What I've learned in 5 years
How can you describe the process, emotions and dedication it takes to start a new business? You really can't, but I'm going to try. Those of you who are parents will understand this more than others. I'll get to that in a minute. First things first, there is no way on God’s Green Earth, even though we like it white more than green, I could do what I've done without the support and encouragement from others. Most importantly, my amazing wife Lynneah! She has given up more than most people realize. From the first time I mentioned this concept to her, she in a way, took a back seat to it. Meaning, she understood the time and dedication it would take to make this happen. She never challenged me on the late nights, the 18 hour days or the less than positive husband I could be at times. You know what’s even better? We had just had our first son Kadem 1 month before we opened the doors of Golf Addiction. Some people would call us crazy, I called us strong. She is an amazing woman that has grown with me in the challenges we have faced. She never dwelled on the negatives but always focused on the positives. Neither one of us grew up with parents who gave us what we wanted, but they gave us what we needed. What do I mean by that? We may have wanted new toys, clothes and games but those were not things we needed. Our parents felt we needed a strong work ethic, a solid moral being and a humble heart. Granted, what they knew was a solid foundation for a better life, we felt was a consistent punishment and too many rules. The values you learn when you get a job at the age of 13 and learn to support your own wants and needs is greater than a new video game they could have just bought us. It was maybe something I feel the world is missing today. Granted, I know it's easier to just buy them what they want to keep them happy, but what are we teaching them? Parenting is not easy, so don't try to take the easy way out. Be a parent and give your kids what they need. OK, enough of me trying to act like I'm a good parent. Basically, THANK YOU to my wife, my parents and my children, you all are what has made and continue to make me very, very happy!
You're probably asking yourself, why am I reading this? I thought it was supposed to give me some insight about starting a new business and what the struggles may be. I hope it does, but I want everyone to understand it is almost impossible to do it without the support of others. Hence, the above ramble.
So, what is the biggest thing I've learned about business in the past 5 years of opening Golf Addiction? Your business is only as good as you are. You can have the best business concept in the world and it can fail with a terrible leader. Am I saying I'm a GREAT leader? No, what I'm saying is I've learned your business is as productive as you are. If you want to start a business and work 40 hours a week, you will abruptly find out you are going out of business. It takes a lot of time to build a business, but it takes even more time and effort to win the business. The most tasking part about opening our business was the work put in before we even opened the doors. I will get into that in a bit. Our business is only as successful as we make it. We? Another very important thing about I've learned about business in the past 5 years is you have to surround yourself with successful people. Hence my business partner, Adam.
Those of you who know Adam know he has a complete type A personality. He is outgoing, energetic, motivated, smart, influential and passionate. So, short story long, how did Adam & I meet? Believe it or not we both grew up in a small town of about 600 people. He was a bit older then I was and we really didn't hang out much growing up. Other then the occasional money swap for beverages when he turned 21. Adams parents are some of the hardest working people I've met. His father and both of my parents actually graduated from high school together. And just as my parents taught me a strong work ethic, a solid moral being and a humble heart, his parents did the same. The community we grew up in was not a place where kids got what they wanted. I'm not saying that as mean or discrediting about our town. It's just how things were. We wouldn't change a single thing about that. It literally made us who we are today.
Adam actually gave me a job for an organization he worked for when I was freshly back from basic training and advanced individual training with the military. I didn't realize he worked for the company until I went in for an interview. I didn't think much of it at the time and wrote it off a coincidence. Shortly after starting my job with that company I was deployed with the military and left the organization. Roughly 8 years later I returned back to the organization and Adam was still with the company. We were both in leadership roles and worked together for about 2 years. As we worked together we got a better sense of our work ethics and styles. We meshed well together, I was a planner and he was a doer. Shortly after 2 years with the company we came across a, well to put in politely, terrible leader. I'm not going to dwell on that as this person isn't worth the time but it taught us both something very important. It taught us what a terrible leader can do to a great team. So one day Adam & I were sitting in the office with the door closed scratching our heads after another conference call telling us we are doing another reorganization as a company. I was with the company for 2 1/2 years and couldn't do it anymore. Adam was with this company for more then 13 years and felt the same. I mentioned something to him about an idea I had on a business I wanted to start. He agreed it would be great to own our own business and not deal with the corporate under minding that tends to happen in business. He pitched this golf, food and drink concept he had seen in a much smaller scale. It intrigued me instantly. We continued to work with this organization for about a month, and kept saying "we should do that thing we talked about". We finally looked at each other and just said, "if we are going do it, let's do it, if not, let's stop talking about it." We said, "lets do it."
