Why Savvy Business Leaders Use Golf To Grow Their Business

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By Creighton Casper, Master Connection Associates & Tim Ryan, Pebble Beach Company

WHY MEET AT A GOLF RESORT? A BUSINESS CASE

Golf’s Unique Appeal

In the world of competitive sports, golf is truly unique. Each round presents an ever-changing series of tests and challenges for the golfer to overcome. To score well, players must execute each shot successfully and deal with the consequences of their errors as they occur. Few things can compare with the thrill of perfectly executing a difficult shot, and placing the ball pin-high and close to the hole.

Golf attracts players of all ages, skill levels and athletic ability. Presidents, statesmen, celebrities, corporate leaders – and PGA pros have all enjoyed golf’s singular trials and triumphs. But golf’s allure is not confined to the famous or the greats of the game. All golfers share the common quest to refine their skills and improve their game.

Golf is fascinating, frustrating and endlessly challenging. When played well, it is particularly rewarding and provides a singular feeling of pleasure and accomplishment. Poor play is its own punishment and can test the focus and concentration of even the best players. Golf has its own mystique, and for the avid enthusiast, it can become an enduring life-long passion.

Values of Golf

Golf is a game of discipline that challenges both the mind and body. To be successful, golfers must play a complete game, combining physical skill, self-control and good judgment. They must manage their play to seize opportunities when available and deal with golf’s inevitable trials and misfortunes. Golfers must set their strategy, stay focused, choose wisely, play consistently, and overcome adversity. Many of the lessons golf teaches are also critical for success beyond the game—in personal, business and professional life.

Tradition and integrity are a big part of the game. For many, learning to play golf is part of growing up and a valued rite of passage. The rules of golf are many and specific—and they apply to all. Golfers must play by the rules, acknowledge their own mistakes and appreciate the subtleties of the game to compete effectively and win. Golf emphasizes personal responsibility and consistency along with individual achievement. This respect for integrity and fair play is the essence of golf.

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Golf is a valued break from the normal patterns of daily life. For those few hours on the course, the focus is on the game and the best approach for making the next shot. It is also an opportunity to get away from the office and step back briefly from the concerns of work and family. A round of golf gives players a chance to relax with friends, recharge and gain fresh perspective before returning to the demands of a busy world.

Golf and Business

Golf also plays an important role in business. Its popularity and international appeal make it an effective means to develop customers, build teams and retain top talent across all industries. The company golf tournament is a highlight of the year for many businesses. Major corporations have long used golf tournament sponsorships and customer events to build their brands and promote their products. Today, golf is an intrinsic part of how business works in America – and around the world.

Building strong relationships is an essential business process. Time spent with customers or colleagues on the golf course is the perfect setting to develop new contacts and business relationships. A shared love of the game gives golfers a common bond that introduces them easily and starts the conversation. Those few hours shared during a round of golf have been the beginning of countless business relationships, friendships, collaborations and referrals. Successful executives contend that some of their most effective sales calls and best deals occurred on the golf course.

“Executives cited customer meetings as having the greatest returns.”Global research firm Oxford Economics established the first clear link between business travel and business growth. For every dollar invested in business travel, businesses experience an average US $12.50 in increased revenue and US $3.80 in new profits. Both executives and business travelers estimate that 28% of current business would be lost without in-person meetings. Roughly 40% of prospective customers are converted to new customers with an in-person meeting compared to 16% without such a meeting. Executives cited customer meetings as having the greatest returns, approximately US $15-$19.99 per dollar invested.

Building Corporate Culture

A strong corporate culture is the foundation for a successful business. It sets values and expectations and unifies the team in a common mission. Communication, teamwork and loyalty all flow from the culture and make the company thrive and grow.

PebbleBeach1Many companies use golf, with its camaraderie and values, to help build their culture. The investment required to acquire the best management talent make motivation and retention top priorities. Golf provides a healthy outside activity for interested executives to network with colleagues. Including golf in corporate life builds lines of communication, strengthens working relationships and enhances the culture.

Golf Meetings and Events

Golf remains the favorite sport for top executives and decision makers. Using golf in sophisticated customer events and management meetings is an effective business development strategy. Corporate meetings and events at golf resorts deliver important benefits:

Bringing your customers and executives together is an efficient use of time.

  • Meeting and networking with clients build valuable customer relationships.
  • Access to new customers and decision makers increases sales.
  • Client events and entertaining help protect and retain valuable customers.
  • Meeting and interacting with other customers validate their buying decision.
  • Targeted customer golf events produce sales and measurable ROI.

Building teamwork makes management more competitive.

  • Shared golf experiences build:Recognition of team member contributions builds retention and loyalty.Relaxed resort environment contributes to productive business meetings.
    • Communication, camaraderie and working relationships.
    • Corporate culture and effective management and sales teams.
  • Including golf and other recreation in meetings builds corporate culture.
  • Golf adds a special competitive element to company meetings.
  • Attractive resort venue increases meeting attendance and participation.

