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Article

Golf Tempo and the Three Ingredients of Any Great Business
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This article originally appeared on LinkedIn

Energy, human innovation and a willingness to work together in teams in service of others (primarily customers): the combination of those three things is the magic at the center of most successful businesses. Yet none of the three are widely measured, and so they end up on the periphery. Great intuitive leaders can push them forward for a moment—but systematic accountability reverts to short-term profits the instant that leader departs.

How can we bring them back into the spotlight—and keep them there? How can leaders make more permanent their focus on doing right by customers—and make sure that institutional processes keep this target front and center long after their retirement?

Ross Buchmueller, the CEO of the PURE Group of Insurance Companies, has taken a number of specific steps. He put a senior vice president in charge of member (customer) experience. He made the Net Promoter System℠ a topic in the firm’s annual report—devoting two pages to it. And he himself communicates the central importance of NPS with an interesting metaphor. He compares treating customers right to the complexity of a golf swing. Golfers can focus on the right grip, stance, angle of the spine, weight transfer, on keeping the elbow in, and more. But this is way more than the brain can cope with for each swing.

Buchmueller argues that the single best place to focus is on the tempo of the swing. Swing tempo gained awareness after golf instructor and author John Novosel discovered while editing videotape of professional golfers’ swings that tour pros have a consistent 3:1 ratio of backswing to downswing. Jack Nicklaus: 24/8. Bobby Jones: 27/9. Tiger Woods (2006): 21/7. Michelle Wie: 21/7. Novosel calls tempo “the DNA of a consistently good swing.”

Focus on getting that tempo right, and all the other stuff falls into line.

In a recent conversation, Buchmueller explained to me that while there are many things that his company needs to do right in order to deliver great value and service to his customers, “if you can get people to focus on NPS, everything else seems to fall into place.”

PURE puts a lot of stock in and focus on its customer Net Promoter Score℠. Feedback from NPS surveys has led to new product offerings including cyber fraud coverage, and the redesign of its member portal. 

One of the primary jobs of a good leader—or a good golf swing coach—is to help people simplify things and focus on the right simple idea. In golf, there’s a lot of evidence that focusing on a 3:1 tempo on your swing works. In business, NPS can do the same.

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