Niall McGill, Foremost Golf Professional of the Year 2017

Last Monday, my brother was voted the Foremost Golf Professional of the Year, one of the most prestigious awards of the year in his profession.

Niall’s been a Golf Professional for 25 years, but golf’s been a big part of his life since he was a small child. As an amateur golfer, Niall was outstanding. It was like he played a different game than the rest of us. He won a LOT of events, and it was no surprise when he decided to turn Pro. These were the days before mobile phones & the Internet, so no live scoring or twitter updates – we had to wait for a call from Niall to find out how he’d got on.

Fast forward to 2001 and after playing on tour for a few years, then living and teaching in Portugal, Niall took over the driving range at Noah’s Ark in our hometown of Perth. Straight away he put what he’d learned playing and working all over the world into practice. This was never going to be ‘just another driving range’.

A real student of the game, and blessed with an ability to explain a complicated game in simple terms (maybe something he inherited from our dad, who loved the game), Niall embraced technology and drove the sport forward. He’s now a respected coach, working with players of all standards from beginners to Tour players.

Despite the ‘Tiger effect’, golf’s struggled over the past few years, with some courses closing and clubs struggling to make ends meet. Not the best time to take over the running of a local municipal course. Yet, that’s exactly what Niall did back in 2014, taking over the running of the North Inch Golf Course in Perth, one of the oldest courses in the world. You can read more about how Niall’s transformed the fortunes of ‘The Inch’ here.

Through all of these years, Niall’s worked incredibly hard, often clocking seven day working weeks. He’s never had the normal weekends that those of us who work in offices are used to – golf’s busiest days are on the weekends. We don’t think about this when we rock up to the course or driving range, expecting to see the Pro there. We see them more at the weekend than their family do. For the Golf Pro, that’s just part of the job.

So, after 25 years in the sport, to finally be recognised for all of the work you’ve done, for all of the blood, sweat and tears, it must feel pretty damn good.

We’re all proud of you Niall, and I know that dad will be up there looking down more proud than any of us.

Making life easier

Dundee’s a great place to live, we’re well connected by road & rail (just need to work on air!), which means that most of Scotland is little more than an hour away.

These days I prefer to take the train wherever possible. It’s less stressful than driving, and it means that I can get some work done, or catch up on reading and writing whilst I travel. Or, like last Wednesday evening, have a nap – you can’t do that if you take the car!

Travelling means that you’re going to be using a variety of services to get from A to B, and last week it struck me how much easier my life is today compared to even just a couple of years ago thanks to well designed services.

Here’s the story of my day.

5.15am Got up far too early, although anything after 5am now feels like a lie-in – that’s what marathon training does for you!

6.20am Get in the car, drive to Perth. Decide to try and park at the railway station itself – save a long walk later when I get back (I have an easy run to do this evening!).

6.45am Arrive at Perth Station. Plenty of parking spaces. Walk over to the parking meter to find that they now use the Ringo app, so I can park without any of the hassle of putting cash in the meter. Lovely!

6.50am Grab a coffee from the new Costa. It’s not Gordon Street Coffee, which is nestled next to the entrance to Glasgow’s Central Station, but it’s a big step up from the manky old station cafe!

6.55am Collect tickets, which I’d bought online on the Trainline app

7.00am Get on the train, get the MacBook out, hook into the free Scotrail wifi, and get to work!

8.20am Arrive at Glasgow Queen St, having got a tonne of work done, including a blog post on business partners, which I not only wrote but also posted whilst travelling, as well as engaging with commenters on social media!

8.30am Walk to Tinderbox in the Merchant City. Grab a flat white and fire off a few more emails.

9.15am Order an Uber from my phone.

9.20am Uber arrives. Have a great chat with the driver on my way to the east end. Turns out his wife’s family are from Dundee and he used to run a shop in Invergowrie!

9.27am Arrive at Rogart St. Uber takes the fee automatically and I access the app to leave a 5 star recommendation for the driver, thank him for his banter, and leave him a tip.

9.28am Realise there are two Rogart Streets (separated by a big building) and I’m in the wrong one! Phone Angela, let her know, then walk round. Google maps let me down (although maybe it was me, not paying attention….)

