Basic Business Plan for Golf Professionals
What is a basic business plan?
When all is said and done, you have only two resources available to you in your business and both are scarce. They are time and money. To achieve success, you must manage both effectively. A business plan is a tool that can help you do just that.
If you have no clear goals or objectives, then now is the time to pick up a pen and paper and outline them in writing; the planning process is critical when starting up in business as a golf instructor. Many well-meaning teachers literally leap headfirst into empty swimming pools by establishing undercapitalized operations in badly selected locations with no clear goals or objectives. Unable to attract customers, they are forced to hold down a second job to support what essentially becomes a hobby business. They soon find their financial, physical and emotional resources drained. By proper planning, you can avoid such a fate.
If you are tempted to put off creating a business plan because it seems like a lot of work, you will be doing yourself a great disservice. Take the time and effort; the more you get involved, the easier it will become and the better you will learn how to effectively manage your golf business for greater profitability.
Reasons for writing a business plan
1. Disciplined Thinking
It forces disciplined thinking. As a small business owner, you may find yourself working long, hard hours, pressured by day-to-day activities. You may stray from your personal goals without even realizing it. An updated business plan is your ally and friend and it will keep you organized and on-track as you refine the procedures necessary for success.
Consulting your plan on a regular basis will keep you in touch with the objectives you have set out for yourself and the time frame in which you intend to accomplish them. Use it daily to manage your business via flow sheets that reflect income, expenses, merchandise sales, if any, and student enrollment. A business plan prevents you from shooting from the hip, a hit or miss process that only wastes time and money.
2. Better Management
It forces you to make clear-cut operating objectives concerning your business. If your goals are too vague, you will find it impossible to measure your progress or direct your staff. For instance, “I want to increase enrollment,” is not measurable. “I want to enroll 10 new students every month for the next three months and reduce the attrition rate from 35% down to 24%,” is measurable.
Example: Take the desire to lower your attrition rate. Ask yourself the specific question, “What do I need to do to lower my attrition rate?” One solution is to study Chapter 14 in this manual and implement some of the ideas contained therein. Another is to conduct regular surveys among your student base. Ask them what you can do to improve. Find out if there is a commonly perceived area where you can do a better job. If you discover a frequently mentioned deficiency, or if someone offers a good suggestion that hadn’t occurred to you, outline a plan of action to correct the situation and determine how you will measure the results. After clearly stating what it is that you need to do, set up a staff meeting with your assistant instructors. Explain the problem. Explain specifically the actions you want them to take that will accomplish the desired objective. Provide any necessary training. Then over the course of the month measure the results of your new policy against the yardstick you’ve set. Make any necessary modifications and repeat. Be sure to praise and reward the staff if they have met with success.
3. Securing Capital
A business plan is usually needed in order to secure capital to expand. Perhaps you have established yourself as a sought-after teacher, and you now have an opportunity to purchase a local driving range. All credible lenders and investors will want to see your books and your business plan. A business plan convinces potential investors that you are a professional operation and not another ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ golf instructor.
4. Cashing Out
A time may come when a major competitor, or a newcomer to the field, make an offer to buy you out. A well-prepared business plan can be the factor during negotiations that will get you top dollar for your business.
5. Spotting Weaknesses
The thought process involved in writing a business plan will help you to spot weak areas and force you to arrive at realistic solutions or alternative courses of action.
6. In The Event Of An Absence
If you are unavoidably absent for a period of time, your assistant instructor will be able to continue operations according to this specific part of your plan. Keep it somewhere accessible. Write this section in the form of helpful instructions, rather than the Ten Commandments!
7. Communicating A Common Goal
If you own or plan to own more than one golf facility, a business plan will help you to be in two or three places at once. Things can become confusing when two or three ranges or schools are being run by a staff with varying strengths, skills and personalities who may make independent decisions not in-line with your overall objectives. A business plan, by providing clear-cut directions, prevents them from straying from your personal vision and proven formula for success.
Note: Creativity is a fleeting thing; great ideas come and go, especially when you are pressed and distracted by daily tasks. When ideas strike, write them down and include them in the appropriate section of your business plan. In the future, you may wish to incorporate them into your sales, marketing or merchandising efforts.
