This is the story about Danial Bridges, who combined a passion for grass with his love for sports and made it his job.
Shiny shoes, slick gelled hair, suited up and ready to talk you into your next purchase with some smooth lines; we’ve all met the stereotypical salesperson once or twice in our lives. But that’s not Danial Bridges, SGL Area Manager Asia-Pacific with a passion for sports and a whole lot of experience in grass maintenance. And thus a perfect match with SGL. But where does his passion for both grass maintenance and sports come from? And how did he transition from groundsman to SGL salesman extraordinaire?
At a young age Danial’s passion for both sports and turf quickly surfaced whilst maintaining his parents’ and neighbours’ lawns during his time off from school.“I liked, and still like, to be involved with lawns. That hasn’t changed since I first started maintaining the neighbourhoods’ lawns as a kid. But besides that I’m also a big fan of Australian Football and sports in general. As a groundsman you get to combine those two passions.”
Australian football, also known as ‘Aussie rules’ or ‘Footy’, has some similarities with both rugby and American Football. Watched by millions and played in the biggest stadiums with capacities north of 50.000 ecstatic fans, Australian football is one of the biggest sports in Australia . You can imagine working in such an environment would be a dream come true for young Danial.
“Luckily enough my first ever work experience was at the Adelaide Oval (nowadays an SGL customer) when I was 15 years old. In Australia you’re required to do a two-week internship during high school. I had a clear idea how I wanted to spend those two weeks and was lucky enough to learn the ropes of pitch maintenance at the Adelaide Oval; one of the biggest stadiums in Australia and venue for all kinds of sports like Australian football and cricket, but incidentally also for tennis and soccer. After those two weeks it was clear to me that this was what I wanted to pursue.”
As for many occupations, gaining experience is important for someone who wants to move up the ranks. And thus, after graduating from high school, Danial started looking for a place to gain that experience. “I started working as a groundsman at the local golf course near my hometown. They were very pleased with my help and offered me a 3-year apprenticeship! Exactly what I needed back then to gain some experience and knowledge. It really kickstarted my career as a groundsman and taught me a lot about the business.”
After those 3 successful years it was time for Danial to move on. He packed his bags and made the bold decision to leave his hometown. “After I had finished my apprenticeship I went to the USA to travel and also follow an internship on a golf course in sunshine state Florida. I worked at the Addison Reserve Country Club and got to see how fellow greenkeepers practiced their craft on the other side of the world. It was a great way to gain experience and broaden my horizon a bit. It was during that time in the US when I first heard about SGL and their grow lights.”
Although having a great time, the US was not Danial’s final destination and soon an opportunity to head back ‘down under’ arose. “After I had finished my internship at the golf course in South Florida, I was looking for a new job. Through a friend I heard that the Telstra Dome in Melbourne, currently known as Marvel Stadium, had bought SGL grow lights and their grounds team was looking for someone to join them. I decided to apply for the job and before I knew it I was on a plane back to Australia.” Back then the Telstra Dome had bought 12 MU360 and 4 MU18 grow lighting systems, and was the first Australian grounds team to operate grow lights . A perfect opportunity for Danial to get acquainted with SGL units.
As a member of the Telstra Dome grounds team, Danial also got to attend the SGL Masterclass; an annually hosted event where groundsmen from all over the world meet, share ideas, learn about new technology in the industry and most important: have a great time catching up. “I was fortunate enough to attend two SGL Masterclasses during my time at the Telstra Dome. During those two-day events I met a lot of groundsmen and SGL staff members and had a great time catching up with likeminded people in the business. One of those SGL staff members was Frank van Beusekom, at that time operations manager at SGL. During one of our conversations Frank told me they were looking for a salesperson in Asia and explained that my worldwide pitch management experience might come in handy in such a role. I told Frank I was interested and from there the ball started rolling. I decided to leave my job as a groundsman and joined SGL as Area Manager Asia-Pacific.”
Although it was a nice career move, working as a salesman also means travelling. A lot of travelling. Whether you’re driving your car to a customer in Australia or flying to New Zealand, Japan or China to visit stadiums and golf courses; being a salesman means you’ll be on the road often. Fortunately this is not uncommon for someone from Australia and therefore no big problem. “It’s really important to visit sports grounds. Being physically present helps me to get a better understanding of what the customers’ situation exactly is, where their needs lie and how SGL can help them achieve the highest pitch quality.”
And how does Danial relate to the image of stereotypical salesman as described earlier?
“I knew from the start that I wasn’t a typical salesperson. I had to rely on my knowledge of grass, my passion for sports, and my ability to build relationships with other groundsmen. As a former golf course greenkeeper and Arena Manager, I know the ins and outs of the industry. I’m aware of the challenges that groundsmen have to face every day and try to approach (potential) customers from that point of view. In my experience that works a lot better than being completely sales minded and it suits me a whole lot better. I have enjoyed being an Area Manager for over five years now and hope to continue doing it for a long time coming!”
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