To step back a bit, Adam was dealing with some changes in his life. He was going through a divorce and learning to be a single dad with new born twin boys who were just recently out of the NICU. He wanted to start a business and take the one thing that has been a constant (His Job) away and add this challenge to his plate with all of the other things that were already turned upside down in his world. I'm not saying this to call him crazy, I'm telling you this because it was incredible. When most people would give up, he wanted to add more challenges. To be honest, I believe that if he wouldn't have been going through what he was dealing with, we wouldn't be where we are today.
Ok, so after months of sitting at my kitchen table and changing our business plan about 1,000 times. We were ready to go to the bank! We were so confident and prepared we didn't even think about a bank telling us no. We thought they would be blessed to have us ask them for money. Don't get me wrong, confidence is a great thing but too much confidence can make you underprepared. So, our first visit with a bank actually went really well. They said yes, we want to get on board with this. So, we proceeded to find a location and started to get the ball rolling. Then we got a phone call from our bank, "Hey guys, wanted to call quick and let you know we are changing things around as a bank and are no longer interested in funding your project but we wish you luck". We were a bit frustrated. So, finding a location was put on hold and back to the banks we went. I can't tell you how disheartening it was to hear others tell you NO on a project we have put a lot of time into. Hearing, "unfortunately we don't feel this is a profitable business and we don't feel it will make it", about 10 times from banks wore us out. We should have given up and wrote it off too, well we tried. No way, we had to much passion for this and our numbers were good. We just needed a different direction and help. Asking for help is hard when your confidence level was so high, but hearing banks tell you no over and over again, almost makes you go insane. We were probably insane if you think about it. We kept doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. HAHA, writing this I just realized we did exactly that. So, we found a gentleman by the name of Marc Ford who worked with the South Dakota Small Business Development Center. I'm telling you people, he made our lives much easier! If you are ever wanting or looking at opening a Small Business and need some guidance, this is the place to go. Marc was exactly what we needed. He helped us project growth patterns, down trends with the season and realistic expectations when dealing with the banks. He also got us lined up with Dakota Business Finance, which is part of the Small Business Administration (SBA) here in South Dakota. After a few months of communicating with them and giving them the required documents needed, we pitched it to OUR bank! I say OUR bank because we now do all of our business banking with them. First Dakota National Bank gave us a chance and approved us for the project! BTW, if you're ever looking for a bank that is over the top with service and exceptions when it comes to business loan products, I wouldn't look anywhere else then First Dakota National Bank. OK, that was long and boring right. The only reason I include this in my "What I've learned in 5 years" is because we were about ready to call it quits. I'm serious, we were working full time 50 plus hours a week and every free minute we had, we were working on this. And hearing banks and people tell you no and it's not going to work was disheartening to say the least. The purpose of this ramble is to encourage you to "Expect to Accomplish What You Attempt". If you've been inside Golf Addiction, you may have seen this quote on a picture my parents gave Adam & I on our Grand Opening. It's a picture of a young kid, leaning over a pond with a golf club. He is attempting to hit his ball that landed just in the shallow part of the pond. BUT, he has help! He is being held from falling in the pond by his dog. It's an amazing photo with many meanings. The obvious is the saying, Expect to Accomplish what you set out to do. The other is the partnership between that boy and his dog to make it happen. Which leads me into partnerships.
