Why I play golf:

I enjoy playing golf because it provides me a relaxing environment where I get to combine my two passions of doing exercise and conducting business. I started playing golf 32 years ago when I began my career at UPS. At first, I participated in the sport as a way of supporting charity events, but more and more I found that it’s a great avenue to get to know customers. I can’t think of a better way of enhancing relationships with people than spending nine or 18 holes of quality time with them.

How golf has helped me in business:

A few years ago, when I was working in Minnesota, there was a customer I wanted to do business with, but he was too busy and he was not really interested in talking to me. I found out he enjoyed playing golf, so I used this information as my approach to get my foot in the door. I asked him to come out and play golf with me, and I even offered that if he did, I could get our then-CEO Mike Eskew to someday play with us. That piqued his interest and he took me up on my invitation. We had casual yet compelling conversations that allowed a mutually beneficial business relationship to develop. Unfortunately, Mike and the customer’s schedules didn’t allow them to get to play golf together, but Mike did visit the customer. That high-level meeting was indirectly possible because of the game.

How golf has made me more self-aware:

The sport has taught me the true virtue of patience. I’ve learned that you have to keep your eye on the prize, remain calm and maintain a positive attitude. Golf is similar to business, where you can win big or miss your target altogether, but there is always that one shot that will bring you back to the course. There are good days and there are bad days, but there’s always something to make you feel proud of your efforts and allow you to leave the course (and office) feeling accomplished.

How golf has helped me develop business relationships:

Building relationships takes time — and just like with golf, which sometimes is a waiting game, you have to be able to put in the hours to come out winning. Through the sport, you have the opportunity to share strategies, tips and, if you’re lucky, stories. These stories can open the gates of communication that can lead to the start of fostering personal and business relationships. This pays off even more when you’re on a team and you can share your wins and losses together. It’s times like these when love for the game can bring dividends that extend off the greens and into the boardroom.

Advice for people thinking of taking up golf:

In golf, as in business, you need to be prepared. On the greens it means knowing the etiquette of the sport and who the key players are so you can assess your approach to the game. It doesn’t matter if you’re not the best player, but knowing the etiquette will help you improve your game and also gain your colleagues’ respect. This principle applies to business, too. You need to be prepared before visiting a prospect or showing up for a meeting.

From the book Back on Course: Drive Business Performance Through Golf – By Connie Charles and Dave Bisbee

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