Democracy’s A few years ago when I had just established myself in the legal profession, I was having a chat with an old friend and mentor discussing my future plans when he suddenly told me that I should learn to how to play golf. I gave him this weird look and asked: “Why?”
Then, thought golf as a game played by those who have made it in life and only used the occasion to relax and share their success stories. As if reading my mind, he told me that having heard about my plans, the golf course would be the ideal place for me to make connections and network with people who can actualise my dreams. I took his advice and, years later, I can confidently say that is one of the best career advice I have been given.
After I enlisted as a member of a golf club in Nairobi, my legal profession took an instant progressive path, which may not have been the case had I not taken my friends counsel. Taking time off on an evening or weekend in a golf course as a social re-engineering exercise is no-brainer.
A golf outing is increasingly becoming by far the most common networking hobby in the financial world, especially between the sell-side, buy-side, and company management.
If you can’t play at a passable level, it could even hurt your career establishment and growth! It is for this reason that our law firm has decided to sponsor a day-long Gikera & Vadgama Advocates (GVA) Golf Tournament dubbed ‘When Golf meets the Bar; that is a Perfect Practice’, on Thursday this week at the Royal Nairobi Golf Club so as to provide a platform for our clients and partners to meet, interact and network.
As I had alluded earlier, golf can be a rather expensive sport that more often attracts people with higher incomes and would be a challenge for those who may not be in a position to spare some time in the evenings and weekends to swing it with friends, acquaintances and corporate magnates.
However, that is not to say that those who are less financially endowed cannot play the game. The ever growing number of established private golf courses, especially in the recent fashionable real estate gated community establishments means that both the upper and lower middle class are increasingly getting roped into the game as interests meet class.
As various surveys have shown, golf is not just a sport but a big time money spinner, especially for those playing the game at professional level and the attendant advertising corporate fraternity. For instance, according to research done in United States, golf is a $70 billion annual industry that brings together over 24.1 million players.
A 2016 poll by Public Policy Polling established that about 19 per cent of Americans call themselves golf fans. However, this was down from 23 per cent in 2015. But more fundamentally, unlike other sports and formal business events where networking can be a little more discomfiting and somewhat disruptive, golf provides a more relaxed environment that effortlessly drives interactions as the game progresses. In fact, I don’t know whether there is another group game where participants can drink while playing and exchanging ideas in between.
Large public gatherings are mostly very impersonal and those one-on-one meetings often tend to be too formal and short. Business lunches are even shorter and more often than not in large noisy public spaces.
But playing 18 holes of golf often requires players to commit to several hours of time to enclose themselves in a quiet, generally private environment and focus on the game and informal discussions in beautifully maintained green lawns amid ponds, sand traps and trees.
Added to the fact that the game is played at a relaxed and slow pace gives it a more alluring and friendly environment to strike friendship, network and cut business deals while standing around in stripped shirts, khaki pants and customized shoes chatting while leaning on stainless steel clubs.
But most importantly, and from experience, golf offers a valuable way to create and maintain those invaluable relationships that you depend on for your career growth and even livelihood.
By sparing some time to play golf with current and future business contacts affords you an opportunity to show them what kind of a person you are, create lasting interpersonal relationships and, of course, create a relaxed, low stress environment where you can propose and discuss new ideas of mutual benefit. As they often say, take a swing at it and don’t miss out! —The writer is a lawyer and partner at Gikera & Vadgama Advocates —[email protected]