Building a Network: Iain Highfield, Proponent Group and the Benefits of Taking Action
We live in an age when access to an endless supply of information is at our fingertips.
If I am staying in a hotel in an unfamiliar town and crave sushi, all I need to do is pull out my cell phone, wiggle my thumbs across the screen, press enter, and viola, I instantly have a list of the top volcano rolls in the area.
With access to so much at our immediate disposal, it’s easy to dismiss more labor intensive or time consuming practices. Unfortunately, information simply being available doesn’t mean it’s always going to be correct.
That volcano roll you see at the top of your list could be amazing; or, it could be bought from the supermarket, arranged on a plate, and served to you be a guy named Dave from Tennessee (nothing against the good people of Tennessee, I just doubt an emphasis is being placed on gourmet dishes of raw fish in the Volunteer State.)
So, while I could choose to perform a quick search for the best sushi in town, I know that taking the time to walk down and speak in person with the hotel’s concierge service will result in a much more pleasant and consistent experience. There’s just no substitute for a reputable source.
Thanks for the travel tip, Joe, but what does this have to do with golf? As fishy as it may seem, when it comes to advice on how to get things done - more importantly, done correctly - nothing beats word of mouth. As GLT Golf director Iain Highfield can testify, all it requires is a bit of effort.
“When I came to the US four years ago, I knew no one in the golf community,” said Highfield. “All of my contacts were in Europe.”
Luckily for Highfield, the last part would soon change. While working at Bishop’s Gate Academy in Orlando, Highfield befriended Zach Parker. Through their conversations, Parker felt there was someone Highfield should meet.
“Zach suggested I meet with Lorin Anderson, so I reached out to Lorin and, luckily, he agreed to meet me for breakfast,” Highfield remembered.
At the time, Lorin Anderson was the director of Proponent Group, an organization he founded in 2007. The primary goal of Proponent Group is to assist instructors in maximizing professional opportunities, increasing job security and increasing compensation. For Highfield, Proponent Group provided all of that and more.
“I knew I needed to network, and I knew the type of networking I needed,” said Highfield. “Two things Lorin insisted I stress were transparency and credibility. This really struck me, as I try to live my life and conduct myself professionally in just such a manner, whether I’d ever used the actual words or not. It really felt like this was where I needed to be, that these were the people I needed in my life if I wanted to be successful.”
Over the next year, Highfield began a mission to network as much as possible, always stressing transparency and credibility in the relationships being formed, just as Anderson suggested. Through those efforts, that footwork and word of mouth, results began to manifest.
“Through the connections I was able to build thanks to Lorin and Proponent Group, I was asked to speak at the Dallas Junior Golf summit in 2016 remembered Highfield. “And from that, I was asked to write six articles for Golf Tips Magazine, six articles which were then published.”
“If you’re up front and honest about your goals and intentions, the transparency takes care of itself,” Highfield stated, “the credibility only comes from hard work and trusting the people around you, and those people trusting you. And, of course, being published helps, too. But nothing jolted my credibility quite the same as the associations built through Proponent.”
Highfield’s efforts weren’t going unnoticed. As it turns out, those six articles would be just the beginning. Building credibility, as Highfield would soon discover, has somewhat of a snowball effect.
From those six articles in Golf Tips Magazine, Highfield began to see an increase in speaking – and, more importantly, teaching- opportunities. He would soon see his name appear in Golf Digest’s Top Young Coaches Under 40 list. Credibility continued to climb, and not by luck alone.
“I don’t want the focus to be on me,” stressed Highfield. “I really don’t even want the list mentioned. None of that would have been possible without Proponent Group. Lorin put me in contact with the people that could give me an understanding of how to get on the list, and from that, I was able to put it all into action.”
Again, word of mouth would prove invaluable. From his association with Golf Magazine, Highfield was placed in contact with Matthew Rudy, senior writer for the prestigious publication. In September of 2016, Rudy and Highfield would collaborate on an online article regarding the psychological toughness of Dustin Johnson (link below.)
From there, Highfield would be added to Golf Digest’s list of online coaches, which would lead to educational courses on the coaching app, Edufii. These courses caught the eye of Golf Digest’s Peter Morrice.
“I noticed Peter had watched my course, so I emailed him for feedback.” Again, word of mouth and the quest for transparency, coupled with Morrice’s credibility, led to opportunity for Highfield, culminating in the two collaborating on an instructional video for Golf Digest.
Despite the success, for Highfield, nothing came close to achievements that have meant the most have their roots where it all began. Throughout the process, along with speaking at the Dallas summit, Highfield has been honored with the opportunity to deliver seminars through Proponent Group at the PGA show in both 2017 and 2018.
“Proponent Group, with everything they do, everything they stand for, everything they’ve done and guided me through in my career, I owe them so much… The opportunity to represent them in those speeches meant the world to me.”
“I really don’t want to talk about myself, I just want to make sure Proponent Group knows how much they are appreciated and how much they’ve meant to me and my career,” Highfield humbly stated. I just want to make sure I can do all I can to let as many people know about everything they stand for and everything they offer as possible. Proponent Group can open so many doors for you, especially if you’re just starting out. There’s no secret trick; all you have to do is be willing to put in the work, be transparent, be credible, demand those things in the people you associate with, and not be afraid to take action.”