As the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs reach a conclusion, there is a key insight that entrepreneurs should take from watching Miami Heat star Lebron James: even with unparalleled talent, you must continue to add to your skill set.
James is widely considered the best basketball player in the NBA, recently collecting his fourth Most Valuable Player award, tying him for fourth all-time. James' style of play could be considered entrepreneurial in that he leads his organization while wearing many different hats, both offensively and defensively. And while James won Rookie of the Year and was incredibly effective in his first NBA season, he has needed to improve his game and develop new skills in order to dominate in the manner that he does today. Here are two examples:
• Added Low Post Moves
After losing the 2011 NBA Championship, James worked out with Hall of Fame center, Hakeem Olajuwon, to become more effective in the low post. Since then, he has recorded the highest field goal percentages of his career, 53% (2012) and 57% (2013).
• Improved Outside Shooting
To become a more complete offensive threat, James has become a better 3-point shooter. Comparing this past regular season to his rookie season, his 3-point shooting has improved an astounding 41%, going from 29% in 2004 to 41% in 2013.
Like James, entrepreneurs tend to be supremely talented in one or more areas, but they must build upon their foundation of skills and add new ones in order to ensure success.In his book, The Startup of You, famed entrepreneur and investor Reid Hoffman describes this approach as "permanent beta," stating,
"In the same way entrepreneurs are always improving and investing in their products, you need to always be improving and investing in yourself."
In general, entrepreneurs possess the courage to strike out on their own. They have confidence to believe that they can do something better than everyone else. They employ salesmanship to convince others to buy into their vision and join their companies. Entrepreneurs must take full advantage of their existing strengths but also develop additional skills.
When choosing which skills to add, entrepreneurs should take a calculated approach in order to derive maximum benefit.
First, assess your company and determine your areas of greatest need. Based on those needs, in which categories do you think you can best excel or which ones excite you most? For example:
• If you are a nontechnical entrepreneur with sales expertise but your business is struggling to attract new customers, can you add marketing and lead generation skills to your arsenal?
• If you are a technical founder with web development expertise but the majority of your customers have begun accessing your product on smart phones, can you add mobile application development to your arsenal?
Unlike employees of larger, more established companies, entrepreneurs usually can't rely on the expertise of another department. Sales, marketing, design, financial analysis, project management, mobile development, or system architecture, what skills can you add to your "game?" Always ask, what else you can do to help your company prosper? Similar to how James sought out Olajuwon, are there any experts that you can seek out? Are there books you can read or videos you can watch online? Are there events you can attend?
Be RelentlessLebron James built upon his strong foundation of skills and worked diligently to develop other assets. Upon winning Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 2012, he said,
Similarly, most entrepreneurs love what they do and are relentless in their desire to improve. To yield maximum results for yourself and subsequently your company, invest in yourself and add to your skill set continuously.
"I do what I do because I love it and I want to continue to get better at it."