5 Lessons For Golf Professionals From The LA Lakers

by Brian Dobak
June 21, 2010

With their backs against the wall Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers found a way to pull off their second consecutive NBA Championship last week. As many business professionals can relate, there were several instances when survival was the only option. Just as in a tough physical series against a bitter rival, today's golf professionals are slugging it out with the competition in a cut throat economy where only the strong will prevail.

When it came down to the wire, the 2010 NBA finals were as good as it gets. The bitter rivalry with a rich tradition of great players and a history of prestige made each game of the series critical for both teams. The dominating start by the Lakers, followed by a strong comeback by the Celtics in game 5 kept all of us on the edge of our seats. Then came a close game 7. While watching this series there were several valuable lessons that could be taken from the basketball court and applied to us as golf professionals.

Focus is everything

Kobe Bryant came into the NBA finals determined to make the LA Lakers the next NBA champions. From tip off to the final buzzer in game 1, Kobe had a level of focus in his eyes that could not be denied. He was zeroed in during his press conferences as he gave the media (and the Celtics) nothing to feed on and use to their advantage let alone create any distractions. He even had famous comedian Chris Rock sitting court side and talking to him during timeouts, but Kobe was un-phased. He was clearly determined to walk away from game 7 with another championship ring to add to his collection and the gratification of attaining revenge for the Lakers’ 2008 loss in game 7 of the NBA finals. This same level of focus applies to us. Let’s be serious, when you set out to be a golf professional, you will definitely run into distractions along the way. New ideas, new strategies, new facilities, more products, and sales reps pitching the newest product and resource that your golf shop must have. None of these things are necessarily bad if you leverage them in the right way. However, an unfocused golf professional makes mistakes, which can create setbacks or even destroy a golf shops solvency. When building and maintaining your business, stay focused on your operations mission and have the focus to make decisions based on value to your club and golf operation.

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Adjustments

As I mentioned earlier, the Lakers got off to a strong start in game 1 of the series where they routed the Celtics in a blowout victory. At that point the Celtics had some decisions to make. Do they continue what they are doing or do they watch film and figure out a new strategy? It was obvious from game 2 that the Celtics tweaked a few things in their strategy and it paid off with a win. Why wouldn’t golf professionals do the same thing in business? Many clubs have struggled or even failed because their leadership was afraid to make key adjustments in critical areas of their club. If your membership roll is down or merchandise sales are down or your club is struggling to find a niche in its market, think outside the box and try something new. Clubs that can turn on a dime and adjust to changing opportunities or market conditions end up with a triple double on their balance sheet instead of a shooting slump.

Hire People that are willing to step up

Give some major credit to Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Nate Robinson for stepping up under pressure and igniting the Celtics in a momentum changing 2nd half comeback in game 4. The Celtics outscored the Lakers in both quarters in the second half, which helped them even the series at 2-2. As a golf professional, do you hire people who will step up when you need them the most or will your team back down when confronted with a difficult challenge? If service is being perceived as weak, will your team work even harder to meet their goals or will they make excuses about a difficult recession or being understaffed? Do your very best to hire people that are passionate about your club and their job as a golf professional and who will go the extra mile when you need them to score big. Golf professionals should also keep in mind that it is essential to provide support and fair compensation to a team or individual that performs well. A good culture of hard working, passionate employees can make a huge difference for a small business.

Invest in great coaching

Successful sports teams don’t develop a tradition of success by relying on good players but rather they rely on good preparation. Phil Jackson will go down in history as one of the best coaches ever in the NBA by understanding how to mold a variety of highly talented athletes into a cohesive unit that wins championships. Not every golf professional can rely on their own talents to carry their staff to a high level of success. I believe that having a good mentor is what separates the greatest leaders from those who are average.

Don’t wait until you are desperate to make things happen

As we have seen in this series, the Lakers got off to a quick start which forced the Celtics to step up and play well in game 4. The Celtics responded with a win in both games 4 and 5, pushing the Lakers into an elimination game 6. Just like an NBA finals series, the competition in most business ventures, even the hospitality industry we find ourselves in, will be fierce and it will require an exhausting amount of effort to see your operation succeed. As the golf professional and visionary, it is easy to fall into the trap of getting busy with things such as administrative work, community outreach, networking, and playing the game, which can distract you from the main focus of your business: service. An ability to sell your service is a critical factor in determining the success of your operation and generating positive rapport with your members, not to mention added revenue. When you have a chance to gain something, follow through and capitalize on the opportunity. This is how your operation will be successful.

This article was adapted for Golf Professionals based on John Kreklows "Lessons for Entrepreneurs from Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers". John is a brand consultant at Shadow Concepts LLC and has found his niche comparing sports and business with his background from the air force and D1 basketball.