a golf school in California, I could barely lift my arms to type. My hands were raw, my shoulders ached and I was hunched over the keyboard. Growth always comes with pain.

I can already see a change in my swing and my overall golf game. After hitting about 500 balls daily, we ended the week with a team tournament. Although I would grade my round a "D" (on the generous curve), I pulled off a handful of shots I didn't know I had in me.

This "tear down and rebuild" process reminds me of growing a business. I have a renewed appreciation of how my clients must feel at the end of our early work together -- a little beat up, overwhelmed and anxious to see how and when improvements would manifest.

As individuals, we employ different strategies to get through pain and change. I find humor to be my strongest support. In that vein, here are some golfing guffaws:

* When my patient instructor took away all but four of my clubs to help me focus, we dubbed him the "Golf Nazi," known for shouting, "No clubs for you!"

* The square-jawed scratch golfer we named "Judge Smails" (from Caddyshack), who with his spouse, "Golf Barbie," clearly ran the week at camp, pushed us outcasts into forming our own Island of Misfit Toys. When it rained, the misfits played while the pros stayed in.

* After lecturing me on how I was doing everything wrong, a fellow golfer demonstrated the "right way" to tee off. His graphite driver break loose and narrowly miss destroying a picture window.

When it comes to growth and guffaws, remember to connect the two. Too often, business owners are hunched over the "right way" to grow their businesses, grimacing and squinting and trying to force a solution.

If you're a golfer, you know what happens when you grip the club too tightly -- you end up stuck in sand traps or searching for your ball among the trees. One of the most important lessons of growth is that once you set your stance and settle your grip, you need to relax your shoulders and have some fun.

Golf school taught me to play the game better, but also reminded me that growth is growth, whether you're practicing a game or scrambling to fill the largest order your company has ever had. Andrew J. Birol (abirol@andybirol.com) is president of Birol Growth Consulting and helps owners grow their businesses by growing their best and highest use. Reach him at (440) 349-1970 or www.andybirol.com.