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5 Things Small Businesses Can Learn From Golf Professionals

Chandal Nolasco Da Silva
Unsplash image of a golfer on the green

Years ago, I learned to golf so I’d be able to get out on the course with clients and enjoy the occasional excursion with friends. Little did I know that while I’d end up doing business and networking through golf, there would also be countless lessons to learn from the game itself. 

While all sports have teaching moments — like how to lose gracefully — golf has lessons that are particularly relevant to small business owners. That’s why we’re sharing these five lessons learned from golf pros, so you can use the wisdom of others to help you build the best business possible.


Lesson # 1. Learning When to Use the Right Club 

Every pro golfer knows golf is a game of skill and using the right club at the right time makes all the difference. Using a putter when you really need a wedge will alter your result and may cause you to needlessly add extra strokes. 

lemonly golf infographic the clubs segment

Like golf, running and growing a small business requires learning when and where to use which tools and tactics. On the green, you’ll need to select which driver to use; with your marketing, you’ll need to carefully consider what works best for your business, like which social media platform to use

Focusing on a different type of greenery, event florist Mary Ellen LaFreniere of Steelcut Flower Co has found great success using social media. The company focus all their social media efforts on Instagram, the most visual of all the social media platforms. Last count, Steelcut Flower Co had over 17K followers and are fully booked for 2019. Mary Ellen even found one of her floral designers on Instagram, who said she wouldn’t be where she is today without her Instagram portfolio. Using the right tool for the job makes all the difference.


Lesson #2. Knowing When It’s Time to Go Pro 

It takes years of tireless training for pro golfers to get where they are today. Top pros like Dustin Johnson and Nelly Korda didn’t just pick up a club and suddenly start racking up PGA Tour wins —they invested years of hard work to reach that level. 

Most small business owners want to go pro from day one, which is understandable, but the real opportunity may be in building up slowly over time to mitigate risk. Running a business on the side while you work full time can be a good way to validate your idea and gain valuable learnings in the process. 

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Additionally, in the startup phase of your business, not everything needs to be perfect from day one. Focus on being as professional as possible for the budget and business you have today.

For example, this may mean starting out with a DIY website using a responsive website builder and an existing template. Once your business is established and continues to grow, you can then look at upgrading your web presence. 


Lesson #3. Building Confidence as Part of a Team 

While golf is an individual sport, team play (think Ryder Cup or Solheim Cup) helps improve performance and provides players with an opportunity to be part of a team. 

If you’ve ever watched one of these events, you can see how the players enjoy being part of a team. Typically, golfers only have themselves to rely on for their grit and confidence. Being a part of a team, however, allows them to benefit from the power of other players. 

A reported 81% of US business owners are non-employer businesses, meaning they don’t necessarily have a team to lean on. While you may not have a traditional team, you need people to support you on an ongoing basis. 

Running a small business is a rollercoaster ride, so having a team in place to assist you — even if they’re not employees — is key. This may be freelancers, professionals (such as accountants or lawyers) or even a trusted coach or mentor. The key is to find the right resources for your budget and to have a support system in place for when your confidence or motivation is waning. 

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Online Business Manager Tressa Beheim never thought her business would require a team, but as her business grew over the course of two years, she quickly realized she couldn’t do it alone. By slowly adding the right people to her team at the right time, she learned to embrace her role as CEO, and her business has continued to flourish with the help of her team. 


Lesson #4. Don’t Focus on Your Competition 

Pro golfers understand that while they’re trying to beat their opponents, they’re ultimately playing the course. By focusing on the course, they’re taking the conditions into account versus worrying about what their competitors are doing, which is ultimately out of their control. 

Many small business owners fall into the trap of obsessing over what their competitors are doing when it’s out of their hands. While it’s important to keep an eye on the competition, the goal should be to invest your time and energy into what is within your power. 

If you’re worried a new store in town could steal your customers, spend your time figuring out how to delight your current customers to nurture loyalty and beef up your existing local marketing to attract new ones. Your long track record of serving the community will continue to stand out. 

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Therapist and clinic owner Shulamit Ber Levtov runs her business in a small, rural town. Due to the location, the number of clients they can serve is limited. With other clinics in operation, it would have been all too easy to overthink what the others are doing and trying to keep up. Instead, she’s thrown her effort into building relationships with her existing clientele and finding ways her team can be of service to the community at large.


Lesson #5. Playing With Honesty 

At the heart of the rules of golf is a reliance on players’ honesty and integrity. It’s not uncommon for pro golfers to call penalties on themselves, and there are many examples of pros losing out on a title or being disqualified as a result. This honor code helps breed trust amongst golfers, and the rules of the game are held as sacrosanct. 

For small businesses, your customers’ trust is critical to your success. But like Rome, trust wasn’t built in a day – it’s something that’s built over time. Excellent customer service starts with ensuring your day-to-day interactions with potential and current customers are authentic and consistent. It means focusing on listening, doing what you say you’re going to do and when you make a mistake, doing everything you can to correct it quickly. 

San Diego based marketing company Wayward Kind makes their brand promise clear on their website and social media channels. This open and honest language helps build trust with potential customers quickly. You immediately get a sense of how they work, and what you could expect as their client. 

Wayward Kind homepage screenshot

Par for the Course

It’s no secret that running your own business involves a bit of learning as you go. From choosing the right clubs to playing with honesty, lessons from pro golfers might just help you get a birdie in your own business. 

lemonly golf infographic fore end segment

Image Credits 
Feature Image: Unsplash / Court Prather
Image 1, 6: via Lemonly
Image 2: via Consagous
Image 3: via LinkedIn
Image 4: via BlueCorona
Image 5: via Wayward Kind

Chandal Nolasco da Silva author bio