Golf Retailing Editor Dan Owen caught up with Jesse Otis, Senior Director & Assistant General Manager at TaylorMade Golf to discuss his journey with the brand and a behind the scenes look across the back-office operations at the company.
Tell us about your role at TaylorMade?
“As Senior Director & Assistant General Manager I am responsible for overseeing the back-office departments across Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Pacific. This includes Finance, Operations, Demand Planning, Procurement, Service and IT. Most of my time is spent trying to predict the future. My team analyses trends within the industry to forecast the golf market size in total, as well as by category and channel. We then forecast our TaylorMade market share (again by category and channel) as well as our desired retail inventory levels based on our product and sales strategies. In summary, my job is to build the yearly plan, pitch the plan to our global teams in California for signoff, and then execute that plan over the course of the year, whilst constantly updating our assumptions based on learnings and adjusting our actions across all departments in order to course correct as necessary.”
How did you begin your journey with TaylorMade, and how have you progressed to your current role?
“I started my career as an engineer for Toyota but was poached by TaylorMade to come ‘solve complex problems’ within the supply chain. Over the last 10 years with TaylorMade I have progressed from an Engineer to Operations Manager, to Senior Engineering Manager, to Operations Director, to Senior Director & AGM where I am now. During this time, I have relocated from California, US, to Basingstoke, UK. I leveraged my industrial engineering degree and experience from Toyota to progress through to Director before going back to school to obtain an MBA from the University of Chicago to secure my latest role as AGM. It has been a journey, to say the least.
You oversee the entire Operations and Finance department at TaylorMade, how many members are in your team and how do they all come together?
“There are 120 total full-time employees across my team, with an additional 70-80 temps during the golfing season. If you have visited our facility, you have most likely seen what we call our ’strategy deployment boards’. We use these to ’keep score of the game’. They enable departments to systematically attack their key performance metrics, as well as show off their wins.
An example of a KPI tracked across all departments is what we call ‘first time right’. There are literally 100+ hands that touch any one order. Not only the service team that enters it into the system or the operations team that assembles it, but also the materials team that set up the prices or even the credit teams that keeps track of all the invoicing and credits. Thanks to the boards I know year-to-date we are currently running a 0.26% error rate or a 99.74% first time right rate. We can see errors by department, by month, or by time of day, or by product. All this info helps our engineering team further ‘error proof’ our process. Their goal is to literally make mistakes impossible and get the first time right % up to 100%!”
What’s your favourite part of the job?
“Working together as a team problem-solving. I enjoy sitting with the team as they work through a challenging situation on the whiteboard, coming up with ideas to improve the way we do business (with loads of food from Deliveroo to keep everyone going).”
What’s been your most rewarding/memorable moment part of the job?
“Being asked to be our global ‘Risk Mitigation Officer’ back in March 2020 in response to the initial market downturn resulting from the COVID pandemic. It was gratifying for our CEO & CFO to ask that I put together a global plan to ensure our continued liquidity.
As a result of the exercise, we have become better at forecasting our business, and therefore have been able to invest even more back into the business. Such as; more point-of-sale units, shop-in-shop units, automated assembly equipment and custom capacity expansions.”
What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
“The unknown; Every year will have some unforeseen event(s) that we will have to overcome. COVID causing lulls and surges within the market, Brexit making it difficult to shift product between countries, power shortages in the far east causing factory shutdowns, snowstorms in Texas causing golf ball raw material constraints. It’s our job to hedge our forecasts/capacities/materials in such a way that the trade feels as few disruptions as possible despite the curve balls thrown our way.”
How has 2021 been for you, and how are preparations going for 2022?
“2021 is off the charts. We have broken every record on the books. Not only in terms of units shipped or market shares achieved, but also in terms of most ever spent on in and outbound freight! Shipping container costs are eight to ten times what they used to be, if you can get space at all. Fortunately, we love a challenge, and our engineers are busy at work trying to figure out how to squeeze more and more product into each container.”
Do you expect the high demand the industry is experiencing to remain high?
“We expect further growth of the golf market going into 2022, primarily coming in the first three months of next year, when we will anniversary the 2021 January-March lockdown. In addition, we expect the millions of golfers who have joined or returned to the game over the last 18 months to continue playing golf in 2022. All these assumptions have been built into our 2022 forecasts.”
I understand you are expanding the custom build facilities in Basingstoke, what can you tell us about the operation?
“Our new owners have approved another huge investment to be injected into the UK HQ office. We are spending a huge chunk of it on increased capacity with an aim to reduce lead times back to pre-pandemic levels. We have moved all our finished goods out of our Basingstoke warehouse to a new warehouse to make space for the additional custom lines. This investment will double the size of our custom lab. Construction is currently underway, and we will be fully staffed and ready by January 2022.”
What advice would you offer retailers as we look ahead to 2022?
“Prebook, not only for the spring, but with multiple drops throughout the year. The global supply chain across every industry is incredibly fragile right now. Not only due to COVID shutdowns but also things like the Suez-cannel incident (container ship blocking goods from coming into the UK) and the Texas snowstorm (freezing weather shutting down golf ball raw material suppliers). To mitigate these risks, we are buying as far as possible into our future forecasts, using every piece of supplier capacity we can get. The more visibility retailers can offer us with future orderbooks, the more likely we are to buy the correct sku-mix and successfully fulfil the demand.”
What do you do in your spare time?
Getting Jasper, my five-month old son, to giggle and occasionally squeal with laughter. He currently takes up 97% of my time outside of work! I love smoking meats on my ceramic “Big Joe” bbq – I love to fire it up on weekends for an all-day brisket or pulled pork.
Favourite sport/passions outside golf?
Building ‘stuff’. Cars (I rebuilt a ’67 Ford GT Mustang), bikes (I built a customised Ducati and Harley) or anything out of oak (furniture mostly).
DJ (and his comment about sandwiches being his favourite part about the Masters)
Favourite golf course you’ve played?
Tie between TPC Sawgrass & The Olympic Club
Bucket list golf course you want to play?
Finally, What’s In Your Bag?
SIM2 Max driver
SIM2 Max #3 fairway
SIM2 Max #4 rescue
MG3 50 & 56 wedges