Coaches often tell their athletes that sports prepare you for life. From building a strong work ethic, to lessons in teamwork, sports teach a number of invaluable life skills.
As Lou Holtz once said, “without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.”
Whether you’ve given this advice or received it, you understand that the lessons learned from athletics truly do extend far beyond the field or court.
As the visionary and CEO of Upper Hand, Kevin MacCauley has leveraged his past experiences as a baseball player and coach to lead the Upper Hand team through periods of success and disruption.
Kevin recently sat down with Eric Marshall of LevelUp Development to talk about taking the jump to start your business. In that conversation, Kevin outlines 4 lessons in sport that apply to entrepreneurship.
Lesson #1: Be a utility player
Utility players. These athletes are able to fill a number of roles within their teams, depending on where they are most needed. As a sort of “jack of all trades,” these athletes have a wide knowledge base and are able to help the team in any capacity.
As an entrepreneur, your role inherently ebbs and flows depending on the needs of your business. Whether you have a team of staff to help you manage different areas within your business, or you’re a one-man-band, you wear many hats. Some days, you may be on the field, coaching your clients. Other times, you may be bringing new ideas for clinics or camps to the table.
“The best way to describe being a leader of a business is as a utility player. This can be hard, especially when finding time to balance working on the business with working in the business. You need to work on the business to ensure the strategy is being executed. But, you can’t always be flying around up top. Sometimes, you have to land and see what’s going on in the business.”
Just as a coach identifies potential cracks in the game plan and makes necessary adjustments to end up on top, a business leader must foresee bottlenecks, and try to fix them, before they happen.
Lesson #2: Be a team player
When a sports team is performing well, it’s likely because each coach and player within that team is using their strengths to work together and “row” in the same direction. The same principle applies to leading a business. You must be a team player.
“Turn to your team when you are faced with bottlenecks. Lean on their strengths, and identify any areas of weakness as well. Take feedback from your team about how changes can be made to better set the team up for success.”
Whether you lead a team of 1-2 or 10-20, be sure to rely on your team of talented coaches and staff. Leverage their expertise. Each member of your team brings a unique background and skillset to your business. Use that to your advantage.
Regardless of the size of your team and operation, when it comes to operating your business, there are a number of tools on the market that will help you efficiently manage your business. For example, a strong sports and fitness software will help you manage the front-end and back office of your business so you can focus on what you’re truly passionate about: working with your athletes.
Lesson #3: Go back to the basics
Bad games. Every athlete has had them. As a baseball coach, Kevin’s approach to handling these situations was to go back to the basics – an approach that he carries into his role as the leader of Upper Hand.
“If my team shows up and has a terrible game, the next practice is always spent going back to the fundamentals – ‘this is how you squat, this is how you stand on the box, this is how your hands should be, this is how we run the bases.’ You work on all the fundamental things, and the next game, you blow the team out. Sometimes you have to do that in business too. You have to take a step back to get back to the fundamentals. Let’s build, measure, and learn. And, let’s not invest too heavily up front in a product that no one wants to use.”
Kevin believes that this could be as simple as listening to your customers and clients, and implementing their feedback.
“When you know your customers, and you go back to the fundamentals of just talking to them, understanding what they need and where they’re going, you can avoid the mistake of building the “wrong” thing.”
Lesson #4: Remember why you started
In athletics, you are faced with days where you are unsure if you can continue. But, when you think you want to quit, you are often reminded to remember why you started. Perhaps your reason is the ability to be a part of something greater than yourself, or maybe it’s simply a “love for the game.”
Likewise, to build a successful business, you must have a powerful “why.”
You’ve invested countless hours and dollars into building your business plan. But, just because you’ve “made the jump” to start your business doesn’t mean the hard work is over. Kevin reminds us that passion is essential to business growth.
“You have to be just as passionate about your business today as you were on day 1. That passion has to be there because of how difficult and competitive it is to grow a business.”
As the owner or founder of a sports and fitness business, you can begin to think of yourself as the coach, with your staff and clients as your team. Your role is to lead and motivate this team to execute on your vision. Whether you are thinking about “taking the jump” to start your own business, or you are already living your dream, you can translate these four life lessons from sports to business ownership.