Holiday Golf is a story of success, and that success is the story of Stefan Tjellander, an entrepreneur who 25 years ago decided to leave his cold home country of Sweden and start a new professional and personal life in warm Spain.
A lover of all sports, but particularly in love with golf, Stefan had a great vision for the future when he changed his organised life and stable employment for that of a tourist guide in Gran Canaria, Mallorca and the Costa del Sol, and began working in a small wholesale golf distribution company set up by his compatriot Ingmar Werner, who also had a hotel next to Royal Las Palmas Golf Club. The company was Holiday Golf.
Obviously it was nothing like it is today. The business had been set up in 1991 and Stefan joined in 1995, when the company had just one part-time office employee and two sales representatives. Currently, Holiday Golf has more than 20 employees and 1,500 square metres of modern amenities in Marbella (offices, warehouse and showroom), distributes its products to several countries, and has local offices and amenities in Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon.
Stefan, who knew the world of golf well, thanks to playing the sport and his work as a tourist guide for golfing groups, sensed that the business had great potential for growth, took over the commercial operations and set up base in Marbella, the epicentre of the Costa del Sol. From there he began expanding the business throughout Spain and Portugal, undertaking his sales trips behind the wheel of an ancient Ford Fiesta without air-conditioning.
He began using his garage as a warehouse and even his own house (“My wife wasn’t very happy when I filled up the lounge room with boxes”) in the Los Arqueros urbanisation, next to the golf course designed by Seve Ballesteros. The club’s restaurant served as an improvised office for him to prepare documentation before heading off around Spain in a car crammed full of merchandise.
“I saw the possibilities that existed and wanted to do it well,” Stefan recalls. “Later we set up the first office in San Pedro Alcántara (Marbella) and I envisaged more business opportunities because people wanted more things, clothes, footwear… and I began working with new suppliers. I was looking after the sales, the contacts with suppliers, the office, the warehouse… We started to grow and moved to another place in San Pedro with more space.”
The need for even more space became greater and in 2005 the company bought a large warehouse in a modern industrial estate in Nueva Andalucía, next to Marbella’s Golf Valley. The company continued to grow, and two years ago doubled its amenities, buying the adjourning warehouse.
In 2010 Stefan, who at the time had 49 per cent of the company, and a Swedish businessman bought the other 51 per cent of Holiday Golf owned by Ingmar Werner, and one year ago Stefan acquired all the shares to become the sole owner of the company.
- What is Holiday Golf today? What are its main lines of business?
- It is mainly a distribution company of golf products for golf shops, and golf merchandising for businesses. We now cover Spain and Portugal, and are also working in Italy, Morocco, Bulgaria and Turkey. And, of course, in Andorra and Gibraltar.
We also have a leather product that was created 18 years ago, and we’ve done complete lines for Glenmuir, Osborne, Tío Pepe and Valle Romano. The leather product gave us the opportunity of developing our own brand, Ofelia T, which is my daughter’s name and the first initial of her surname. We are working with this brand in 15 countries with distributors who also sell to numerous companies in other countries. In Switzerland, for example, we have completed several major orders for leading companies.
- Another facet of Holiday Golf is its consultancy, design and set up service for golf shops…
- Yes, thanks to our extensive experience in the industry we also have a wealth of knowledge that we want to pass on to our clients so they can optimise their businesses. There are many things you can improve in the shops, and we help them do that. For example, place the counter at the back, improve the product displays, cover-up window displays to boost the space available inside, ensure products are arranged well… Unlike any other shop in a city street, which needs to attract the attention of passersby and encourage them to enter, most shops at golf courses don’t need display windows because the clients are already there and know where the shop is.
We also offer advice on sales techniques – and the result is noticeable. Each client whose shop we revamp sees sales rise by 100 per cent or more in a very short time. And now, in addition, we are working on enabling them to re-stock through computer programmes, which means many tasks can be automated and thus give the client more time to concentrate on other things.
- What other projects does your company have planned in the short term?
- We have added quite a few brands lately and now we are focused on consolidating everything. We are not especially looking for any specific brand, and perhaps the only thing we might lack is a strong brand for clubs. In addition to the expansion and renovation of our own facilities which we are now completing – warehouse, offices and showroom – we are also looking at the planning system, to facilitate operations in all of the company’s departments. It is extremely important to computerise procedures, which eases the process for orders from our clients and golf shops, and improves their efficiency.
- What brands supplied by Holiday Golf are the most successful?
- Of the latest we have added, Oakley stands out: we are confirming that it is a highly desirable brand, for eyewear more than anything else – it will enter into clothes in 2017. Callaway is an excellent option for clothes, and Cutter & Buck is also very, very well received. And then, of course, there is Ecco, which continues its unstoppable success because it’s a product of exceptional quality and once you try it, it’s very difficult to change brands.
- Holiday golf is, fortunately, an atypical company in the sense that, even during the crisis period, it registered great growth, with annual sales increases of around 25 per cent. What is the key to this business success?
- I really believe it’s down to a lot of hard work, and great dedication. I left Sweden 25 years ago with a wage of 2,300 euros, I had eight weeks of holidays and I travelled a lot. I came to Spain to work for 300 euros a month because what I liked was contact with people (he admits there was also “an attractive girl” in Mallorca who contributed to that) and the climate. Many of us who left Sweden began as tourist guides, and they paid very little as there were so many who wanted to work in that job. I’ve never worked for money, but rather because I like doing a job where the client is satisfied with the service I provide. The key to success is to work for the client, so they are satisfied. We have hardly ever failed with a delivery, we do everything to help the client, and I believe in the end people realise this and have confidence in us.
- What role does the staff have in Holiday Golf’s success?
- Everyone who works here has something in common, and that is that they want to do a good job. The energy of being able to work well, in good harmony, is something I have always brought from Sweden and I want everyone to feel it. And everyone takes their responsibility seriously. The truth is I have had a lot of luck with the staff.