Golf is a time-honored tradition for bankers. There's no doubt about it. It's a great way to spend quality, one on one time with your best customers and top prospects. It's a prime opportunity to build relationships, work on your tan, drink all day, and most importantly, get out of the office. As a non-golfer, I used to always blame myself for not learning the game and was concerned that my inability to play would hold me back in my banking career. But I'm going to be honest, I find it incredibly boring and it's just not fast paced enough for me. I'm also super competitive and if I suck at something, I'm not going to do it, plain and simple. I didn't grow up in a golfing family, my dad wasn't a golfer and my husband isn't a golfer. Golf isn't our jam. It's highly likely that I'm opening up a can of worms here but I'd go out on a limb and say that I'm not the only girl banker that feels this way toward golfing. I have had many men mansplain the following, "Women could really get ahead in banking if they would pick up golfing. There aren't many women who play golf, and their ability to play could really set them apart." Geez, thanks for letting me know that I have to pretend to like a sport and then actually be good at it to succeed in banking. That really helps my career a lot. Ugh. This mansplanation may have some level of truth to it and I know several women in banking that are awesome golfers that truly like the game and find it incredibly valuable to their ability to develop relationships with their customers. However, does it have to be golf? Is there an unwritten, verbal agreement that someone failed to tell me in all of my banking training that you have to be a golfer to be a successful banker? Why can't it be over a pickup game of basketball or flag football? Asking for a friend... Last summer, I found myself on the golf course quite a bit. No, not as a golfer and definitely not as a "beer cart girl" (even though some thought I was... insert eye roll followed by several curse words muttered under my breath). At Grand Savings Bank, we have a golf cannon. I describe it as a glamorized potato gun. For those of you not from Arkansas, Google it. This cannon has the capability of launching a golf ball more than 350 yards and is powered by compressed air. It's an incredible way to engage with not only one team of golfers but literally, every single golfer attending a tournament. We would set up our bank tent, bring the cannon, the air tanks, the flag banners, the snacks, and all the other moving parts. It's a pain in the ass hauling all of that stuff around if you want my opinion, but people LOVE this thing. Especially the golfers that aren't any good at teeing off or were too drunk to do so. Each team would pay to use the cannon and we would then donate all of the proceeds collected back to the charity that the tournament benefited. It was a major marketing success and incredibly beneficial not only to the bank but also to the charities we support. However, it didn't exactly change my personal feelings toward the sport of golf.But this question, "to golf or not to golf?" is really a small piece of an even bigger issue. Business development can be tricky for women in business in general. While it has started to finally evolve past the good ole boy system of golf outings and hunting/fishing trips; opportunities, especially in more rural markets, are farther and fewer between. Men may not feel comfortable taking women along for fear of how it may be perceived and women may not feel comfortable tagging along as they likely are the only female in the group. This can also create awkward situations with significant others on all sides.
Then there is the whole lunch situation. For women in business that have a primarily all-male client base, client lunches are very common. However, not all clients are created equal. "Sometimes, I have to evaluate who I am taking to lunch and determine whether or not I need to take along another colleague. It's a case by case situation," a fellow woman in business recently told me. "There are most definitely some clients I would never want to be alone with, which is frustrating because men don't always have to take that extra step." Listen, if golf is your jam, more power to you. I bet aside from the business you have developed and relationships you have obtained, you also have an amazing tan and have found a great way to get out of the bank from time to time, and for that, I'm sincerely jealous. The rest of us, non-women golfers, are just going to have to continue to navigate the waters of customer calls and business lunches on a case by case basis. So what other options are there? Recently, I posted this question in the Girl Banker Facebook Group, a private group for Girl Bankers only and I received some interesting responses. For starters, I learned that there are some banks out there that just don't have any golfers. Who knew?! Secondly, a few girl bankers threw out the idea of bowling tournaments, wine tastings, and mini golf outings. Yassssss! Group events like bowling tournaments and mini golf outings give you as the banker the opportunity to engage with your customer's entire family in a fun atmosphere while accomplishing the same goal. Wine tastings (now we are talking) are great for a different style of clientele and still allow you to include spouses. Genius. At Grand, we held a whiskey tasting in a new market and it was a huge success. Find a venue, select some apps, invite your guests. Everyone wins, even the venue! What have you done at your bank that has been successful? Tell me about it! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, go out there and develop business Girl Bankers!