Some people spend years working and studying to become a doctor. Tony Richter became one in a single hour.
He's not a doctor of medicine, although health is his business. Around Keene, NH, Tony is known as "The Club Doctor," the golf club specialist who has the right prescription for golfers with ailing swings.
Tony moved to the Keene area in the spring of 2001 when his wife got a teaching job at the local high school. He decided that the new location offered an opportunity to turn a longtime interest in making customized golf clubs into a business. "I had experimented with making golf clubs for myself and found that I really enjoyed it," Tony explains. "Custom clubs offer so many advantages over those sold in pro shops and stores, yet they can be made for less cost."
Tony already had his business and marketing plans in mind when he completed a course offered by Golfsmith's Advanced Club Fitting School, which has trained instructors who make clubs for many top-name professionals. He could work from his home, and take equipment to golf courses, driving ranges, and even customers' homes. Along with customizing clubs to fit his customers' individual bodies and swing character, Tony would also offer repair and regripping services.
Being so new to the area, however, Tony was unfamiliar with the local business climate and consumer trends. He attended business start-up seminar sponsored by the Monadnock Chapter of SCORE and met Bud Murdock, himself a golfer and—more importantly—an expert in sales. Realizing he had discovered a perfect source of local marketing knowledge, Tony called SCORE the next day to schedule a counseling session.
"Bud was very energetic about my plan and had several great ideas coming faster than I could write them down," Tony says. "He's the one who coined the catchy nickname that I use in my ads."
Tony returned to SCORE a week later to meet with Bud and Monadnock SCORE Chapter Chair Doug Lowe, who knew a great deal about marketing and the area's local golf scene. "That second meeting put the pieces of my marketing plan together," Tony says. "I was certain our plan was the best way to go."
Bud put Tony in touch with the people he needed to work with. Because his service appealed to "high-end" golfers, Tony targeted the area's golf and country clubs. Bud also came up with a logo idea—a stethoscope on a golf bag—and critiqued Tony's equipment costs and selling prices. He also helped Tony garner some press coverage in exchange for purchasing an ad package.
"I really didn't have to spend much on advertising," Tony says. "Bud had lots of people contacting me."
Bud also encouraged Tony to make a presentation about custom golf clubs at an upcoming business luncheon, and arranged for a reporter from another local newspaper to cover the event. "This was an unexpected bonus because it got me free exposure," Tony says. "You could say I got exactly what I wanted from SCORE and then some."
Although Tony started his business relatively late in the golf season, he met his first year's profit goals. He has made clubs for golfers of all ages, sizes, and skill levels—from a four-year-old beginner to a 76-year-old golfer whose left arm and leg are an inch shorter than his right ones. With world of mouth spreading, Tony expects to step up his marketing efforts next year.
"My intent was to use this year to test my business, and I wound up with as much work as I could handle," he says. "Bud Murdock and the Monadnock Chapter of SCORE were a great help to me and the most crucial part of starting my small business. Anybody considering starting a business should consult with them."
"Bud Murdock had the local knowledge that I needed. Without him, many of my marketing ideas would have gone in the wrong direction." - Tony "Doc" Richter