Partnerships! Man, o man, this was an eye opener. I think the issues we have had with partnerships is we based our expectations that every partnership would be like Adam & I's partnership. I will get into that in more detail in a bit. When Adam and I agreed to go into business together we both knew what to expect out of each other. We had been working together for over 2 years and understood our work ethics. Trust me, it's not always easy and comfortable but as long as you understand it's just business, you will be get along great! So, Adams and my partnership started off with a lot of challenges we had to face together with trying to get this project off the ground. In a way, it actually made us a better team. We had to divide and concur issues, and that is still the same way we do it today. He has his side of the business and I have mine. Yes, we help each other out and pass into each other’s role once in a while but at the end of the day, we just need to make sure our stuff is done. There has to be trust in a partnership. I trusted Adam with his roles and he trusted me with mine. Perfect example of this was when Adam took a long overdue trip to Germany for a couple weeks. We had our location all locked and loaded and ready to just sign the lease. So, we thought. We were a day away from signing the lease and we got a call that the property owners decided to lease it to another company. This is after we have had multiple contractors in there to give us bids, had everything laid out 100% and spent months on design and such. Obstacle number 87, it is what it is, had to go property shopping again. I'm typically not a "everything happens for a reason" kind of guy but in this case, it worked out to our advantage. Adam was gone to Germany and trusted me to find another location while he was gone. That’s a lot of trust by the way. A couple days later I was skimming through commercial listings at about 3am and found a new listing just popped up. Everything looked perfect and it was a standalone location! I couldn't sleep and the business in this property was opening at 10am. So, I laid out some designs, I texted Adam and I drove down to the property and walked off the square footage and it looked like it was work perfect. Finally, they business opened and I got inside and I walked just about every area to see if things would fit. And it looked like it would be perfect. Called our broker to write up an Intent to Lease Letter so when Adam got back we could proceed. After a couple weeks of negotiating with the owners we signed our lease! WE HAD A PROPERTY! We had our contractor ready to go! We literally didn't have any time to waste and Adam trusted I knew what I was doing and it paid off! The moment they dropped the keys in our hands Adam & I started tearing the place apart. I bet we worked until 3-4am every night, napped for a couple hours and heading into our jobs. As soon as we left our jobs, we were back at the location. We pretty much gutted the place ourselves and saved a ton of money doing it. Would it have been easier to hire it out? Yes, did we want to, yes but we needed to save money and meet our goal of coming in under budget. And that’s exactly what we did! We partnered with a GREAT contractor by the name of Mark Luke Construction. His whole team did an amazing job and kept us in line with our time frames and budgets! So, you need a contractor for your business? Don't go with another contractor before you call Mark Luck Construction!
Opening a business is a lot like raising a child. I currently have a freshly, just turned 5-year-old as of November 20th! Remember when I said my wife and I were expecting our first child 1 month before we opened? This is Kadem, he was part of the construction scene at the store when he was about 4 days old. We also have a freshly, just turned 2-year-old little man, Cohen. These little buggers have taught me more than I could have ever imagined. Number 1 being, I love my wife more than anything but the love you have for your children is incredible. I relate my experiences of opening a business to the experiences of raising a child. Maybe it’s just because we were doing both at the same time for the first time. The planning stage of starting a business is a lot like preparing for a baby during pregnancy. You prepare for months and it’s not always easy. There’s a lot of stressful planning and thoughts of, what are we forgetting? Oh, and the big one... am I ready for this and am I going to be a good parent to this business. I mean baby. It's scary how these two things are so close! Ok, so now it's time to see if you have everything ready to go! The business was born! I mean baby. Its grand opening day! All your friends and family come over to meet your new addition and offer their support! They all want to check it out and meet your new life changing adventure! Your next few months just kind of happen. You get about an average of 4 hours of sleep a night. You worry that you’re not doing something right or not doing enough to support him. This phase is kind of confusing, you spend time with your new addition and love it, but you are the most stressed you can ever be. You spend so much time with your baby making sure he has everything he needs to grow up and be a great success. You almost kill yourself with sleepless nights and worrying about the littles things. A year passes by and you've officially done it! You have managed to not kill your baby, I mean business and your confidence grows! Your confidence encourages you to think its ok to find a manager to help watch your kid. You are able to spend a little more time with your wife and enjoy each other. But the first few times you leave your baby with another person for a night, is pretty stressful. You call or text every 30 minutes to make sure things are going ok. You try to enjoy your night off but it’s hard knowing someone else is watching over your business, I mean baby. Another year goes by and you officially have yourself a two your old! You are proud of what you have created but you know this stage is very important. You put a lot of time into teaching him right from wrong so he can turn into a success later in life. You are officially sleeping more than 6 hours a night and you are at a comfortable stage in feeling like you kind of know what you are doing! You've changed a few things around from how you thought you would parent your business, I mean baby, but you learn to adapt to changing times. Another year goes by and you start to try new things and activities. Some fail miserably and fall flat on their face, but you don't give up. You continue to try other things like, playing baseball, doing food truck nights and riding bike. A couple months later you are so proud of what you have created you get the idea of having another business, I mean baby. You restart the planning phase, but it’s easier this time because you have already done this before. You go through every emotion all over again and start second guessing yourself when it's already too late to turn back. Then the time comes! You and your wife have a brand-new business! Man, this is confusing, I mean baby! Oh yea, and you and your business partner have a second business! Want to truly test your limits!? Not that having a brand-new baby and a brand-new business at the same time wasn't testing difficult, but having two young businesses at the same time is a game changer! It's officially double duty time. When one is happy and running great and the other needs your full attention. Then you have the double whammy times, they both are in need for your full attention and you still have to try to run a business. I call this the zombie phase. You don't know if you’re coming or going. Most days you're just happy you remembered to put on the same kind of shoes. Any thought of doing something nice for yourself completely goes out the window. But luckily enough for you, you have an amazing partner that helps you divided and concur the battles. I'm telling you, the power of a great partnership is key in raising a great business, I mean family. I may have lost you in my analogies there but I hope you understood the points. It's mind blowing the similarities in both. I hope it didn't make it sound like it was always painful because it was not. It's the most rewarding feeling in the world when you look at something you have created and can say, that’s my son. If times were always easy, you wouldn't appreciate the success in life.
