Succession planning often means you’ve reached the end of your working road. In Eric Fasenkloet’s case that isn’t necessarily so. While he spends more time now at the wheel of his Audi, he still keeps involved in his golf retailing empire.
When the man who turned the once struggling Bond & Bond retail group into a major merchandising force sold it to new investors, it was time for a well-earned sabbatical to look at new opportunities.
For Eric Fasenkloet, golf caught his attention both as a game and as a potential retailing opportunity.
As well as perfecting his putt, Eric took the time to assess the state of golf retailing. At the time, most sales were done out of small pro shops linked to a particular course. He saw great potential in upping the stakes and developing a combined driving range and large scale retail operation as one.
“The time I got involved with the sport coincided with the end of the Cold War. That’s relevant because suddenly you had a freeing up of metallurgists with knowledge and expertise in new metals.”
This expertise was put this to use in developing new golf technology, with the company Ely Callaway leading the charge, and, Eric, says, like Audi, their advanced technology produced winning performance.
In 1996 he launched The Golf Warehouse. Today that business has grown to four ranges and six stand-alone retails outlets and now takes more than a quarter of the industry’s $50 to $60 million sales per annum. The combination of ‘drive and buy’ works—over 30 million balls are hit each year and on the back of that people have the opportunity to buy the essential equipment.
From the outset, Eric’s focus was on building the success of the business on succession planning.
“I headhunted a number of energetic young professionals who had good people skills, were honest and energetic and wanted to learn new skills. I figured they had all the golfing talent and I could teach them about retailing and more general business skills covering HR, marketing and management.”
Among this initial ‘intake’ were pros Rhys Bishop (a former No 1 on the NZPGA Order of Merit) and his playing professional wife Tracey.
Tracey was groomed to become general manager and when the couple decided to have a family Rhys stepped into that role and subsequently the managing director’s role.
Like Eric, both Rhys and Tracey are Audi fans and currently drive the S4 estate – finding plenty of room for kids and golf gear.
Eric has put a lot of thought into his choice of vehicle. According to Eric, golfing innovation and car technology premiership share a great deal in common especially when resources are put into R&D to achieve major breakthroughs and increased precision.
He is now driving his 12th Audi and for a retailer who knows the value of shopping around, this is an endorsement of the brand. “They show the real pedigree of German engineering but in a way that is never overstated. Being in the retail business, it’s important that what I drive doesn’t seem too showy or ostentatious. For that reason Audis are perfect. They may look ‘low key’ but they’re anything but.”
Eric is now in the chairman’s role and along with the Bishops, his two sons and two other managers make up the company’s directors. In addition he is actively involved in the buying side of the business, making smart acquisitions that ultimately benefit the customers.
He also travels extensively—including frequent visits to the South Island—looking for new ideas but with a continuing focus on golf and maintaining market share.
“One of the secrets of my success has been finding a car that mirrors the best parts of golf. One that provides all the enjoyment of high technology and precision into something that quietly communicates ‘class’. German technology is the best and Audi is best of all.”
Like the variety of clubs in a golf bag, he’s enjoyed the range of Audis he’s owned; from one of the original 4 cylinder models through to being the owner of the first R8 in New Zealand.
“There’s no question I love driving—in both my worlds.”
Why Eric drives Audi
It’s an easy leap from the driving seat of business to the driving seat of an Audi, says Eric.
“Audi show the real pedigree of German engineering but in a way that is never overstated. Being in the retail business, it’s important that what I drive doesn’t seem too showy or ostentatious. For that reason Audis are perfect. They may look ‘low key’ but they’re anything but.
Like the clubs in his golf bag, he’s owned a range of Audis. From one of the original 4 cylinder models through to being the owner of the first R8 in New Zealand.
His colleagues at Golf Warhouse, Rhys and Tracey, share his love driving. Both are Audi fans and currently own an S4 estate. Perfect for loading children and golf gear.
“One of the joys and secrets of my success has been finding a car that mirrors the best parts of golf,” says Eric.
“One that provides all the enjoyment of high technology and precision into something that quietly communicates ‘class’. German technology is the best and Audi is best of all.”