Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Shane Derby on the Growth of Carr Golf

The name of ‘Carr’ is as synonymous with Irish golf as Peter Alliss is with Open Championship commentating. And while Alliss’s career is coming to an end, Carr Golf is accelerating into an ever brighter future.

I met Shane Derby, the company’s new Business Development Manager, and asked what Carr Golf was all about and what it offers Irish golf clubs… as well as Irish golf. 

Q.  Can you give a little background on Carr Golf?
Shane: Carr Golf Services was founded by JB, Marty and John Carr in 1990. Dublin County Council had recently purchased land for golf course development at Clondalkin
and Dunsink. Carr Golf led and managed the consultancy, design, construction, grow-in and development of the golf operations themselves for these two projects. The venues in question are of course Grange Castle and Elm Green Golf Centres. Interestingly, these projects were one of the very first examples of public private partnership in Ireland.
Having initially cut our teeth on these projects, other opportunities presented themselves in the form of running and operating the golf operations requirement for both Corballis and Stepaside. Incidentally some 24 years later we still operate the golf side of the Corballis and Elm Green operations on behalf of Fingal County Council.
The par thee 4th at Corballis Links.
Various opportunities have materialised over the last 26 years, both in Ireland and internationally. These experiences and learnings have enabled us to develop robust, detail-driven, golfer-focused solutions to managing both golf course maintenance and clubhouse operations, facilitating superior course presentation with the associated benefits of member retention and attraction and a competitive advantage for our clients.
Notable projects include Sawgrass in Florida, home of the Players Championship, Dromoland Golf & Country Club, Old Head Golf Club, Mount Juliet, Carton House, and working with Tullow Oil in Ghana. These projects included either management and maintenance services, consultancy services, sales & marketing support, design and master plan development, construction team selection or associated services.
In 2010 we completed a large research project of the Irish golf industry in conjunction with the GUI, ILGU, Fáilte Ireland and FGS. The study found that many of the surveyed golf clubs had no definitive strategic plans, little or no sales and marketing and also had ageing fleets of greens equipment. The results were published in the benchmarking report which we launched during our Road to Recovery Conference, hosted at the National Convention Centre in Dublin, and attended by almost 400 delegates.

Q. Why did Carr decide to move into maintenance/management?
Shane: The whole team here at Carr Golf are nuts about golf. You’d have to go a long way to find somebody who’s more of a ‘golfaholic’ than I am. We are all committed to the long term competitive advantage of Irish Golf and the special place our golf product has in people’s hearts right around the world.
Quite simply we moved into maintenance and management to provide new and innovative solutions and approaches, focusing on the little things. We believe in driving the success of Irish golf directly through the golfers’ experience. We understand that the success of any organisation is based on their underlying financials and that superior course presentation can drive the whole operation.
Change is a constant and it is often difficult to know how to react to a changing competitive environment. Our approach provides our clients with the right information at the right time to enable informed decisions.
Elm Green 12th hole.
Q. What has stimulated Carr’s growth in recent years… and how has the company evolved to deal with the last decade??
Shane: The company grew 42% in 2015 alone. We have embraced technology, strengthened our core team and have invested significantly in the business, focusing on systems, processes, training and skills development.
The biggest factor that stimulated our growth has been our committed team of experts who have tirelessly focused on refining and honing our methodologies, frameworks, management philosophy and planning processes to drive the success of our clients’ operations.

Q. What makes Carr Golf good at the services it provides?
Shane: There are five distinct areas that have directly influenced our customers’ success stories:
  • Our commitment to innovation
  • Our team of committed experts
  • Our data driven approach to operational best practice
  • Our responsiveness to change
  • Our focus on exceptional customer service
The last number of years has seen exceptional growth in the demand for our services amongst traditional members clubs and proprietor owned clubs in equal measure. The challenges facing the wider golf industry are common irrespective of the form of governance – increased competition, fewer affiliated golfers, a lost generation, a deficit of experience and/or expertise not to mention problems accessing funding, ageing fleets of greens equipment which leads to lower presentation standards and often a reduction in the size of course maintenance teams.
We now employ over 200 people throughout the wider Carr Golf group, which makes us the largest employer within the Irish golf market. Before Christmas we moved into a new purpose built headquarters in Parkwest in Dublin and recently announced 2015 turnover figures of €7.5 million. Our aim is to reach €25 million turnover by 2020. We will invest €1.3 million in greens capital equipment this year as part of our ongoing commitment to our customers. We’re here to help in an independent capacity. More and more clients are seeing that there is a better way and that way is the Carr Golf way.
The 1st hole at Royal Curragh Golf Club.
Q. Why should golf clubs consider using Carr Golf’s services?
Shane: The Irish golf marketplace is a competitive arena and advantage is hard to win and equally as hard to hang on to. Our approach is based on the competitive advantage of superior course presentation and improved performance in every other aspect of the operation: sales and marketing, income and profitability, efficiency and reporting.
Transparency and trust are the cornerstone of our daily interactions with our customers, our systems, procedures and reporting protocols have been designed to provide the correct data to all decision makers in a timely manner in order to facilitate informed decision making.
Golf in Ireland is fairly traditional in its outlook and structures, the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ strategy is often employed as a default. Adopting this approach leads to either competing on price and a race to the bottom or accepting the status quo and following the pack instead of leading the way.
Engaging with Carr Golf gives customers access to a suite of proven operational systems, procedures and management philosophy not to mention the sum of our individual expertise which most clubs just simply could not afford on a standalone basis.

