What playing a sport can teach you about running a business

Young Entrepreneur Council
What playing a sport can teach you about running a business

The extra yard is the most important one

On a podcast, I recently heard serial entrepreneur Jason Wilks refer to how his experience playing golf helped him run the businesses he founded. I have always been a sports fan and played a lot of soccer and cricket growing up. More recently, I have taken boxing back up, which I try to do most mornings before work. The podcast reminded me that I often use lessons I have learned from playing sports to help me run my company.

1. The extra yard is the most important one. Anyone who has played soccer will remember a moment when someone is a yard ahead of you and about to receive the ball in front of goal. In that split second, you have the choice to push yourself to make up that gap or give it up and hope they miss. No matter how much you run in the full 90 minutes, the outcome of the game could be based on whether you run that extra yard or not. That said, I didn’t always run that extra yard. But the point has stayed with me in business. The day or even entire companies can be made or lost based on whether you push yourself through that extra step your competitors might give up to chance.

2. Even days have a halftime. No matter how rough the first half of any game has been, you still have even the slimmest chance of turning it around until it is officially over. In soccer, you usually have halftime to get yourself reset for the second half. Work is the same. No matter how bad the morning goes, you can still turn it around in the afternoon. And at least you don’t usually have a coach screaming in your face during your lunch break…

3. Take it one ball at a time. This is something I tried to remind myself of when batting at cricket, very much a confidence game, where when it’s going badly, it seems impossible, and when it goes well, the ball seems as easy to hit as a beach ball. As long as you are still there, each ball is a new start. Sometimes on tough days, it’s good to remind yourself at work that the results of the last thing you did have no impact on the thing you’re about to do – it’s a new chance to achieve something.

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4. The team collective is vital. Maybe less so with individual sports such as golf and tennis, but in team sports, a good team that doesn’t have to always see eye-to-eye but has a strong bond and works closely together will always produce a product greater than the sum of its parts. The perfect example of this is my home team Leicester City. They gave their viewers the biggest shock in 25 years by winning the Premier League in 2016 – as far as I’m concerned, the greatest story in sports history!

5. Putting the work in pays off. Aside from the mercurially gifted, which I’ve never been, if you train harder and work harder than your opponents, you increase your chances of winning. Though I am trying to manage my energy better as I just older, if I return from a work trip at 2AM, the thought that few of my competitors will be in first thing pushes me to my desk at 8:30AM that morning. It’s more of a mental and muscle reaction than a conscious thought, knowing that extra push may just give you the chance you are looking for to succeed.

These are lessons I take with me every day. They provide a general framework to help push me through whatever each day throws at me.

Tom Chalmers is the founder and Managing Director of seven publishing and publishing-related companies (including the Legend Times Group).

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship programme that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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