In 2001, the company hit $2 million in sales, still running primarily on used golf balls. About that time, eBay hit its critical mass, doubling and then quadrupling its sales. “The guys who were selling the pond balls hadn’t quite figured out how to sell directly on the Internet, but eBay made it so they didn’t have to figure it out,” he said. Cox reminded the audience of the then-popular term “disintermediation,” or cutting out the middle man. He said golfballs.com wanted to build a direct relationship with manufacturers, but in order to build that relationship, it had to phase out used balls and focus more on customization and personalization. “We knew customization was where everything was going, so it was a relatively conservative bet.”
In 2004 the company moved from New Iberia to Lafayette and opened a retail store, by then doing about $5 million in annual revenue. Since then, revenue has tripled and staff has doubled, according to Cox, with the staff of 50 swelling to about 65 during peak times. Today golfballs.com prints 1,200 dozen balls a day, six days a week, and sells all major brands of golf equipment. Sixty percent of its business is direct to consumer, with the other 40 percent in corporate and custom logos. Much of the custom products are sold through loyaltylogo.com, a companion business started in 2009 to leverage golfballs.com’s existing customer relationships. “We found out that as a golf company you can’t credibly sell huggies, you can’t credibly sell pens and pencils and those other kinds of [non-golf] items,” Cox said. “As a promotional products company, that’s related to golfballs.com, it is very easy to do that and be credible.”
Cox noted that it’s essential for a rapidly growing company to have a business plan that’s flexible and can easily adjust to changes in the marketplace. “Your business plan only works the day you write it,” he said. “It’s not a plan, it’s an evolving document that continues to move.”
One member of the audience wanted to know how the company stays on track. “We’re neurotic and analyze everything. The belly putter thing, we knew was coming, because three weeks in a row the PGA tournaments were won by guys using belly putters and the manufacturer ran out of them. Clay Judice, here in Lafayette, invented something that turned any putter into a belly putter. You watch numbers and the environment you’re in. Every day we start with a 15-minute meeting with the directors of the company.”
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