Not only has sport been a long-standing passion of ours, but it has also taught as a great deal beyond the playing field. There are plenty of lessons you can take away when watching your favourite athletes embark on their latest athletic endeavor, and many of them can turn a prospective entrepreneur into a seasoned small business success. But how exactly can you translate baseball into a business plan or a slam dunk into startup success?
1. You won’t be able to experience success if you aren’t in the game
It’s not easy to be an impact player if you’re sitting on the bench. There may be players who are more established already in the game; there may be plenty of competition battling for that coveted spot on the roster; or the ability to reach the big time may seem like too much of a pipe dream. But it’s important to remember, as the famous quote says, “you always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
It’s not uncommon to have doubts or concerns. There are a number of obstacles that a budding entrepreneur – or up and coming athlete – must overcome in order to launch their startup and the odds of doing so successfully are not overwhelmingly in your favour. But obstacles don’t make it impossible. These tests, in actuality, make the end goal that much more worthwhile and rewarding.
The bottom line is that, sometimes, you have to invest in yourself and have faith in the skills that you can bring to the table. Sure, there are businesses that go for it and fail or athletes who try their hardest and don’t make the cut; but what’s worse are those who simply stay on the sidelines and watch others succeed.
2. If you aren’t willing to put in the work, you’ll be left watching on the sidelines
Running a business is hard work. It is not for the weak-spirited or weak-minded, that’s for sure. Just like athletes need to bust their butts day in and day out to show their worth and earn their spot on the roster, entrepreneurs need to do the same.
To develop a winning work ethic, it’s not just about what you do when the lights are on and the cameras are rolling, but what you do behind closed doors as well. In business, it’s not just about how you present yourself when you’re with a client, meeting a potential investor, or launching yourself into the very public online eye, but also what you do on your own time. How much are you willing to prepare for meeting; how much research are you willing to explore to find the answers; how much time are you willing to invest in separating yourself from the competition? It all helps to define who you are, as an athlete or as a business.
It’s not enough to just show up and expect to earn playing time. You have to show those who matter that you are up for the challenge and willing to do what it takes to win. Whether you want to be on the court for the final few seconds or you want that potential client to trust your sales pitch over a competitor’s, you need to make it clear why the ball should be in your hands as time winds down.
3. Whether you’re winning or losing, you can’t let it go to your head
There’s nothing quite as special as earning that walk-off win, nor is there nothing quite as disappointing as navigating through a lengthy losing streak. But whether you’re on top of the world or at the bottom of the heap, it is important to maintain a level-headed presence.
Any business that is looking to forge their path is going to see its ups and downs, just like any athlete goes through slumps and hot streaks. Just because it may not be your day now, doesn’t mean your opportunity to shine isn’t just around the corner; and just because you can’t seem to do anything right today doesn’t mean that you’re forever destined to do wrong.
Owning a business, just like being an athlete, is a journey and it takes a strong-willed, level-headed individual to navigate this path successfully. Be prepared for disappointments, but don’t let them get you down; celebrate the triumphs, but don’t let them go to your head. If your business is in it for the long haul, then there is a lot of time left on the clock and a lot of games still to be played – anything can happen.
4. It’s not all about the name on the back of the jersey, but the entire game around you
It’s important to position yourself well and know what is happening within your own business, but you can’t ignore everything around you. There are plenty of stakeholders and external considerations that you need to keep in mind if you want to cover all your bases!
Think about it – if a pitcher prepares for a game, he has to not only get himself mentally prepared, but he has to consider the defense behind him, the lineup he’s facing, the stadium they’re playing in, the weather conditions, and more. The list goes on and on, just like it does for an entrepreneur, who must not only ensure that their plan is on point, but must also consider their competition, their customers, their industry, their geographic scope, etc.
Thinking about your own business is critical, of course, but to succeed in your surroundings and to best prepare yourself to strike out the opposition, there has to be more to it.
5. Don’t start swinging for the fences when you should be playing small ball
We know that, when starting a new business, it’s easy to think BIG. Of course, you want to swing for the fences and make your mark on the game as soon as you step to the plate. But the home run swing may not lead to sustainable success; and you shouldn’t overlook the concept of small ball.
When you think about small ball, you don’t immediately think of excitement. From an outsider’s perspective, getting to cheer for a mammoth home run is far more thrilling than a collection of seeing-eye singles, well-placed bunts, and strategically stolen bases. But when it’s you in the game, you have to think about results. If you want your business to be sustainable, to get off on the right foot, and to build a sound foundation on which to grow, then you can’t be overly aggressive right off the bat. You need to take your time, set and implement your strategy, build your following, and ensure that you have set the table for a successful future.
Of course, getting to see the fireworks fill the stadium after am impactful home run would be great, but what you don’t want is to be struck out and left carrying the bat back to the dugout after whiffing on that mammoth swing. It’s OK to dream big, but don’t be afraid to take little steps to get you there.
Bonus: There are no off days
While this notion doesn’t necessarily apply across the sport landscape, the idea rings true with one of the most successful teams of all-time. As New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick exclaimed, there are no days off, even in the offseason.
While your business may not have an offseason, per say, the point remains that if you start to slack, your business will feel the effects. Whether business is booming or sales are slow, there is always something that you can be doing to improve yourself, so make sure you keep your foot on the petal and always find ways to better your business. The learning should never stop, the ideas should never cease, and the business should never settle, because if you look around at what the best of the best are doing, we can guarantee that they aren’t just sitting around and waiting for success to come to them.
It’s true that we can learn a great deal from sport, but some of the most important lessons that are learned on the field can also help you on the business front. Whether you are a rookie looking to launch your first startup or a seasoned veteran who has already carved out your niche, sport can offer a number of meaningful teachings that you can take to the boardroom. And as we continue to embark on our own business endeavors, we have and will continue to take away a great deal from one of our greatest pastimes and passions.