Network and Grow your Business through the Game of Golf
World Golf Network
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – July 27, 2015
CEOCFO:Mr. Pincus, what is the concept behind World Golf Network?
Mr. Pincus: The concept behind World Golf Network is to help business owners and senior executives build relationships through the game of golf and meet people who are good for their business.
CEOCFO:What is the status of golf today in the executive world? Are the younger executives embracing golf?
Mr. Pincus: There is definitely a lower popularity among executives in terms of the general game of golf, but that is more relevant on the social side of golf. For business, golf is still as popular as it ever was. If you look at the private country clubs, there are many clubs that you cannot get into and there is a very long waiting list, especially for the higher end clubs. The clubs that are more for the social and casual golfer are harder to fill because people have less time in their schedule, so for social reasons, they are not going to spend the time, but for business they will.
CEOCFO:How are you reaching out to people?
Mr. Pincus: Our main way of growing our organization is through referrals, because we feel that the people who come into our system, the people that we know and trust and believe in, are the best contacts. This is the best way to grow our group because it is nicer to meet people who know each other and trust each other. Therefore, a big part of our growth is through the members themselves.
CEOCFO:Are your members typically people who engage in other forms of networking or does the fact that it is over a game of golf make it attractive to people who traditionally have not networked?
Mr. Pincus: That is a good question. There is probably a mixture of people. There are some who use golf as the primary way of growing their business and there are people who use networking, so this will be one of many networking opportunities that they will use to build their business.
CEOCFO:How is a golf game different when the business idea is in the background?
Mr. Pincus: First of all, everyone is coming for the same reason, which is to network. Therefore, the people who are there all have the expectation of growing their company. The other thing is that everyone that attends our events must be a decision maker of their business. When they are meeting people, they are meeting executives who actually have the opportunity to purchase or refer business. With that in mind, the people who are coming into the system basically are qualified before they are accepted as a member. When they are playing golf with us, they will be paired with someone who can either further their business or could be a potential client.
CEOCFO:How do you make that connection? Who should be with whom?
Mr. Pincus: For example, an attorney who joins our system, who owns his practice and has a specialty in real estate. He does a great deal of closings and he works with other commercial brokers in terms of building his practice out. Therefore, his primary contact that he would like to meet would be commercial brokers who could use him as their real estate attorney. In addition, there are other referral sources such as architects who are designing new homes and building out new places for people, they would also be a good referral source for that real estate attorney. Referral sources can be better than potential clients. That architect may be able to refer ten brokers to this attorney, instead of just one.
CEOCFO:Does gender come into play, as that has traditionally been a part of the golf world?
Mr. Pincus: We actually have two formats in our program. One is a scramble format for casual golfers and one is play your own ball, for people who are better golfers. It is not based on gender, but on handicap, so that if someone is more of a casual golfer and does not play a great deal of golf, they are going to play what we call "scramble", which is best ball, where they all hit their ball, and wherever the best shot is they take it from there. Therefore, it makes it much easier and casual for people to play golf. Most women tend to go to that format, because it is more casual and not as competitive. Not always, but in general, women are a little more casual about the game than men are.
CEOCFO:Where are people playing?
Mr. Pincus: We have a different golf course every month where we host our golf outings. We have seven months of the year in which we run our golf outings, so we play on seven different courses throughout the year. Currently, our program runs in North Jersey and Rockland County, New York. After we fill up this group, we expect to expand to other territories, where people actually have the right to play golf in different locations. It could be anywhere throughout the US. If someone says that they want to open up a group, we will do all of the backend for that person to run their group, including their website, insurance, legal and accounting. All they will have to do is organize their people, play golf with them, and we do all of the backend for that person to run their group, including their website, accounting and legal. We will train them on how to run the golf group.
CEOCFO:Would you be doing this as a franchise? What is your business model?
Mr. Pincus: The first 9 territories that we open up will be partnerships. There will be no cost to become a partner, other than the fact that they will have to qualify to be a partner of the program. After we have 10 groups running, we will then franchise the program.
CEOCFO:What have you found so far as the program has been in effect? What surprised you and have you made any changes?
Mr. Pincus: We had run this program for about seven years before the financial crisis, and we actually just relaunched again. Therefore, we had learned a great deal from running the program, in what works and what does not work. We have made a few changes from the first cycle of running it to the second cycle. One of the things that we learned was that we needed two separate programs. We used to run it as one group and not match people up based on handicap, we matched them up based on who would be good for business. However, because there was such a diversity of people playing golf, we decided to make two separate programs; one for the casual golfer and one for the more competitive golfer. That actually made it a great deal easier and better for everyone, because there was less stress, as you were not playing golf with someone that was dramatically different in skill set. The second thing is that we have a database of a few thousand executives, which our members have access to and can pick out relevant companies that they can play golf with, through private outings.
CEOCFO:Why was this the time to relaunch?
