Each year in the Spring, I meet 10 or 12 of my good friends for 4 days of golf. We meet at a state park in Tennessee. My friends drive down from the Chicago area, where I used to live before moving to Memphis. Each year, for weeks leading up to the golf outing, the guys start getting antsy about our golf outing, in part because they all love the game of golf but also because of the loooong winter in Chicago. This year everyone seemed a little more excited as this past winter was more brutal than usual for them. Needless to say, as we all descended on the state park this past Wednesday, there was a collective, deep sigh as each person got out of their car and stepped into the warm sun knowing, that just for a few days, everything else was going to fade into the background. We would enjoy relaxing, playing golf, eating great meals and catching up on what is going on in everyone’s life.
No, I’m not going to vent my frustration over the game of golf in this space – although I could easily write volumes about that. Here’s the frustration. Each year, I call the lodge at the state park and set the dates, negotiate the cost for the “golf package” and get a final cost that includes all taxes and fees. This amount is confirmed with the lodge two or three times prior to our arrival – often times with the management of the lodge.
And then when we get ready to check-out on Sunday, we go to the front desk and there is ALWAYS a discrepancy in the amount everyone owes. And it is always MORE than we should owe based on the total cost that has been quoted to me time and again.
I’m not sure why this is a consistent problem for us each year. I suspect that the reservation management system that is used is complicated and not very intuitive for the lodge staff. I suspect this because the invoice that is presented, once you have gotten everything straightened out and checked-out, is very complicated. You need an accountant to explain it to you!
So Why Do We Go Back?
After voicing my frustration over the lodge’s reservation and billing system, many people ask me that question – Why do you guys continue going back there?
We go back because of the relationships and how we are treated. Granted, we are a group that might be considered easily remembered. We range in size from 5’2” to 6’7”; there are former college athletes and one former professional athlete in the group; there are accountant-types, IT geeks, marketing gurus, executives, business owners, ex-military, on-line content experts, attorneys, realtors, to name a few professions. As golfers, we range from about 2 or 3 handicap up to 20+ handicap.
But we keep going back because of the way we are treated by the staff. Most of the people there really seem to understand and operate by the saying, “It’s not business, it’s personal,” as opposed to how many organizations more clearly reflect the attitude of Michael Corleone in The Godfather when he said, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.” No, it IS personal!
What do I mean? The wait staff in the restaurant know us – and we know some of them by name. They remember from year-to-year what we prefer to drink. The staff in the golf clubhouse know us – and we know some of them by name. When certain ones retire, we miss them! The lodge manager works with us to give us the very best price for the golf package and even though there are problems every year at check-out time, it eventually gets resolved.
Almost every year, the group discusses the possibility of moving the golf outing to another location so we can enjoy another experience, another golf course, etc. But each year, we keep coming back to the same place largely because we have been made welcome and treated exceptionally well, so much so that we can overlook the frustrations around the reservations and billing system issues.
It’s about the RELATIONSHIPS
Certainly, cultivating good relationships does not give a business a pass from improving where they are weak, but it does go a long way in creating a loyal customer-base along with the benefit of nice, free, word-of-mouth publicity that comes from satisfied customers and clients.
In business, as in so much of life, it’s about relationships. From start-ups to established businesses to large corporations – building relationships, inside and out, enables businesses to run more smoothly – and success usually follows!
Now, I think I’ll have another glass of sweet tea…