Q. What is your role at Carr Golf?
Shane: I lead the Business Development function within the Services Division of Carr Golf. I like to think of myself and the chief story teller here at Carr Golf (although Marty does a really good job with this brief too!!). I am exclusively 'focused on meeting with prospective clients to introduce them to our services, approach and philosophy. I am also involved in the first steps that we take with any new client through our consultancy service and Independent Business Review process. So in short I am the first point of contact that any new inquiry will have with Carr Golf.
The company has grown significantly over the past number of years and we have expanded the Services team by 30% over the past 12 months to respond to the market demand for our approach. We have big plans for Carr Golf and I’m here to ensure that we reach for the stars when it comes to new business…… no pressure!!
The par three 2nd at Charlesland Golf Club
Q. What attracted you to the role? (Discuss your golfing background, too)
Shane: As a ‘golfaholic’ who previously worked with Open Fairways in Belfast some years ago I have been keen to return to the heart of the golf industry. When I saw the job specification for this Business Development role I knew that I fitted it like a glove… thankfully my now colleagues recognised this. I suppose it takes one golfaholic to spot another golfaholic!

Q. What do you believe you can do for Carr? 
Shane: Somebody new can often bring a fresh approach to opportunities. I hope that my first four months with the company has provided this fresh approach to doing the same things… just a little bit differently!

Q. Address the three biggest misconceptions about Carr’s services/modus operandi.
Shane: Sure.

1. Carr Golf only take over struggling golf operations.
We do not discriminate when business opportunities arise and work with a number of very successful, profitable and high profile clubs. It is true to say that we have been engaged to reenergise under-performing properties and also true to say that these properties have been transformed under our stewardship. Our partnership approach ultimately drives the best golfer experience within the scope of a tailored fixed price contract.

2. Carr Golf will come in and run things with no consideration for what the club wants!
We are focused on your success. Our primary focus is on delivering the best and most consistent golfer experience within the budgetary scope of each contract. Ultimately we assist you in developing your standards and procedures using our systems to drive your vision. We are the operational arm that ensures that these specific key performance indicators are consistently reached and surpassed.

3. Carr Golf are going to come in, fire our superintendent and roll out pay reductions for the remainder of the course maintenance team.
We don’t want to fire anyone, in fact our approach aims to support and grow your existing team’s capabilities, expertise and knowledge base to the benefit of the operation.
We will benchmark the terms and conditions of your full staff complement with industry best practice as part of our initial Independent Business Review. We may recommend amendments to same as appropriate, but the final decision on terms etc. always rests with the club.

Q. What are your final thoughts on the ongoing evolution of Irish golf?
Shane: There are a number of generic challenges that face all clubs irrespective of where they are ranked, the most recent GUI/ILGU figures still suggest that there is an oversupply of product with a reducing affiliated golfer population.
This suggests that Darwin’s law of evolution may once again be pertinent to consider:
"It’s not the strongest of the species that will survive, nor the most intelligent but the one most responsive to change."
The first time I sat through our sales presentation I was blown away by what I did not know. I’ve already outed myself as a ‘golfaholic’ so if I didn’t know all of that, then perhaps some committee members in golf clubs are in the same boat?
Change is a constant and so is competition, let’s change the record, start competing on superior presentation and the golfers’ experience and the large collection of ‘little things’ that successfully drive this.
Views over the 9th and 18th greens at Belvoir Park Golf Club
And on a more personal note:

Q. How long have you been playing golf and what’s your handicap?
Shane: I was first introduced to golf by my grandfather at the age of 6 or 7, when he used to take myself and my brother to play the pitch and putt golf course in St Annes Park in Dublin. Mick Murphy the club maker was a neighbour of my grandad's in Clontarf and I distinctly remember a cut down John Letters 7 iron as one of my first clubs...happy days. I currently play off a handicap of 5.

Q. What’s your favourite Irish golf course?
Shane: I'm going to give three answers if that’s allowed. My favourite Irish links course is Royal Portrush, my favourite heathland course is Carlow and my favourite Parkland course is Belvoir Park.
Views to the 6th green at Carlow Golf Club
Q. If you could meet one person in golf, who would it be and why?
Shane: I'd like a round of golf with Padraig Harrington. I've been fortunate to meet him on a few occasions and he is probably my number one sporting hero. I'm intrigued by his honest take on the world, himself, gadgets and his willingness to let his guard down during interviews and conversations which I think is both admirable and great value. I'd love to see his short game up close and personal and to tap into his experiences and stories from the wider world of golf.

No comments:

Post a Comment