Dare to be different!  
The theme of this year’s NGCOA Canada conference was Victory in Victoria. Playing on a nautical theme the goals of the conference were to “Navigate new tools. Sail to profitability and Anchor your success”. In a previous blog we wrote about the session that Jeff lead called Monetizing Social Media. In this post we will focus on the presentation given by good friend Eric Thorstenison, General Manager/Director of Golf at Black Mountain Golf Club. Eric has always dared to be different and he has taken this philosophy to Black Mountain and turned it into a business success.

Your Business DNA
If you want to make your business unique in some way, first your whole team needs to be a part of the process. In order to do this Eric began by creating a cultural template or ‘DNA’ for Black Mountain.

  • Build your Community or Tribe
  • EDUCATE not Train
  • Enable & Empower
  • Celebrate Success
  • Hug, Hug, Hug

“Your cast is the most important part of your organization. You need to take your lead actors from good to great and build up your supporting cast. Recruiting, hiring, educating, motivating, orientations, knowledge quizzes, mystery shoppers, performance descriptions and the ‘uni’ are all key elements in developing your culture.”

What makes you different?

View some photos of the unique golf course business culture at Black Mountain.

When in Doubt Hug it Out
At Black Mountain hugging can be taken both literally and figuratively and applies to both staff and guests. For guests this might mean a high five or things like personal thank you cards, weekly enews, friend’s of BM Event etc. Suppliers are customers too. Send them Christmas cards. For staff hugs include things like a bowling party, monthly BBQ,  staff golf matches, golf lessons and a year-end party. ‘Have you filled a bucket today“? is not just for kids.

 Hugging it out has its benefits…

  • Employee Retention “Employer of Choice” and Less Turnover
  • More engaged TEAM
  • Building your Community or Tribe
  • Happy Shareholders
  • Word of mouth 
Leaders are Readers
Eric also provided a list of his favourite reads (some of them are our fav’s too) as well as shows and videos to watch that we wanted to share.
Books – “Setting the Table”, “Contrarian Leadership”, “Hug Your Customers”, “First, Break All The Rules”, “Nordstrom Way”, “Good To Great” and “Great By Choice.”
Shows and Videos – “The Guest”, “Fish! Catch the Energy”,  “Undercover Boss”, Bar Rescue” and “Pay it Forward “.

How important do you think our bathrooms are?
Eric’s presentation was full of great take-aways about how to make your golf course stand out. You can view Eric’s full slide presentation from NCGOA Canada here. And one item that most business owners overlook is the importance of their bathrooms. If you are in the Kelowna area it is worth a trip to Black Mountain Golf Course to see the bathrooms, check out the whole unique culture – this is not your typical golf facility – and if you are lucky, meet Chilly Dip the mascot.

This was one of many great sessions at this year’s NGCOA Golf Business Canada Conference. You can check out the hashtag #NGCOACanada for more takeaways. Next year’s event will take place in Montreal, November 20th to 22nd.


Jeff & Tara Ciecko of CK Golf Solutions write two blogs on their website, one is their 19th Hole Blog where they share personal experiences and the Biz Blog where they share business best practices and golf industry related opinions. They have owned CK Golf Solutions for 6 years and provide marketing, social media and business services to the golf and other industries.