By VIKASH SANYAL, CEO AT BRAINSTORM GOLF
Building a team is a fun process, but also stressful. It’s not just about ability, it’s about character, and also about finding the right kind of people and chemistry to make everyone on the team perform at levels they never imagined possible.
When I decided to pursue the idea of putter that could be adjustable in all four major ways, the first person I contacted was Jeff Sheets in Texas, and I immediately knew it would be a great fit. Not only is Jeff a phenomenal club designer, he also has written books on custom fitting which would be key as we developed this product that allows consumers to custom fit themselves every time they play. It gave me even more confidence knowing Jeff has customized products for Nick Faldo when he won his Masters, Lee Janzen when he won his U.S. Opens, Dave Stockton when he won his U.S. Senior Open (you get the idea, the guy is good). Beyond his pedigree, Jeff may be the nicest person the golf industry has ever seen, and we not only shared a love for great Texas brisket, we also share a common compulsive need to invent. My only initial worry with Jeff was that we are like-minded, and to create the electricity we had at my previous companies, we needed some friction. After all, you can’t light a match without striking it.
Along came Dave Cooper, the friction we needed. I often tease Dave that we are truly the Odd Couple, but don’t call him Felix (he hates that). I am conceptual, he is detailed. I generate ideas, he builds plans to get them done. Dave is one of the most respected “operations guys” in the business, having run Global Operations for Titleist and Cobra. But Dave is so much more than just an operations expert. He understands golf at a deep level, being a great player himself, and if the Happy Putter is truly going to be the next big thing in golf, we need to make sure the team is made up of Golf Guys.
I can still clearly picture Dave’s expression when I told him the concept: we’d make a putter that was adjustable in four major ways that could help a golfer compensate for their putting tendencies and for course conditions. Dave’s face lit up. Okay, maybe his face didn’t light up, but his eyebrows lifted almost noticeably. Dave’s pretty low key.
And then I told him my concept for the name: The Happy Putter. His eyebrows went back down. I’d quickly learn that Dave - compared to me at least - is a fairly conservative guy.
This is when I knew we’d make the perfect team. Dave would be the perfect counterbalance to my crazy ideas (and isn’t counterbalancing all the rage in golf right now?).
He understands design, the importance of quality manufacturing (having overseen the production for Scotty Cameron), global distribution, and importantly, what time the redeye to Guangzhou, China leaves out of Los Angeles (there are no direct flights from San Diego). Dave had the set of talents needed to bring the team’s concepts to reality and make sure everything was executed well. Because that’s another thing I’d learned: execution was everything.
The team - and the concept - was coming together; but it’s hard to keep a team together for long when no one is being paid. Our bank account was lower than a knockdown shot at Carnoustie.
Money: Yeah, we all agreed, we should probably have some of that. What little money we had came mostly from Jim Crone, a very successful individual who made his money in real estate and still goes around to the many properties he owns digging ditches and scraping gum off the sidewalks. Yep, not exactly a “hands off” type of guy.
Ah yes, the joys of raising capital, finding investors, and managing those investors. As anybody who’s started a company can tell you, that’s a whole other adventure (and another blog) all in itself.