Relationship Partnerships, what does that mean? Well I'm glad you asked! If you only take away one thing from this rambling of a post, it’s that relationships in partnerships are crucial. When you start a business, you partner with all sorts of people. Your bank, your attorney, your supplies, etc... The way you treat your partners in business is a key part to how they will treat you. Adam & I have built great relationships with most of our partners. Lots of them we consider friends! If you can build relationships with the people you deal with in business, your life will become much easier. Now I'm not saying you need to take them out for drinks weekly and buy them things, I'm saying the way you communicate with them and ask for things is very important. I treat them with respect and dignity which is the way I’d like to be treated. There are times when they are going to come to you and ask if you can help out with a couple more cases of something, if it's something within reason, you help them out! It’s a two-way street, there is going to be a time when you need them to step up and help you out and I guarantee you that what you ask them to do is a bigger deal then what they asked you for. Always try to keep your partnerships happy and successful.
Now there are times when you have to let partnerships go away. We have had a couple failed partnerships in our 5 years and have wasted a lot of time and money on them, just trying to make them work. You need to know when enough is enough. Example one, we opened a second location just a year after we opened our Sioux Falls location. It was a partnership with a local group in Fargo. We jumped in quickly and didn't put much thought into the partnership side of the business because we already had a successful business and successful partnership. We thought we had nothing to lose. We were over confident. Luckily enough we had a great attorney that helped with a great partnership agreement which helped set some clear expectations on both parties. BTW, I've learned it’s a great thing to have a great attorney. The money you pay an attorney to have your assets covered can save you lots in the future. Without going into much detail, because that’s not the important part here, our partnership failed. Our partners in Fargo were amazing people and it was strictly a business deal. It's not that we didn't try to make it work, trust me, when both parties had as much money invested in this and you care about the other people in the partnership you do whatever you can to save it. I literally moved to Fargo for 4 months, trying to make it work. I took time away from my wife and our 1-year old son to do what I could to help it along. It was one of the most disheartening feelings when you have a brand-new store that is performing well but a partner that is not. And the fact that I failed to make that partner better and keep our partnership going, was a terrible feeling for me. I took it as a failure on my part. You question everything, did we not give them everything they needed to succeed? Should we have done more? Were we not there enough? If you have ever worked with me or for me, you know I'm a KNOWING vs. DOING person in leadership. Anytime there is an issue with an employee that is under my leadership, I take this approach. Doesn't the employee know how to do their job and they are just electing to not DO it? Or, does the employee not KNOW how to perform their job? If they know what to DO and just elect not to do it, that is on them and corrective actions need to be taken. BUT, if they don't KNOW how to do their job, that is on you as a leader. You need do a better job of training and coaching and make sure they KNOW what to DO. I'm telling you, if you use that mind set with employee issues, you will become a much better leader for your employees. So back to partnership Fargo. After 3 months and no turn around in performance from this individual, we had to terminate our partnership. We offered a buyout and they agreed to it. To this day, I still feel guilty and have a hard time not taking blame in that failed partnership. What did I learn? Over confidence can make you blind to important details and questions you should have asked prior to making an important decision. We should have spent more time questioning the roles in that partnership and made sure everyone was trained enough for their specific role. We assumed the answers to questions we didn't even ask.
