I am blogging on behalf of Visa’s Go World Olympic Campaign and receive compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. This post was sponsored by Visa Small Business. From now through August 31st, visit http://www.inc.com/visa-business-of-the-olympic-games/ to learn about Team Visa Olympic athletes who are also dedicated small business owners. Visit Visa Business’s newly-launched Facebook Page (http://www.facebook.com/visasmallbiz) for more details, and follow @VisaSmallBiz for ways to help make your small business more efficient and successful. Discover more at http://visa.com/business.
Many future entrepreneurs learn important lessons about life while playing sports in youth. Lessons about teamwork, winning and losing gracefully, and the importance of good leadership are all learned from little league through college football. But it’s easy to forget these lessons in our day-to-day business lives.
However, watching professional sports teams can remind us of those lessons we learned early on. Here are a few lessons we can learn from professional athletes to help us as entrepreneurs.
- The importance of a mentor. Young athletes benefit greatly from the guidance of older, more experienced athletes. Even athletes at the top of their game look to previous medalists for advice. In business, the young, aspiring entrepreneur seeks the example of the business leader who has climbed the ranks. By taking the younger businessperson under his wing, the more experienced person acts as a mentor, passing on wisdom he learned over years in his field.
- Teamwork. One downfall of many entrepreneurs is that they allow a competitive nature to overshadow all else at the expense of co-workers. Good managers recognize employees who work together, rather than rewarding competitive, “me-first” behavior. Athletes learn that a team is at its best when members work together, focusing on beating the competition rather than each other.
- The value of camaraderie. Teamwork in competitive sports goes beyond helping each other out on the field or court. Successful athletes often report that support from team members made a big difference in their success. By the same token, in the business world, team members who share knowledge and encourage each other have the most long-term success.
- Perseverance. An old saying goes, “The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.” In business and on the field, success goes to the person who gets back up every time he’s knocked down. Even small failures don’t stop him. He keeps trying, day after day, year after year.
- Winning with grace. Some people are so fiercely competitive, they gloat over accomplishments. This, of course, alienates teammates and clients. As athletes learn on the field, winning gracefully is as important as losing gracefully. The true winner shakes the hand of each member of the opposing team, thanks him for a good game, and exits the field. In the boardroom, a professional entrepreneur maintains his cool at all times, even when having accomplished the deal of a lifetime.
- Losing with grace. Losing is never easy, but a gracious loser congratulates the opposing team on a win. He tells himself that although he didn’t win this time, there’s always the next game, as in the board room the next big deal is just around the corner.
- Working under pressure. Think of the professional athlete preparing to take the field on Super Bowl Sunday. Imagine the pressure of millions of eyes watching you, anticipating your next play. An entrepreneur must be able to tackle a big presentation in front of a crowded room as easily as that professional football player handles the Super Bowl.
- Exercising good judgment. Athletes often must make split-second decisions that make or break an entire career. While an entrepreneur often has more time to carefully weigh out each decision, his judgment must be sound. A successful business is often the result of a series of good decisions over many years.
- Strategizing. While it’s easy to assume all those brilliant plays are last-minute decisions, many sports teams plan out their plays. Football teams often review tapes of their opponents prior to playing them. A successful entrepreneur researches potential clients and keeps up with the successes of competing businesses.
- Continuing to dream. Professional athletes and entrepreneurs set goals and strive to reach them. True successes never stop striving for that next big achievement. By continuing to work toward bigger and better things, an entrepreneur keeps growing, both personally and professionally.
Whether you’re a sports fan or not, professional athletes have a goal-oriented attitude that every business owner needs in order to continue to grow. Like competitive athletes, entrepreneurs must keep their head in the game, remaining focused at all times.