Impact of the Recession

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In the fall of 2008, financial crisis gripped the country. Companies responded with cost saving measures, including significant cutbacks in meetings and business travel. Business travel spending fell by 12.5% in the first six months of 2009 as meetings across the country were shortened, delayed or cancelled. As the federal government extended financial aid to struggling banks and automobile companies, businesses cut costs and hunkered down to weather the storm.

At the height of the recession, some politicians criticized companies for meeting at luxury resorts during the financial crisis. AIG was singled out for holding an incentive meeting at a California resort while it accepted federal financial aid. The negative perception of companies meeting at resorts as they reduced staff and their stock prices fell was a major concern.

Golf meetings were vulnerable to this criticism. Some companies moved groups from resorts to city hotels to avoid any negative perception. The resort environment is very different from city hotels though, and the group experience and meeting outcome were often affected. Companies found that one size does not fit all and that putting the right group in the right facility is critical for success. They also learned that resorts are a good fit for productive and successful C-level events.

Today’s Competitive Environment

The recession increased competition and companies learned they had to upgrade their game. Over time, business slowly improved and companies booked meetings again to regroup and develop strategies to compete in the weak economy. Now, after several years of slow growth and continued uncertainty, companies know what works. Successful companies learned to reduce costs, be more competitive and operate smarter and more effectively. Everything they do now has to produce results. It is no surprise that businesses today are focused on efficiency, sales effectiveness and ROI.

“It’s the best return on a $75k investment.” Regional Director of Sales, Apparel and Footwear Company: “Over the eight years that I’ve brought this one customer to Pebble Beach I’ve grown our business with them from $3M to $15M. We use Pebble Beach as a place to showcase next year’s product line and write orders. It’s the best return I can get on a $75k investment.”

Resurgence of Golf Meetings

Companies are far more selective now in booking meetings and finding the right venue for each event. They base their site selection decisions on the purpose for the meeting and what they are trying to accomplish. Then they choose the venue that best fits the meeting objectives, group criteria and attendee profile.

This pragmatic approach has caused an increase in group bookings at Pebble Beach and other luxury resorts. Corporate meeting planners know that top destination resorts are a good fit to achieve defined business objectives. They use luxury resorts for high-level meetings, important C-level conferences and business development programs targeting high-value accounts.

“This is the best program we do with our customers. And best of all it funds itself.” SR VP, Industrial Company: “We allocate 1% of revenue from our year over year sales increase to operate this program. If we don’t hit our numbers we don’t do the program. But when Pebble Beach is the carrot it creates a lot of excitement and activity. Everyone works really hard so they can return to Pebble Beach.”

Luxury golf resorts are ideal settings for several types of high-level meetings:

Meeting Objectives Strategies
Strategic Planning Retreat Set corporate direction and strategy Get team away for a fresh perspective and creativity.Collaborate in plan development and build teamwork.Gain commitment and build the corporate culture.
Recognize management team and their contribution.
Customer Golf Event Acquire and retain good customers Utilize “play where the pros play” appeal.
Gain access to C-level customers; CEOs, CMO, etc.Get to know customers and build relationships.
The best sales calls are made on the golf course.
Sales Meeting Increase sales effectiveness Build a competitive sales team and corporate culture.
Introduce sales strategies and focus the sales team.
Build relationships, networking to increase sales.
Provide direction and training to increase effectiveness.
Incentive Group Event Increase revenues and profits Reward and recognize superior performance.
Motivate sales and/or management team.
Build loyalty and enhance the corporate culture.Produce measurable results and clear ROI.
Board of Directors Meeting Obtain corporate direction and oversight Attract experienced business talent to corporate board.Obtain external perspective, input and advice.
Collaborate in setting objectives and strategic direction.Recognize value of the board and its contribution.

Increased competition in today’s weak economy only heightens golf’s compelling attraction for high-level business groups. In this highly charged environment, it is
PebbleBeach4doubly difficult for leading companies to stay ahead of the competition. This is where the strategic use of luxury resorts for significant corporate events can make a real difference. Pebble Beach Resorts partners with our client companies to help them achieve critical business objectives.

“Bringing your customers and executives together is an efficient use of time.” EVP, Technology Company: Bringing our customers, prospects and executives to Pebble Beach is an efficient use of everyone’s time. Not only do our customers sell our prospects, but we’re able to get our executives in front of our customers at Pebble Beach instead of flying all around the world.

Legendary Golf Resort

Since 1919, Pebble Beach Resorts has been known as one of the leading golf resorts in the world. Its championship courses have played host to many of golf’s top tournaments and challenged and rewarded the game’s greatest amateurs and PGA pros. Golfers from around the world are drawn to Pebble Beach for one of the ultimate experiences in golf.

Championship golf has a rich history at Pebble Beach Resorts. For thirty-eight years, Bing Crosby’s tournament, the Crosby Clambake, was the annual A-list gathering of the Hollywood and golf elites. That tradition continues today as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am. The U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and Champions Tour First Tee Open all return regularly to Pebble Beach. Nicklaus, Watson, Kite and Woods have all won majors here.

