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The Open: Business lessons we can learn from golf

In the movies, major business deals are closed on the golf course by aging CEO’s who learn everything they need about their new partners on the course – simply from their approach to the game.

That cliché isn’t where the connection ends though. In fact, there’s a number of business lessons we can learn from the sport. In honour of the 148th Open taking place at Royal Portrush from 14th to 21st July, we have put together our top 5 lessons from the links:

1. Preparation is essential

Flying by the seat of your pants won’t bring success in the long term. You might manage a few gains this way, but any golfer will tell you that you need to be prepared if you expect to make it through every round and eventually take the trophy.

Whether it’s simply getting your to-do list ready for the week ahead to keep you focused, or readying your pitch for a meeting with prospective clients, you must never underestimate the importance of thinking ahead – just imagine you’re on Dragons Den; preparation is the difference between knowing your numbers and impressing the investors, and walking away with nothing.

2. You must have a strategy

Professional golfers will walk the course before a tournament to get themselves ready for play. They will commit the lie of the land to memory and use this opportunity to strategise with their caddy.

Whether it’s your overall business plan, marketing, sales or recruitment strategy, you need to put in the time and really think about what you need to do, how you intend to do it and whose help you will need in order to achieve your goals.

3. Surround yourself with experts

Trainers, coaches and caddies all play a massive part in the success of a pro golfer’s game. Of course natural talent plays a role too, but there isn’t a champion out there who will say they did it alone.

In exactly the same way as a golfer relies on the knowledge of their caddy to select the right club for a tricky shot or judge where the line is, a business owner should strive to surround themselves with people who know more than they do. By building a multi-skilled team, you will always be confident that the right person is on any given task.

4. Great leaders empower their team

At the 2018 Ryder Cup, the ultimately victorious European team were recognised throughout the competition for their incredible team spirit and great attitudes. This was largely down to their captain, Thomas Bjorn, who worked hard to ensure the egos of these successful individuals were “left at the door” and encouraged fun and comradery with a team WhatsApp group, promise of a tattoo and clever team selections that gelled exceptionally well (and lead to the ultimate bromance: Moliwood).

This is perhaps the most obvious golf-business crossover, and it is a simple one – the most successful teams have great leaders who have a clear vision of the future, communicate well, encourage individual success and professional development, give honest and constructive feedback, and strive to create a united team who feel they are a part of something special.

5. Don’t be afraid to take on the big guys

At the 2016 Masters, the defending champion, Jordan Spieth, looked all set for victory having lead comfortably from the first round. But a combination of Spieth’s absolute shocker on the 12th (a quadruple bogey), and a flawless final round from Danny Willett saw the underdog secure his first major, winning by just 3 strokes.

Every new start-up hopes they will be the one to score big, but many falter simply because they aren’t confident that they can compete with the bigger, more established competition. A healthy dose of caution is always wise in business, but don’t let your competitors’ success dampen your self-belief. After all, with the right preparation, strategy, leadership and people, you are destined for success!

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