Business is about building and maintaining profitable relationships. It’s not always about making money in the short term, but about finding people who you can trust, and can work with to ensure mutual success.
Many City firms would be quick to distance themselves from an “old boy network”, but there is no doubt that personal connections can be a dealmaker. This often means getting to know counterparts on a personal level, which takes time and is best done away from the office environment; in restaurants, bars and – cliched though it may sound – on golf courses.
Golf, and to a lesser extent tennis, racing and shooting, provide an ideal outlet for networking.
Some City firms decided to cut back on corporate days involving sport during the downturn. Many continued them, but called them charity events or conferences, and conducted them on a smaller scale.
Golf has attracted a stigma in certain circles, not least because women have been barred from entering clubhouses. The idea of doing business on a golf course has also been discredited. As part of an anti-corruption drive, the Chinese Communist Party has banned its members from joining golf clubs, considered by the Chinese public to be crucibles for dodgy deals between officials.
But the sport has been making a concerted effort to clean up its image, and become more accessible to people from all backgrounds. Earlier this month, Royal Troon Golf Club, the venue of this year’s Open Championship, became the latest to reverse its decision to ban female members.
This is helping golf courses to burnish their credentials once again as ideal venues for corporate entertainment.
The perfect balance
Golf offers a range of practical advantages which are conducive to friendly competition and getting to know your guests. The handicap system allows people with different abilities to play together, with even the worst players able to win points.
The lack of intense physical activity makes golf one of a few sports where professionals and clients can all participate, rather than just spectate. All ages can play together, as well as both sexes, in contrast to football, rugby and others.
Despite never getting much more than a couple of minutes at a time with each player, you will have enough time to share titbits on each other’s family, history, career and other hobbies, with the excuse for a follow up call later on.
Golf also offers you a good insight into your opponent’s character and integrity, by observing the way they play. After all, would you want to do a deal with a cheat, or someone who loses their temper when things don’t go to plan? For these same reasons, golf can be a useful way to whittle down a shortlist during the recruitment process.
Corporate golf days also have internal benefits for your company, because they help with team-building. It is a useful way for members in separate teams, or in different offices, to get to know each other.
Businesses which conduct team-building exercises or regularly invite staff to sporting days are likely to see an improvement in internal communications and relationships, which will in turn boost productivity.
Given the tensions exacerbated by Brexit, more City companies should consider holding a corporate golf day or two in the near future.