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Key Idea: Question the Status Quo

Karsten Solheim started a business because he believed he could help golfers like himself play better and have more fun.   More...

Key Question:


Question the status quo.

There are many examples here at Small Business School of business founders who, like Karsten Solheim, started a business around an idea they believed would improve a current situation. In his case, Karsten was frustrated the very first time he played golf. He said to himself, "This does not have to be so hard.

There has to be a better piece of equipment that would allow me to hit the ball with more precision." This is the mind set of all inventors. This is the mind set of all leaders. To rise above the crowd, you start by being unhappy with the status quo.

Q: If you decide to improve a situation and build a business around your improvement, what will you face?

A: Starting a business by launching a new product is nearly impossible. You have to love the idea and enjoy the pain of doing something no one has ever done before. You can look for paths to follow or mentors to guide you, but so often you will find yourself very alone.

Some inventors actually think a big company will give them millions for an idea they sketch on a tablet. Many many big companies buyout small companies but only after the product is made and proven in the marketplace by happy customers. Most inventors don't anticipate the amount of time and up front cash it takes to come up with a product. Because Karsten had already invented products, he probably had a sense that inventing a new putter would not be easy. This is the reason he kept his day job! However, we bet he hadn't planned on spending seven years to come up with his first ready-for-prime-time putter.

Think about it

What about the current situation in which you find yourself needs improvement? What really bothers you? What irritates you enough that you are willing to spend weeks, hours, months or years to change?

Clip from: Ping Golf with John Solheim, Karsten Manufacturing

Made in the USA:  Ping putters. Manufacturing is coming back.

How do I keep quality high? 

Phoenix, Arizona:  Innovators, by their very nature, are constantly going up against existing systems. The establishment. Sometimes their insights do not come by small increments, but by large leaps and then the renegades become outlaws!

If you are a golfer, you know Ping. It ranks at the top with Titleist, Spaulding, Calloway, Taylor-made-Adidas...  Yet , this business is still privately-held; and though the patriarch (and father) has died, his son, John, continues to build on all the lessons he learned as his engineering apprentice when they started this business.

Meet the Solheim family.  Like so many who redefine an entire industry, they were outlawed within it. They broke the rules. They created something totally new. Some people thought they were just crazy, until they began winning within their game. These renegades persevered. They negotiated, and today they are leaders within their industry and on their way to becoming a billion dollar business.

They began in a California garage in 1959. The sound of success here is "Ping"   and today John Solheim continues a tradition for excellence that began with with his father, Karsten.  Together they invented and began manufacturing  the Ping Golf Clubs.

Here you will see how a business constantly strives for a higher perfection.

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Ping Golf of Karsten Manufacturing

John Solheim, Chairman & CEO

2201 West Desert Cove
Phoenix, AZ 85029

Visit our web site:

Office: 6026875000

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1959

Question the Status Quo

HATTIE: Hi. I'm Hattie Bryant. If you're curious about how business works and how money makes money, stay with us. Each week right here, you meet the owners of companies, and they tell you their secrets.

We call this a Master Class. There are no gurus, no professors and no teachers; only people who've done already what it is you want to do.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) John Solheim makes the putters that sing--or is that ping? This is the sound of innovation. The sound that shifted golf club design away from the conventional. The sound that built a beautiful business and all in the pursuit of perfection. You might guess this company makes Ping golf clubs. Karsten Manufacturing, the maker of Ping golf clubs, started in a garage in 1959. And even though it stayed there for seven years, today, the Phoenix-based company has nearly 900 employees working in 35 buildings on 30 acres, producing some of the world's most loved products.

TESTIMONIAL: And now the father of the finest golf clubs that have ever been made...

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Called the gentle genius, Karsten Solheim was the immigrant son of a shoemaker. As an engineer for General Electric, he invented the first television rabbit ears. He took up golf, but was frustrated because he believed he could apply the laws of physics and engineering to make a better club; one that would help every golfer do better and have more fun. Since his first putter design in 1959, he led the way for every golf manufacturer.

BOB HOPE: I know you've seen me play and that's why you don't give me a Ping putter.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Karsten Solheim is the most widely copied club designer that golf has ever seen. At the age of 88, Karsten died, leaving a corporate culture safe in the hands of the son who worked beside him for 40 years.

JOHN SOLHEIM: When we started, I was in junior high, drilling putters in our garage. It took us a long time to get of our garage-- seven years -- and my dad really questioned leaving General Electric at the time. I was a teenager in high school, he would rap on my window--which was outside the garage--at 10:00 at night after I'd went to bed; that it was time to go to work. Wasn't always the funnest thing, but...

HATTIE: There's your dad saying, `I need you'? JOHN: Yes. HATTIE: `Wake up'?

JOHN: `Wake up.' He'd watch the news and then it was time for him to do some stuff in the shop. Let me tell you a little story. They built a grocery store about a mile away from us. All my friends went and applied for jobs as carry-outs. So I went and applied for a job with them. Well, my dad found out that I'd applied for a job, all of a sudden, he wasn't too happy. That's when I started getting paid. But my deal was I got $2.50 a putter that I built, but if I needed help, I had to pay for the help. So it kind of taught me how to be a businessman a little bit back then, right from the scratch because I had to figure out my own thing.

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