Now, our second failed partnership was a bit different. To go into even less details, it was a tough partnership from the very beginning. Very broad expectation, not a lot of clarity, and ongoing challenges to get help. In business, you have to be careful of being over promised and under delivered upon. That is what happened here. We were dazzled into unrealistic expectations and unclear roles. I felt like we held up our end of the deal but wasn't getting back what we were promised in the beginning. We formed a partnership with someone that made us feel like we were going to be a big part of their organization one day, then couldn't remember our name the next? It was a roller coaster ride to say the least. Why did I mention it here? Why not, I learned a ton from it. It doesn't matter who you are dealing with and what you are promised with a hand shake until it’s on paper with that person's signature on it. Follow your gut, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Could I go into a bunch more details on this past partnership? Sure, but it's not necessary. This organization has done great things for our community and has grown our industry immensely. For that we are very thankful! BTW, competition is not a bad thing, its taught me a couple things about how we run our business. One being, it teaches you to not to get complacent and comfortable. It makes you relook at your current performance and challenge yourself to become better. Two being, the only reason competition can be a bad thing is if you don't react to it. All it should do is make you work harder and there is nothing wrong with that!
Your Team! Man, I can't tell you how important it is to surround yourself with great people. I've learned in leadership you have two ways you can hire people. You can hire that person that has done this type of job before but is maybe not your 1st choice for personalities, but would make your life easier because you wouldn't need to train. BTW, this is not a good hire! The time you save in not having to fully train them will cost you time and business in the future. Always ask yourself, if this person were great at their current job in this field, why are they applying elsewhere? Option 2! Btw, this is your better option! You have a person with a great personality, sounds like is a good worker but has no experience in this field? Hire them and fully train them. All this means is you have a fresh mold to sculpt into what you want them to be. It's more work but it's so worth it! Remember that individual in our Fargo store that we terminated our partnership with? We took an employee from our Sioux Falls store that didn't have any experience in leadership and made her our General Manager up there. Why, because she was a hard worker, motivated, smart, willing to learn, honest and has an amazing personality! I always say, she is hard to hate! It was a lot of work for her and us to get her up to speed and trained. Trust me, there were a lot of tough times. She can vouch for that! She was put into a store where leadership had been lacking for so long that the team kind of ran the store. Honestly, the numbers weren't bad at the time but they were nowhere near what they are today with a great leader in there! I bet if you ask her what her biggest struggle was moving into that store as a brand-new leader, she'll tell you, but I guarantee she will tell you it was worth it! The skills she has taught herself and learned are skills she will use for the rest of her life no matter where she goes. We hope she plans on being with Golf Addiction for a long time, but honestly, whatever she does in life, she will be successful! She is a perfect example of why you should always step outside of your comfort-zone and challenge yourself. The skills you develop will out way the struggles it took to get them. We couldn't be prouder of her and the team she has built! Thank you, Brittany for all you do and will do! Surround yourself with great people, and you will always be hiring. Because you can always use great people, but you can't always find them.
Starting, running and owning a business can be one of the most stressful things you can do, but is also one of the most rewarding as well. If your reading this and are contemplating about a business idea you may have, plan your work then work your plan. Do your research and be honest with yourself. Do not waste your time just talking about your ideas and plans. Step out of your comfort-zone and make it happen. You are the biggest reason your business will fail or succeed.
Expect to Accomplish What You Attempt.
Well, what was supposed to be a couple a paragraph post about things I've learned in 5 years, just turned in to an 8-hour keyboard beating ramble. I didn't think I liked to hear myself talk but apparently, I like to hear myself type. As I was writing this it brought back all these emotions from when it was happening. It’s almost been a bit exhausting... haha! It's easy for me to sit down and write this now after my past 5 years, but it also reminds me of the road I have ahead. A road of baseballs games with my boys, food truck nights with my friends and family, date nights with my wife, golf tournaments with buddies, camping trips with my family, and the great satisfaction of owning and operating my own small business. I'm blessed beyond what I probably deserve but I am truly grateful for what I have. I'm grateful for the people that spend their hard-earned cash in our stores, we are thankful for each and every one of you that steps foot into Golf Addiction. We are honored you choose us over other great establishments. Thank you, Thank You, Thank you!
John MillerBack to News