Drive for Show and Putt for Dough

Back in the 1970’s in the world of Golf, everyone wanted the golf swing of Johnny Miller. His swashbuckling style swooned global audiences, gaining him all sorts of rewards and recognition around the world as the big-hitting American star, whom people would turn up to tournaments in the hope to catch a glimpse of the magic.

There is a famous saying in golf, ‘Drive for Show and Putt for Dough’. This was so true in the 1970’s, because although everyone wanted Johnny’s swing, distance and panache off the tee, the fact is, they would have preferred Tom Kite’s bank balance.

Tom was far less flamboyant off the tee, conservative in fact and although hit most fairways, gained very little recognition as a result, but the real difference came from 100 yards and closer. Tom’s expert approach play and exemplary putting skills put him right at the top of his profession, earning more money than any other professional on tour at the time, hence the saying, ‘Drive for Show’ - driving the ball well catches the eye and has the wow factor, ‘Putt for Dough’ - the more boring bit of chipping and putting is where the game is won or lost and brings the money in.

How can we learn from this in business?

In most large companies, I have been involved with, there is one overriding factor that brings about the hero culture and gains most reward and recognition status, ‘firefighting’.

The team, or individual who saves the day, by pulling the proverbial rabbit from the hat at the last minute. These are the guy’s that gain the most credit for their daily work.

Although, far from swashbuckling, a good longer-term planning process can highlight the level of risk and enable timely options and decisions to be made by the Executive Team to minimise the impact.

If you imagine the cost of firefighting and all that it entails, there is a lot of energy spent across multiple areas of a business, not to mention money, i.e., extra production shifts, overtime of office staff, material costs, delivery costs, the list goes on…

And guess what, the same thing happens again the following month, and we again credit those swashbuckling firefighters for getting the result.

Maybe it’s time for a change? It’s time to put some basic longer-term planning capability into the business. A standard, repeatable (almost boring) process of risk management would be worth developing and keep most of that firefighting to a minimum and your balance sheet at the maximum.

Remember, ‘Drive for Show’ and ‘Putt for Dough’ - which would you choose?

Andy Taylor is a Co-Founder and Director of Teal Partners Ltd, who specialize in providing supply chain and operational solutions helping to drive business performance

Andy Taylor