Public Merchandiser of the Year Brian Carlson Provides ‘Exceptional Moments’ to Guests
Head Professional at Walnut Creek Golf Preserve, Brian Carlson, PGA, was selected to receive the 2018 Public Merchandiser of the Year Award. His mantra is to keep your focus on the moments that you provide to the people that you serve. It is the moments that make the difference.
“This award is a really big deal for me and my team and completely unexpected,” remarks an emotional Carlson. “We have a passion for what we do here at Walnut Creek and we love that we get to do it every single day. It is exciting to us to come up with great ideas and to be able to provide them to the people we serve. After all, it is the people who matter, both our guests and our staff.”
Carlson is a Colorado native born and raised in the Westminster area. Coming from a single-parent family, his exposure to the game of golf didn’t occur until he was 15 when the father of a friend took them to Hyland Hills to hit balls for his very first time. Although he had no idea what golf was all about, it took just this one time for him to catch the bug. From then on, he and some buddies were spending nearly every day at the course hitting balls when they caught the eye of the Director of Golf at Hyland Hills, Marv Mazone, who asked if any of them were looking for a summer job. And, as they say, that is how it all started. Progressing from picking balls to golf shop help to working with Assistant Professionals, Todd Coover and Russ Dawson, Carlson was getting to know the business of golf.
“I kind of came in through the back door as a kid who didn’t know much about golf but by the time I was 16 or 17, I knew I wanted to be a golf Professional,” remembers Carlson. “It was the coolest thing ever. The course provided a great environment for me and I met a ton of great people and great golfers. It really changed my life and I felt like this was the lifestyle I wanted to pursue for myself.”
After high school, Carlson enrolled in the PGM Program at New Mexico State but left early to return home to be with his ailing grandfather. It was Paul Lobato, PGA, at Meridian Golf Club who gave him his first opportunity as the 4th Assistant. From there, he moved to the back of the house working as a teaching professional for Mike McGetrick, PGA, at the Mike McGetrick Golf School.
“Working at Meridian for Paul and Mike were some really great years and I was able to learn from some of the best in the industry,” reminisces Carlson. “But, teaching wasn’t my thing. I really loved club operations.”
In 1999, Carlson applied for a position at a new course in Westminster – Heritage at Westmoor, now Walnut Creek Golf Preserve – and has been fortunate to call this club home since.
“I feel so lucky and privileged to have been a part of Walnut Creek Golf Preserve and the City of Westminster for the last 19 years,” concludes Carlson. “This is home for me and we have been able to achieve a lot of success here.”
What does it mean to you to receive the 2018 Colorado Section Public Merchandiser of the Year Award?
Obviously, this is a great honor for me. I look at it as a true team award – for me, my assistants, my golf shop staff and the City of Westminster for its support for all we do. It tells me that all the hard work we do every single day to provide a great experience in our golf shop has paid off, that we are doing it well and we are doing it right. To be recognized for all of the great things we do day-to-day, the partnerships with our vendors and building great relationships with our guests, those things all have a part of us being recognized. It is a real honor to know that your peers look at you and say you are doing something really well. I appreciate that.
What do you believe are the qualities you possess that support your nomination for this award?
Ultimately, we strive to improve marginally every day with a 1 percent gain here and 1 percent gain there. Over time, these small gains have a big impact. Our team’s drive and passion to continue to make things better and provide a great experience for our guests is big in our book.
What are some tools you use in your profession that you wish you had known when you were beginning your career?
I wish I had understood the concept that moments matter. Our guests and our employees remember the high point moments of their experiences. They remember ‘the moment’ of a beautiful golf shop, a great golf course, exceptional food or service. Because of this, I would say, “Slow down…think in moments.”
Secondly, I would say team work and having trust in the team. There was a time in my career that I thought I had to do it all. I love that we have so many great team members who can take on any number of roles and really run with them. Being able to trust this process is something I wish I had done sooner in my career.
As it relates to golf, what is the best piece of advice you have received and what advice would you give to others?
People don’t always remember what you say but they do remember how you made them feel. For example, in winning this award, I received congratulatory cards and letters from other golf Professionals across our Section. I couldn’t tell you word-for-word what they wrote but I can sure tell you the way it made me feel. We all have the ability to make people feel great with a simple smile, a quick note or encouraging words.
To others, I would give that same advice. Think about your actions in those moments, listen to what people are saying and make people feel great.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Time is important. It goes by quickly so really embrace and recognize the moments of your life. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new. It may be something that you become very passionate about and you choose to do for the rest of your life.
What is your proudest moment as a golf professional?
One of the proudest moments in my golfing career came 19 years ago when I became a Head Professional here at Walnut Creek. That ‘moment’ of realizing I was getting the opportunity to work for an organization that has the trust in me and my team to provide a great public golf venue and experience in Westminster.
What is your merchandising strategy?
Our philosophy is simple - we build relationships and provide exceptional experiences. People want to feel good about where they spend their time and money and we work hard to be that exceptional place between work and home. The golf shop needs to be that great experience where conversations happen, people laugh, stories are told, and be a place that excites the senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. We work hard to provide exceptional experiences in our golf shop by playing music, piping in seasonal smells through scent marketing machines and the use of candles, which are also for sale and...a BIG hit! I continually encourage and coach my team to come up with visually exciting displays and use unique props that showcase our merchandise about every 10-12 feet throughout the golf shop. Each display needs to evoke an emotional experience that guests can interact with and be merchandised to be touched, picked up or gripped. Displays tell a story in our golf shop and give a ‘vibe’ of who we are and why we are a unique shopping experience. We also buy products with value in mind, offering a good/better/best option for just about everything we sell.
Share some of your “Best Practices.”
Involve the team. Assistant Professionals need to be involved at all levels of the merchandising operation. They must have "buy in" on every decision and believe that the products being offered are the best. Spend time with them, coach them and teach them. This allows the staff to have great conversations with our guests and empowers them to share how the products you offer in your Golf Shop benefit your guests.
Also, build great relationships with your vendors, they are significant to your success. Building these relationships assures that you are both working together to provide great products and services at your facility.
Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.
Dave Lopez, PGA, Trent Wearner, PGA, and myself all met and grew up working together at Hyland Hills. Also, me and my family love getting dressed up in our cowboy gear and going to rodeos when we can.