8 Keys to Running a Successful Golf Facility

By Kevin Amhaus, PGA

Kevin Amhaus, PGA

Over the years I have been asked this question many times, “Kevin, what made you leave the green grass world and open a GOLFTEC center?”  To be honest, it’s a good question.   At the time, back in 2007 I had a good job.   Probably one of the best golf jobs in Albuquerque.   We we’re doing well at Isleta.  Full calendar of events every year.  Full tee sheets on days we didn’t have something scheduled.   By all measure we we’re successful.  However, I knew something was missing.  I wasn’t happy.  Within a week I turned in my notice, went full go into Golftec and opened something different.  Something that back then was way outside of the box.  Fast forward to 2016... The center was doing well, and I thought to myself... I should buy this.  I should work for myself.   So began the process of purchasing the business.

This is the conversation that leads me here.   The question now is similar but has evolved.   It’s not about why I left green grass.  It’s about how did you go about purchasing the center?  

It’s no different than going to your GM and asking for a raise.  Or going into an interview for a job that you want.   You must be prepared for anything.   So, get yourself ready for everything.   Your life is about to be questioned by everyone.   These are things each of us should be doing anyway.   Even in our own jobs.  Preparing for your future is necessary.  No one else will do it for you.  

1:  Find a mentor.   Someone in the business world that has experience in success... and failure.   You are going to have bad days, weeks, months, even bad years.   Having someone local you can share ideas with through these times is so important.   Much of the successes come in small doses, simple things.  You may not even be aware of the success at the time.  The failures are big, they come on fast and hit hard.   Kind of like the triple that shows up and kicks you in the shins.   You must be prepared to battle through these times.  A mentor will be a huge resource.  Failure happens to everyone.

2:  You must have your finances in order.   This is a must.   Paperwork will be plenty.  Being ready is key.  Income, spending, taxes, debt, everything is going to get questioned.  Not just yourself, your spouse too.   The bank, the corporate office in my case being a franchise, legal, SBA, the state, even federal agencies will all want financial records. If you're not prepared the deal will done before you even start.   If you are not in a strong position to share this, going into business may not be a good idea.

3:  Bring a CPA on board with you.   The day to day running of the business begins and ends with more reports.   This begins before you even have a legal business.  A CPA will be ready to navigate this puzzle.  Taxes are a must.  Getting behind on Federal, state, county, city, gross receipts, payroll taxes will shut you down.   Having a CPA that knows how to navigate this maze is worth it.   The time you save having the help is well worth every dollar.   They can even help you prepare and get your own finances sorted out.   This takes time.    Likely a lot longer than you think. 

4:  Prepare a business plan.  What exactly are you selling? Who is your customer and how do you reach that customer?  This is more a projection of what you expect.  This begins the process of laying out a budget.   What do you expect to earn as a business?  What are real numbers?  100k in income doesn’t mean you have 100k to spend.   Rent, taxes, mortgage, payroll, insurance, CPA, legal, utilities, networking and internet costs, Point of Sale, inventory controls, alarm, equipment, marketing, etc... this goes on and on.  Putting down some expectations of how you generate revenue and where it will be spent sets the table.  When will the revenue come in?  When do I spend it?   Seasonal?  A bank or SBA will want to see that you have 5 years or even more planned out.  This is difficult to project.  But you have to do it.  You will look back on this years later and be glad you put it on paper.   Learning Excel will really help with this.   Ask yourself how do I reach a customer that is willing to pay for what it is I am selling?  A great idea is just an idea if you can’t generate revenue.   No revenue = no business.   This plan will be shared with all the people you will need throughout the process.  So, be ready for this to be re-written, re-figured, many times.   A bank, or the SBA will not get on board without this blueprint.  If you’re self-financing this, what collateral do you have to borrow against?  It takes money to get started.   You’ll need to be able to sell your plan to borrow even a small amount of money. 

5:  Get your staff ready.   You cannot do it all alone. You need people you can count on.   Having an idea of who you may be willing to hire ahead of time matters.  You will need to move quickly when it’s time too.  The “next” hire needs to be identified well ahead of time, maybe even months ahead.   Know the market.  What does an employee cost me?   It’s way more than you think.  A 50k salary has a real cost of ~75k or more by the time you pay them.   Have a budget.  Be ready to move from your 1st choice to the 2nd if you have too.  People want to work.   They want to work where they feel they can make a difference.   If you are not able to offer that, you’re in trouble.

6: Find Legal help.  You will need an attorney to file the “Articles of Organization” with the State, and Feds anyway.   Keep them on retainer to help you work through bill of sale, and or purchase agreement.  This is necessary to acquire a federal tax ID number.  The government will collect taxes.  You’d better be able to track this through these ID’s.  All documents are legal and binding.  The wording and verbiage can be very tricky.  We’re golf pro’s, having an attorney that understands this can save you a big headache.  This is stuff that must be done properly the first time... there is no next time.  So, get it right to begin with.  

7:  Be ready for change.   So, many different organizations will require your time.   You will not have a say in this.   Being able to adapt and be willing to work with people you do not like or understand come with this.  Change is coming, nothing remains as it is.  If business is good... it won’t be for long.  If it’s bad, you’d better change your plans, because the same isn’t working.   Change in every aspect occurs, every piece changes.   Are you willing to adapt and learn?  You’d better be.   The competition is.  If you’re not thinking ahead.  You won’t be around long.

8:  This is the last and most important piece of advice I can give anyone.  Your golf course is a business.  Working IN your business, is very different than working ON your business.  Learning how to do both effectively takes time.  So, make time for yourself to prioritize both.   An hour a day to look ahead.  What are we facing in the upcoming weeks, months?  Am I ready?  Be critical of what happened the last few weeks, months. What can I learn? What mistakes were made? How can we change to prevent them from happening again?  This is very hard to do.  We get in a routine and time flies by.   Often times, we miss opportunities because we are buried in the day to day, week to week.  

I have had a lot of help from a lot of very smart hard-working people.  I have learned that it takes a TEAM of people to be successful.   I did not do this all on my own.  I still don’t do this all on my own.  I love being in a bay teaching.  It’s what I do best.  I have had to learn how to trust my TEAM around me.  They are better at a lot of this stuff than I am.  The TEAM keeps the business going.  So, I can focus on being a coach, in my space doing what I love to do.  

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