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Akhilesh Gulati

Quality Insider

Business Handicaps—Improving Your Game

Golf strategies can help your business.

Published: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - 09:53

Business owners get so engrossed in running their businesses that they get into a rut and wonder why they are not able to lower their “handicaps.”

Learning to lower one’s golf scores can be quite a challenging task. For most handicap players the short game presents the best opportunity to shoot lower scores. Mastering the wedge and putting may be the fastest way to play better golf.

Is there a short game that businesses can use to improve profits? Would mastering the quality game be the fastest way to “play better business?”

When we review the Toyota fiasco during the past few months, it may be easy to cite quality as the way to lower the handicap. It makes one wonder, though, whether this may be the only factor. Could there be other causes that inhibit business and trade growth?

For small businesses, the prosperity of owners is tied directly to the success of the businesses. In golf, despite the differing courses, some golfers are able to thrive. Similarly, strategies deployed by business owners directly affect their fiscal growth, despite the harsh operating environment. What are their secrets? Surely, it cannot just be about quality?

There is no magic solution to playing better golf. It requires consistent practice. One does not spend hours and hours practicing each day. One hour of practice done four to five times a week can often be enough to see improvements. A winning golfer spends a lot of time on short shots inside of 120 yards. In fact, all winning athletes spend a lot of time perfecting the finer aspects of their moves, often under the guidance of their coach. They understand that mere practice does not make perfect; practicing under the guidance of a coach is what makes for the perfect 10.

Somehow, many business owners fail to understand this.

Successful businesses see an economic downturn as a chance to streamline by closely examining their operations, often under the guidance of a “coach.” Here I totally agree with the sentiments Layi Adeloye expressed in his article, “Winning Business Strategies During Hard Times,” in the March 21 issue of the Nigerian newspaper, Punch. Adeloye points out that although business gurus have outlined a seven-step approach for success-seeking entrepreneurs during an economic slowdown, the effectiveness of that strategy depends on the individual organizations or industries in which they operate and how they are able to operationalize their strategies.

They refrain from seeking excuses for poor facilities that degrade business integrity and curb profitability; they focus on potential customers to generate financial outcomes. They create marketing strategies that brand the organization’s niche and attract the appropriate customers. They seek help analyzing data, evaluating the organization from every angle and deploy initiative (e.g., control spending, increase productivity, decrease waste, better manage assets, take advantage of tax breaks, improve cash flow) to enhance the bottom line.

They focus on a business strategy, consider the mission, and operationalize core competencies while avoiding panic reactons. Can you imagine world-class athletes giving in to panic reactions when things don’t go as planned?

Two other differentiating characteristics of successful businesses are innovation and agility. Working with a coach, organizations can adopt creative approaches in product or service design and quality, employing methodologies that raise cash or improve upon marketing processes, and focus on their employees’ skill sets. They understand that employees who keep up with the fundamentals and their ongoing professional development can contribute to the organization’s growth.

Winning golfers understand that to reduce their handicap, they must not only practice, but practice under the guidance of a coach. So why is it that business owners think otherwise? Why is it that they don't request support from coaches or consult with a board of directors to help keep them in check? Why is it they don’t necessarily encourage membership in a professional organization? Why are they often in a firefighting mode?

Do you want to lower business handicap scores? Perhaps golf can teach us something.


About The Author

Akhilesh Gulati’s picture

Akhilesh Gulati

Akhilesh Gulati has 25 years of experience in operational excellence, process redesign, lean, Six Sigma, strategic planning, and TRIZ (structured innovation) training and consulting in a variety of industries. Gulati is the Principal consultant at PIVOT Management Consultants and the CEO of the analytics firm Pivot Adapt Inc. in S. California. Akhilesh holds an MS from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and MBA from UCLA, is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt and a Balanced Scorecard Professional.