Automotive advisory councils, golf outings have much in common

Sept. 29, 2014
I know it sounds like I’m “telling a tale out of school” or breaking ranks, so to speak. I just find both functions, a board of directors/advisory council meeting and a golf scramble, have a lot in common. 

Some time ago I was appointed to a program group’s national advisory council. I was immediately honored by the confidence my peers and vendors had placed in me to represent their wishes, as well as my wishes, during the conference to be held some months later. 

Prior to the event, I honed my skills by talking with every group member that I could and discussed at length the problems we were having with distribution, product, representation, warranty, and overall satisfaction within the ranks of our membership. 

I felt that I had put together a pretty good game plan, and that my research and the cumulative ideas of my “team” would surely make a difference. A noble and philosophical deduction prematurely contrived. I say contrived, because it was the first such meeting I had attended. 

I had no knowledge of how this was actually going to go down. I’m not going to go into detail, because most of you already either know, or at the very least can imagine. Instead, I’m going to combine another story that adequately parallels the advisory council experience.

As with most things “emeritus,” the honor is bestowed upon the experienced and educated, yet sometimes the trough is placed in front of whomever is available. Such was the case when I was asked to represent our local Shrine club in our annual statewide golf tournament. 

My golf game is respectable, my standing with other club members is probably more respectable than my golf prowess, I had the money for the entry fee, and I was available (of utmost importance). Prior to the event, I practiced a few rounds of golf, did a lot of chipping, putting and watching the Golf Channel. I felt prepared, and since it was a scramble format, felt the skills of my “team” could make for a formidable foursome. Again, a prematurely contrived outcome.

The “parallels” will now be discussed in order to fully appreciate the uncanny similarities of an advisory council board of directors and being a member of a golf scramble with a bunch of Shriners.

Age

Since I’m an older fellow, I don’t feel “discriminatory” about making this a part of the conversation. Every board of directors meeting regarding any organization is largely comprised of folks a little long in the tooth and/or grey around the muzzle. 

Likewise, the majority of Shriners have all had at least one knee or hip replacement. I’m a Shriner, so I can say that without fear of reprisal. I’ve got a bad knee and a bad hip. 

Generally, with age comes wisdom. Much wisdom is required for an effective board of directors gathering. Wisdom for golf basically boils down to being able to manage frustration and wisecracking about your teammates last tee-shot.

A basic understanding of the game is still required, however, so an old duffer or two offers up some predictability of the 18-hole outcome. Us old guys, although not renowned for thrilling drives, still have a solid game. 

But what about the rookies?  A board of directors meeting always has one very successful newbie, surprisingly talented to inject new ideas and strategy. A Shriner’s golf tournament is no different. All of us old duffers recruit a “ringer,” sandbagger, or semi-pro for our respective foursomes. Let’s face it, not many of us old Shriners actually have a four handicap, so a team member with obvious talent is a plus during any golf scramble.

Abusive behavior:

I’m talking about over indulgence, not being a nasty, ill-mannered individual. A typical board of directors meeting usually involves a fancy meal or two, several drinks at various bars and visiting an interesting place or landmark. 

Since an emeritus board meeting often occurs outside the range of most participants’ normal trolling grounds, the potential for plundering, pillaging, and otherwise partaking of unhealthy extravagance is an obvious lure. The next day of the meeting usually abounds with Alka-Seltzer infused tall glasses of cold water, painkillers and memory loss. 

A golf scramble for the “wise and educated” is not much different. Away from our significant others, peer pressure, ego, and unfamiliar environments are the recipe for Romanesque behavior. Lack of timely medication, various alcoholic or sugary drinks, rich food, spicy food, and huge cigars are all, or in part, the real reason a “scramble” was aptly named.

At some point, the fairways are scrambling with participants trying to make it to the restroom at the clubhouse, back to their vehicles for various medications or medical equipment (knee/back/neck braces, glasses, oxygen, etc.), or just roaming around the fairways aimlessly due to out-of-whack blood-alcohol /blood-sugar levels.

Predictable outcomes

I know it sounds like I’m “telling a tale out of school” or breaking ranks, so to speak. I just find both functions, a board of directors/advisory council meeting and a golf scramble, have a lot in common.

Whatever the lofty goals set upon or how much prestige the participants wish to attain, we always seem to fall just short of actually accomplishing something. If we actually do accomplish something good as a result of such gatherings, those results are soon forgotten, of little impact or largely ignored.

Case in point, I was a member of an automotive national advisory council and during the meeting we urged the directors to quit spending our program group fees on NASCAR. Why? It’s too expensive and does not provide enough exposure in lieu of the funds we can afford. Shortly after the meeting, we found out that our group had once again sponsored a NASCAR team. 

Most golf scramble tournaments are for worthy or charitable causes, yet the net impact would be far less expensive for the participants if we all just donated directly to the cause. The big winners are the program group management and the golf courses! No significant changes for them or “course” corrections. The rest of us just go home feeling good about ourselves.

I like to play golf. I love to sell auto parts and service my customers’ vehicles. Both things I do alone. Granted, a scramble takes some of the pressure off my individual game of golf. Also, an automotive board of directors meeting can offer some solace that I am not alone in my struggles. 

Unfortunately, when I return home – regardless of the camaraderie, lies and fun we all had while together – the real world faces me. My golf game still is bad, and it sure is tough to be in this business.

I suggest we combine the two events as I combined the likenesses. An advisory council scramble where everyone has to tell the truth, the rules cannot be ignored, good advice must be given and taken, there’s no lewd behavior and no mulligans. 

Mulligans are effective tools during a golf scramble, yet in our line of work, a “do-over” costs dearly. It’s high time this industry starts being honest with itself. In our line of work, “par for the course” is just not a good score for us anymore. 

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