Adams knew he needed to rethink his strategy.
He identified an area of specialization for his company:
designing and customizing golf clubs. More importantly,
perhaps, he refocused his efforts from selling a product
to selling a service.
“If you go to a tailor, you are not buying a suit. You
can do that off the rack. You are paying for a service, the
fitting, which improves the way you look. The same is
true with custom-fitting golf clubs. The goal wasn’t to sell
our customers a golf club, we were selling a service — to
improve their performance into the green.”
Adams spent long hours on golfing ranges working
with customers to understand their needs while traveling
back and forth to his shop and sketching club designs on
yellow legal pads. When samples came in he would test
them out on the golf course and then go back and fine
tune his designs some more.
The result was Tight Lies, a line of custom-designed
fairway woods that revolutionized the game and quickly
became the must-have clubs for everyone from Sunday
morning amateurs to professional players.
Even Adams’ marketing strategy was novel. Facing
larger competitors with their million-dollar budgets, he
decided to bet the company on an approach. He went to
his investor group, laid out a plan for a TV Infomercial
and, since he had no money, offered to give up 100% of
the company in return for financing. His position carried
an equity earn back based on sales and margin goals.
The deal was made, and the Tight Lies infomercial
went on to become the most successful in the history of
the golf industry.
In 1996, Adams Golf made
Inc.
magazine’s list of
“500 Fastest Growing Small Companies.” Two years
later, Adams Golf went public with the largest IPO in
the history of the golf industry.
“In the end,” he says, “I was motivated by something
I loved. If it had only been about money, I would have
quit many times over.”
F
Barney Adams took his Texas-based company
Adams Golf from a $1 million to an $85 million
a year business in three years.
GREEN
Getting to the
I
n golf, a “tight lie” occurs when there is little or no grass
beneath the ball and the ground is firm. For golfers, that medium
or long iron shot from ground to green is notoriously tricky.
But where golfers found a challenge Barney Adams found
an opportunity.
Adams’ love of golf dates back to the 1950s when, as a
teenager, he worked as a caddy at a local golf course in central New
York. After graduating in 1962 fromClarkson with a degree in
business administration, he applied to all the major golf companies.
“None of them would hire me because I
had no experience in the industry,” he recalls.
But after working for Corning Glass
and in the semiconductor industry for
several years, Adams got his chance. He
moved down to Abilene, Texas, in 1984 and
accepted a position working with a small
company that manufactured golf clubs based
on a patented design. “Here I was finally
working at my passion and it took me three
years to lead them into bankruptcy!” he says.
Either undaunted or “just plain stubborn” he
purchased the few remaining assets after the bank auction and
started on his own.
To finance his new venture, Adams returned to the
semiconductor business in Silicon Valley, leaving others to
manage a club assembly contract. After a few years, he moved
back to Texas to dedicate himself full time to his company.
That’s when he discovered that his employees had taken all the
money and left him with a mountain of debt.
In November, Barney Adams visited campus
to share his insights and experiences with the
Clarkson community.
Barney Adams and the Clarkson golf team. Back Row: Scott Henning, Freddie Oaks,
Tyler Cline, Rob Wood, Nate Hagstrom. Front Row: Evan Cody, Barney Adams,
Coach Bill Bergan and Mike Wiegand.
1
IN
5
CLARKSON ALUMNI
is a CEO,
president, owner
or senior executive
of a company.
Clarkson University
13
12
President’s Report
ALUMNI ENTREPRENEUR
STUDENT ENTREPRENEURS
Students rack up $50,000 in awards
for start-up venture
A
company that began in a first-year business class in the fall
of 2011 has earned nearly $50,000 in awards and collegiate
business competition winnings. It is also getting some
attention from Silicon Valley investors.
Innovative Delivery Systems (IDS), owned and operated
by five Clarkson undergraduates, is a start-up company that
is developing and marketing an innovative smart phone app
that allows spectators at sporting events to order concession
products right from their seats.
Tasked with starting a company for School of Business
faculty member Marc Compeau’s SB113 class, first-year
students came up with the idea and, after receiving positive
reviews during early beta testing, pitched their business plan to
a panel of entrepreneurs. They received the funding needed to
begin developing the technology.
With the two-semester course ending, four of the students — Dietrich Diehl, Andrew Wegner,
Sean Cheung and Christopher Behrens — decided to take the project a step further.
The group formalized their company, making it an LLC, officially becoming business
owners and full-time college students. They also hired a coder, Stephen Akiki, a
mechanical and aeronautical engineering major. With input from the team, Akiki
created the Web application (or app) that can be downloaded on smartphones today,
aptly named “OrdrIt.”
The young entrepreneurs received invaluable assistance from Compeau, as well
as from alumnus and successful entrepreneur Randall Roth ’74, president and CEO
of Vitex, Inc. Roth met the students in the spring of 2012 when he was invited to
speak on campus. “They couldn’t ask questions fast enough and were hungry for
knowledge. Their idea is obviously a good one, but their passion and focus was what
got me excited to help.”
Roth invited them to his North Carolina home for an intensive week of
mentoring. “We spent every day working from eight until five, breaking for some
dinner, and then staying up until 2 a.m. or later working on assignments Randy had
“given us,” says Diehl. “It was an incredible learning experience.”
With the app ready to be marketed, the need for additional funding motivated the
team to enter into business plan competitions across the nation. IDS placed first in three out
of four of the competitions they entered, earning the company nearly $50,000 in capital.
The business owners also linked up with Matt Draper, deputy director of the
Shipley Center, who invited them to accompany three other Clarkson groups to
Silicon Valley last fall to meet with venture capitalists.
With prompting from Roth, IDS has hired a sales representative to help get OrdrIt into stadiums,
arenas and performing arts theaters. Initial interest has been expressed by the Carolina Panthers and
the Philadelphia Eagles NFL stadiums as well as the University of Kansas.
“The key for us right now is to expand quickly,” says Diehl. “We meet every day and have
frequent conversations with Randy, Matt and Marc. It’s a lot to take on as a full-time student, but this
is the reason why I chose to come to Clarkson, I wanted to start my own business.”
Roth says the company has a lot going for it as well as some challenges. “They have a very legitimate
service they are trying to market in a highly competitive technology field with players that have been
in the industry for years. They must close some deals and get the system installed in some venues while
they still have a technology and cost advantage. Balancing school and IDS will be a challenge.”
F
Entrepreneurs Sean Cheung and Chris Behrens meet with Randy Roth ’74.
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