When I started college, I had a few friends who enjoyed playing golf and bringing me along to laugh at the hacks I took, the slices I hit every time I teed off, and the injuries I'd sustain.
After coming in last place in a bachelor party tournament two years ago, I made the commitment to getting better. I was not going to drink another cheap shot of tequila with a worm in it again.
Introduced as a hobby, I never thought that golf was going to be something that could teach some really great life and small business lessons.
When it comes to projects within the company I'm working with, or even putting into context just how big a problem really is, golf just makes sense to me.
Here are 7 things golf has taught me about small business:
1. No matter how prepared you are, starting a project is like teeing off. You may have the right equipment, the right mindset, done the research, and have set yourself up correctly, but that doesn't mean you won't shank the ball and go completely in another direction.
After you've made the shank, you have to reset the plan to approach the target, but most of it remains the same. This becomes crucial in a small business since small mistakes can have such impactful consequences.
2. You can't prepare for all the obstacles. When you started the project, your first drive was great, right onto the fairway. But who put that tree there?
Going back to your research, you may have prepared for a handful of different obstacles, but there are always obstacles you haven't prepared for that you have to be ready to take on and overcome. Overanalyzing some of these obstacles can lead to a poor shot. Not thinking clearly or becoming frustrated with the obstacle causes stress and tenses muscles, thereby leading to a poor outcome.
3. Whatever mistake you made, it's in the past. Too many of my friends or fellow golfers get so angry over a poor shot or a missed one. I think it's hilarious when they throw clubs, slam the head of the club to the ground, kick their tee, or spew swear words all over the course.
Relax. Whatever mistake you made is in the past. Mistakes are made in small businesses all the time. You poured a bunch of money into a project that failed miserably, hired the wrong person, or didn't quite make the quarter. It's in the past and you have no control over that. However, you can always learn how to avoid expensive small business mistakes in the future. This leads me to my next point...
4. Every mistake is a learning opportunity. You should never make the same bad golf shot twice.
When disappointing results come from poor decisions, the only thing we can do is make a commitment to learn. If we continue to stress or think about the fact that we've made the mistake, it will only increase the potential of making it again. Mistakes are the most valuable ways to learn. Take advantage of that.
5. Focus on learning more of the aspects you don't know. Too often, I see people just sitting on the driving range, teeing off. So you can drive. It's only 1/10th of the game. That percentage is even less if you count the fact that you wouldn't typically drive off a handful of the holes on the course. Driving on a par 3 may get you in trouble.
It's really easy to get caught up in doing the things you enjoy: making sales, networking, or maybe getting involved with the operations. If you don't practice other skills, though, your competitors may creep up and take business away. You have to be good at more than just a couple things. Hire someone to complement your skills even.
6. You won't always hit the ball perfectly on. OK, so you've played the ball and now you're set up with an iron and are ready to put it on the green. You know that you're going to have to play this club completely perfect in order to get it there, but you manage to take a chunk of grass along with it.
Execution is business doesn't always go the way it was planned or the way that was needed to completely succeed. It's OK for some plans to not work fully in the way you wanted, because there are other options for getting to your goal. For instance, having an exit plan is great, but as the small business evolves, so should your exit strategy.
7. Surrounding yourself with the right people makes a difference. Who do you invite to go golfing? People who make you uncomfortable? I doubt it. You're probably surrounded by people you enjoy playing with, folks who have friendly competition on their minds or have a potential relationship to harness.
An amazing idea executed with a poor team will always fail. However, an OK idea with a great team has a chance to succeed. Immerse yourself within a team that you can get along with, have a small sense of competition with, and who are ready to play along.
The sport doesn't have to be golf and the thing you learn from doesn't even have to be a sport. Taking advantage of every opportunity to learn can help your small business grow. To make time to learn how to make your business grow, or to be able to pay attention to your passion again, consider outsourcing tasks that take away energy or are difficult. Chances are, there is a company that can do it better for less.