Five Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Athletes

Yes. They’re all rich but, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Mark Zuckerberg, Lionel Messi, Oprah Winfrey, Peyton Manning and Maria Sharapova may have a lot more in common than...

Yes. They’re all rich but, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Mark Zuckerberg, Lionel Messi, Oprah Winfrey, Peyton Manning and Maria Sharapova may have a lot more in common than you think.

Some of the best entrepreneurs and athletes have discovered how to utilize their talents, without fail, to create winning results.

Successful entrepreneurs have become experts in the art of marketing, joint ventures and product development. However, athletes are notably skillful in undertaking specific actions and developing characteristics that increase their chances for success.

Here are five game-changer lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from athletes.

1. Compliment your competitors, while praising your own company even more.

Consumers are constantly overwhelmed by advertisements that state how bad a competitors’ products are or why you should never buy any product except their own.

Don’t insult your competitors. Instead talk up the features and benefits of your products and/or services.

During a post-game interview, a superstar athlete from the winning team generally talks about how talented the other team is and how great their competitor played. Subsequently, the athlete talks about how hard his or her own team fought and how dedicated they were to winning.

Try this tactic when discussing the competitive landscape between you and your closest industry colleagues.

2. View every interaction with the media and customers as a potential image maker and breaker.

Lights, Camera, Action!  It’s time to put your best foot forward and demonstrate your value. Whether by an email interview with a local blogger or an in-person interview with a writer from CNN, value every interaction with the news media equally.

Media savvy athletes, like Michael Jordan for example, work hard at presenting a consistent image to the media regardless of the outlet. The same rule applies to your customers.

Treat every customer interaction with respect and value. From the smallest support question to the next bit sale, successful entrepreneurs understand that each interaction defines how customers view your business.

Smart athletes strive to sign as many autographs and take as many pictures as possible — you should do the same. One negative experience can cause a ripple effect of negative reviews, and subsequently, one great interaction can lead to the next big business development deal that you’ve been looking for.

3. Don’t praise your product, commend your team and customers instead.

After an exceptional game, an athlete may have scored countless touchdowns, baskets or goals. But you don’t usually hear him or her talk about how amazing the pass or jump-shots were.

As a spectator you’d rather hear your favorite athlete discuss how talented the team is and how great the fans were for cheering with unwavering support. Apply this same perspective to your startup.

As great as your product may be, understand that it means nothing without a great team to support it and a loyal and passionate customer base to help spread the word.

Take a modest approach and show appreciation to your team and your customers for allowing you to constantly do what you do. Your audiences, both internally and externally, will then take a more vested interest in the success of your business.

4. Don’t expect to score 100% of the time, but strive for it.

No athlete makes all of the shots, catches all of the passes or hits homeruns every time they are at bat. The same rule applies to businesses.

Every single product or service will not be considered a homerun by your customers. Don’t get down on yourself, or your team, if things don’t always work out.

Set realistic goals and don’t be afraid to miss. There will be days when you receive an outpouring of praise about your business and others when customer complaints are in abundance.

However, when you receive countless complaints or if your server crashes, take it in stride and continue moving. Fix the problem and don’t dwell. Even Michael Jordan had games where he only made a few shots. But, what made him great was the fact that he made shots when his team needed him most.

You may be at a point where you are missing all of your shots and everything is going wrong, but continue shooting because the one shot may be the game-winning shot.

5. After every game, review the game film to find ways to improve.

If your competitors beat you to a valuable strategic partnership or get to market before you do (which may end up costing you immediate profits or traction) take the star athlete approach and study your actions.

Watch the game film and see what you could have done better. Look at the metrics you have in place. Was there something that you could have done different, better, faster?

It is okay to acknowledge mistakes and failure, but only if you learn from it. Review your actions and decisions to improve your startup. Talk to your customers, iterate and deploy your product again with better functions and features.

A constant customer and product development process will save you tremendous time and effort in the long run.

Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or a small business owner, use these lessons and set your small business up for success.

Dealing with competition, customers, media outlets and external stakeholders is not always an easy task. Consider what an athlete would do, and you may find your business running better operationally.

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Photo Credit: © Richard Kane


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