Greg Norman, a 20-time PGA Tour event winner, has parlayed his success on the golf course to become one of the most successful athlete-turned-entrepreneurs in the world. Today, Norman's Great White Shark Enterprises (GWSE) has more than a dozen successful entities ranging from apparel and wine to real estate and an investment fund of $75 million that reports hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue.

Norman was and still is a pioneer in athlete brand building. He was the first to leave a management company, create a logo and go out on his own. He defined what it was to be an athlete entrepreneur before it became a sought after title by many in the space.

Norman attributes much of his recent success to the environment he was able to curate in the workplace. His employees agree with that sentiment.

What is it really like to work for Norman, and what differentiates the 2-time winner of The Open Championship from other small business owners? Here are some ways that Norman has approached keeping his employees happy, which may work in other small business environments as well.

1. Norman is really involved in each employee's life. It is hard to stress how important it is for a leader to truly connect to the workforce. One employee told me that from the second week she started working at GWSE, Norman has consistently reached out to her and called to check in on her sick daughter to see if there was absolutely anything he could do to help. "It's something you don't really find in large organizations, and particularly those with a celebrity figurehead," said the employee.

2. Norman has a yoga instructor come into the office every week. Quality of life is key for small businesses to persuade talented employees in recruitment efforts. Norman built a yoga studio in the GWSE office and allows employees to take time off to do yoga. He is trying to take what Google and Facebook are doing with regard to providing ancillary benefits to working at said companies, and scale it down to do what he can justify at the size of his business, which only has 18 employees in the office. Norman can't run a cafeteria like some larger organizations, but he can add other benefits, like the ability to perform yoga and make it fun to work.

3. Norman loves to put together big off-campus events. Employees are too often stuck in the office and only associate a job with the work conducted therein. Norman has attempted to change that in his organization. In the recent past, he has rented a bowling alley and provided his employees a half-day off to eat, drink, bowl and have fun. Norman has also rented out a movie theater for a private screening and is putting together a party bus trip to a Miami Marlins game in the Spring.

4. Norman will randomly text two people from the office. These texts simply ask whether the employees are free for dinner. If they accept, then they will be joined by Norman for a private dinner at his house that is cooked by a professional chef. Norman and the employees typically stay together until midnight, chatting and becoming better acquainted with one another.

5. Norman provides paid volunteer days. If there is a charity that an employee is passionate about, then Norman will give that individual a pay day to go and work at that charity. It establishes a culture of giving and thoughtfulness, which Norman believes will bleed into the work employees perform for clients.

6. Employees are encouraged to engage in a monthly employee advocacy meeting. A group of employees commonly get together to chat about new ideas. Currently, they are discussing the possibility of getting everyone to go out one day and perform a beach cleanup.

7. Norman knows when to clean house. GWSE had the same Chief Financial Officer for 15 years and the same Human Resources director for 14 years. He recently cleaned house and hired a group of hungry 30-somethings that believe in new vision and a new way to work. According to one employee, people don't typically abuse the privilege.

It seems like Norman knows a thing or seven about keeping employees happy and what it means for the success of a small business.

Published on: Mar 31, 2016
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