The reason? The golf course is where business is done, and most clients like to meet at the golf club. That was a reality of the 90s.
Now, I have enjoyed following golf all my life, but playing it was (and still isn’t) my forte. I’ll get out there, though!
However, I can talk about golf, and other sports, very intelligently, because there are certain sports I love! And talking about sports helps your career.
Let me be clear: It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. Being able to talk sports is one of those things you are not taught in school. Talking sports as part of business discussions is an unspoken ticket into business and its various groups.
Let me give you an example. In the mid-90s, I was based in North Carolina, home to textiles and tobacco. I handled NAFTA region communications for textiles (clothes, dyes, car paint, carpet), home and personal care (shampoo, soaps), and water and paper treatment (city water plants).
Many of the managers were what some people call, “good ol’ boys”.
Going into this marketing communications job, I was not a known entity and I was talking about doing communications differently than in ‘the usual way”. (Eeekk! HAHAHA!)
So What Did I Do?
I didn’t let them intimidate me. I asked to be included in meetings. I kept showing up at the meetings. I went to the meetings prepared.
I walked the halls, stopping in their offices and making chit-chat or giving them updates on projects.
Then it all came together—football season arrived. And if you don’t know me, then let me tell you that I love, love, love football (especially my Clemson Tigers)!
As the football chatter started up, I joined the conversations. I was able to quickly prove that I knew my stuff about the teams, schedules, polls, and history.
While I had made inroads by always being professional and on point with my communication strategies and implementation, knowing and talking about football sealed the deal for me. As I became accepted as “one of the guys”, I was able to initiate more strategic and complex internal communications projects.
This isn’t to say that you have to turn into “one of the guys” to succeed in business. It’s something that worked for me and continues to do so. And I’ve seen it work for a lot of other people. One tip: don’t try too hard.
Additionally, I made some good “business friendships” and found a mentor (the VP of Textiles), who gave me good advice to continue navigating my way forward in that particular position and with my career.
Finding a connection with people helps in building business relationships. Sports is one of those connectors.
What do you think? What’s worked for you?
Picture courtesy of Clemson: Coach Dabo Swinney