Location: Centennial, CO
Industry: Golf Improvement
On his state-of-the-art par-72 business course, Joe Assell has his sights set on a score of 54.
Assell, CEO of GOLFTEC, shared a vision with co-founder, Clayton Cole, to help golfers improve by providing them with great coaching and state-of-the-art technology. They brought this dream to fruition in 1995 and 26 years later, with 220 locations, 900 employees, giving over 10.5 million golf lessons per year, and the largest employer of PGA instructors in the U.S., it is obvious that GOLFTEC is a hole-in-one.
Since the company’s inception, Assell has provided the leadership to grow GOLFTEC into the largest provider of golf lessons in the world. His guidance has helped take the company from a one employee operation recording $90,000 in sales in 1995 to employing more than 900 individuals globally, including over 500 PGA Members and Apprentices across 220 locations in six countries with annual sales exceeding $130 million. As CEO, Assell oversees strategy as well as multiple divisions within the company including finance, legal, sales, technology, and marketing. He leads a ten-person senior management team in executing the strategic development and growth behind GOLFTEC.
His vision has created a career path for hundreds of coaches, and millions of students. The centers are teaming with students that are hungry for improving their game. Coaches get to see results over the span of lesson programs, and some students keep in their programs for years. Others will pop in and out of lesson packages, to get a refresh or retool. All in all, the process of building the swing around data is what has created a whole industry.
This year GOLFTEC started a Skills Challenge process.
“This is a quick unique way for coaches and students to help gear up for the season. It is unique in that the student gets two shots at a specific target and then gets a grade. The coach then runs them through some ways to improve the shots and then they have the student do the shot again,” Assell said. “Seeing the improvement in that half hour is tremendous value for students. And the process adds that level of pressure that you get when you get one chance at a shot. They continue to innovate and keep the whole process fresh.”
He added that one of the great parts of the experience for students is the ability to try so many brands of club and shaft technology, without being pigeon-holed into just one brand. “Even within brands, the coaches mix club types to really make a top end custom set.”
And customization is one of Assell’s many characteristics that makes him a successful leader.
“I am continually looking 3-5 years into the future to provide complete transparency to my team with regard to the vision and status of the business,” he said.
Assell added that over the next 5 years, GOLFTEC will continue to see additional expansion with the goal of opening roughly 20 locations per year. Beyond the opening of new locations, the customer experience will see many innovative changes over that time, including the launch of OptiMotion™ (GOLFTEC’s proprietary motion capture technology), and will continue to enhance its position as the category leader in customized club fitting. Five years from now, Assell said that GOLFTEC will operate over 300 locations worldwide and generate over $175M in annual sales.
Assell was recognized as the 2018 Colorado PGA Golf Professional of the Year. He is a cum laude graduate with a B.B.A. in Marketing from the PGA Golf Management program at Mississippi State University and was recently named to the top 100 graduates of the MSU Business School in the last 100 years. He was profiled by CBS and the PGA of America as part of a series of stories that highlighted the numerous career pathways PGA professionals take. In addition, Assell serves on the National PGA of America Employment Committee and locally, he is on the Finance Committee of the Colorado PGA.
Though his notoriety is strong, Assell is the first to say that successful leaders need to be ready for anything at any given time. When the pandemic hit, the centers immediately closed, but were able to open back up and have remained open through it all.
“In addition to normal protocols the centers have rigorous cleaning, ventilation and scheduling processes. The centers had the benefit of separation between coach, client and each bay separates each client,” Assell said. “The boom in golf overall has also been a boom for the centers. As people clamor to get outside, improve their game and even just learn, the centers are packed. The company is immensely proud to have remained open and continue to serve.”
He noted that he could not have maintained a successful business without the dedication of his team.
“Employee retention, satisfaction and board confidence leads to continued success and momentum for the business,” Assell said. “Don’t ever underestimate the importance of hard work and perseverance combined with transparent communication.”
It is with this swing, that this Titan of industry will surely score his perfect round.
"Don't ever underestimate the importance of hard work and perseverance combined with transparent communication."