Specific Purposes Of The Business Plan
You will use your business plan for several different purposes. How much detail you go into in each section will depend upon the importance you attach to that part of the plan.
As An Operational Manual
If you are writing your business plan mainly as an operational manual, the overview can be condensed into little more than a statement of purpose. Every other aspect, however, should be written in such a way and with enough detail so your business plan will give you the clearest possible picture of your business; how it is now, where it is headed and how you will get it there; how you will gauge your progress and what is expected of key personnel. Be honest with yourself in discerning weak areas, give these areas your detailed attention, and determine realistic solutions without delay. Unless you are selling your business or seeking capital, this is probably the most important section of a business plan.
As A Development Guide
If you are in the planning stages of opening a business or restructuring your present operation, your plan will basically serve as a rough outline in which you will begin to fill in the detail in each section as you move closer to making it a reality. Detail the responsibilities of each person who will be assisting you in the project. Pay particular attention to setting up time frames for the completion of each step so that you stay on schedule, and reassign duties if it looks like you are falling behind. This type of outline will quickly develop into a fully-fledged, long-term plan.
As A Selling Instrument
Your plan can be a very important selling tool if you’re applying for a loan or offering your business for sale. Obviously, your financial section needs to be very strong. A well-conceived overview will immediately capture the reader’s attention and encourage them to read further. Emphasize your window of opportunity. Make them aware that you have done your research, you know the market, and you have the skills and resources to succeed.
Using Your Business Plan
Update your plan constantly, and refer to it on a monthly, quarterly or other ongoing, regular basis to determine if you are on schedule with your various projects and goals. If you didn’t meet your scheduled goals, ask yourself, “Why?” Immediately try to identify the cause and effect. Regroup and go forward again. Are your goals still the same as they were six months ago? If not, reflect any changes in your business plan.
Use your financial statements on at least a monthly basis to measure the health of your business and to determine how well you are doing as a manager. Are you able to accurately predict your immediate and future needs? If not, use the results you find to fine-tune your management skills or to let you know when additional outside professional help is needed.
Use your business plan to constantly record your objectives, maintain the current definition of your business and measure the performance of yourself, your staff and your business at large. All of this will become clearer as you continue to read this chapter and go through the question and answer section in Appendix A. Failing to make this and other associated commitments are nothing less than procrastination and will result in missed opportunities to rapidly and dramatically improve your business efficiency.
Things To Consider When Writing The Business Plan
A business plan is a combination of creative narrative, fact, estimations, hard numbers and conservative optimism. Here are a few tips before you start writing:
1. Be realistic with your goals, projections, and figures
2. Avoid flowery language and technical jargon
3. Use crisp, clear, short sentences
4. Your business plan should be professionally typeset or should be typed single-spaced
5. Your business plan should range from 20 to 50 pages in length
6. Bind your business plan in an attractive cover when presenting it to prospective lenders or investors
7. Keep a three-ring binder copy with blank pages at the end of each section for notes and constant updating of your plan
8. Write your ‘statement of purpose’ first, but write the rest of the overview last as this section is essentially a summary of the other sections
9. Set up a schedule for working on your plan and stick to it
10. Browse through the various sections to get an overall feel of the process. Note where you may need outside professional help to complete your plan
11. Make sure you clearly understand the objective of each section of your business plan before you start writing 12. Work on and complete one section at a time.
13. Review and rewrite
14. Do it!
Outline Of A Business Plan
1. Table of Contents
2. Statement of Purpose
4. Finances & Projections
5. Operational Procedures
6. Key Personnel
Statement of Purpose
What business are you in now and what business do you want to be in? This may seem like a very strange question; it should be obvious what business you are in. However, this is not necessarily the case. Some instructors start out doing nothing but teaching individuals and develop into something much more complex. This may include teaching groups, putting on seminars for the club or community, and selling golf merchandise and supplies. They may decide to offer club repair and custom work, either on their own premises or by farming it out to a local shop, which will be happy to pick up and return. Others start out as a full-service facility and end up primarily as a school. The problem is that all their advertising and promotional literature says one thing but what they actually do is something else.
