10 Lessons Learned in 10 Years (of Operating a Golf Business)

By Tom Monaghan, President of Monaghan Golf Group


2019 marks the ten-year anniversary of Monaghan Golf Group. Our Vancouver-based golf facility management company works with public and private courses in British Columbia, from the Island to the Interior.

The company grew pretty quickly once we stepped out of the starting gate and at times it’s been a wild ride. The last ten years has been a steep learning curve and shifting demographics and economics means the learning never ends. Here are ten lessons I’ve learned from ten years operating a golf course management company.

  1. Employees are your greatest asset. Without good people it's difficult to run a successful business. When you find employees who are invested in the company and passionate about the job, make sure you invest in them and keep them happy. You should feel as though you are working for them, not vice versa.

  2. Everything is cyclical. Weather, trends, economy, stock markets: everything is cyclical. Don't get too used to the highs or the lows because it’s pretty much guaranteed to change. Smart business people stay in tune with the cycle and try to plan accordingly.

  3. Business is hard. If it was easy there’d be more business owners than employees. It has been some of the most rewarding and educational years of my life - and the toughest - but I wouldn't change anything.

  4. Hard work pays off. This goes for everything: business, sports, nutrition, relationships. The harder you work at something the closer you get to mastery and in business that often leads to greater opportunities and hopefully, greater successes. There is no substitution for hard work.

  5. Trusting people is key. I can't be at all our facilities at the same time. I've had to learn how to delegate and trust my managers to do their best work to enable the company to grow. If you trust your people and delegate accordingly, they will show you just how extraordinary they can be.

  6. The golf business is alive and well. The past decade has been filled with a lot of negative media surrounding the golf business. I've seen ups and downs in the past 10 years, but we see our junior programs growing, our ladies’ programs growing and full tee sheets.  I feel like golf is in a very good place indeed.

  7. Volunteerism is very rewarding. Giving back is important. My work on the Board of the PGA of Canada and the National Golf Course Owners Association has allowed me the opportunity to directly affect the inner workings of those Associations and in turn do my part to strengthen the industry as a whole.

  8. Establishing meaningful relationships makes life better. Golf has allowed me to meet many interesting and wonderful people and create some long-lasting relationships. At the end of the day, what more do we need in life?

  9. Surrounding myself with smarter people than me has made me better at my job. If you look around the room and you’re the smartest person in it, you are doing something wrong. Hiring smart people makes the organization better for everyone including staff and your customers. 

  10. Taking risks isn't for everyone, but I guess it's for me! Sleepless nights, stress and concern isn't for everyone, but if you can handle the challenges, being an entrepreneur is one of the more rewarding things you can do in life. I've enjoyed building a business over the past decade and look forward to the possibilities in the next chapter.