One of the modern game’s most iconic players, Greg Norman is not only the “Great White Shark” on the golf course, but also in the boardroom. A savvy entrepreneur, Norman brings the same tenacity and passion for which he was renowned as a player and translates that into a slew of business enterprises spanning the globe.
Norman’s impressive golf resume includes 91 career victories (most notably the British Open in 1986 and 1993), three Arnold Palmer Awards as the tour’s leading money winner, becoming the first person in tour history to surpass the $10 million mark in earnings, and an induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Norman is one of those rare people who have a natural talent combined with a magnetic persona that enables him to achieve greatness both on and off the golf course. His eight brands are centered around the golf and lifestyle industry, encompassing course design, golf apparel, tournament production, a golf academy, GPS devices for golf courses, an award-winning winery, restaurants, and multiple real estate ventures. The success of these many enterprises is a testament to his business acumen as well as his ability to attract and work with like-minded people.
His recent venture with Johnnie Walker Blue Label is another example of Norman’s savvy brand positioning. Teaming up with the world’s most widely distributed Scotch whiskey brand, the golfer-turned-businessman has created a limited-edition, luxury leather travel bag for men, the concept of which is to mirror the Australian’s own jet-set lifestyle, easily taking customers from the golf course to the boardroom.
On building his business
“I wanted to build my own brand…fortunately for me, in 1981 I got the nickname the ‘Great White Shark’. Well, the first step to brand recognition is that you have got to live the brand, you’ve got to be the brand. One of the hardest things that I have to focus on all the time is, when you are the brand…you know, you look at Ralph Lauren, you look at René Lactose at those times…René Lacoste is not around anymore, but Ralph Lauren is around. So when you are the living brand, you have to be very cogniscent of the things going on around you. For me to make the initial decision to go on my own, the hardest thing was finding the right people that want to come and work for you when it’s your pipe dream. I use the terminology, ‘You’ve got to get them to drink your Kool-Aid.’ You’ve got to get them to believe what you have so passionately within yourself, and when you go out there and you find the right people who can think not two or three years down the road for an endorsement deal, but think 15 to 25 years down the road.
Because every business you do, whether you’re designing a golf course or building a business for an exit strategy, it doesn’t happen overnight. You build that business up from the grassroots and just be patient and wait for it to evolve, and it evolves because you stick with your vision. And then on top of that, you bring the people in that can pull it through for you, because I’m not going to sit here and tell you black is white and white is black. I’m going to sit here and say, ‘Please give me advice. Are you working for me? What are your expectations out of this deal?’ And that’s how you learn, you know, everybody working together as a team. A rising tide floats all boats.
“The only way I believe you can leave a legacy is if you can build a platform of a brand very early on. That platform is very difficult to [build] because you’ve got to create a base first. It takes one thought process, so you’ve got to keep those things in the forefront, that’s what an entrepreneur is all about.”
On taking what he learned on the golf course and translating it to the boardroom
“Well first of all, if I have to execute a stroke and think about a result, like the result of winning, or the result of money, then [I’m] never going to be focused right there on that shot. Never once have I ever played the game of golf where I thought into the future. I always stayed in the present, and at the end of the day if you execute on the golf course, if you execute properly in life, if you execute in business correctly and do your due diligence, everything else will take care of itself. I’ve been a big believer in that my whole life.
“The agony of defeat is probably the most powerful thing for me. I’ve always been a believer that you learn by your mistakes and you really don’t learn by the victories. It’s not just in golf, but it’s in life in general. I become a better person if I learn by my mistakes. If I lost in a golf tournament, and if that loss in the golf tournament equated down to something that I either mentally did wrong or physically did wrong, I’m going to go out there and correct that and I take that philosophy into life. If I learn by doing something wrong to a loved one or a friend or [in] a situation in life, I will take that and I’ll learn from those mistakes because I want to become a better person. And if I become a better person then I am teaching myself every day of my life to learn something new and to get better, and I take that philosophy into business.”
His philosophy in life:
“My philosophy in life is the 30/30/30/10 rule. I’ve always believed that if you earn 100 dollars, you’ve got to pay taxes [of] 30 percent, you’ve got cost of living [which is] 30 percent, you’ve got to save 30 percent, and you have ten percent left. That ten percent left is your slush fund, your fun money, because you’ve got to reward yourself every now and then for the efforts you put out in life. It could be going and buying yourself a nice blouse, or a nice suit. I think self-reward is a good reward, so that’s my 30/30/30/10 rule. I still apply it to this day, and it’s worked very, very well for me.”
Advice for future generations:
“Stay focused on what your mission statement is, whatever that is. If I want to be the best player I can possibly be, or if I want to be the best in the world. There’s a difference, and you have to make that decision. Stay focused on that, but never lose sight of what’s happening around you. Always keep that perspective that things of can change. Never take things for granted, never assume things. Manage your expectations, because if you manage your expectations within yourself then you can manage the expectations of others.
“The best piece of advice I can hand on to anybody—and it’s something my father instilled in me very early on—and he said, ‘Greg, your dreams are the blueprint of reality. Dream whatever you want to dream, but turn that dream into reality.’ That’s one of the best pieces of advice my father ever gave me, and I use it even to this day.”