By clearly defining what business you are in when you enter the field, or what business you are in now and what business you would ultimately like to be in two or three years down the road, you will give yourself a clear path toward your goals. For instance, if you plan to open up a full-service operation now, but your goal in two years is to develop assistant instructors and open three more facilities under your direction, put that in your Statement of Purpose. Note: The Statement of Purpose is often included in the overview when using the plan to attract outside funding.
What is your target market? This will depend largely on your personal philosophy and teaching methods. The most successful golf instructors we have surveyed do not limit their market in any way. They target children, teenagers, and adults. They cater not only to men but to women, families and special interest groups. They segment the market to appeal individually to each of these groups and then design schedules of instruction to specifically meet these individual needs. In this way, a successful teacher can offer hard-core, in-depth lessons to the serious and dedicated golfer, and still cater to beginners, youngsters, social players, and other less intense students by conducting lessons at different times, on different days and utilizing different teaching methods, (such as group lessons, perhaps.)
Over a period of time, you should observe, collect and record any data you can to help build a picture of who your typical student really is. This can be done by…
1. Personal Observation
If it is obvious that a great many of the students who attend your classes are children between the ages of nine and fourteen, make a note of it. If students consistently talk about things they read in a specific newspaper or magazine, make a note of it. If you find that a substantial and very profitable sector of your clientele is composed of middle-aged, middle-class females, take this into account in your marketing plans. In short, take note of anything that might be useful.
2. Hard-core Data
When you initially enroll each student, your sign-up process will provide you with a wealth of information on whom really comprises your market. Your enrollment form should provide you with their address, age, and reasons for deciding to take lessons. Other questions can be added to this form in order to obtain additional relevant information.
3. Student Surveys
Student surveys can be utilized at various times to obtain specific marketing information such as which publications people read, which radio stations they listen to and what other activities they participate in.
4. The ‘Point Blank Ask Them’ Method
When all else fails, gain market information from your students through casual conversation and questioning. By learning more about their personal habits and activities, you can greatly increase your knowledge and marketing effectiveness.
Define Your Target Market
Define how large your target market is by drawing a three to five-mile radius around your location. (The actual size of the circle you draw depends upon the density of your population. The circle will be larger in a rural area and smaller in a metropolitan area.) Next, find out how many potential students are encompassed within. You can obtain this information from maps, realtors, city hall, the census bureau or your local library.
Your target area should include at least twenty to thirty thousand people to ensure success.
Growth Potential Of Your Market
Are you located in an area where people are fleeing to the Sun Belt or where the imminent closure of a military installation could have a devastating effect on the regional economy? If this is the case, consider relocating to a high growth area. Many areas of the United States such as Nevada, Florida, California, and Texas are enjoying unprecedented population growth. Examine your chosen area and explain in detail how growth or continued stability can improve your chances of success. Factors of importance include the long-term commitment of major employers to the local economy. An area that offers this type of stable economic environment with a middle-income level will often produce the optimal balance of interest between learning to play and ability to purchase golf lessons.
Another major factor in considering your potential market is the question of access to this market on a year-round basis. In places such as Arizona and Florida, the population swells dramatically during the winter months, thus creating an increased need for services. In the summer, when temperatures soar into the hundreds, the number of people that you will be able to attract will be far less, unless you are able to operate inside in an air-conditioned environment. Similarly, teaching in the open air can be even tougher in Chicago in wintertime! These factors must be considered and addressed in the business plan. Your business plan should discuss the methods by which you will optimize business in the winter and minimize your student loss during the summer or vice versa. Identify any seasonal influences in your area and discuss how you will minimize or maximize the effects in your favor.
Major Benefits Of Your Service
Carefully list all the benefits you can think of indicating why someone should decide to learn to play golf or to improve their ability if they are already a player. Do not just list reasons that appeal to you but try to cover every possible angle.
Clearly define why such things as your teaching methods, long-term results and available financing, etc., are unique and better than competitors in your area. For instance, are your credentials stronger? Does your teaching style have a broader market appeal? Are your methods sounder? Do you have a local, regional, or even a national reputation as a teacher?
Your ‘image statement’ will be largely determined by the reasons you have listed. Be sure it accurately reflects how you want people to perceive you and your business, as it is not easy to substantially alter your image once you have solidly established it.