11.30am Finish a great meeting, call an Uber.

11.35am Uber arrives. Chat to my driver, John Paul, on the way into town. He offers we some chewing gum and asks if I’d like to charge my phone. I learn that he’s ‘running his own business’ with Uber as it gives him more time with his 6 year-old daughter. He likes Uber, it makes it easy for him and he doesn’t have to deal with drunk idiots.

11.50am John Paul drops me at Buchanan Street. I message Diane to let her know I’m on my way for lunch.

12pm Arrive at Princes square for lunch with the lovely people from Xero and several of their other accounting partners. We talk about all sorts of stuff, including many of the apps that make up the Xero ecosystem. These apps enable us to tailor Xero to each client’s specific needs. Compared to the inflexibility of Sage this is a total game-changer!

2.40pm Send a DM to Craig to let him know I’m running a little late for our coffee meeting.

3.05pm Arrive at Wilson St Pantry back in the Merchant City. I’ve had too much coffee today, so order a Red Bush tea. Craig orders peppermint tea. Rock ’n roll! I’ve known my namesake Craig McGill for the best part of a decade now. Most of our chats these days are online via twitter or LinkedIn, so it’s good to catch up in the flesh. The hour or so we spend goes by in a flash. I leave feeling energised and inspired.

4.41pm Catch the train back to Perth. Reply to a few emails (thanks to the free wifi again), then get my headphones out, pop on some City & Colour, and then snooze until we get back to the Fair City.

5.45pm Walk out of the station to my car. Jump in, head home, then get out for my run.


Now just imagine what my day would have been like five or so years ago.

Firstly, you could never get parked at Perth Station! Then you’d need a handful of pound coins to park, assuming you were lucky enough to find a space and a working parking meter.

Forget getting decent coffee.

Then the taxi experience. The last time I jumped in a black cab in Glasgow (May of this year), the driver had dropped the F-bomb at least a dozen times before we’d even made it past George Square! And the taxi was mingin’.

I know Uber aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you take their culture and behaviour out of the equation, the concept behind the service is pretty damn good! Every time I’ve got in an Uber in Scotland the service has been significantly better than the traditional taxi experience.

Then the train. Free wifi is something that we take for granted these days, but it makes a huge difference to the travel experience. I’m always grateful when I get connected.

Even the simple messaging tools that we have today make our lives easier – twitter, whatsapp, even good old texting make a difference. I grew up in Perth, and met my wife Joanna there when we were at school (1986!). As you may know, Perth has two public parks known as Inches – the North & South Inch. One day back then Joanna and I had arranged to meet at the statue at the Inch. Only she’d assumed the South and I’d assumed the North. As hormonal teenagers, we both thought we’d been stood up! No text messages in those days…..

So life is undoubtedly easier today in many ways, and businesses like Uber, Airbnb and even Scotrail are succeeding by focusing on making their customers lives easier.

So here’s my question for you – what are you doing to make your customers, or users / visitors, lives easier?

It’s race week!

My target race for the second half of the season is the Aviemore half marathon, but along the way i’ve entered a couple of 10k’s, the first of which is my ‘home’ race, the Perth 10k, this weekend. Training is great, I love the process and feeling the improvement as my body adapts to the workload, but racing is the reason we train, so I cannot wait to pin a number on and toe the start line on Sunday.

The other great thing about a race week is that the training load is a little easier. Basically I have one ‘hard’ session this week – tomorrow morning, then it’s recovery runs until the big day. So tomorrow is the only 5.30am start for me this week. Lie ins FTW!!

Forecast just now looks good for racing. Not too warm, maybe a little light rain, and little wind. It can all change before Sunday, but if it stays like that I’ll be chuffed.

Be sure to look out for the race report on Sunday night!

Perth in Numbers

From wikipedia – no commentary on these tonight, that will come later

  • Population 45,000 (2008 census)
  • 3.06% foreign-born (3.35% Scotland average)
  • 8.16% over 75 yrs old (7.09% Scotland average)

Compared with the average demography of Scotland, Perth has low proportions of people born outside the European Union, but has both higher proportions born within the European Union and those over 75 years old.

