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Meetings Beyond the Boardroom - Building Client Relationships on the Golf Course

Dow’s Kati Yorks shares her experience on building client relationships on the golf course.

In today’s world, business can be conducted with clients in many ways. Many of our day-to-day meetings have been shifted from in-person gatherings to video meetings over Zoom. Yet, the popularity of bringing business to the golf course is continuing to rise. In 2018, Dow’s Kati Yorks was asked to golf with some of her clients. Yorks is a former high school and college athlete, but never golfed. However, this simple ask gave Yorks a unique opportunity to entertain her clients while introducing her to a new hobby.

Yorks said she only had 10 weeks to learn how to hit a golf ball well enough to participate and ride in a golf cart at a Dow hosted customer event held at Laurel Valley. This well-respected golf course is located south of Pittsburgh and was founded by several people including golf legend, Arnold Palmer. According to Yorks, golfers must have an exclusive membership at Laurel Valley in order to play. A limited number of people through Dow and Dow’s external customer base are invited to participate in this special golf opportunity.

“It was a great chance for everyone involved to have a rare experience,” Yorks said. “Memberships can’t be bought and have to be passed down or gifted. For my customers, they were excited because they are golfers, and they were going to be able to play on a prestigious golf course designed by Arnold Palmer.”

To prepare, Yorks went to a local golf professional in Midland, Michigan. She spoke with the pro to find out what she needed to learn. The golf professional set her up with a membership and Yorks went out to the driving range. Yorks said the range accommodated children, so she found a unique way to get her kids involved while she practised.

“The golf professional kept a few kids-sized clubs on hand,” Yorks said. “I would pick up my kids after work twice a week and we would go hit balls until they were ready for dinner.”

Once Yorks figured out the fundamentals of hitting a golf ball, she ordered clubs and set up a few golf lessons.

“The ­­golf pro was wonderful, and I quickly found that I could hit the ball off the tee pretty far,” Yorks said. “I was not always hitting the ball straight, but I had quite a bit of power. The pro helped me become as confident as I could be for Laurel Valley.”

 When it came time to tee it up at Laurel Valley, Yorks said she was terrified to embarrass herself. However, she knew this experience was not about showcasing her golf skills. Yorks did not want to let her customers down. She knew this was a wonderful opportunity to spend time away from the office and the stressors of day-to-day business with her work family. Yorks said her experience ended up being phenomenal.

“Through this mutual experience, we were able to bond in a way that is very difficult to do in a conference room or over dinner,” Yorks said. “It is a great opportunity to work together with your customers and see how they respond to pressure when they let their guard down a bit.”

After having the chance to golf with her customers, Yorks has noticed a great benefit in conducting business with them. Through these customer relationships building opportunities, golf has given Yorks and her clients a chance to build more confidence with one another.

“My customers had a behind the scenes preview of who I am, and that helped to build trust,” Yorks said. “Conversations about pricing, supply, and other difficult topics become a little bit easier when you have that strong relationship. There are still difficult conversations, but in my experience, the message will be received differently because their perspective of who I am is different.”

Women like Yorks are paving the way for other females to conduct business on the course. She said the primary thing businesses can do is to present equal opportunity and encourage women to try.

“When compared to men, women generally require more proof of skills or confidence before applying for new roles or taking on new endeavors,” Yorks said. “When offering an opportunity to a mixed crowd don’t be too fast to award the opportunity to the first volunteer. Give others time to consider the offer and select the best candidate after everyone has had an opportunity to respond.”

For any females interested in picking up the game, Yorks says golf is a lot of fun and worth the try. However, one of the most important lessons Yorks has learned on the course is about keeping the game moving and having conversations. Yorks said players should not be too proud to let go or pick up their ball to keep the flow of the game moving.

“Most people have a bad shot at some point,” Yorks said. “ [However, golf is about having] a good time and getting to know the people you are with. Time is one of the most valuable resources we have. If someone is going to golf with you, they have taken 10 to 20 percent of their day, and they’re spending it with you.”

Article courtesy of the LPGA Women's Network
[Image Credit: LPGA]

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