I have been more than blessed to be involved with our industry since I was 15 years old. Being the son of a superintendent, I have seen super/affiliate relations for a long time. I have industry experienced in a number of different capacities, including 12 years of sales during a long career. I learned from my dad years ago to respect affiliates because they are connected and they can provide a wide range of technical information. I also noticed that not all supers treated affiliates with the same respect and I witnessed too many cases of this throughout my career. It is better today, but in my opinion, we still have a long way to go.
The affiliate today is, in general, far better educated than years ago. Today we have more companies and affiliates working hard for our business. They learned from the successful affiliates of the past that with increased competition, they must be on top of their game. It bothers me when I see these fine industry partners treated as less than equals with superintendents. Honestly, how many associations around the country could survive without the hard work of our industry partners? Simple answer, NONE. It is very unprofessional when they are referred to as peddlers or other derogatory terms. Work with the suppliers of your choice but still show respect to those you may not work with.
In many ways, they have spoiled us with great service to the point we now have unrealistic expectations. If every super had the opportunity to work in sales for a couple of years, they would have a far better understanding of what it takes to get a product to our facilities. Because they have been so good, we think everything should arrive tomorrow and then are upset when it doesn’t. Wouldn’t things be much smoother if we sat down with each of our key suppliers and mapped out a rough plan for the year? Suppliers receive product from manufacturers. How helpful would it be if our suppliers had an idea what products in what quantity and what time of year we would be making our purchases? It would help them have inventories of fertilizers, chemicals, equipment and irrigation needs. We don’t call up our local topdressing supplier the day before we aerify expecting product, so why do we call an equipment or fertilizer/chemical supplier and expect immediate delivery? They have workloads just as we do and that means dealing with planned shipments already scheduled. Respecting their time and workload is a must.
Planning our equipment purchases with our suppliers is important. We realize not all items are located ready to go at the local distributor’s site. Allied equipment especially may have to come from another part of the country. It is rare that we suddenly get permission to order equipment on short notice. We go through boards, committees or owners. In all cases, we have submitted requests after a great deal of planning. Most times we will want to demo the unit to see if it fits our needs. The demo should be planned along with the purchase. The demo unit may be shared by numerous branches of the company. Our sales reps order the unit, get it scheduled for our review and then return it so another customer has the same opportunity. Imagine how disruptive it is if the superintendent suddenly decides he can’t do the demo during that time frame. Frustrating to the sales person who has jumped through hoops to have it ready for you on the date originally agreed to. It simply amounts to respecting the time and effort of the affiliate and being ready at the time we agreed to. Far too often, cancellations take place the day or two before. Nothing worse than time wasted for both parties. We always remember that our affiliates may be working with 100 clients, all thinking they come first. They plan and have priorities so they can work with 100 clients just like us.
Our industry has grown more professional over the years, but we still have a long way to go. Just as we now have great women superintendents, we also have highly educated and trained women in sales throughout the country. Are we treating them the same? I think they feel they hold themselves to a higher standard than male counterparts. Are we questioning their professional expertise when we might not for a guy? After the junk we heard during the election, are we on our best behavior? Those are a few important questions to ponder as our industry becomes more diverse. Personally, I enjoy working with our suppliers and I take it upon myself to be realistic, professional and a team player at all times. Give our affiliates a lot of credit. We count on them and they come through. Remember, the superintendents who treat their suppliers the best will not surprisingly get the quickest response if a crisis comes up. Let’s all work together and treat each other professionally. Affiliates work long hours just like we do.
Sandy C. Clark, CGCS, is the superintendent at Barona Creek Golf Club in Lakeside, Calif.