Sunday, January 19, 2014

Return & Ridicule - My Mercurial Relationship with the PGA Show

This week is the golf industry’s annual pilgrimage to Orlando for the PGA Show and I’m hitting the double-digit mark for years attending at 10.  I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new ones and checking out the latest and greatest.

One of the things I noticed last year was an overall sense that folks were opening up.   There wasn’t the feigned confidence of the mid 2000s.  There wasn’t as much of the territorial isolationism of the early 2010s.  The overall vibe seemed to be “this has sucked for a long time so let’s recognize that and focus on making it better.” 

Take a deep breathe of that fresh air, folks.  Feels good.  Let’s keep it going.

Writing this from the plane, I find myself reflecting on the mercurial relationship I’ve had over the years with the PGA Show.  I used to cringe on the flight over as I prepared for a week’s worth of frustrating conversations.  I’m not great at small talk and I’ve historically struggled with managing the traditionalist culture of the golf industry. 

We receive our fair share of criticism at TGA.  People disagree philosophically with our for-profit model.  They think golf should be taught solely at a golf course.  They disagree with our decision to employ coaches who aren’t PGA Professionals.   They believe we’re glorified babysitters since we teach kids under the age of 10.  They dismiss us solely for being in the same vague realm as The First Tee.  And so on.

We have responses to all of this, of course.  You can check out our website for our positions on these subjects.

What has frustrated me about the PGA Show was the feeling that I spent a week answering these questions and defending my company.  We’ve introduced hundreds of thousands of kids to golf, created hundreds of jobs, provided business ownership opportunities to dozens of entrepreneurs, and yet I still felt like a punching bag.

But these past few years, the feeling has been different.  I’ve learned something important.  The concept of return and ridicule.

I realized that not only are naysayers and critics part of life for an entrepreneur, but they’re things that should make us smile.

Yes, smile.  Why?  Because skepticism is a sign of one of two things:

The first is that you may just have a weak concept.  In which case, be thankful for the honest feedback.

The second is that, if you’ve had some early wins, you’re likely making people uncomfortable.  People have a lot riding on the norm – job, identity, etc. – and your innovation is threatening that sense of security.  When people feel uneasy, they push back.  Bad for them, good for you.

One of the things I enjoy most about the PGA Show is the countless amount of entrepreneurs who arrive hoping to strike gold.  For many, with the investment a booth requires, they’ve put all of their company’s young eggs in this show’s basket.  I have tremendous respect for the magnitude of these three days for them.

For my partner Josh and I, we’re going to meet with a bunch of PGA Sections and try to recreate with them what we’re doing with the SCPGA.  We’re also going to meet with leaders from the PGA and other industry associations.  And I’ll spend some time looking for products we can incorporate into our programs across the country.

We’ll undoubtedly have some interactions this week with questions/criticisms like the ones I described above.  Assuming they aren’t too frequent, I’ll smile at the uneasiness I’m causing.  Because that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. 

And, hopefully, there will be an equal amount of conversations about how our concept is a key solution to a nagging and challenging problem.  I’ll smile then too, because that’s also what entrepreneurship is all about.

For all the entrepreneurs descending on Orlando this week, I wish you all the best and encourage you to embrace the feedback.  Learn from it.  Win with it.

Have a great week, everyone.  Happy entrepreneuring…

1 comment:

  1. As always, an enjoyable read. Enjoy and have a great, productive trip.