Turk File

Turk File May 30, 2012

by Leslie Turk

Delhomme Joins MidSouth Bank as Advisory Director

QB serving as bank's goodwill ambassador'

UL Lafayette great-turned-NFL quarterback Jake Delhomme was named advisory director at MidSouth Bank by the bank's board of directors May 24.

"The MidSouth Bank Board, like anyone who knows Jake, has long been impressed by his energy, enthusiasm and drive," MidSouth Bank President and Chief Executive Officer Rusty Cloutier said in a press release announcing the addition. "Never has anyone been told no' so many times and proven people wrong so many times as Jake Delhomme."

Cloutier also said the bank plans to utilize the leadership skills Delhomme honed on the football field to inspire and encourage young leaders at MidSouth and to instill a strong work ethic in them.

MidSouth Bank Board Chairman Will Charbonnet explained that financial institutions commonly use advisory directors, or consulting directors, as a useful resource for the elected board. He said they provide additional business and professional expertise and often serve as goodwill ambassadors in the bank's market. "Jake is an accomplished athlete and avid horseman who has a tremendous following and network of contacts, and we could not be more proud to have someone of his caliber represent our financial institution in every community we serve," Charbonnet commented.

The only true freshman quarterback to start for a Division I school in 1993, Delhomme had a passer efficiency rating that ranked second among NCAA freshmen quarterbacks. On the field with Delhomme when the Ragin' Cajuns won the Big West Conference twice, and finished with three winning seasons, were NFL wide receiver Brandon Stokley and offensive lineman Anthony Clement.

"The 29-22 victory Jake led the Cajuns to over Texas A&M in 1997, during his senior year, is still the biggest moment in UL history for so many of us diehard fans," Cloutier said. "The goal posts came down, and the entire city celebrated for what seemed like months. Well, let's just say it ranks right up there with the Cajuns' bowl victory last year."

Delhomme was signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in 1997 and went on to a successful career with the Carolina Panthers, where he holds multiple franchise records and led the team to Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2003, setting a Super Bowl record for his 85-yard touchdown pass. It was the longest offensive play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history. Despite his personal success in the game - 16-of-33 for 323 yards, three passing touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 113.6 passer rating - the Panthers lost to the New England Patriots on a last-minute field goal. Two years later, the Breaux Bridge native was named to the Pro Bowl. Delhomme signed a two-year deal with the Cleveland Browns in March 2010 and was picked up by the Houston Texans last year. He is now a free agent.
- Heather Miller

Ema's joining Bailey's

On May 25 Ema's Restaurant closed its doors in the Acadian Village shopping center on Pinhook Road to join Bailey's at the Centerpiece Shopping Center on Johnston Street. As part of the move, Bailey's Seafood & Grill is being renamed Bailey's Bistro.

Owner Ema Haq says beginning June 4 the new location will work to complement both restaurants, with Ema's serving breakfast and lunch and Bailey's Bistro offering only dinner and event catering.

"We want to create a culinary destination," Haq says, noting plans to build outside patios, as well as three meeting rooms holding as many as 90 people.

The move will help Haq dedicate more time to both businesses. "I just have limited time and need to concentrate on one location," he says. Ema's took over the Pinhook Road spot after Edie's Restaurant closed, choosing to open a smaller operation on Bendel Road.Since 2006, Ema's on Pinhook served patrons a variety of traditional Southern lunch dishes, including red beans and rice, chicken fried steak, fried catfish and shrimp and grits. It also offered breakfast.
- Katie Macdonald

Teeing Ground
Tom Cox explains how he went from selling used golf balls online to nearly $15 million in annual sales. By Michael Lunsford and Leslie Turk

Entrepreneur Tom Cox put a long-held rumor to rest at the April 23 LAUNCH HOUR event at the Acadiana Center for the Arts: He did not dive into the lake at Le Triomphe to retrieve golf balls. His phenomenally successful business, however, did get its start selling used golf balls online.

"Most people want to know, did you really dive in the lake?'" Cox told those gathered at the INNOV8 event to hear his "From Tee to Green" presentation. Cox said in November 1995, while he was club manager of Le Triomphe, he met some guys who were negotiating pond contracts to dive into the lakes of golf courses to retrieve old balls. He teamed up with a web developer and decided to try selling them online as a hobby, with the divers actually fulfilling the website orders. The first full year in business, 1996, the company had $17,000 in sales.
By 1998, "the hobby had become a hobby gone awry," he said. The name was changed from Golfball Warehouse to golfballs.com and sought capital to take the business to a full-time venture. Cox joked that a large portion of golfballs.com's sales are to "avid bad golfers. They aggressively pursue the game and aggressively move through consumables."

Three years later, the company hit $2 million in sales, still running primarily on used golf balls. About that time, eBay hit its critical mass, doubling and then quadrupling its sales. "The guys who were selling the pond balls hadn't quite figured out how to sell directly on the Internet, but eBay made it so they didn't have to figure it out," he said. Cox reminded the audience of the then-popular term "disintermediation," or cutting out the middle man. He said golfballs.com wanted to build a direct relationship with manufacturers, but in order to build that relationship, it had to phase out used balls and focus more on customization and personalization. "We knew customization was where everything was going, so it was a relatively conservative bet."In 2004 the company moved from New Iberia to Lafayette and opened a retail store, by then doing about $5 million in annual revenue. Since then, revenue has tripled and staff has doubled, according to Cox, with the staff of 50 swelling to about 65 during peak times. Today golfballs.com prints 1,200 dozen balls a day, six days a week, and sells all major brands of golf equipment. Sixty percent of its business is direct to consumer, with the other 40 percent in corporate and custom logos. Much of the custom products are sold through loyaltylogo.com, a companion business started in 2009 to leverage golfballs.com's existing customer relationships. "We found out that as a golf company you can't credibly sell huggies, you can't credibly sell pens and pencils and those other kinds of [non-golf] items," Cox said. "As a promotional products company, that's related to golfballs.com, it is very easy to do that and be credible."

