My road into the golf business came thru the wooden dowel industry. I founded a company which manufactured wood dowels. A wood tee is made from a wood dowel on a copy lathe. Thus, we began wholesaling wood tees to green grass distributors. In 2005, I felt there was a need for a performance golf tee. The goal was to re-create a “flyer lie” as when the ball is pooched up on grass. Could we do this on a tee? The answer was the Zero Friction 3 pronged golf tee. We eliminated 66% of the tee surface coverage to the ball which enabled more ball to club face at impact and increased feel. When tested at Golf Labs we proved the ball traveled 5 yards further and had 50% less dispersion. Kenny Perry once told me that “Zero Friction tees are the best, they always keep me within the 1st cut!”. That was a great compliment to our product from a world class golfer and gentleman.
Today, we no longer sell wood tees to green grass. What was the start of our company is no longer a part of as the demand for our patented 3 prong and performance composite tees which grows daily under the Zero Friction brand.[slideshow_deploy id=’20961′]
MATT WARD: What distinguishes Zero Friction from your competitors?
JOHN IACONO: Zero Friction is a unique company that focuses on creating new golf products that are technologically advanced. Most competitors try and knock-off something they see and try to capitalize vs. creating something new and innovative.
MW: When men and women shop for golf gloves — is there a gender divide on what specifics count the most when considering a purchase?
JI: When buying a glove, whether men, women or juniors, the most critical feature is the fit. That is why Zero Friction gloves sell so well. The gloves mold to the hand of each individual. We fully guarantee the fit or your money back. Color and fashion rank 2nd.
MW: Johnny Miller is the key endorser for Zero Friction. How did the relationship start?
JI: Johnny Miller is a terrific person. We were extremely fortunate to meet Johnny through our National Sales Director — Joseph Jung. In Joe’s early years in the golf industry he was an assistant pro at Medinah Country Club and would assist Johnny when he visited the club.
MW: How active a role does Miller take in the actual process in the development of the Zero Friction gloves?
JI: The process of product development involves Johnny at all times. We are always running ideas by him and concept drawings for his feedback. Johnny has a few new product ideas, including clubs, that we are going to be coming out shortly.
MW: Do endorsements matter to the general public or is it more of a status thing to have a “name” connected with the brand?
JI. Endorsements depend on the endorsee. There are truly great, gifted and likable players on the TOUR. However, most are too young to offer the life experiences of Johnny Miller. Credibility is earned over time, not a handful of wins. Johnny has 25 wins , 2 majors 6 children and 22 grandchildren and is a successful independent businessman. That is credible.
MW: What’s the percentage breakdown for sales in the following areas — online, green grass shops and brick and mortar stores?
JI: Our business is 50/50 green grass and brick and mortar. While we have a Web store, our focus is to drive customers to retail at courses or stores.
MW: How do you prompt consumer feedback?
JI. Consumer feedback is generally received by letters in the mail or email. I can tell you we have never taken a glove back due to not fitting. We receive many compliments to quality, fit and durability. Recently, I received a glove in the mail that was completely worn and dirty. There was a letter inside and I thought, “Oh no a complaint.” Not so — it was the nicest letter where the customer said he used the glove for a year and it was the best glove he ever had and asked his kids to get him a new one for Christmas. I actually read the letter to Johnny and our entire sales force at the PGA Show and showed the glove. It was really impressive that the customer took the time to send such a letter.
MW: What roles does it play in the product development process?
JI. We listen to everything we hear as feedback from customers. My role is to be our biggest critic. I am head of product development and I constantly try to find ways to improve all our products. Our motto is a negative comment turns into a positive result.
MW: The glove category has been dominated for years by Foot-Joy. What will it take for you to garner more market share in such a demanding environment?
JI. Foot-Joy is a very successful company and they run a great brand. The marketplace is enormous and we will carve out our share if we prove to customers our gloves are worthy. We focus on this everyday.
MW: If you could change one thing in golf — what would it be?
JI: I love golf and am a traditionalist of the game. I would not necessarily change anything about the game other than try and get more folks to play it and not take their game too seriously. The pro’s playing on national TV on Sundays make a living at it so it needs to be serious for them. The rest of us should enjoy the camaraderie through a sport which pits you against yourself every time on the course.