Largest employers are P&K Council (6,000 people), NHS Tayside, Scottish & Southern Energy, Perth College UHI.

The Perth economy is ranked in the Top 10 enterprising demographics in Scotland, with an average of 42.6 registered enterprises per 10,000 residents putting it well above the Scottish average of 30.1

 

Further thoughts on Perth vs Dundee

Aberdeen & Dundee are both university cities, with strong Art & Design schools. Something that Perth doesn’t have.

These institutions stimulate and challenge not only the students but also the inhabitants of the city. And because of the academic leadership and research that goes on, the city benefits as a result. A non- university city like Perth can’t compete on this level.

For instance, on Tuesday the Global Head of Design came to speak at DJCAD in association with the V&A. That’s just part of what goes on in a progressive design school like DJCAD.

But Perth can still do stuff like this, it just has to think differently & work harder. It’s amazing what people will do if you just ask them!! But most folk sit there saying ‘no point in asking him, he won’t come (or do x,y, or z)’. They don’t even ask!

An organisation like Creative Dundee acts as the hub for everything that’s going on in the city as well as holding their own events. Maybe we need to create something similar for Perth?

A Fair City?

Perth

We left Perth and moved to Aberdeenshire in 2004. It seems like a lifetime ago. Back then, Perth was a prosperous market town and the locals tended to look down on it’s city neighbour along the Tay.

How times have changed.

Many of the locals still look down on Dundee, but living as we do now between the two cities, having moved back in the summer, we see things a bit differently. We’re drawn to Dundee rather than Perth most weekends. For retail and leisure, not to mention culture, Dundee wins hands down. The wonderful DCA, Dundee Rep, the McManus Galleries, the University and DJCAD. I could go on.

We lived in Dundee in the late ’80s, indeed Rebecca was born there. In those days Dundee was still a manufacturing-led city, although that was dying. It had yet to re-invent itself and no-one could have foresaw the computer games & drug discovery industries that would replace manufacturing.

It’s like a different city now . The City of Culture bid is creating a buzz about the place, but you feel that even if the bid isn’t successful the regeneration will go on. The city has embraced it’s creative heart and allowed it to flourish. Initiatives like Creative Dundee, Vanilla Ink and the We Dundee project are incredibly exciting and have me babbling about how great it is to be back.

But – yes there’s a but – my gut tells me I shouldn’t be feeling like this. You see, I grew up in Perth. Well, Scone to be honest, but near enough. My mum & dad met at a dance in the city hall. I went to school there (Perth Academy) and met my wife Joanna at a disco at the Wheel Inn in Scone, September 1986. Back in the days when I played golf I was Perth Boys Champion and represented Perth & Kinross. I used to be a youth coach at St Johnstone Football Club. The city is a huge part of my life, of who I am.

And yet it feels like I’m disowning it. Dundee’s better, so we’ll just go there.

But you don’t change things by dong that. I’m a Perth boy and I love the place. Yes, it’s not the City that it once was, but that’s all history. All that matters now is what lies ahead. Indeed, there are parallels with the journey of re-discovery that Dundee was forced down.

If you look at things differently, Perth actually has a lot going for it. It’s a hub for tourism, and a wonderful golfing county – the Ryder Cup is coming here next year. There’s the magnificent Horsecross Concert Hall, the theatre (which is about to undergo a major redevelopment), the Festival of the Arts. There’s a creative heart in this city too, but we don’t shout about it.

Recently I’ve met with Enterprise North East Trust, who operate the Business Gateway in Tayside & Angus, and do you know what? Perthshire accounts for the lions share of startups each year in Tayside. That surprised me. I also spoke with the local council economic development team and they’re doing some great things to encourage business growth and entrepreneurship including next month’s Business & Enterprise Month.

I’ve started following Perth folk and organisations on twitter. There’s a good core there of people who care and who are doing amazing things in the city they love.

It’s just doesn’t seem at all joined up to me. Plus people spend too much time looking back. Yes, it’s not the city it was a decade or two ago, but so what? We can either look back and get depressed, or we can look forward and imagine what the future might be.

Let’s make it a city to be proud of for the next generation. A City of Opportunity to rival the City of Discovery. I’m up for it, who wants to join me?