Last winter, I had the opportunity to speak to a classroom full of future turf managers. I’ve been blessed to have enjoyed success on the superintendent side and now the sales side of this industry, so I saw it as an opportunity to educate them with some hard-knock experience from two industry perspectives. I call it having wisdom from both sides of the fairway.
1. Do nothing
Sometimes reacting in the heat of the moment can make a small mistake an even bigger mistake. Stepping back, reevaluating the situation and getting a second opinion may actually triumph over trying to do too much.
2. The Golden Rule applies
Treating others how you would want to be treated is more than a lesson we learned in kindergarten, it’s the way we should live our day to day lives. Be kind to your assistants, your staff, your peers and other industry professionals.
3. Lead by example
You shouldn’t ever ask anyone to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.
4. “Do Less with Less”
I’ve been in a lot of offices over the last three years, and you meet plenty of guys trying to do “more with less.” YOU CAN’T DO MORE WITH LESS. You can’t spray more acres with less fungicide, you can’t get more jobs done on a weekend with less staff and you can’t cut more grass with less mowers. You will do less with less. Fight for the budget items you need to keep intact.
5. Fill in your own blanks
If you don’t provide the information, then someone else will. You need to be your own advocate in the locker room and pro shop. Don’t give the 1 percent of the loudest members the opportunity to guess why you topdressed greens the day before a tournament. Give them the information before they have the chance to make it up themselves.
6. Be professional
We are all a reflection of the industry we work in. Look the part. Act the part. Keep appointments. Bite your tongue. Be prepared and organized. This rule also applies to – ahem – social media.
7. Ask for help
We are all in this together. Nobody wants to see a fellow superintendent fail. If you have a question, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask your neighbor up the street, your local association or a trusted sales person. The greatest part of being in this industry is how supportive our peers are when there is someone in need.
8. Mother Nature is the boss
I once made the mistake of thinking that I was in charge of anything that happened on the golf course – and then we had a record-setting winter that took out half the greens. The experience humbled me, and in the long run it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me professionally. Never forget that Mother Nature always has the final say, and that you are just there to clean up the mess. On her good days, you will look great. On her bad days, well, you will do a great job trying to make it look like it never happened.
9. No free lunch
There are no “easy jobs” in this industry. The sales side can be as much of a grind as pulling a hose around on a green. Sales people, contrary to some popular belief, take their jobs very seriously and work very hard. The demands may not be physical, but they are mentally challenging and just as stressful to the human condition. Take it from someone who has lived both sides.
10. Keep your appointments
I was absolutely guilty of this during my superintendent days – blowing off appointments at the last minute when something came up. Something will always come up. Keep your appointments and maintain your professionalism. When possible, give advanced notice. Sales people have a schedule to keep, too. A cancelled appointment may not be a big deal to you, but it could send the other person’s day into a tailspin.
11. Write it down and make it real
Your dreams and aspirations aren’t real until you make them real. Write them down. Set clearly defined goals and put them where you see them every day. Share your aspirations and goals with someone you trust and make them hold you accountable. Otherwise, they’re always just going to be dreams.
12. Be careful
The work day moves fast and we find ourselves moving even faster to always stay one step ahead. Working early in the morning on dangerous equipment, one small mistake can cause serious injury if you aren’t being careful. I have broken two fingers and one toe in my lifetime, and it all happened on the golf course because I was moving too fast or trying to race golfers. Slow it down.
13. Wear a hat
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the CDC. Let’s face it, the job is outside. Cover yourself up and wear sunscreen at all times. Take care of yourself, for your sake and for your family’s sake.
14. Balance yourself
We work tons of hours and throw everything we have into this profession because we love it, we take great pride in our work, and we have the passion for what we do. Just make sure to leave the best of you for your family. You should work equally hard to balance the demands of the job with your family. They need you more than the golf course ever will, and never forget that the golf course does not love you back.
15. Look up
We spend a lot of our time looking down. Looking at diseased turf, looking at stressed turf and looking for problems. Take a minute and look up. Look around you and try to focus on some of the positives. Enjoy a sunrise and admire the mowing patterns. You’re working hard and doing a great job. Take a moment to appreciate it.
Adam Garr is a territory manager and a former Michigan superintendent.