For years, I have heard the renowned Jim Nantz announce “It’s a tradition unlike any other,” as he introduced the commencement of another PGA Golf Masters. It’s a phrase that has always stuck in my head and this year, I learned first-hand the meaning behind it as I attended the PGA Masters Championship in Augusta, Georgia. It’s something I always wanted to do, and I’m glad I had a chance to do it. I would recommend it to you, too.
The tradition is felt the moment you step into Augusta National and continues beyond the traditional green blazer. It’s a place where pay phones have an esteemed place and marketing as we know it today does not. Here are a few business lessons I learned at the Masters:
- You can play the game at any age.
There are few sports in this world – and places for that matter – that bring together the spectrum of age groups that the Masters does. There’s nearly a 35-year delta between Fred Couples, a long-time golf pro, and Jordan Spieth, a 20-year-old who made his Masters debut this year. Gary Player was the oldest golfer at age 62 to make the cut at the Masters and played in his last Augusta Tournament at age 73 in 2009. If you want to play the game long-term, whether in business or golf, it’s a reminder to keep yourself mentally and physically fit.
- In marketing, sometimes less is more.
At the Masters, coffee is coffee, beer is beer and sandwiches are covered in generic green wrappers. It was interesting to me that there was very little brand marketing, unlike most sports venues where advertisements can be seen virtually everywhere. There are no signs at the concessions, on the chairs or on the scoreboards. The marketing that does appear is tastefully apparent – on each of the golfers. Whether it’s Nike on Tiger Woods or Oakley on Bubba Watson, the brand is clean, credible and subtle - and that makes a marketing statement within itself. Those green sandwich wrappers were actually introduced to prevent any litter from showing up on black and white TV screens back in the 60s during the televised broadcasts.
- Respect never gets old.
The Masters has created a culture of ultimate respect and etiquette. The examples range from no running to remaining quiet and keeping all eyes on the player. Another element of the protocol of respect that I found unique is their “chair program.” For a nominal fee of $30, you can purchase a Masters folding chair, with no sponsor branding by the way. You can place your chair at 7:30 in the morning and be assured it will be available when you want it. You can even leave your belongings on the chair and they will actually be there when you return. (As you know, I also attend WE Fest and I’m pretty sure most of the fans there don’t support the same protocol). Yes, there’s that much respect and trust on the grounds of Augusta. This is something we should all aspire for in our workplace.
- Just because you can charge more doesn’t mean you should.
While that may be counter to business, it plays out well at the Masters and further cultivates that element of respect. Sure, attending the Masters comes at a significant price and is coveted by many. Inside the venue, guests likely could – and would – pay more for goods. But they can get a sandwich for $1.50, a chair for $30 and a beer for $3.
- Sometimes staying old school is okay.
Usually technology can help organizations do something better. (And I’m not just saying that because I am a CEO of a technology company). But sometimes staying with tradition is okay if it still works. In the day and age of multi-million dollar flashy scoreboards, the Masters keeps the tradition of using placards to manually show the score at each hole. And there are no plans to change that – even if it would save time and probably would be a revenue generator. The bottom line may drive decisions in business, but sometimes it’s just better to stay with tradition.
We all have traditions, personally and professionally, that stand the test of time. But few are as long and steep in legacy as the culture and brand of the Masters. Augusta was a fun and memorable event. It reminded me of some of our long-standing traditions at Marco, and I don’t see them changing any time soon. What are some of the traditions that your organization has that shouldn’t change?