Advertising & Marketing Strategy
Clearly, state your income goals and how each individual marketing tool you use will help you attain them.
What advertising media will you use to persuade people within your defined market area to take advantage of benefits you offer? Check out local papers, radio stations, and magazines and match their market profiles with the customer profiles you have developed. See which of theirs most closely resemble yours.
Accurately define how much money you must spend on each advertising and promotional vehicle you will use to reach your target market. Specifically outline not only how you intend to gain market share through advertising, but also how you intend to maintain this market share through newsletters, sales letters and other promotional tools at your disposal.
Outline plans for your online marketing including websites, email, and social media. Next, outline your print display advertising including yellow pages, newspapers, coupon mailers, etc. Include an expense report that estimates the cost of any promotional events you plan to organize to increase your business income. Show the different ways in which these promotions will benefit you. Clearly outline the expected response from each marketing campaign you plan to undertake.
Estimating Student Value
Estimate the average amount of money you expect to receive from each new student at the time he signs up, how long you expect them to stay, and the total income you expect to receive from each one. It is helpful to estimate the lifetime value of your average student because then you will clearly see how much money it is worth spending to get a new student. Take into account average dropout rate, lesson fees, playing lessons and equipment purchases. Limit this estimation to any period of time that makes sense to you, based on experience.
You now have a figure from which you can determine the net gain if you boost enrollment figures, and how much you will invest in marketing and promotion to acquire new students. Now you can project sales, project what percentage of your income will come from new student enrollment, determine the value of a marketing campaign, etc. Note that you can also see how advantageous it would be to lower your attrition rate!
Analyze your competitors carefully. Seek out each and every established golf instructor in and around your market area. Look not only for weaknesses you can capitalize on but also strengths you can learn from. Write up a profile of the most successful of these instructors and try to answer as accurately as possible the following questions.
How busy is your competitor?
1. How long have they been in business? A long time would suggest stability and strong market awareness. Chances are they are well known and respected in the area, and you may be unnecessarily giving yourself a major hill to climb in order to replace them in the hearts and minds of their followers.
2. Discover how many students they have, or at least note if their schedule appears full. Drive by at different times of the day and make this determination personally.
3. Does the instructor have a good or poor reputation?
4. Do they teach personally, or are all students under the tutelage of assistant instructors?
5. What type of marketing and advertising do they employ? Do they have a Facebook fan page? Twitter? Is it high quality and professional like the methods in this manual or poor and amateurish allowing you to capitalize on its ineffectiveness?
6. What do they charge? Compare their services and the corresponding prices with your own.
After gathering as much data as you can, begin to develop a marketing plan which outlines ways in which you can capitalize on your competitors’ weaknesses and combat their strengths. Armed with this manual, you already have an advantage in marketing. Use it and any other tools at your disposal to promote and improve your position in the marketplace.
Note: It is very easy when embarking on a new venture or revitalizing an old one to brush off your competitors with casual statements and false bravado. “I’m not worried about the guy up the street, he’s a phony.” It is imperative when performing these tasks that you be brutally honest and objective. If, for emotional or personal reasons, you cannot perform this task objectively, find someone independent and unbiased who can. The results of these analyses are too important to your success to let your personal feelings influence the results.
Financial Statements & Projections
This section is especially crucial if you are applying for funding. List item by item the cost of starting up or revitalizing your business.
How much money do you need to start up and operate your business? When will you need these funds? How will the money be used, over what time period and with what positive effects? How do you propose to raise these funds? Include details of personal funds, investor capital, bank loan, etc.
What will you offer as security? When and how do you propose to pay back the funds? What is the rate of return you are offering? Why is it a good investment?
List any existing investment in your business and the source.
You must be realistic and as precise as possible in your projections. There needs to be enough detail in your financial statements to allow you to clearly see the current financial state of your business and to accurately predict future cash needs, slow periods, busy periods and areas of operation where you could be more profitable.
As you compile your financial projections, you must also provide an explanation of your data and any assumptions you’ve made.
