Luke is one of my favorite deal makers in the sports industry. He is a master at brokering 7-figure partnership deals with Fortune 500 brands like Pepsi, Chase and Cadillac with his current role at the PGA of America. If you want a cheat sheet on his career check out his LinkedIn profile for his street cred!
Luke accidentally stumbled into sports which I love because it reminds me of my own accidental stumble into entrepreneurship. It goes to show that you don’t have to know exactly where you’re going to end up. Sometimes the right job, with the right boss, at the right time will find you! While golf was never primarily on his radar, the job at PGA of America opened up eight years ago and he hit the ground running.
Luke delves deeper on why networks and strong colleagues within your industry are important. Without those relationships he might have never heard about, interview for or ultimately gotten the job at the PGA of America!
Luke’s made significant changes in each organization he’s been a part of by always anticipating and thinking ahead. It’s an amazing example of intrapreneurship. Being able to think, act and make changes in an entrepreneurial way within a larger structure of a corporation. Luke’s instincts to pivot, change and forecast rival some of the most successful of startup founders I know.
This attitude of adaptation has been especially valuable during his time at the PGA due to golf’s deep seeded traditions. While honoring the tried and true methods of this national pastime Luke actively looks for areas of improvement to create opportunities for growth. I love the way Luke details his work here as it’s a good reminder to anyone who finds themselves working in an industry or at a corporate job that seems rooted in tradition and doing things the same way each year.
The golf world is changing. Golf courses were built as 18 hole facilities with players committing 4-5 hours to play…or if you’re like me a little longer for those sand traps. Yikes! However, in today’s fast paced environment finding 4-5 hours of uninterrupted time can be difficult. This factor can be a huge obstacle is growing the popularity of the sport and enticing a younger demographic.
I especially enjoyed hearing Luke’s take on golf-like options. While some in the industry poo-poo these “gimmicks” as “not the real thing” Luke embraces them as a gateway to get more people interested in the sport. Top Golf and mini golf are great alternatives to the traditional 18 hole round! These additional avenues to interact with the game also provided added entertainment such as live music, drinks or causal competition with friends. These options give golf a “causal” option. I like to think of it as the mullet of golf – formal 18 holes in the front, Top Golf party in the back!
The tech angle really threw me for a loop when Luke first mentioned it. Technology in golf!? Really? But as Luke soon explained, people don’t necessarily go to the golf course to take lessons anymore. They’re sending videos of their swings to pro’s online via email to get feedback instead of waiting for an in person lesson. Additionally, some courses are incorporating premiere golf carts to players that have stereo systems allowing players to listen to music with friends for more fun on the course. I didn’t think technology had a way to innovate golf but boy was I wrong!
It’s a pretty simple answer, constantly talking to colleagues, old and new! This is one of my favorite answers because it’s one that I talk about all the time. Your network is your net worth. Continuing to keep up with people and talk frequently is something we can all do fairly easily and it helps so much to know what’s happening in the industry you’re a part of.
Believe it or not golf has actually spiked during this pandemic. Think about it – it’s outside, you can socially distance and it’s relatively accessible because most of us have a course nearby. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon considering you’ll be safely 6-feet away from any other player on the course!
For Luke and the PGA of America the hardest part about this pandemic is dealing with the changing rules, regulations and as head of partnerships renegotiating their multi-million dollar multi-year deals with some of the top brands in the world. No easy feat!
The saving grace for Luke in these renegotiations? Strong relationships. Something he continues to bring up again and again in our conversation here and many times over the years. The fact that he has strong relationships with clients makes digging into the weeds of rescheduling tournaments that much easier. Even if you have strong relationships you still need the how. How the heck does one even begin to renegotiate something…
Luke learned early on that being upfront and ripping off the band-aid is the best way to go. There’s no benefit in waiting or sugar coating bad news. It may be difficult at first but your credibility about being upfront about the hard things adds up and builds stronger relationships with clients and partners.
I appreciated Luke’s insight on the “what if” spirals before hard conversations. The spirals where you start saying to yourself, “What if they say this,” “What if they’re worried about that?” And the “what if’s” spiral out of the control. To climb out of that, understand the motivation of the people that you’re talking to and understand where they’re coming from. Helping to see things “from the other side of the coin” can be helpful as you go into hard conversations. Remember that during these hard talks be clear, honest and get straight to the point.
Luke’s last bit of advice for hard conversations is to go in with solutions. Instead of saying, “Here’s my stance, what’s yours?” after presenting a problem, instead try “Here are two or three ways we can go about this, which would you prefer?” Giving clients and partners solutions shows that you are a problem solver who is keeping their interests in the forefront.
Negotiating happens in every aspect of your life. You negotiate with your spouse, your friends, your family and at work. However you can’t win every negotiation and sometimes mistakes are bound to happen. That can be especially hard in a work setting where mistakes are made by someone on your team or someone you’re managing. While you personally didn’t make the error, the buck stops with you, and it’s your job to fix it. Luke’s anecdote about a boss who gave him a second chance after an epic mistake shows how simple acts of kindness can ripple out and effect the trajectory of someone’s entire career and life.
Luke’s mission is to create lasting mentorship programs at any organization he’s at. To him leaving something behind once he moves on from a job is fulfilling and helpful to those coming up in the industry. He knows how meaningful it is to have people who invest in your career as Luke has had 18 bosses in 19 years! While some might be shocked (I certainly was!) Luke has handled it with grace explaining that he’s learned something from each of them. While not all of his bosses, or coworkers for that matter, have been great it’s helpful as even the bad bosses can help you learn! Whether it is good or bad every situation can be turned into a learning opportunity!
1. Take a deep breath. Get some perspective.
2. Scenario plan. If he/she responds this way, what will happen? What will I say if they respond with X or with Y?
3. Involve others that can help. The more the merrier when it comes to problem solving.
Best app/program you’ve started using lately? iTranslate
What is the best gift you’ve given yourself or done for yourself in the last year? Peloton
Favorite Podcast/Newsletter/Resource/person that you learn from? Pod Save America and Pod Save the World
If you can put one thing on a billboard, what will it be? Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes.
What is one thing everyone should try THIS WEEK? Try to reach out to as many old friends as possible and watch American Experience, the History of New York.
What’s one thing you want to get better at? Golf
Next week’s guest entrepreneur Brooke Thomas from Live Out Loud. Brooke took her stage 3 cancer diagnosis & turned it into fuel to become a successful CEO building several 7-figure businesses. Her podcast, Live Out Loud, promotes faith-based business, career and life advice and is a must listen for women looking for motivation and inspiration. You’re going to fall in love with her and her story!
RSVP here to join us.