Golfers everywhere dream of playing the legendary courses of Pebble Beach. Its dramatic oceanfront location on Northern California’s Monterey Peninsula is one of the most beautiful natural sites in the country. This rugged coastal setting is home to three of the finest and most famous golf courses in America. Luxurious facilities, exquisite dining and attentive personal service complete the resort package to position Pebble Beach Resorts as the definitive golf destination.And from the very beginning, Pebble Beach has also been the preferred site for high-level corporate meetings, retreats and customer events.

Pebble Beach Resorts—Ideal C-level Group Destination

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Pebble Beach Resorts is America’s premier site for high-level corporate meetings and events. Its exceptional international allure attracts golf-oriented groups from major companies from around the world. Avid golfers share a love of the game that intensifies the value of visiting this legendary golf destination. Pebble Beach is a truly unique and exclusive site for corporate gatherings at the highest level.

Effective meetings play a critical role in building culture. They involve the management team in the growth and direction of the company and help keep them focused and engaged. Today, with more employees working remotely, getting the team together for input, discussion and collaboration is increasingly important. Adding golf to appropriate management-level meetings encourages involvement and participation.

“We built our company based on the relationships we formed at Pebble Beach.” CFO, Insurance Company: “Our first event at Pebble Beach was in 1990. We brought our top 5 brokers and our top 3 executives to Pebble Beach for four days. We built our company based on the relationships we formed at Pebble Beach. Twenty two years later we meet with our top 175 brokers and top 10 executives at Pebble Beach to reward them for helping us grow our business and discuss our plans for the upcoming year. In our industry our company is forever linked with Pebble Beach.”

Top financial, automotive and technology companies are frequent group customers at Pebble Beach Resorts. Recent growth in the technology sector has had a multiplier effect for new golf groups from tech firms and companies that service and supply them. Booking your group at Pebble Beach adds a sense of value and significance to your event, builds attendance and ensures a positive return on your meeting investment.

“We only bring our top customers to Pebble. In order to qualify they have to beat their year over year sales targets.” EVP, Automotive Financial Services Company: “Our President spends more time on our Pebble Beach program than he does on any other program because it’s so important for our business. We only bring our top customers to Pebble. In order to qualify they have to beat their year over year sales targets. They’re the 5% who produce 80% of our revenue. This year we had a number of our regulars who didn’t qualify. This allowed some new customers to qualify and they’re very excited to be here. Let’s make sure we contract the next three years soon.”

Generations of guests return to Pebble Beach Resorts each year to enjoy its particular pleasures. Although incomparable golf sets Pebble Beach apart, it is also unequaled as a luxury destination resort. Its magnificent spa and resort facilities, creative cuisine at multiple dining options and truly exceptional guest service make it a favorite weekend and vacation retreat. In turn, our powerful leisure guest appeal enhances the attraction of Pebble Beach Resorts as a preferred site for important group meetings and events.

A New Era of Golf Meetings at Pebble Beach

Each year, thousands of golfers visit Pebble Beach to test their skills on its legendary links. They come to play where the pros play. For them, playing the famous courses where top professionals dueled to the final putt on the eighteenth green at Pebble Beach is priceless.

“He was like a little kid. He walked into almost every bunker just to see what they were like.” Sr. EVP Global Sales and Business Development, Technology Company: “I’ve been bringing my top 75 customers and prospects to Pebble Beach every summer for the last 12 years. My customers plan their summer around our event. This year I invited a prospect from Israel who never played Pebble Beach. I met with him our first night here and we played Pebble Beach together the next day. He was like a little kid. He walked into almost every bunker just to see what they were like. After the round we closed a big deal that’s worth about $40M a year. And that’s just one customer. I have 74 more like him here this week.”

The preeminent role of sports in America continues to escalate each year, as golf attracts new generations of players. Sports remain a vital learning experience to build the abilities and competence for success. Certainly, acquiring those strengths and competitive skills are increasingly important in today’s complex world. Golf’s central role in commerce and its use as an effective business tool continue to grow and spread. New leaders in all areas of business are discovering the unique value that bringing groups together in this positive and productive atmosphere produces. And with each new golfer, the compelling imagery of the green fairways of Pebble Beach Golf Links with the beautiful Pacific beyond is an enduring icon of the game.

Corporate leaders use golf events to help achieve their business objectives. They come to Pebble Beach to plan and strategize with their management teams and to build customer relationships to grow their businesses. Meeting at Pebble Beach Resorts is a wise business choice for competitive companies. They return to meet 

PebbleBeach8at Pebble Beach because they know it works. The legend continues. “The return on investment is in the ‘gazillions.’ We’ll return to Pebble Beach every year as long as there is a Pebble Beach.” Sr. VP Global Marketing, Enterprise Technology Company: “We do two programs a year for our top customers. One is always at Pebble Beach. Over the 8 years we’ve been coming to Pebble we’ve gotten to know our customers better and more importantly have become good friends. The one thing we all have in common is golf and we love to play Pebble Beach. The group we have here is worth between $25 and $30 billion to us a year. The return on investment is in the ‘gazillions.’ We’ll return to Pebble Beach every year as long as there is a Pebble Beach.”

Article excerpt reprinted with permission of Pebble Beach Company.