January 24, 2021

The Intersection of Business and Golf

The passion and vision Sheila Johnson, owner of Salamander Resort properties, possesses goes well beyond golf and business.

Last Sunday the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Florida, finished in dramatic fashion when Jordan Spieth sank a 28-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole of a three-man playoff to win the PGA Tour event.

The three battling it out, Spieth, Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair, are all young guns that should be on your radar. Their talent, energy and excitement are reminiscent of college basketball’s March Madness teams: the trio all played with a lot of heart. This was the kind of great golf and great shots that keep us amateurs coming back to tournament broadcasts.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that Innisbrook is owned by one of world’s most dynamic female entrepreneurs. The co-founder of the BET network, Sheila Johnson also has a stake in three sports teams — the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals — and is the founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts. In addition to Innisbrook, the Salamander golf portfolio includes Reunion Resort and Hammock Beach Resort in Florida. Johnson also has her hands in movie producing and designing her own line of scarves, the Sheila Johnson Collection.

Combined, the three properties offer nine golf courses, with the best-known the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook. This par-71, 7,340-yard beauty is home to the Valspar Championship. Also at Innisbrook are courses called Island, North and South. Reunion Resort in Orlando has three courses designed by famous golfers named Palmer, Watson and Nicklaus and is home to the Annika Academy. Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast offers two layouts: Conservatory and, most notably, Ocean.

Johnson is a dynamic and fascinating woman constantly on the go with her many diverse interests and passions. While she does not have a great deal of time to golf, she picks up a club now and then. Her favorite course is Copperhead, designed by architect Larry Packard, who describes it as the “ultimate test of fair.”

Given her great accomplishments and contributions to golf, Sheila was featured in my latest book, Two Good Rounds TITANS – Leaders in Industry & Golf. Here are a few thoughts offered by Johnson, including her best golf memory, business experience and tips, and her first visit to the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club.

Best Golf Memory: “During the first two days (of the Masters), I was with Condoleezza Rice and watched the reverence with which people hold her. I also got to go in and out of the clubhouse. But, on the third and fourth days, I had to walk through the back gate like everyone else and briskly walk to my favorite hole to place my chair.”

How are Golf and Business Related?: “While the game of golf is a big business in its own right, it is the mechanism that the game provides which sets it apart. Where else can you spend a casual four hours in the company of a client, and alternate so effortlessly between business discussions?”

Best Business Tip You Received or Would Give: “Surround yourself with people you can trust. It’s taken me a long time to have people in my life who allow me compartmentalize. Whatever the issue, I know certain people within my circle will give me some alternative suggestions – from close friends to business partners to industry experts to educators; it can be anybody. I go to these people when I need advice.”

How Did You Get Started in Your Career?: “I now consider myself to be in the ‘third act’ of my life. My ‘first act’ was as a music teacher. My ‘second act’ was to co-found Black Entertainment Television and develop community-minded programs. Now, I own a luxury resort company and am a partner in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns Washington’s Wizards, Capitals and Mystics.”

Greatest Business Achievement/Biggest Deal: “Without a doubt, opening Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, in August 2013 was my greatest business achievement. It took 11 years from concept to completion and involved me overcoming opposition to the project.”

What Advice Would You Give Your 20-Year-Old Self?: “It is a privilege to be asked for advice. I always tell people to accept the challenges that come your way, meet them head on and use those experiences to succeed. Make sure you are keeping company with other successful people that you admire and from whom you can learn. Then, once you have succeeded, support those in similar circumstances in which you once found yourself.”

Favorite 19th Hole Drink: “I enjoy a Grey Goose on the rocks with a twist.”

The namesake for Johnson’s company, Salamander, was inspired by a property Johnson purchased from Mr. Bruce Sundlun, a war hero, successful businessman, and leading politician. During WWII, he evaded capture and was given the code name “Salamander” after the amphibian that can mythically walk through fire. Johnson discovered that for centuries the salamander has symbolized strength, courage and fortitude — traits with which she has identified throughout her personal and business life.
Source: Huff Post

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