At Work or Play, Fleishman Loves Golf
Like many people, Jeff Fleishman developed his love for golf as a boy, learning the game at a "country" country club outside Lumberton, NC. He's turned that love into a career as a golf consultant.
As a young man, he was competitive enough to make the golf team at the University of North Carolina. During one summer vacation, he worked in golf course maintenance, and found that he was intrigued with the business and marketing side of the game.
After graduation, he decided to stay in the sport of golf, so he sent out bundles of resumes and landed a job at what then was the new Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, VA.
Looking back, he laughs when he recalls that he really never had heard of Kingsmill, which then had a singe golf course. In fact, he said, he mailed his resume to the "Busch Gardens Golf Course."
Luckily, the folks at the theme park forwarded the material to Kingsmill, and Fleishman got a job in 1976. Over the next 17 years, he held a variety of positions at the resort, generally running the golf and sports marketing programs.
"I thought for a long time about running my own business," he said. "That time came in 1992. I sent out some business plans to friends in the industry and asked for suggestions."
So he took the plunge, hanging out his own shingle. He first focused on providing marketing help to courses, "to help people put more money into their cash registers."
One of his first clients was Matrix, a hospitality company based in New Jersey. The company was planning a pro-am golf event and turned to Fleishman for help. That event has become known as the Core States Fall Classic, and has featured such pros as Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson. Proceeds go to cancer research in New Jersey.
Matrix liked Fleishman's work so much, they asked him to join the company. But having just started out on his own, he wanted to follow that dream. So instead, Matrix became partners in Fleishman's "Golf Business Advisors" company. He continues to do his consulting work for a variety of clients. And he also helps Matrix with golf work they do, such as help on developing and marketing courses.
Fleishman's list of client for his consulting work includes several properties in Virginia, including the Golden Horseshoe and The Colonial in Williamsburg. There also are courses in Richmond, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and Wintergreen, along with North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
As luck would have it, Fleishman struck out on his own at the right time. Shortly after opening Golf Business Advisors, the industry boomed. "It just began to go bonkers," he said. "You wouldn't believe the number of telephone calls we get. Everybody has a good idea, or wants to buy a golf course."
When an established company hires Fleishman for a particular course, he develops and helps implement a marketing plan. "I look at everything that course has done in the past, and I analyze what's been happening. I figure out what people around them are doing, what they are charging. Then I develop the marketing plan, and that might include memberships, pricing, brochures, direct mail and promotions. The thing Golf Business Advisors brings to the table is a systematic approach to help them. I'm helping convince the owners that marketing is going to pay dividends. Sometimes that's a challenge."
Other times, clients call Fleishman because they may be interested in buying or leasing a course in a particular market. His company then works up a detailed feasibility study that looks at the supply and demand in that given market, and what it would cost of build a new course or improve an existing course. He provides a 10-year projection.
"That way, they can see what I think the business at that golf course is going to do for them," he noted. "They can decide whether they want to take on the project."
Fleishman believes the boom in developing golf courses will continue."There's no doubt a golf explosion has occurred. As long as it's in reasonably populated or tourist areas, there's no reason why it won't continue to be successful."
The combination of youngsters getting exposure to the sport, through televised tournaments or junior programs in their areas, and "baby-boomers" moving into retirement will continue to push the industry, he believes.
Fleishman continues to play golf, through not as often as he would like. He has served on the board of the Virginia State Golf Association since 1982, and was its president in 1991-92. He has served on USGA committees since 1988, an now is involved with the Mid-Atlantic Golf Association."I spend time trying to do good things for the game." That holds true in both his personal, and professional, lives.