Cox noted that it's essential for a rapidly growing company to have a business plan that's flexible and can easily adjust to changes in the marketplace. "Your business plan only works the day you write it," he said. "It's not a plan, it's an evolving document that continues to move."

One member of the audience wanted to know how the company stays on track. "We're neurotic and analyze everything. The belly putter thing, we knew was coming, because three weeks in a row the PGA tournaments were won by guys using belly putters and the manufacturer ran out of them. Clay Judice, here in Lafayette, invented something that turned any putter into a belly putter. You watch numbers and the environment you're in. Every day we start with a 15-minute meeting with the directors of the company."

Brad Pecot, golfballs.com's director of marketing, joined Cox in explaining how the company drives traffic and business to its website.

Pecot said there are two ways to drive traffic to your website through the search engines - organic and paid search results, each with different methods that give companies a "fighting chance." Organic involves search engine optimization, and paid results are sponsored results: You are charged each time someone clicks your ad, with prices generally based on the competitiveness of the industry.

Pecot said email marketing is still an ideal channel for golfballs.com, ranking as its No. 1 traffic and revenue generator. In 2011, email marketing generated $2.5 million in revenue, he said. "While email marketing may be dead for some industries, it's certainly not dead in the golf industry," Pecot said after revealing that 90 percent of golfers report they are more likely to receive information from email marketing.

Cox added that email works much better for his company than social media.
The company's staff is "neurotic" about analysis, consistently using Google Analytics to track its sales.

"Business analytics is a growing part of running any type of business," Cox said. "You need to know what's going on behind the scenes."

Pecot categorized the analytics into three categories that track where visitors come from, what they do on the site and their conversion rate.

Cox defined the conversion rate as a "percentage of people who buy [merchandise] on your website."

"If 100 people visit your website, and three buy, you have a 3 percent conversion rate," Cox said. "If you can get that conversion rate up just 1 percent, it's huge." In essence, Cox said you don't necessarily have to build more traffic, just better manage the traffic you already have.

However, because manufacturer restrictions limit the diversity of online sites like golfballs.com, Pecot and Cox had to establish other methods to distinguish their site.  
With a "100 percent satisfaction guarantee," golfballs.com distinguishes itself through a commitment to customer service, Pecot added, describing positive recognitions from various customer service reviewers like Amazon.com, StellaService and the Better Business Bureau.
"We just solve it for the customer," Cox said. "There's never any question."

LGMC takes over old Begnaud's spot in OC

Lafayette General Medical Center is continuing to buy property and expand its medical complex in the Oil Center. Earlier this month LGMC signed a lease-purchase agreement for the former Begnaud's Fine Gifts at 1164 Coolidge Blvd., but doesn't have definite plans for the site just yet.

LGMC spokesman Daryl Cetnar says the approximately 4,000-square-foot Begnaud's location will temporarily be used as a construction staging area of sorts for the hospital's planned $55 million expansion. "Begnaud's is going to be a place to put things during construction," Cetnar says.

The project gets under way in August and includes a new operating room facility - "completely new operating rooms, all of them," Cetnar says - and new emergency department. Additionally, a six-story parking garage on the Heymann Center side of the medical facility will be constructed on land the hospital is leasing from Lafayette Consolidated Government. The parking tower will have 350 spaces with direct access to the hospital, Cetnar says, noting that the Heymann Center will also utilize the garage.

Begnaud's Fine Gifts, which was owned by Louise Ganucheau, recently relocated to the Oil Center Gardens as Stella's. Ganucheau has retained the business, which offers a large selection of Vera Bradley bags, Tyler Candles and baby clothes and accessories.
- Leslie Turk

Lafayette attorney reps players versus NFL

Several former NFL players who had college careers at LSU and Southern University have filed a second class action lawsuit against the National Football League over concussion-related injuries and, the players contend, the NFL's failure to address and counteract the long-term repercussions of repeated head trauma suffered by former players.

Included in the most recent suit are Charlie Granger, Allen "Jubilee" Dunbar, Raymond Jones, Clint James, Willie Teal, Lyman White and Herman Fontenot. Lafayette attorney Derriel McCorvey has been appointed to serve on the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee, which is responsible for prosecuting the claims against the NFL and helmet manufacturer Riddell. McCorvey is himself a former NFL player who starred at LSU in the late 1980s and early '90s.

"With the National Football League being comprised of 67 percent minorities, my service on the PSC will ensure that former players have a representative at the table in this litigation when decisions are being made to achieve the best results for the players," McCorvey says in a press release announcing the suit, which  comes close on the heels of the death of recently retired and future Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau in May and the April death of former defensive back Ray Easterling. Both men died of apparent self-inflicted gunshot wounds and each complained about headaches and memory loss in the months leading up to their deaths. Easterling was diagnosed with dementia in 2011, and ESPN has reported that although Seau rarely missed a game during his 20-year career and was never listed on an injury report as having suffered a concussion, he confided in a friend that he had frequent headaches and had suffered countless concussions during his career.

The second suit being handled by McCorvey accusing the NFL and Riddell of fraud, negligence and failure to warn players about head trauma has been consolidated with a previous class action suit and assigned to the Eastern District Court in Philadelphia.
- Walter Pierce