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What A Wimbledon Tennis Champion Can Teach You About Winning In Business

wimbledon tennisAs I write this article, the 2017 Wimbledon Tennis Championships are about to come to an end. The greatest players from around the world have competed for the most coveted title of Wimbledon Champion. Whoever wins a title this weekend will have earned it, both on and off the court. The winning is carried out on court but the preparation to win has taken many more hours than the actual time on court.

Champions can teach us a lot about winning in business.

Before you discover some of the key components that make a winner, let me share with you a very quick story about Roger Federer. During an interview Roger was asked how he managed to peak for every tournament. His answer was most unexpected. He replied, “I don’t. But over the years, I’ve learnt how to win.”

This is a great answer and has many connotations for winning in business. For me this means learning when to play steady, when to go for the big shots, when to reign in the big guns, how to stay calm under pressure, having a rock-solid belief in your ability to win and the confidence to play. These traits are supported by the off court preparation which is ultimately the key to continued success. Let’s take a look at some of the most important elements a Wimbledon Champion will master or require.

Conditioning

This is the physical workout a champion undertakes both in the gym and on court. You’ve probably heard of the saying, “healthy body, healthy mind” – I believe conditioning goes beyond this. Doctors, fitness instructors, physiotherapists and personal trainers will all agree that if you are fitter and healthier then you perform better. Many will agree that your thinking is clearer, your energy is higher and most likely, you’ll perform at a higher level. OK, this is on a personal basis. But, how does this relate to your business?

What makes a business healthy?

My interpretation of this concept is that you run a lean machine and optimise performance on all levels. Let’s take a manufacturing process for example. All machinery is in good condition, being maintained regularly. The process of moving raw materials from store into the finished article is well thought out. There are no delays in the production line. Packaging is clinical and the final storage before distribution ensures the product remains in the best condition, and is easily accessible for loading.

Within the entire manufacturing process, delays cost money. The planning operation to ensure adequate stocks are available for the manufacturing process to commence, machines are working, staff are available etc requires a robust system. People run systems but the system runs the business.

To be a champion business, you should frequently be reviewing your systems to understand and test where you can squeeze more efficiency.

  • Is there new machinery worth investing in that will enhance the process?
  • Is there a way you can complete some tasks in a different way that may produce better results?

An inefficient business is hemorrhaging money even if it remains profitable. Building efficiency targets and reviews can eliminate most, if not all of this wasted effort, energy and cost. At the top level, tennis players are looking for that extra 1%. The beginner to intermediate stage in sport is where the greatest gains are made, and this can be the same in business too. A start up business may be highly inefficient but, the lower costs may mean the business is profitable. As sales grow, more people are hired, and investment in machinery rises. But without great systems, inefficiency will still remain, albeit to a lesser extent. A highly inefficient business may see great gains in very little time by reviewing their operation and understanding where the problems are that contribute to this inefficiency.

A business operates many systems. So far, you may be questioning the health or condition of your manufacturing process. What about your accounting process or your sales and marketing process? Have you considered whether you have an efficient hiring process? If not, you need to review each of these and any other processes you may have. Why not review your reporting process too? Is critical information reaching the right people in time to assist them in being efficient when undertaking the tasks they do in a day. Does, poor communication result in poor decision-making?

Skilling Up

A Champion is highly skilled in all aspects of their craft. Breaking this down, this entails seeing the opponents shot early, moving to the ball, preparation to hit their shot, recovery after the shot, applying tactical thinking to suit their style of game, measuring their opponent’s style of play and the conditions on the day. Most of this happens at a sub-conscious level because the player has drilled these moves in practice.

As a business owner, it is critical that you train yourself and your team. This does not mean sending them on a course and expecting them to know everything. Trainers will confirm that after attending a course, skill level increases and then diminishes. Successive re-training continues to elevate the base-line performance and therefore drives skills to a higher level.  Knowing this, it is important to ensure your team are highly trained, which in turn allows them to contribute more to your business.

I mentioned the application of tactics as a key skill. Many businesses lack strategic thinking and the knowledge or systems to apply this on a daily basis. It is very easy to become a task-driven business, especially when manufacturing a product. However, the business owner and the management team should also take a step back from the process to look at the wider picture.

  • What is the competition doing or saying in the market?
  • What should the response be from the business?
  • What are customers asking of the business?
  • How can the business meet these demands / enquiries which in turn may lead to more success?

This constant questioning and answering allows the business to grow, communicate with its customers that it hears them and values their input, and provides more options for counter-attacking in the market to beat their nearest competitor.

Planning

A Wimbledon Champion will plan carefully with their eye on detail at all times. During a tournament, the macro work is done. They have arrived, checked into their hotel, established when and where their practice sessions take place, have their rackets restrung in time for practice and matches, have selected the tools to take to courtside. These are key contributing factors to their performance. If the detailed planning has not taken place, then performance may be compromised.

As a business owner, you are already aware that planning is essential. However, have you recently considered what the key essentials are and have you planned in detail to ensure they can be executed correctly? In business, we call these key performance indicators (KPI’s) and they are usually measured in numbers. This may be as simple as measuring break-even point, gross profit or a number of other elements like cost to acquire a new customer, lifetime value of a customer, reducing average debtor days etc. The important question to answer for you is what are your KPI’s and how do you measure them? How often should you measure and what are the tolerances? You also need to know what they really mean to your business.

Support

A Wimbledon Champion needs one other key element, their support team. When on court, a Champion must think for themselves and carry out every the task to pull off a win. However, behind the scenes there are usually a select group of professionals who play a specific role in the Champion’s success. These could be the coach, personal trainer, psychologist, sports masseur, nutritionist, performance analysis expert and an admin assistant.

In business, you need a great team. Whilst the business owner must have the drive, ambition and skill to lead the business, they also need a team to help along the way. It amazes me how business owners think they can go it alone and make their business successful without any support. Behind every successful person, there is someone who has guided them in some way or other. Business owners should hire business coaches or other professionals more often. They can contribute significantly to helping with strategic thinking, planning, obtaining finance, and bring a host of other skills. There isn’t a champion in any sport that does not have a coach and support team. Why should this be different in business?

Summary

It should be clear now how the game of sport and business have many similarities. I have touched on the major points and no doubt you will think of other points I did not raise here.

To become a champion business, if that’s what you desire, you must adopt and adapt these key disciplines to your business. Get you and your business in condition, skill up, plan in detail and choose your support team carefully.  This in turn will lead to changes in habit, changes in culture, changes in operations with the intention to change your results!

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