England (Midlands) Region
20 Apr 17
PGA Professional Tim Stevens tells a story about Dubai that he once saw on television. The city in the Middle East has massively grown in prominence in the modern era, not least by attracting the attention of the world through a series of amazing construction projects.
“I remember somebody saying that the thought process was, build it and they will come,” recalls Stevens.
A similar philosophy – albeit on a micro scale - has applied to his own approach to business as the head PGA Professional at The Leicestershire. Stevens was appointed in February, 2015 and by the end of the following year he won the TGI Golf Partnership’s ‘Most Improved Business Award’.
“If you build the best and deliver the best, the customers will come,” says the 37-year-old.
“Believe in your offering, believe in your knowledge as a PGA pro and the brand of The PGA. Despite what some might be saying about the high street or retail, on-course is still the most important destination for golfers.”
That’s why he has thrown himself into attempting to make his business at The Leicestershire a one-stop solution for all the club’s members.
Stevens’ time, effort, endless thinking and considerable resource have gone into stamping what’s likely to be an indelible mark on his current place of work.
He has made significant investment in his shop, which is well stocked and thoughtfully presented.
Then there are the two state-of-the-art teaching studios. One includes Flightscope technology, providing full feedback data on player and equipment performance. The studio is carpeted with a TV monitor on the wall. His other indoor centre is kitted with Quintic, the putting analysis software.
“I don’t want to lose somebody because I can’t offer what they want, says Stevens, explaining why he has invested so heavily in his business.
“I want my offering to be so good that no member has ever got a need to ever walk into a high street golf store, go into somebody else’s pro shop or go to another driving range for a lesson.
“That underpins it. I know that I’m never going to get 100 per cent – that’s just life.”
On starting in the job, he was confident that The Leicestershire was “a good club” and “an untapped opportunity”.
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing – far from it. Initially, he walked into a retail situation that wasn’t performing to its potential – as the subsequent TGI award for ‘Most Improved Business’ underlines.
“I had dozens of members say they barely bought anything out of my shop,” he reflects.
“The challenge was to make the members realise that we provide a good service, have a well-stocked shop and orders that are placed arrive in a timely fashion.
“Customer service is number one – just look after the members. Get them on side... it soon spreads. Word of mouth is still better than anything.”
As a result of Stevens’ ethos, the retail side of the business has grown from strength to strength. Indeed, he shares a tale about a member who recently told him he used to drop by a well-known high street golf retailer “to check what was new.”
The member now “can’t remember” the last time he went back there. Just one more win for Tim and his team.
Stevens is keen to underline the importance of his staff. Without their input, he couldn’t run his business anywhere near as efficiently.
Much of his time is tied up with teaching and that means placing trust in his two employees – PGA professional Pete Livie and training applicant Lewis.
“I’ve empowered my staff just to get on and run the business,” says Stevens. “If they want to discount a golf bag they do it – because they’ve got targets and know what we’re aiming for.
“If we don’t hit the targets, they lose their bonus. So it’s in their interests that the whole thing runs properly. I encourage them to come up with suggestions. I’m not too proud to take on one of their ideas.”
In fact, feedback and taking advice have been central to Stevens’ success.
He is often in touch with his PGA Business Relationship Officer Joe Kelly and has regular contact with Chris Taylor from TGI Golf. Stevens sees it as tapping into networks that will allow him to develop and fine-tune across all sections of his business.
“As pros, it’s very easy for us to live in our bubbles at our golf clubs,” he says. “By accessing the knowledge of people like Joe Kelly and Chris Taylor we can pick up the good points and best practice from other pros all across the country.”
Such input from external sources is key to Stevens and his desire to improve and grow his business. By his own admission, he is constantly reviewing every aspect of it.
“I don’t just sit down at Christmas and think, ‘how has the last year gone, what will I do next year?’ Every day I’m reassessing.”
It’s an outlook that looks set to ensure the Stevens success story will continue in 2017 and beyond...