FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Kim Carrington
August 25, 2015
Did you hear the one about the travelling salesman saleswoman?
She says, “I don’t feel like my job is work.” It’s her twenty-sixth year as a manufacturer’s sales representative covering Alberta and the East Kootenays. She sells apparel and accessories. She sold equipment. And she’s played the game …
Born in Vancouver, moved to Montreal – then to Edmonton with dad’s employment. Eldest of three siblings, mom worked with dad. Parents divorced. Mom worked in real estate. Mom remarried – to a guy in the same business as dad, moved to Calgary and still works with him. School at Scona High in Edmonton, finished at Beaverbrook in Calgary. One year at Mount Royal studying law enforcement, but that didn’t take. There was a short stint with PWA as a flight attendant. That didn’t take either.
An average student, her sports were baseball, swimming and basketball. She took up golf somewhere between seven and ten. She’s been playing seriously since she was nineteen. Best round ever, 68 at Willow Park. In tournament competition, a 69 five years ago, and a 69 in the final round when she won this year’s Alberta Senior’s Open.
You have to wonder if she really had any choice – it’s not just the ‘family business’, it seems that golf is in her DNA so it’s no surprise she’s in the family business. Kim’s dad is the legendary golf pro Bill Carrington – long of Windermere fame who is the pro at Blackhawk in Edmonton, mom Shelley married Jim Jempson, Head Pro at Willow Park Golf & Country Club in Calgary. Shelley is the buyer, sister Tanya works there too. Brother Martin is a golf course superintendent in Grande Prairie. They are all in ‘the family business'.
She's partnered - not married. No kids. Pretty tight lipped about personal life, unless it's golf. She smiles easily, crys easily, makes friends easily - that's very clear.
And focus, focus, focus. She didn’t say that – but as we talked I found that ringing in my head as I sought to find out what makes a great golfer great. What caused the success, what built it, what sustains it? I found, as I often do with corporate titan folks, a mixture of extremely affable qualities – and incredible single-minded focus, and a lot more as I sat down recently with Kim Carrington. Most golf fanatics in Calgary will know the name but not the pedigree. They might know her as 2015 Club Champion at Willow Park (for the 15th time), know her as a long time sales rep for manufacturers of golf merchandise.
How much golf do you play? “Not counting practice, about forty rounds during season. And a couple of rounds when I go south in the winter – usually for a couple of weeks in January, February and March.”
Why didn’t you turn pro? “I thought about it very seriously, of joining the LPGA in 1996 – but in those days I was representing Cobra, the line was hot and the money was great . ..”
What has contributed most to your success? “I’ve been told I have an infectious positive personality. I strive to learn every day. I try to dive in – for than a dollar or making a sale – I give myself, into good things happening to me, lots amazing experiences. I feel good karma around me. And I still have a bucket list!”
What has held you back? “Work gets in the way of golf - I have to work to live – I would love to dominated somewhere in golf.”
I asked Kim how she sees her business “golf industry, supplier to ‘green’ golf shops”; how’s business looking, going forward over the next quarter?”
… the industry of golf is trying very hard to compete for family interest – there are so many competing things to do. Everyone’s searching for the wow-factor. Golfing numbers are in decline yet we have too many golf courses in some markets. Nobody in the golf business is getting rich right now. In our local economy – taking guests to golf – is down, but frequency of play (and merchandise sales – new clubs etc.) is way up among those who are out of work or not so busy …
And over the next five years?
… I’m an optimist. Alberta is, and I expect it will remain, the strongest golf market per capita in Canada. I believe the industry will stay the course and find ways to offer better value and variety to the golfing public.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… I’m a creature of habit. I like to be looked after. Quality. Loyalty. I’m not a deal shopper. People I know. I like dealing with independents – supporting local family owned businesses.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Kim Carrington, why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… they know I’ll look after them. I give a great deal of focus to customer questions and to finding the best value and quality.
How would you describe your management style?
… not really applicable since I don’t have anyone working for me. I’m self-motivated and have competition with myself, pushing myself, comparing sales performance year-over-year.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… family. Health. The scare of not having them. We had a big scare with my mom two years ago. It was very serious. Thankfully she’s much better now …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… I’ve had phenomenal people in my life. In sixth grade, I had a fight with a friend. The ah+ha moment was when my mom said “not everyone in this world is going to like you”.
Work-life balance, do you have it?
What do you do for fun?
… I love travelling. I have a place in Phoenix and Vernon. I love living on water. Hiking, biking, fitness.
What do you read?
… I don’t read. I don’t like the news – too much negativity there. Frankly, I don’t have the time to sit down and read.
… 2014 Cadillac Escalade … I have to carry all those bags of samples!
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