Mr. Pincus: We feel the economy is not anywhere near where it was in 2008 and 2009, when we had that crash and business was on hold for many companies, or even went out of business. However, we feel that this is the new normal and the reality is that many of our old members came back to us and expressed the desire for us to relaunch the program. Therefore, I felt that enough time had passed that there was now a demand for doing it and also people were feeling like it was time to grow their business again, so they had to do something positive to make things better.
CEOCFO:Do you encourage membership as somewhat of a status symbol?
Mr. Pincus: It is a small part of it, but status is not the main reason that people are joining our groups. The number one reason that people are joining our system is that they understand the value of golf. They understand that golf is a great way to build a relationship with someone and if they can get in front of the right people over golf, it will be relatively easy to grow their business. That is the number one reason why people are going to join our system. The reason we made the decision to build our group this way is because we are relatively low cost for what we do. It costs our members less than $5000 per year to be in our system and they do not have to pay to play golf. Therefore, over the course of a year they will meet many great people and do business with them and the cost is really nothing. However, if we were playing at the private country clubs, which we could do, the cost would be dramatically higher, so the cost of becoming a member would be prohibitive for many companies.
CEOCFO:When members are actually playing golf, are there any guidelines in playing and engaging in business discussions?
Mr. Pincus: First of all, we coach the members of our group on what to do and what not to do when they are actually in our program, so they are not just hoping for the best. As part of the orientation when they become a member, we qualify them to make sure that they are the type of person that would do well within our group. The second thing is that we coach them on golf etiquette. For example, you do not really speak about your business when you first meet someone, as people do not even know who you are and may not care about your business at that point. The whole point of playing golf is that you are actually getting to know the person first and building a relationship before you even talk about business. Therefore, you would not bring your business up until you have a comfort level of knowing each other.
CEOCFO:How are you able to use technology to match people and find industries that would be a good fit?
Mr. Pincus: Technology is not a main part of what we do. In fact, our program is old school in how to build a business, as this is how business has been done for well over one hundred years. People used golf as a business tool to qualify who not only might be good clients, but even who might be good people to bring into their business, in terms of senior executives. This is because it really is an interview process, which is what golf is all about. You get to learn more about a person playing a round of golf than you can if you spent weeks or months having cocktails or lunches, meeting them on a different level. We do use technology in running our business and helping our members through our CRMs and database system to meet and qualify the right people. However, the main part of our business is very old school, in terms of taking the time out of the busy schedule that everyone has and putting everything aside to get to know a person and see if both partners have something in common and can work together.
CEOCFO:When you are first talking with people, are you able to recognize someone who will not respect that concept?
Mr. Pincus: Yes, for example there are some people who are uncoachable. They already have their minds made up as to what they want and what they are going to do, these type of people may not be the right individual for our organization. The people who work well within our system are typically open minded people, or people who already know that golf is an amazing way to spend time with someone and really learn about that person in respect to how honest they are, how competitive they are and how they socialize with people. You will learn so much about that person that you can feel comfortable working with them.
CEOCFO:What is next for World Golf Network?
Mr. Pincus: Right now we are filling up our North Jersey chapter and we are qualifying the people who are coming in. The people who are joining are typically business to business type of companies, such as law firms, accounting firms, banks, construction, real estate and technology. These are companies that are both service and product oriented for other businesses. We are building a community that will actually be a place where they can share knowledge, build trust and refer each other a great deal of work. For example, if you have a legal problem, and you are playing golf with one of the partners of a good law firm, you are not paying for that $800 per hour advice.It is a strong community of decision makers who can help each other, both from a friendship level and from a business level.
CEOCFO:Why is World Golf Network an outstanding company and concept?
Mr. Pincus: I personally believe that World Golf Network is something that is a natural way of doing business. I actually came up with this concept because I used to run sales and marketing for other companies and I qualified how business came in the door and golf by far was the number one easiest and strongest way to grow any business. The hardest part is to get in front of the right people. Therefore, what we do as a business, is we actually take the work out of finding the people and we do that for our members. They just have to show up and use golf in the way it was meant to be used and build relationships.
World Golf Network, a business networking group in the NYC area
Dan Pincus, CEO of World Golf Network, New Jersey's premier golf business networking organization that includes the NYC area joins Enterprise Radio.
This episode of Enterprise Radio is in association with eNewYork (Greater New York Entrepreneurs).
- Tell us about World Golf Network- what made you conceptualize it, how it started, what you had to do to get it off the ground, and what your entrepreneur journey has been like for you so far.
- How does the process work; what are the various ways you can apply and what happens once you are selected as member?
- Your premium membership has a money back guarantee that individuals will attain new business as a result of working with your organization. What are some examples of success stories and business partnerships that you have seen evolve? What would you say WGN offers entrepreneurs that traditional networking organizations don't?
- Some say you can tell a lot about whether or not you want to do business with another person is by playing a round of golf. For starters, it's a test of character- golf rewards players who think strategically, remain calm under pressure, and never lose their temper. What are some of the other ways you think victory on the golf courses translates into success in business as well?
- Every entrepreneur should know that there's a distinct art to closing the deal on the golf course. What's your best networking advice for making an impression on a potential future business partner?