Stories about family businesses succeeding on the international stage are inspiring in this age of giant conglomerates, big box stores and corporate takeovers. The story of Sid Puddicombe Associates Ltd (SPA), also known as Puddicombe Golf, is one of those stories.
A family-owned and operated business based out of Edmonton, Alberta, Puddicombe Golf designs and builds golf courses and redevelops existing ones. To date, they’ve completed more than 75 projects in Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and the US; all while carrying less than 10 full-time employees.
“We’re a small group but a passionate one,” says Grant Puddicombe, Managing Director of Puddicombe Golf. “The golf course was our second home growing up, and our dad, Sid, taught us everything there is to know about the game: the swing, the strategy, and how to build a course that doesn’t just facilitate the game, but adds to it, and leaves an impression.”
“It’s not often that you come across a true family business like Puddicombe, succeeding on the international stage.”
Oddly enough, the story of Puddicombe Golf begins with hockey. In the 1950s, founder Sid Puddicome was a promising young talent, playing for the New York Ranger’s farm team. He started to work maintenance at a golf course to stay in shape during the offseason. But when Sid’s knees gave out from the grind of competing for an NHL spot, he hung up the skates and shifted his attention to passion number two … golf.
He quickly worked his way up from maintenance to become a golf course superintendent. He served in this role, and several others, for about 30 years before establishing Puddicombe in 1981. By that time Sid had already been doing some design and consulting work and had developed a knack for it. Two of his sons, Grant and Mark, formalized the construction side of the business, making Puddicombe into the one-stop, golf course shop it is today.
Puddicombe Golf … From tee to kiwi green
The company started with projects in western Canada and the US, but eventually leveraged golf contacts that Grant had made in New Zealand, during his post-high school travels there. Connections led to business opportunities and in 1989, Puddicombe completed its first 18-hole course in New Zealand, named Terrace Downs.
“When people think New Zealand, they generally picture kiwi birds and rugby players, not golf; but there really is a growing appetite here,” said Puddicombe (Grant). “It’s a beautiful country, and the population is booming with immigration from Europe and countries like South Africa. The pressure for new housing is forcing many existing golf courses to relocate away from the major centers, so that equals opportunity for us.”
In late 2013, Puddicombe was approached by New Zealand-based PLDL Limited (PLDL), with a $15 M contract to design and build a new golf course from start to finish. The contract to build the course was the biggest, by a long shot (golf pun intended); the company had ever been offered. Prior to this, their biggest contract was for $4.5 M.
As part of the requirements, PLDL asked for a performance bond of $1.2 M, to guarantee against the fulfillment of the contract. But a company like Puddicombe that generates between $1 and $3 M in sales per year, can’t afford to put up that much money as collateral.
So after exploring some options, they eventually found that EDC’s Performance Security Guarantee was the most cost-effective option for them. Puddicombe’s bank, Alberta’s ATB Financial, had suggested this as a solution. ATB agreed to provide PLDL with the required bond, under the condition that EDC provide a guarantee. That way ATB covers their risk and Puddicombe isn’t required to tie up their cash flow. With the solution in place, PLDL’s requirement was fulfilled and Puddicombe was awarded the contract.
“When we did the full risk assessment of SPA it became evident that the company had the in-house expertise to complete the project and we believe that our support will position SPA to win additional international business,” says Pascal Britt-Côté, Underwriter Contract Insurance and Bonding who work on the transaction.
“It’s not often that you come across a true family business like Puddicombe, succeeding on the international stage,” said Domenico Pecora, EDC Account Manager in Alberta. “So we were very excited about this deal, because it has a clear and tangible impact. For Puddicombe it was a matter of contract or no contract, the biggest in their corporate history, and we were able to tip the balance. It’s a big win for them, but also for us.”
Construction of the course is now in full swing (again, pun intended) just outside of Auckland, with completion slated for January 2016. You can bet that Sid Puddicombe, now 83 … and shooting around that number on the golf course … will be one of the first to tee off.