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    Awards & Press

2009 Decatur Daily Article:

By Patrice Stewart
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Matt Nail understands people.

He knows golf.

He has faith, and he has learned business.

Now he is combining all those skills to concentrate on leadership development and life coaching.

“In the business world, we are now asking fewer people to do more work and to do it better and more efficiently and with fewer resources,” said Nail, 50.

“We’re not going to replace the human machine entirely, so we need to do more for it and make sure we’re caring for and maintaining the human machine.”

That’s where a life coach comes in.

At Valley Rubber in Falkville, where he has been hired as the life coach for the approximately 80 employees, he is going into the plant several days a month and getting to know the workers. “They have my number,” he said, and they can call on him in a crisis or for crisis prevention.

Generally, family health issues and chemical addictions “are the two biggies anywhere in the world,” Nail said. “This is part of their employee care program, and it’s based on the same principles as a military chaplaincy.”

Last year, he held a monthly meetings and lunch for the supervisors to work on leadership and team-building training. This year, he does that every other month, and in between, Nail goes into the plant and works with them, along with doing individual coaching. “Cronan Connell, owner and general manager of Valley Rubber, is very interested in caring for his employees,” Nail said. The growing firm makes rubber products for the mining industry around the world.

Nail and management sat down and laid out a plan for the whole year, just like a school curriculum plan, focusing on leadership skills, trust development, time management and other needs.

Right now, he’s focusing on communication and plans to incorporate it into his business training program.

You name it, and Nail has been there – on the baseball team, in the pulpit, on the golf course, as a youth leader, business owner, husband and father — so he gets it.

“I think everyone should have minored in communication,” he said, because it’s such a key, whether at home, at work or in the community.

“It’s the No. 1 activity we all do every day, so I think everybody should be trained and then re-certified regularly.”

Nail began focusing on the parallels between business and golf about 10 years ago. In 2001, he arrived in Suzhou, China, to debut his seminar, “Play Your Best Shot,” at an Emerson Corp. plant just two days before the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.“Play Your Best Shot” is an outline for life and business. Nail starts with nine steps in the golf swing and interprets them for the business world, from identifying your target (goals) and getting a grip (on assignments) to the back swing (retreating and business planning) and impact (show results and follow through for a project).

“From those nine steps, I spin off and concentrate on things like communication, training, trust, conflict resolution and personal development challenges,’ said Nail. “I tailor every event according to the needs of the group and put together fun, interactive training.” He has presented seminars for State Farm Insurance, Aramark, Rental Service Corp., Huntsville Airport Authority and others.

Two years after his first trip to China for Emerson, Nail went back for a follow-up. “That time I taught 18 seminars in 21 days. My only regret is that I spent the whole time working and didn’t get to do any sightseeing.”

He recognizes the need for some balance, however, and went to Scotland twice on golf outings, taking his two children along to see Jack Nicklaus play his last British Open in 2005.

Nail even takes on a bit o’ Scottish brogue for civic club talks when he assumes the character of Tom Morris, the “grand ole father of golf turf management”. “In Scotland, I made a pilgrimage to see where Morris was born, where he worked and his grave,” he said. “I met another impersonator who is the foremost St. Andrews golf historian in the world.”

Nail grew up in Birmingham playing baseball, not golf. As a high-school senior, he remembers learning about golf from a cousin who taught him to swing. They set up a homemade course in Nail’s back yard, with plastic balls to hit and pine cones for tee markers.

“Golf knows no boundaries,” he said. “If people learn to play golf according to the rules and spirit of the game, it will make them better people – it truly is a gentleman’s sport.”

Sixteen years ago this month, John Eyster Sr. fulfilled his dream of opening a golf course, with son-in-law Matt Nail managing Quail Creek, which is located outside Hartselle (east of Thompson Road exit 325 of I-65).

Nail said Eyster’s mentoring through the years and vision of a family-oriented golf center is a major reason he has been able to grow the business after buying it in 1999.

When Quail Creek Golf Course opened on July 3, 1993, it was a nine-hole golf course. By 1995, it had 18 holes and a driving range.

Now Quail Creek Golf Resort and Conference Center has more than 10,000 square feet of event space with on-site catering, a 14-room inn that opened in 2005, a 3,200-square-foot chapel built in 2006 for weddings (27 last year) and church functions and a swimming pool built in 2007.

Nail lives in a house nearby with his wife, Carol Eyster Nail, and their children, Heather, 13, a state champion golfer, and Luke, 7, a youth league quarterback standout who is learning golf.

“With 400 acres of ponds and trees, hunting and fishing, this is a paradise for kids to grow up,” said Nail. “Most people who come here play golf, but those who don’t usually fish in our stocked ponds, swim or hike around the golf course.’

Nail is the pastor of the Church at Quail Creek, an interdenominational Christian fellowship meeting in the chapel. He has a bachelor’s degree in religion and counseling from Samford University and a master’s of religious education from Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary. He worked in church family life ministries and has pastored both Baptist and Methodist churches in this area.

“But I didn’t have a business background,” Nail said, so after the Sept. 11 tragedy, a faltering economy and corporate scandals, golfing went through some tough times, too.

His “Play Your Best Shot” seminars at Quail Creek came as a result of a quest for additional sources of revenue.

“Like other things in life, with adversity comes an opportunity to grow and expand,” said Nail.

“I realized that my gift is encouraging people – in life, golf and business – through training,” said Nail. “I love to teach anything.”

He teaches youth golf clinics, for example, and people are coming from Arizona to next week’s camp to watch how he does it.

Nail now is planning to focus more on InStep Leadership, his leadership development arm for companies and churches, because he has an experienced, trained team of a half dozen full-time and about 25 part-time employees who can handle the golf and tournaments, event planning for weddings and parties, course turf requirements and catering needs.

“When you turn 50, you want to start making sure some things you’ve thought about get done,” he said.

“I tell people that it’s not important to compare yourself to other people – just do your best.”