CEO of AHEAD, LLC
Anne Broholm is the CEO of AHEAD, LLC, a Massachusetts based headwear and apparel company providing merchandise to green grass golf shops, resorts, and professional golf tournaments nationwide. The company is also active in the corporate and collegiate markets. Broholm came to AHEAD with over 25 years of progressive management experience in the apparel industry with companies including Ocean Pacific, Liz Claiborne, and Imperial Headwear.
Prior to being named CEO of AHEAD in 2012, Broholm was Vice President of the Golf Division of Cutter & Buck, a Seattle based apparel company. Broholm graduated with a B.S. in Merchandising from Colorado State University and received her MBA from the University of Colorado. Broholm has remained active with her alma mater, serving on the Colorado State University Alumni Board of Directors from 2001 – 2008 and currently serves as an appointed member of the Executive Leadership Council of the College of Health and Human Services.
THE BROHOLM STORY —
After an early career in the apparel industry it was a move from New York to Denver, Colorado that set me on a path in the golf industry. In need of a job after the move I applied to – and was hired by – Imperial Headwear. It was there that I met and worked for one of my great mentors, John Cryan, and had the opportunity to build relationships with so many people in the industry. While it was almost by accident that I got into the golf industry, I knew early on I wanted to remain in this business. I’ve been fortunate that successive opportunities at Cutter & Buck and now AHEAD have allowed for that to happen.
AHEAD was acquired by New Wave Group out of Sweden in 2011. The original founder, Ken Shwartz, built a great company known for revolutionizing how golf headwear was decorated and sold (As a former competitor, I knew firsthand how successful it was!). The opportunity to become the CEO of AHEAD came in 2012 and it’s been a great five years.
We are still a relatively small company but being part of a larger organization has given us the support and resources needed to grow and take on some new challenges. What impresses me most about the team at AHEAD is the sheer number of custom decorated items we deliver each year. We have a talented and creative team of over 265 employees, many of whom have been with us for years, and they are vital to our success and to our future growth.
MATT WARD: You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving force?
ANNE BROHOLM: The driving force is really the people who work at AHEAD, the representatives who sell for AHEAD, and the customers who buy from AHEAD. There are daily wins as well as daily challenges that come with the territory but in the end the drive to be the best that we can is extremely rewarding.
MW: How does Ahead separate itself from your competitors?
AB: We have great competitors – in fact early in my career I worked for one of them! Competition keeps us on our game and it’s about always working to stay “AHEAD” through great product, creative ornamentation, exceptional service, and continuous improvement in all that we do.
MW: Talk about the latest innovations Ahead is bringing to the marketplace in 2017.
AB: We’re excited about our continued evolution in creative decoration – from investing in new technology for embroidery and garment printing to translating our successful Graphixweld technique from apparel to headwear.
MW: Companies spend plenty of time talking about customer service. Define the term and the approach taken by Ahead?
AB: Service is about the interaction our customers have with AHEAD throughout their experience with us and making that experience a positive one from start to finish. Service is also about making that interaction an easy one – such as with our new online logo approval system that has streamlined the process of getting custom orders approved. The relationships we build with our customers are paramount to our success.
MW: What business lessons did Ahead learn following The Great Recession in ’09?
AB: We learned that whether the economy is in recession or booming we always need to operate the business as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.
MW: The major golf organizations are making concerted efforts to “grow the game.” What steps / action plans would you suggest they follow to build the overall golf playing population — especially among Millennials, women and minorities?
AB: Creating opportunities for that initial exposure to golf is key – and it doesn’t need to be on course to start. At our company picnic last year we partnered with the New England PGA to bring their hitting net and we gave our employees the opportunity to work with a PGA Pro, pick up a club, and hit a few balls. It was a blast! More importantly, we exposed golf to people who had never had that opportunity before and they loved it.
MW: Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
AB: Do the very best at the job you have and opportunities will present themselves – to advance in your career, to take on a new challenge, or to get involved with a key project. One of my first bosses at my initial job out of college instilled that work ethic and value in me.
MW: Biggest pet peeve is what?
AB: I try not to let things get under my skin or sweat the small stuff so if I had to say one thing it would be that I try to impart an attitude of common ownership toward the outcome. No matter what role you have in an organization you play a key role in the entire process. When people don’t embrace that it affects everyone.
MW: If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
AB: In addition to accessibility I suppose I might make an AHEAD hat part of the standard required equipment.
MW: On your golf bucket list – what’s the one thing you wish to do?
AB: It’s pretty simple – right now I just wish I had more time to devote to actually playing golf – and taking lessons from my great instructor – PGA Professional Greg Yeowmans.