The Pro Forma Statements
The pro forma are estimated statements based on certain assumptions you make about your business; e.g., a number of new sign-ups per month, estimated marketing and operating costs, longevity of each enrollment, etc. It may also contain known facts, such as a lease payment that will remain constant for the next two years. These pro forma can also provide you with a goal to shoot for. It’s best to do three different ones showing a worst, best and probable scenario. Prepare statements for the immediate year and for the next two years. The current year should be broken down by the month and the second and third year by the quarter. Several good software programs are available at your local computer store.
1. Profit & Loss Statement
Measures how profitable you are now or expect to be. It is a detailed account of your various sources of income and expense categories. Your income minus your expenses gives you your pre-income tax profit. A pro forma profit and loss statement is simply a prediction of future sales and expenses and can be used to determine at what point in time a new business will break even.
2. Projected Cash Flow Analysis
Used to estimate how much cash will be needed in your business at any given time and is also useful in determining at what point in time a new or expanding business will break even or have enough cash flow to sustain itself without additional outside funding.
3. Balance Sheet
Displays your current net worth after all outstanding debts have been subtracted from your current assets. In essence, it tells you whether you or the bank owns your business.
4. Projected Break Even Graph
Displays how much income is needed to break even. With the exception of the cash flow analysis, once you have an actual history as a golf teaching business, these same forms with the words “Projected” or “Pro Forma” removed from the title, will contain the past and most current financial data.
The Profit & Loss Statement, both current and projected, is the one that will be of primary interest to you as you gauge the financial performance of your business on a monthly basis. Based on the results you see, you will be able to make decisions on what to do in the future.
The Balance Sheet can be completed at the end of each quarter or year, as you wish. The cash flow analysis is useful for predicting the amount of cash needed to carry you over unusual periods such as peak seasons or unusually slow periods.
In a new business venture, you need to calculate a ‘Break Even Point’. This is a critical part of your business plan. Not only do you need to know how many students will be needed to pay the bills, but how long it will take you to enroll enough students to reach that point. Will you have enough capital to sustain you until that point is reached? This calculation, together with your projected cash flow analysis, will help you determine this information.
Your first step is to calculate how much money is needed to cover all monthly expenses involved in running your operation; rent, utilities, phone, etc. (Don’t forget to include income for yourself! You have to cover your own living expenses.) If you have already done a projected cash flow analysis or pro forma profit and loss statement, this figure can be taken from there.
Once you have this figure you must determine how many enrollments and at what price each, and how much in merchandise sales if any, is needed to raise enough capital to cover your estimated break-even point. For instance, if you estimate your break even point to be $7,000, you have to calculate just what must be done to earn $7,000 a month without the need to dip into personal or investor cash reserves.
Work through your income categories and estimate what percentage of sales will come from each category, i.e. group lessons, private lessons, playing lessons, etc. Take the number of anticipated sales in each group and multiply this figure by the prices you will charge. Then add up the categories to give you your total sales. When this amount matches your overhead you will have arrived at the break-even point for your teaching operation. As an example, this could be 70 students at $100 per month, or 35 students at $200 a month, or some combination of the two to come up with the $7,000 figure.
It seems simple, but…
Several factors must be considered when preparing your break-even point, (and other financial statements).
1. What price will you charge for your programs; for your merchandise?
2. How will you determine these prices?
3. Is your price suited to the economic status of your targeted market? (Hopefully, you chose your operating area based on accurate and well-considered demographics.)
4. Is your pricing in line with that of your competition or do you have unique circumstances that will allow you to charge more? Or should it be less?
5. Have you set your prices too low? For example, it would require 350 lessons at $20 each to reach a monthly break-even of $7,000. It’s unlikely such a low price can be made up for in volume.
6. How many students can be taught per group lesson? How many classes will be needed? Will this involve hiring another instructor which would affect the expense statement?
Reaching your break-even point will command every ounce of effort you can muster. Until this point is reached, you must put in longer hours, give out more flyers, push for more referrals and generally perform at a higher level than you can reasonably expect to maintain over a protracted period. You are well aware that this is a very critical time for you.
Careful planning, together with your own teaching skills and the sales and marketing information in this manual, will help you attain your goals and realize your ambitions in the shortest possible time.
