5 Business Lessons From Successful Athlete Entrepreneurs

12/03/2017 10:11 pm ET

Whether you’re in your first year of business or are several years in, there’s a lot to be learned from athletes, especially athletes who are also entrepreneurial. Below are five business lessons from successful entrepreneurs who weigh in on what they have learned from being an athlete.

Be willing to work for years without losing focus or determination

Co-Founder and CEO of SICFIT Round Rock, Kaleigh Chatfield, swam competitively for nearly half of her life. She’s two years into entrepreneurship, and has learned that like swim meets, “You’re in it for the long haul so you had better pack a lunch.” Swim meets last all day and Chatfield states: “They’re exciting, exhausting, boring, and will consume your entire life if you’re serious enough… and owning your own business is exactly like that.” Chatfield used to swim the butterfly leg of the Medley Relay. “It’s exciting and electric when you’re in the pool, swimming in the competition,” reports Chatfield. “Most of the time, though, it’s just you and that black line at the bottom of the pool, where nothing but training, willpower, and your own race against the clock matters. If you’re going to own a business, you need to be able to stare at that black line, oftentimes for years, without losing focus or determination.”

Practice the game every day

“My basketball coach used to always tell us ‘Championships are not won on the night of a big event, but years before by athletes who commit themselves daily to championship principles,” states Tom Sylvester. Sylvester is a serial entrepreneur and Business & Life Strategist at Tom & Ariana. Sylvester believes that entrepreneurship is much the same as what he learned from being an athlete. “We often see entrepreneurs during and after the big event of having a successful business,” continues Sylvester, “but what we don't see is the years of struggle and perseverance that came before. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who, just like athletes, get up, practice and play the game every day. Some days they win and have success; others they lose and struggle, but they know who they have to be to ultimately have success and they show up as that person every day.”

Pursue Excellence Through Fine-Tuning

According to Bryan Gordon, an athlete's Coach, and entrepreneur: “As a coach of athletes and an entrepreneur, not only have I taught them what I know but I have learned just as much. The pursuit of excellence is a characteristic that embodies the athlete; constantly fine-tuning to become the best version of themselves inspires me to do the same. Successful entrepreneurship requires one to continually sharpen their skills and grow, not only for maximal achievement but to compete in dense markets. Just as the athlete hones their skills on a daily basis to become the best, so must the entrepreneur.”

Make Small Attempts For Big Results

Betsy Pake, the author of “Start Small Live Big,” speaks from her experience as an author and Olympic Weightlifter. “When I first started my life as an entrepreneur, I didn’t know how much my journey could be related to that of a weight lifter. At the time my entrepreneurial journey began, I was also training with an internationally ranked Olympic style lifter. She would tell me that above all else, I needed to give consistent, daily effort regardless of my success the day before. ‘You won’t notice any changes day by day. The bar will move smoother, in a straighter line, faster, but you won’t notice, until one day, things that once took a lot of effort seem easier. Don’t let yesterday’s workout affect your effort today.’ She was so right. Small attempts made daily will soon build me into the kind of lifter and entrepreneur I wanted to be.”

Have a flexible game plan

"One of the best things about sports is that it requires you to learn from defeat, make necessary changes, and move on. No one who's ever been successful in sports quits after their first loss, but entrepreneurs sometimes do,” says Dawson Barksdale, Entrepreneur. “The other thing is you have to hold loosely to a strategic game plan. Once the game starts and your opponent steps out, the game plan needs to be flexible. The mission (winning) never changes, but the plan does. Entrepreneurs must do the same to be successful. The market is the most ruthless opponent, always changing, always getting better, always trying to beat you. Lastly, the more success you have the more everyone aims at you and does everything they can to try and beat you. Teamwork, relentlessness, intelligence, and intelligence are a winning recipe for sports and entrepreneurs."

Next time you’re watching athletes play, think about the impact their play could make on your business. Take a minute to think about their flexible game plan, the effort they put in daily behind the scenes, watch the small attempts they make, hone in on their fine-tuning and remember to stay focused and determined on your business goals.

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