If you’re among the elite minority of professionals with the audacity to start your own small business (ad)venture, then you must realize the value of developing strong entrepreneurial skills. What you may not realize that there are few skills you can (and should) share with world-class athletes.
You see, athletes are an ambitious lot. (Like us!) They’re also mighty resilient. They have to be, to sustain themselves come hay or sunshine, or even the frequent sprain or strain. No matter what happens, they have no choice but to turn up on their field ready to take on more hits, and play to WIN! Think about this and you’ll realize the similarities with running your own business – the initial euphoria can only sustain you for so long; after that, it’s a do or die baby!
So here’s taking a cue or two from this gifted community. Decide to emulate these traits of top-notch athletes, and you’re sure to build equally top-notch entrepreneurial skills.
Focus, on Your Potent Vision
Focus and vision, are mentioned together because both are undoubtedly important; yet, one without the other is virtually useless. Athletes have the ability to set clear, measurable, long-term goals – like winning a tournament, or besting a record, etc. They also have the single-minded focus to treat every game as an opportunity to realize their vision. Together, they make for one lethal combination!
In business, this can help you bring your A-game to every single opportunity that comes your way – from pre-sales to sales, development to support, marketing to sustaining your brand value, etc. This also gives you the gumption to keep at it, when you lose an important deal or two.
This is where we can pick a leaf from American athlete Aimee Mullins as she shares, “In athletics, the idea of possibility is presumed. It’s not if, it’s how”. This is the kind of indisputable vision and focus that saw her achieve phenomenal success as an athlete and an actress, despite having both her legs amputated during childhood. Bravo!
Do you find it difficult to overcome your past business failures? Then remember successful athletes go through that rut too… and, benefit from it!
Recognize the “We” behind the “I”!
If you’ve ever watched an athlete thank his or her team, you’re sure to realize how heartfelt it feels. All successful athletes rightly recognize (without compromise) the collective individuals that jointly contribute to their greatness – coaches, trainers, managers, publicists, physiotherapists, and plenty more.
Yes, it is indeed your idea, your start-up, your money on the line, and all your blood and sweat that takes your business venture off the ground. But you still need ‘we’ – partners, investors, advisors, friends, and all your work hires – to transform your potent idea into its ultimate, grand vision. They are also essential ingredients in your impressive toolkit of entrepreneurial skills. (So if you plan to singularly lord over your mighty business empire, think again!)
Basketball legend Michael Jordan sure got it right when he stated, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships!” Recognize and champion the right team, to champion your valuable business.
Build a Continuous Training Plan!
Do you think athletes owe their stupendous success to a solid game plan? Then you’ve got it wrong. They owe it to a solid training plan.
Entrepreneurs tend to treat training as a one-time thing, or an offline thing. In course of time, they become so consumed with improving their business product that they often forget to improve upon themselves!
Now here’s where athletes are a different species. They train for hours, every single day. And they do this for days, months, and even years – not just to prepare for that one big race or tournament, but also to “stay in shape” all year round. They are that committed to the constant and continuous improvement of their most valuable asset: themselves!
So here’s a reality check – do you set time aside to consciously fortify your entrepreneurial skills? You could decide to build on your communication/ negotiation/interpersonal skills or further your technical/ financial/ market knowledge. If your answer is a tentative no, it’s time to stop.
Keep on Going, to Extend Your Entrepreneurial Skills!
This is where you throw out all conflicting ideas of “work-life balance”, coz that armor of entrepreneurial skills has no room for the drudgery of “work” in your life!
Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya captures this perfectly when she shares, “I could never give up Athletics. Running is what I do. Even if… the authorities could have stopped me from running (in competitions)… I would have carried on with my running. It doesn’t matter. When I run, I feel free!”
It is bound to be likewise with you, coz as an entrepreneur, business is simply what you do! There is no “off button”, so you have the right to keep on going without qualms. It’s not about work, it’s your life. Period.
Learn From Your Opponents but Don’t Get Distracted by Them
Successful sportspersons and athletes always make it a point to watch the performance of their opponents. Why? Because they want to know beforehand how their opponents are ‘shaping up’ and performing at major events. Now when they actually meet that opponent on the field, they don’t get distracted, neither do they feel threatened by the rival’s superior performance.
Let’s explain with an example. If a rowing team looks too left or right to check out how fast the other boats are moving then there’s a chance their own boat may tip! Similarly, if an entrepreneur keeps checking the market competition and gets demoralized because his competitors are performing far better, then it can be indeed distracting.
The way out? Just like athletes try to learn their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses before the event, an entrepreneur too should focus on detailed market research and analysis to find out whether his product/service actually addresses customers’ pain points. One of the effective entrepreneurial skills is the ability to learn from opponents (without distraction), and then develop a competitive strategy. This can help you reach the finish line faster than your competitors!
And finally, one last word- failures are bound to happen, but only a great athlete and a successful entrepreneur know how to face setbacks and move forward. Therefore a great lesson for budding entrepreneurs is to never give up! They should always trust their own entrepreneurial skills and knowledge to find innovative ways to face early-stage challenges.
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