029: From starting on a tractor in 2001 to owning the 130-400 FTE, golf construction business they pivoted after losing all sales in the GFC – adding golf course maintenance, design and renovation divisions (Craig Haltom)

Presented by Troy Trewin

Troy has worked intimately with 26 businesses in 20 years. He knows their numbers, understands their growing pains and people issues and has helped with most financial aspects, as well as having coached on leadership and management.

July 13, 2020

In this episode, I interview Craig Haltom, President of Oliphant Golf Management (OGM). He is an active golf course architect and builder, and has a growing portfolio of high profile golf renovation work in the Midwest. As the lead at OGM, he is very much hands-on and in the field, with a talented team of managers based in Central Wisconsin. He started out on a tractor in 2001 and then in 2013 became 50% owner. Now he owns almost the entire company after buy-out financing from his business partner Mike, who founded the company in 1996. 

The company provides golf course management, construction, design, and renovation. When the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2008, they went from $40 Million in annual sales to none overnight, with only one of the large golf course and real estate construction projects eventually being completed. In 2009, they built a bridge through the crisis, pivoted and started managing golf courses, now with 12 on their books. 

Craig’s vision was to build a world class golf course in the rare sand dunes of Wisconsin, and right after the crisis, they started building Sand Valley, two 18 hole courses and a put three. With 130 full time employees stretching up to 400 in peak summer season and revenues climbing to around $40 Million AUD a year, they grew organically through profits. He believes the hardest thing in growing a small business is, “Managing time. There’s never enough” and the advice he would give himself on day one of starting in business would be to believe in himself no matter what. Stay tuned for more on Craig’s super inspirational small business ownership journey.

This Cast Covers:

  • Building the biggest putting green in the world that’s not attached to an actual golf course.
  • Touching a lot of areas in the golfing industry since 1996 and doing very well.
  • Managing 12+ golf courses in the Midwest, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.
  • Building Sand Valley while simultaneously starting a golf management company.
  • Transitioning from running a tractor as an employee to owning most of the company.
  • Generating revenues from straight fees, lease/shared revenue deals, and maintenance only contracts.
  • The success in moving from managing everything personally to delegating some of the core tasks to employees.
  • Improving on their marketing activities by hiring a dedicated marketing expert and how it led to the company’s growth and success.
  • The difficulty in getting enough time as a business owner to do a lot and do it well.
  • Getting better at guiding against the downside: Standing where the homeruns are versus the risks.
  • The power of systems, team leadership 101, and how they deliver value to their clients.
  • The importance of building a company culture of people knowing each other.
  • Overcoming the business challenges that you go through by always believing in yourself.

Additional Resources:

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“Success is a lot about having control over the stuff that you’re working on” – Craig Haltom

“The longer that you’re in business, the more that you realize the wisdom in guarding against the downside” – Craig Haltom

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Music from https://filmmusic.io “Cold Funk” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com). License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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