Interview with David Juhola of Bridgestone Golf

February 8, 2010

David Juhola is a Territory Manager for Bridgestone Golf. He is also a public relations consultant for the PGA of America. David was awarded the 2005 Golf Professional of the Year for the Dixie Section as well as the recipient of the Dixie Sections 2005 Bill Strausbaugh Award. David offers a unique perspective as he went from a role as a successful green-grass club professional, to a role as a sales representative. We hope you can take a thing or two from the interview and his perspective.

Describe the path you have taken as a PGA professional? How did you get started in this business? What makes your path unique from other paths?

My father is a 50+ year PGA professional and I started playing golf when I was 3. I played golf at the University of Alabama, and decided after school to become a PGA professional. I worked at the CC of Pittsfield for a short while, and then went to work at Chase Lake CC under Allen Austin. I completed my membership requirements in about 3 years, and during that time I was Assistant of the Year, and I became involved with the politics of the PGA.

Throughout your career, what have been the overarching principles that you have stood by as a golf professional? What principles have you hoped others would take with them when they left your leadership?

I have always worked and had relations with everyone I deal with in the following manner. Treat those like you want to be treated. If I can lay my head on the pillow at the end of the day, and know that I did the best and treated everyone as I want to be treated, then I had a successful day. I have always suggested to my apprentices to follow those ideas.

What advice would you give a young golf professional that has aspirations of success in the business?

Select the part of the golf business that you are happy performing. I have worked at private, semi private and now in sales. I miss some of the green grass experience, but I also enjoy the freedom of sales. I still miss giving back to a great sport. If you expect to get rich, don't get into this profession. If you want to give back to a great sport, and make some great relationships, then this is the correct path.

Some clubs don't have an assistant professional hierarchy (first assistant, second assistant, etc.), do you buy or sell the hierarchical concept? If so, why? If no, why?

I believe that you should have the hierarchy. We have this hierarchy, because it prepares/and challenges us to do better in our profession. Yes some supervisors use this to an extreme, but hopefully the man at the top realizes this and tries to instruct those under that is not proper.

In your career, how have you drawn the line between being your directs reports friend and their boss?

This is a sticky position. If you become to friendly with your subs, then you lose some of the edge. I have always followed these ideas. I socialize with my co workers and cut up with them at work, but never socialized after hours with them. Only exceptions were during club functions where we were expected to attend.

Throughout your career, how have you handled the ebbs and flows of the fluctuating wants and needs or your members, guests, customer, etc.?

I have always followed one rule. The member is always right, and I have always tried to do the best I can. I always followed the rules, and made them aware I had to follow those rules. I would always respect their ideas, and discuss them in detail, to find out why they are take a position on those. You have three type of members. 1. Those that use the club and never ask for anything. 2. Those that ask for everything, and want you to make the exceptions. 3. Those that follow the rules and expect you to as well. 50% never complain, and 30% complain some of the time, and 20% complain all the time. Listening to the balance is the difficult part.

In the different roles you have played in your career, what have been aspects of your positions, that if you didn't do them well, it would detrimental to your operations?

I have worked in the following positions: Assistant Professional, Head Professional, General Manager, and Sales Rep. In the assistant position, I followed one rule. Make my boss look great. I had everything layed out for him, so everything ran as smooth as possible. As the Head professional, I worked very closely with my GM. I also remembered how to treat my assistants, so they were able to learn. I would delegate work to them, and made them accountable. I also let them take the credit. As the GM, you are the final decision maker. You are also in the bulls eye all the time. You better be prepared to take the heat, and along with the heat, you can get burned! That is way GM's life expectation is 3 years and Head Professionals are 7 years.

In your eyes, what does it mean to "serve" others?

To serve is: Do what is correct for the whole and not the few. We all have guidelines to follow, but if we see where we can make suggestions to make things better for a larger population, then we should try to plant the seed in the powers at be. Once planted, try to give as much detail as to why, and don't expect to receive the credit. It’s not about the credit. It’s about making things better for all concerned.

