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Mike Root

What I Learned From the 2013 US Senior Open at Omaha Country Club …

July 19, 2013

If any of you happen to catch the US Senior Open golf tournament last weekend, it was broadcast live from my country club on ESPN and NBC. It was a phenomenal week, and the members were proud that their Omaha Country Club course held its own against some of the best golfers in the world. Only Kenny Perry with a lightening hot putter and deadly accurate driver was able to get to 13 under. Out of a total of 156 entrants at the start of the week, only 18 finished under par. For a course that no one outside of the Omaha community had ever heard of before, I think it held up just fine.

The Senior Open is what is known in golf parlance as a major. It is one of the top tournaments in golf. This year over 157,000 people came through to watch over a week's period of time. In order to put an event like this on it took an enormous amount of organization, planning and manpower. In fact there were over 3000 volunteers that came from all over the world to help stage this event from groundskeepers, to Marshalls (like me), to concessions, to merchandise tents to anything else that may have been necessary to pull this off flawlessly.

I worked with one gentlemen from the USGA who is a full time school teacher and every year he is a volunteer running the Marshalls "Inside the Ropes" at the Senior Open and the Ladies LPGA Open. He gives up two weeks every summer to volunteer at a very high level for the USGA. I talked to other couples that have travelled together for ten years going to the Senior Opens to Marshall as part of their summer vacation.

In the case of our event, the planning started five years ago and was very aggressive the last two years. Changes to the course had to be made, the grass had to be cut just right and the greens had to be just so fast. Corporate tents had to be sold and tickets to the general public had to be marketed. So many details that a firm specializing in Major golf events was hired and their people moved to Omaha for three years.

At the start of the season we saw the corporate tents go up along multiple fairways. We saw a 60,000 square foot merchandise tent arise in a cornfield, and a 40,000 square foot Volunteer Headquarters tent right next door. There were medical tents, concession stands, porta-pottys (and there are some really nice porta-pottys for the $250,000 corporate tents) and much more.

I tell you all this to remind you that there are entire other business models out there that we who are ingrained in the furniture industry pay little or no attention to. I watch a golf tournament on TV or attend in person and I don't think a thing about the five years of planning it took to make it a reality. These are big enterprises that require lots of planning, organization, execution, marketing, and business acumen.

Sporting events and entertainment events like concerts or movie productions are big money operations. These events are also a whole lot more exciting than going into a furniture store to buy a sofa. It would be great if our industry could incorporate some of the entertainment aspects from major sporting events and get customers excited about furniture. Of course that requires planning, organization, execution, marketing, and business acumen.

This one event in Omaha Nebraska probably grossed in revenue more in one week than 90% of all furniture stores gross in a year. Good practices are in businesses all around us. We just need to go outside the walls of the furniture store to see how others are successful, and try and apply these best practices to our world of selling furniture. Good selling to you!