Before you begin to outline your operational procedures, be sure to set some goals. What needs to be done in order to start or re-energize your business? Establish timelines for the completion of each task. Make sure your goals are obtainable within the time frame you set. Set up provisional measures for what you will do if you do not reach these goals.
Outline in detail the physical, management, marketing, financial and other steps that will be necessary to actualize these goals. As you define each task, assign responsibility for its completion to a specific person.
If you employ more than one instructor or you plan to expand in the near future, set up a chain of command.
Keep good accounting records and outline your procedures in your business plan. Clearly define your administrative policies. How you will handle billings, payments, banking, bad checks, etc.
Consistency is the key word in day-to-day operations
Set down your operational hours, prices, and day to day business activities. Spell out clearly how you want these to be handled. Do this in such a way that someone totally unfamiliar with your business could read this part of your business plan and follow it precisely. Set up a discount schedule for students who want to pay for long-term programs of tuition in advance; there’s nothing worse than charging students different amounts for the same services. If the sign says you open at 8:00 am, open at 8:00 am; if you close at 8:00 pm, don’t go home at 7:45 pm.
How will you protect your business against lawsuits due to contract disputes, accidents, etc.? Do you plan to carry liability/accident coverage? Outline the cost of premiums, the amount of the coverage you will carry, terms and limitations, and the name of your insurance company and sales agent.
If you offer any merchandise for sale, list any items you will carry in inventory to satisfy supplementary retail sales. Provide a list of the suppliers, persons to contact and the individual procedures for ordering and billing.
Allow Room For Growth
Decide now how you will cope with fifty extra students, what your personnel requirements will be and how you will train assistant instructors in your techniques and to your standards.
The goal of this section is simple; cover every possible contingency now and it will save time, confusion and embarrassment later.
Describe your professional background and why you are qualified to run a golf instruction business. (Remember, golfing ability is not a primary issue.) List your training and teaching credentials. List your educational and business background. Include information on any civic involvement or award. Describe your personal affiliations with charitable, social and business associations. List some of your other interests and hobbies. Describe your personal and business objectives. Above all blend this information to form the clear conclusion that you are amply qualified to attain success in this venture.
If you have already progressed to the point of running a sizable golf operation, be sure to include the resumes of your assistant instructors, office manager, and any other key personnel who are an integral part of running a successful business.
A Professional Team
If you employ the services of an accountant, lawyer or professional consultant on a regular basis, include a paragraph on their individual capabilities and how they fit into your management plan. By expanding the scope of your management team to include such people, you’ll impart a far greater air of confidence in your operation to any potential investor. Take the necessary steps to improve performance in any area that appears to be weak. If, for example, an assistant instructor is still lacking in teaching ability, make a definite commitment, including the allocation of time, to upgrade their skills.
If you, personally, are lacking in certain business skills, face the problem and take immediate steps to rectify it. You have already taken a giant step by investing in this manual. If you need additional help, seek it out. It may take the form of evening classes, seminars, or other materials on sales and management, such as audio/video tapes or books. Don’t be afraid to ask students, who happen to be experts in a field that is of interest to you, to give you advice on specific subjects like book-keeping, computers, social media or marketing.
When all else fails or time constraints restrict your quest for knowledge, invest in professional help. Although this may seem expensive, five hours with a computer expert or sales trainer can be far more effective, and ultimately less expensive, than hundreds of hours of trial and error.
Written in a narrative form, this section is an overview of your business. Keep it brief and to the point! The first few sentences are important and should capture the reader’s attention, making them want to read further.
Indicate in plain language…
• The opportunity that exists, what market it addresses and what your initial success has been or what your research has uncovered. Show why the golf business is a growth industry on a national and local basis.
• Why your concept is unique and what special benefits you will offer and provide to attract a steady flow of potential students.
• What your market potential is and how you expect to gain it and maintain or increase your share.
• What promotional tools you will use.
• How your operation will out-perform other similar ones in the area.
• Your Competitive Advantage
• Describe the main players, i.e. yourself, instructors and management personal. Why are they totally qualified to succeed? What is their experience?
• How much money has been invested to date and how much additional funding is needed? What is the expected rate of return on investment and how will it be paid back?
• Summarize your business strengths and advantages and how they will contribute to and ensure your success.
All The Best,