It seems that the golf business is becoming less about golf and more about business. With that said, do you feel there is a growing trend for assistants, HP's, and higher with college degrees?

College degrees being a requirement started back when I entered this profession. I feel that every position going forward will require degrees. I think that because of the caliber of members we associate with have made it more of a requirement to have college degree. Yes, I agree that the business was evolving to more management and less about GOLF, but within the last three years, I have seen a change back to the game of golf becoming more important. Because of these reasons everyone needs to keep golf on the forefront. 1. A old pro told me that there are 2 things that separate us from the fellows that work at retail. a: ability to run a good tournament, and b: ability to teach. If you follow these two things, you have to remember that if you go to management only, anyone can do the management stuff. You still must keep yourself in front of the members and (your bosses). When you are not seen by those people, you then become replaceable. Being a good player, being the up front person, and following the many roles that a PGA golf professional may perform at any given time, will make you successful. All members look at good players as better teachers, and better professionals. This may not be true, but perception is everything, and why put any doubt in someone's mind.

Some time ago, I was sitting and thinking about mutually beneficial relationships with sales reps and I was looking at my list of what I need from my reps. I feel like that is what we as pro's are always thinking. "What do I need from my rep?" "What can my rep do for me?". How about "What do you want from us?". How can we as pros help you (besides the obvious of buying your product)?

Since I have been on the sales side of the golf business, I have come to respect what the rep has to go through. I use to be like all the other pro's and never call a rep back, but now that I am on this side. I have come to respect those pro's that do a simple task. Returning a call! As a rep, all I ask is for the opportunity to have a discussion on the phone with the pro. Once on the phone, if I am able to get the opportunity to set up an appointment, then it is up to me to get the answer I am looking for. YES! (I will tell you that as the buyer, we need to learn to give the rep one answer! Give him a YES, or a NO. If you leave the maybe on the table, your rep will continue to call until he gets one of those answers.) I have always looked at what I do now as being a business consultant. Maybe that is the PGA pro in me, but I truly believe if you are successful with what I position and recommend to you, then I am successful. Then my name and companies I rep for become of value to everyone. Most reps will try to assist any way they can.

For a green grass professional interested in getting into sales with a company, can you describe the transition from green grass to sales? In what ways, if any, did you have to approach the transition? Why did you get into sales? What might a young pro sacrifice when going from green grass to sales? What is the biggest difference between green grass and sales? Are there pro's and con's to the sales side and what might they be?

Transition to sales from the green grass, is not as easy as you think. Sales is something where it is all about who you know. To be honest, I broke into sales from the retail side. I worked at Dick's for 6 months and then went into sales. I went into sales because, I enjoyed working sales on the floor at Dick's but hated being confined to indoors. I also only wanted to have more potential to increase my income. When you make the transition to sales, you think you will have the opportunity to play more golf, but if you want to be successful, you will not play at all for the first 3 to 5 years. Another item you will give up, is the closer relationships you develop, and the success stories that you get from working with the juniors. Biggest difference between green grass and sales- fewer bosses, and your income potential. Pro side of sales: fewer bosses, you control your time. Cons: Travel, increased expenses.

What do you foresee to be the golf businesses biggest challenges?

Internet. As everyone has less time, and the demands of life increase. The golfer will use the internet to fine everything they need. I am seeing that now. As yourself this question. When you need an answer to something do you look on the internet? You probably do, and everyone else does too. If they want a club, a bag, a round of golf, a motel. The golf professional needs to become just as savvy to the internet and create a web page for their shop, and expect that they will be selling products to non members.

What advice would you have for balancing professional and personal lives?

Balance is hard, but if you always put family first you will be successful. Remember at the end of the day, you can count on family, the job may or may not be there. Off course you are not going to neglect your job. The hardest thing to do is keep them separate. Don't discuss family issues or your business dealings with members. Members want to think of themselves as better than the golf professional, so don't give them any reason to think you are doing well. The golf professional in the South is not respected as well as the golf professional in the east. The eastern golf professional is respected a lot more, and treated a lot different.