As the president of the global leader of golf cars and one of the largest of small electrical vehicles, Mark Wagner has full responsibility for the management, operations, strategy and performance of the Club Car business. He has led numerous product introductions like Club Car Connect with Shark Experience in car entertainment and Visage course management tools, the LI-ION Lithium car, the Tempo Walk (an autonomous caddie) and Club Car’s 502 golf turf and utility vehicle that helps superintendents do their jobs better.
The Wagner Story —
I had been in sales and distribution leadership roles for over 20 years with Ingersoll Rand, our parent company, before joining Club Car as President in 2017. While working in sales offices across the northeast, a mentor once told me no matter the product complexity, or the technology it entails, or its advantage vs. competition our success will always be tied to our people.
He stressed to me that if our associates and channel partners are passionate about what they do and excited about working for our company, they will always go the extra mile for our customers. The best strategies or best products are critically important, but only if you have great people to make them a reality.
Years later, I have found that advice to be true. Across many industries and geographies, I have seen amazing people working incredibly hard behind every business success. My role is simply to help our people succeed and it’s less about top down decision making. Winning is contagious and when a business has momentum like Club Car has, the energy from our team almost fuels itself.
Just one more week before we get to the #PGASHOW! Last year we joined more than 40,000 golf industry professionals to check out the best of anything else a golfer could possibly need. We’re even more excited about this year’s show. #clubcar #pgashow https://t.co/OzCmEWUlHG pic.twitter.com/ZEq8LSlocQ— Club Car (@clubcar) January 14, 2020
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
I am passionate about what I do at Club Car because of the excitement and challenges that I get to experience every day. Our teams are working hard to manage our significant growth, product innovation, and feature complexity simultaneously while maintaining our brand promise and quality. The demand for electric vehicles across many product platforms and geographies is at an all-time high. Golf remains a very healthy business and our consumer and commercial markets are rapidly growing around the world. The amount of product development and electric power train battery technology advancement currently at Club Car is unprecedented in our history.
How would you assess the overall health of the golf industry as we begin 2020?
I’m very encouraged with the state of our industry and particularly the work that we as well as other industry leaders have done, both to identify the challenges and to grow and evolve the game. These efforts have undoubtedly led to greater participation. Since 2016 we’ve seen growth in golf participation year over year over year – both 24.2 million on course and 9.3 million for off course with entertainment and training type venues. We are bringing insights along with better technology, better products and better experiences to a captive audience of 33.5 million participants and that’s very promising.
The golf market is clearly evolving as Baby Boomers being supplanted by Millennials — albeit not at an exact replacement percentage. How does such market evolution impact Club Car priorities in the marketplace?
Our audiences are broader so our approach in delivering solutions and products that matter has to be different. We focus on evolving so we’re more compelling and engaging. Millennials have grown up with a phone in their hand and access to streaming music so there’s an expectation of being connected. We are paying attention to that and in lock step with making sure we deliver new offerings and options to these golfers and the golf courses who serve them.
What’s the biggest differentiator in what Club Car does versus any of your competitors?
We are stewards of the game and engage with future generations of the game often and early, largely due to our unique industry relationships and partnerships with the likes of PGA, First Tee and US Kids, among others.
It makes us unique and allows us to better understand the industry and the business of golf, and help support the game which is good for everyone. We strive to meet the needs and expectations of new audiences like Millennials, but also youth in an effort to build relationships between them and the game they will hopefully play for life. Our relationship with youth organizations brings us closer to the game through their eyes. Many of these players will become accomplished golfers, join clubs and perhaps serve on golf-related boards and associations.
In addition to our partnerships we bring unique products, services and technology to the game with exclusive entertainment options like the Shark Experience and our Visage Fleet Management system along with products like our hands-free caddie the Tempo Walk. We align ourselves with the National Club Association and with courses in a way that sets them up for success and helps them drive new revenues to courses and better manage their operations.
What’s your take on golf clubs and courses using golf boards as opposed to traditional golf carts — whether electric or gas?
We fully support innovation. Golf boards, bikes, scooters, and our golf cars are all micro-mobility options for a rider, and depending on the application they all have their place. Collectively they provide an alternative way to get around, to exercise and to have fun. For Club Car, we continue to innovate and ensure that we serve large portions of the market, and we must also take into consideration a golf course’s terrain which can be challenging. In the end we want to provide a fun, safe and quality experience for golfers.
There’s been a major push for more golfers to actually walk when playing given the surging obesity rate in America. How does taking a power cart, whether one from Club Car or a competitor, fit or not fit in with this changing landscape and what does that bode for future usage?
All exercise is good exercise. I know when I play cart golf I can still push 8,000 steps or I can take Tempo Walk, a nice option for fitness enthusiasts and low handicappers who might generally carry a bag which can affect your swing. With Tempo Walk – you have a great alternative in a golf experience that provides fun, exercise and a hands-free option so you can focus on your swing and make your way around the course in an enjoyable fashion.
When you play golf — how often do you use a power cart versus walking via either carrying your bag, using a pull cart or employing a caddie if available?
I’m driving in a Club Car most every time. I like to mix it up from time to time and I’ve also enjoyed using our Tempo Walk.
Companies routinely tout the importance of customer service — define the term and the approach followed at Club Car.
It’s really about how we make the complex simple. And it’s difficult. Consider when you’re at a restaurant staring at a menu that is six pages long. How does the establishment perfect each and every dish? Well, at Club Car we’re working on that. We are talking about automotive grade cars and technology that are maintained around the world. If a customer has a concern, how do we resolve their issue as quickly possible? It takes expertise and investment. An upfront investment with planning and the ability to design product lines that refresh our portfolio with new innovations, while also asking ourselves how we can improve quality. It takes time and an investment in our greatest resource, our people. We are constantly tasked with and tinkering with our technology, front end systems and how we can interact with customers more efficiently.
The most serious challenges facing Club Car — short and long term — is what?
We’ve experienced a lot of growth and we’re delivering a very sophisticated line of products that serve very different audiences and markets. The challenge is to manage the complexity of our products as well as the business so we can continue to expand in new markets and grow and leverage the growth so in the end we continue to deliver cost effective products and offerings that provide the highest level of value and experience to our customers.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
An important mentor to me was Steve Wey. He was present in my career while I was rising through the ranks of sales. He said, “It’s not all about technology, it’s all about people, and how we serve our customers and that’s all that matters – no matter what we do.”
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Photos courtesy: Club Car