Small business owners have seen their companies change overnight due to the coronavirus. In our #openforbusiness series, we're highlighting Northwestern Mutual clients who have been forced to get creative in order to adapt to these unprecedented times and keep their businesses running. We hope you'll get inspiration from their stories and help support them whenever possible.

Business: Golfdom

Owner: Buddy Christensen

Location: McLean, Virginia

Phone: 703-790-8844

Website: golfdomgolf.com

I’ve been working in the golf industry since I was in high school, when I took a part-time position at a golf warehouse store that would eventually become known as Golfdom — I like to joke and say it was the job I never left. Over my career, I’ve been a manager and head buyer at this same operation (although we moved locations in 1997), but in 2014 was thrilled when I was able to buy Golfdom from the son of the original owner who had first hired me when I was a teenager.

Over the past three years we’ve grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, this past January, February and the first 10 days of March, we were gearing up for our best first quarter ever, with sales up about 30 percent — and then the pandemic hit.

To be as safe as possible, I’ve physically closed our location for in-store shopping. But I still have about 5 of my employees in the store to help fulfill online orders, while keeping the remaining 15 or so on payroll with full pay and benefits. I’ve been continuously strategizing ways to expand our online and service offerings to stay afloat. Here are a few of the ways I’ve pivoted the business.

WE STARTED OFFERING CURBSIDE PICKUP

The first thing we did was to offer a grab-and-go, contactless curbside pickup for products that people order through our online store. Luckily for us, golf is a sport where you can practice social distancing, so the courses have been open — but many courses are not renting riding or push carts, or if they are, they have a limited number. People have to bring their own push carts if they don’t want to carry their clubs, so within a week we sold the number of push carts we normally sell in three or four months. And of course, anything else that people need — golf balls, gloves or other equipment — we will drop off curbside.

WE INCORPORATED FULL-SERVICE CLUB REPAIR INTO OUR ONLINE STORE

You were always able to order products on our website, but for services like golf club repairs, you had to come into the store. So we added to our website a form that customers can fill out online that gives us the details on the type of repair they need. We give them a timeframe when they can drop off their clubs, and when they arrive, they call us from their car and we go pick it up. If it’s a quick repair, say 20 minutes, the customer can wait in their car and we’ll bring the clubs back, or we let them know a time when they can return. It’s not something we had thought of doing before, but we’ll probably keep that service online after everything settles back down to normal because customers really seem to like it.

WE OFFERED A SPECIAL PROMOTION WITH A CELEBRITY TIE

T.J. Oshie, a Washington Capitals hockey player, is also a big golfer in his downtime. He’s a regular customer, so he asked if there was anything he could do to help. His number is 77, so we had an idea to offer $100 gift cards online for $77 through April 26, donating $5 for every gift card we sell to a local nonprofit called Food for Others. T.J. also offered to sign 8-by-10 photos for the first 100 buyers. Plus, he shared a video about the promotion on his social media. It was very cool of him to do that, and it helped us as well as those in our community.

Although it’s an unsettling time right now for small-business owners, I also feel thankful — thankful to the employees who have fought to get Golfdom where it is now, and to our community for reaching out. We support a lot of local groups, like Little League teams and school functions and charities, and it’s been nice to see them reach out to us now to see how they can help. When I see orders coming in, I see a lot of familiar names, and that's been encouraging.

Buddy Christensen is a client of Northwestern Mutual. He works with Jason and Amanda Tiede.

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