Driving growth Featured

8:00pm EDT May 14, 2006
Chip Brewer needed to cut 60 percent of costs his first year at Adams Golf, but two areas he refused to touch were people and resources.

He knew those were the things he needed to get the company back on track, so he chose to invest even more in them and found other areas in which to reduce costs.

“Getting the right people and making sure they have the right resources and environment is the primary way you orient for that growth,” Brewer says.

His strategy paid off, and the company ended 2005 with $56.4 million in revenue, a 49 percent increase over 2002. Smart Business spoke with Brewer about how he invested in his 125 employees to grow Adams Golf, a designer and distributor of premium golf clubs.

How do you prepare for growth?
It’s having the right people in the right places and allocating resources to those areas, because resources are never unlimited. Quality people are never as plentiful as you like, so you cherish every quality employee you can get.

Then you make decisions about how you’re going to allocate resources and what areas you’re going to focus on because you can’t focus on everything. If you do, you’ll be average at a lot of things, and if you chase every opportunity that runs at you, you might not catch any of them.

What do you look for in potential employees?
It’s hard to find good people because that’s such a key resource. It’s a challenge of any growing business, and it’s one of those classy problems that you like to have. We look for passion, integrity, drive, intelligence, a fit with the culture here.

We’re a relatively small business. Friends and friendships have developed, and you don’t want to interfere with that based on the quality of hires. We’ve had some people come through that were clearly bright people and excellent backgrounds, but they didn’t appear to fit with the culture. I wouldn’t support us hiring those individuals because the negative effects would outweigh what they could provide.

We’re better off to keep looking until we get that perfect fit. Getting the right people into the organization is probably the most important thing.

The only thing I know in my heart of hearts that I’ve done a good job at is attracting good people early on and retaining them during the bad years when the business was really struggling. We were able to keep and motivate some good people, so when we got our financial act back together, got our product line back together, those individuals were still here.

They were battling hard by then, and that allowed us to move forward.

How do you retain employees?
It’s about trust — treating them well, open environments. In a time of crisis, everybody wants leadership and direction, but you also need to identify and trust the individuals. It was mutual. They knew how highly I felt for them and how much respect I had for them, and trust, even though none of our results were that good at the time.

We would talk openly about the difficulties that we faced and what the other opportunities were for them, both personally and professionally, and we agreed to stay and stick it out together.

How do you differentiate your products from those of the competition?
We play two basic product games in our business. We play leapfrog, which is where there is a clear technological trend in the industry, such as the size of driver heads, and we try to use our size as an advantage to be faster to the market in the next evolution — just try to stay one step ahead of the competition.

The other area, which is more exciting and rewarding when you get it right, is delivering true innovation. Being the first to enter that category gives you a significant advantage.

We’ve identified a niche, innovated to deliver better product into that, moved aggressively into it, and we’ve committed fully.

How do you drive innovation?
We’re relatively aggressive. We will take some risks. We will push. We don’t want to take a lot of time and come out with a product that matches others. That isn’t the key to success. Each product we do has to have a clear reason why it exists in the world because the world doesn’t need another me-too product.

You have to make sure you put the resources in the right area. Product is a key area that we try to differentiate our business, and if you look at how we’ve spent our money, R&D is the primary area where we’re constantly funding.

How does investing in people and resources help you grow the business?
Happy consumers and market share, which then turn into top line and bottom line growth for the business. You can feel inside the organization when we’re getting stronger organizationally. You can tell when you’re on the right direction — the quality of people, what they’re working on, their attitudes.

Sooner or later, that turns into product and tour count growth. That turns into e-mails coming in from people who are using your product, and from there to market share, and from there to financial metrics.

How to reach: Adams Golf, www.adamsgolf.com