Golf Course Management

JAN 2014

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

Issue link: http://gcmdigital.gcsaa.org/i/234582

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There's no business like small businesses They hardly possess the largest booths at the Golf Industry Show, but small businesses that you may not know a whole lot about dream big when it comes to gaining a foothold in the industry. Phil and Gloria Cowen in their VinylGuard booth at the Golf Industry Show. Photo courtesy of the Cowens GIS trends 88 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 01.14 It may look like you have wandered into Grand Central Station if you get the opportunity to visit the booth of husband-and-wife team Phil and Gloria Cowen at the Golf Industry Show. Expect heavy traffc, even though their booth for VinylGuard Golf is relatively small, which is nothing unusual for a business that is only 5 years old and employs 50 workers at their facility in Woburn, Mass., about 12 miles north of Boston. The Cowens readily admit they were more into tennis than golf when they decided to dream big and enter the golf course management industry. Their booth at GIS is only 10 feet by 20 feet, equaling 200 square feet — a total that pales in comparison to the 10,000-square-foot giants that belong to, well, you can probably correctly guess who. Apparently, size doesn't matter in this instance — and for other small companies that have taken time, effort and money to gain a foothold in the industry. Phil Cowen (owner and president) estimates their product is used at more than 4,000 golf courses, which could be perceived as a clear sign that small businesses that offer desirable, innovative products can fourish, secure a niche, among businesses large and small. "We came up with a product that meets a need," says Phil Cowen, giving a short and simple answer to the question: What does it take to make a splash? Smaller companies that have made a major impact are nothing new. Retired superintendent Carl Beer recalls Rogers Manufacturing in Olathe, Kan. Although it wasn't a giant facility with a huge showroom foor, Rogers Manufacturing was big-time to Beer. "They were good, down-home guys," says Beer, a 55-year member of GCSAA who resides in Lee's Summit, Mo. "They had good, innovative stuff." VinylGuard Golf seems to ft that description. The company makes covers for rake handles, fagsticks, hazard stakes and ball washer posts that extend their service lives and eliminate annual replacement and maintenance. The covers protect hands from fberglass splinters that may occur from tools, such as rakes, that bake in the sun. Twenty-seven-year GCSAA member John Paquette, Class A superintendent at Indian Hills Country Club in Northport, N.Y., uses VinylGuard products for his fagsticks and stakes. At a time when effciency and savings count, Paquette is thrilled a small business such as VinylGuard exists. "Most superintendents are looking for ways to save money where they can," Paquette says, "so this is great for our business, great for their business." Ever since their frst GIS appearance in 2009, the Cowens have circled the dates for the event on their calendar. They wouldn't miss Orlando for anything. "The show has provided us great visibility," says Gloria, company vice president of marketing. "We'll have superintendents in the booth, and a superintendent who uses the product will stop by and say, 'If you haven't used this, you've got to be crazy.' What we're doing is helping superintendents save money." Here's a look at a few other small companies that have done their best to make an impression.

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