If you’ve ever played sports, you are a natural entrepreneur. The skills cultivated on any playing field will continue to serve you professionally, well beyond competitive sports. Entrepreneurs can benefit from tapping into their experience working with a team, applying lessons from a coach, working toward common goals and utilizing a healthy competitive spirit.
Additionally, entrepreneurs can also learn from successful athletes, and train using the principles of organized sports to achieve results at the next level:
- Build a team. Whether on the field or sitting at your home office, work often feels like you’re working entirely alone. Peter Shallard writes, “Loneliness is the entrepreneur’s curse. Your role as the decision maker, bread winner and overall renegade definitely makes you a winner, but you have to pay the price. Making those decisions, winning that bread and living that outlaw lifestyle is mainly going to happen in a party of one.” Just like a team cannot rely on a single member to carry the win, you must create a team around you to support your goals, encourage you during down times and celebrate your wins with you. People tend to celebrate superstars and ignore the supporting players who make the wins possible, so surround yourself with a business team that will both supplement your talents and support your success.
- Find a coach. Entrepreneurs often have trouble with perspective — they can’t see outside themselves to honestly reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. Just like the player on the field who cannot see the entire game, entrepreneurs need someone removed from the field who is both knowledgeable and invested in your success. All the top athletes work with coaches and trainers — even “solo” athletes who run, swim and perform gymnastics still participate in relay teams and have their own coaching team. Shallard recommends finding like-minded entrepreneurs who create and hold space for support. “Entrepreneurs need the perspective of other entrepreneurs. They need friends, mentors and coaches who get it. Specifically, they need people who hold space for them — creating the environment where vulnerability and uncertainty is welcome.” Many entrepreneurs go about this on their own — while that can work for some, an organized mastermind or group program can be beneficial for others. It’s like the difference between the occasional pickup game and a club team that gathers a targeted group of people for a specific purpose at a predestined time. If you need more structure and support from like-minded entrepreneurs, begin looking where they’re already assembling at events, in masterminds and online.
- Set short and long-term goals. Athletes can be particularly focused on multiple goals at once — not just to win the current game, but also to top rankings, conferences and championships. The process of working toward an outcome is essential in order to maintain your focus on the field. Entrepreneurs need to review their own performance to understand what is working, and adjust to ensure they’re reaching each new milestone. If you’re a sports aficionado, you know the power of metrics in each of these areas, not just for yourself but against competitors. By measuring the contributions of each team member, progress against goals and overall position against competitors in the field, you’ll know where you stand and be able to identify opportunities for further growth. No matter how you begin tracking, the important step is to begin. Record your stats on a whiteboard, in a notebook or on a spreadsheet; as you grow, scale up to include more sophisticated tracking. Personally and with our clients, we use the small business software InfusionSoft to measure growth and effectiveness of sales and marketing over time.
It doesn’t matter if you’re improving your precision on the football field or increasing your reach to a business audience — the same dedication and focus is needed. Tap into your experiences with sports to grow your business, and instead of a plastic trophy, you’ll gain the freedom and rewards of entrepreneurial success.
Kelly Azevedo is the founder of She’s Got Systems, a custom coaching program that leads clients to get support, documenting and dominating in their fields. She has worked in startup, successful six-figure and million-dollar online businesses, helping owners create the systems to serve their needs.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC leads #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work.