In the Pro Shop with Martin Balfour

Head PGA Professional, Martin Balfour, has had a bumpier road than some when it comes to retail. Over the last 10 years, tough conditions led to a downsize from 3 pro shops, to one. But now, after 16 years, he’s doubled the size of his business at Donnington Valley Golf Club, and finally, has a lot to celebrate.  Here, Martin talks to us about the changes he’s made and his top tips for success.

 

You haven’t always been at Donnington Valley?

I spent 5 years working as an Assistant at Royal Winchester for Steven Hunter, then took over at Donnington Valley Golf Club in 2001. I’ve been here ever since and it’s a great place to be.

 

Martin Balfour (left) with Assistant Head Pro Dieter Strohbach (right)

 

Tell us about your multi-site business

Between 2010 and 2017, I owned 3 shops in the Newbury area, all of which I’d started myself.  Unfortunately, it was a lot of hard work for little return and, by 2017, I’d closed 2 and decided to focus on the pro shop here at Donnington Valley.

I was keen to work out why the other shops hadn’t worked and went into analysis mode to find out why, and what I could have done.

I’d always used Crossover’s XPOS system and had a relationship with you guys. Mark Hopkins offered to spend some time with me to look at what lessons we could take from the other shops, and what we needed to do to make sure the site here was a success.

 

Where do you think you went wrong?

I’d always been pretty good at forecasting and budgeting but perhaps wasn’t on top of them as much as I should have been.

I realised I hadn’t been strict enough on myself. I’m pretty ruthless now, and make sure I sit down regularly to review reports and look at my numbers.

XPOS is a great tool and gives me the parameters to work within. I use it very differently now, too, and it’s a real benefit to the business.

 

Any key tips you’d recommend to others?

Yes, I’ve created a flexible system for myself so I know what’s going on at all times. The main thing is to concentrate on your numbers. I was never really bad at budgeting and reporting, but I’m better now. Try to do some monthly analysis.

I look at my budgets and cash flow analysis for the year ahead, and then compare actual cash flow, and look at why it might be up or down.  If it’s down, find out why (was it the weather, for example), or, if you spent to much, that would need to be addressed.

“I’m proof that good habits pay off. After downsizing to the one shop, and implementing these changes, margin was up 73% after one year, and 23% in year 2.”

We’ve got into really good habits when it comes to stocktaking, too, which has meant we carry £18,000 less stock than before. We do monthly stock takes, and run Dead Stock and Stock Turn reports each week. The team in the shop are behind all the processes, and take responsibility for running the reports, too.

Sales are another thing. Don’t jump on the wagon just because everyone else is. On Mark’s advice, I didn’t do a January Sale last year and I was miles up in terms of sales during January, February and March.  I’d been controlling my stock really well and didn’t have any to put into Sale. It made an enormous difference.

I’m proof that good habits pay off. After downsizing to the one shop, and implementing these changes, margin was up 73% after one year, and 23% in year 2.

 

 

Which reports are most valuable to you?

For me, Sales Analysis by Comparisons reports are great, as you can break these down by sub group or supplier, comparing this year’s sales, with last.  They tell me which will be the busy months for which product group and so I know which items may need more stock, or put into Sale.

 

Do you involve the team in your business?

Absolutely. I’m lucky enough to have a great team here with 2 members of staff who’ve been with me 11 and 9 years.

“We’ve got into really good habits when it comes to stocktaking, too, which has meant we carry £18,000 less stock than before.”

They know the business really well and, as a result, I’ve given them a lot of responsibility.  They have parameters they can work within and the chance to double their commission. They’re also allowed discount price to 20%, and put excess stock on eBay.

They have the chance to make good money here, and I offer them additional training and responsibility, which gives them more chance to earn. Incentivising the team can create an increased income stream and I find they’re constantly looking at ways they can do more, and earn more as a result.

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