At a young age, my parents got me involved in the sport of tennis alongside my sisters. I have always enjoyed this sport due to its competitive nature (and I don’t have the body of a linebacker). Over the years, I progressed through my journey in both high school and was a coach briefly at university. While other things have come and gone in my life, tennis has always been a constant. Today I am here to tell you everything that tennis has taught me about business. If tennis doesn’t strike a chord with one, I believe we should all look at some physical outlet where we can be healthy, mingle with others and compete!
Networking and developing relationships are the most important things that tennis has taught me. This year alone, I have formed roughly two dozen contacts of finance professionals, real estate financiers, medical professionals, and even some Uber drivers. There will be people you want to connect and some you may be indifferent about. Nevertheless, when competing and having fun on the court, you don’t care what the person does for a living per se, you just want to play. Over the weeks and hours playing with these individuals, you want to start to get to know them and their stories. Maybe you want to hit with them on the weekend or evenings here and there. Developing relationships is something that is life or death in the business world and through tennis, I find the experience seamless.
Communication is necessary and vital. I have failed so many times communicating improperly in tennis. As many of you know I am a Toastmaster and public speaking communication is a far cry from on the spot communication in doubles matches. I’ve found the sport easy if before you play with your partner you communicate rotation styles and you always call out your shots. People in the business world need the same communication. They don’t know what they can and can’t touch, how to do something or escalate something appropriately. Communication is the foundation of anything in life, and once when this is mastered intensify this skill.
This one is hard to bring up, but humility is a quality that I wear almost like a badge of honor now. On the courts, there will always be someone better, more accurate, more reliable at positioning and even may have better endurance than one. I have lost important matches with several dozen people watching and having this sense of humility is important because it allows one to reflect and own the mistakes that were made so improvements can be made going forward. Transitioning to the business world, outside of our scope all the time projects fail, regulatory scrutiny increases, or a new competitor enters the arena and strikes a key contract with a crucial supplier. Most of the time, outside and competitive factors influence business and I think it is important to have a sense of humility and remain aware of this because too much pride without staying true to the facts at hand will eventually derail business ventures. I can say with confidence it has derailed several important matches I have played.
In tennis, it is of great importance that individuals play to their strengths! If you have a winning forehand, don’t try to score a winning backhand, until this skill is up to par. Focusing on the strength doesn’t mean ignoring weaknesses, it just means taking advantage of these strengths as much as possible to score as many points as possible, or to tear down your opponent. In business, I see this all the time. Companies will try to enter a new market segment to simply increase profitability. They end up failing critically! Google +, for example, was a social networking site that failed dramatically because it didn’t fit well into the Google ecosystem and wasn’t able to grab the network effects of other social media sites such as FB or Twitter. In business and tennis playing to one’s strengths and sharpening this saw is what will lead one to victory.
Lastly, having fun is the most important thing in tennis and anything one does. Go out and play to have fun. If you don’t like the sport, and you are just trying to win it will feel very transactional and will prevent one from achieving greatness. On the same coin, the most successful companies I have seen seem to really enjoy what they are doing and are always looking to improve. Controversial, but from my experience Amazon has world-class customer service and many of the employees seem to focus on the best customer experience and drive improvements because the leaders truly enjoy what they are doing. We can find parallels between all sports and how they relate to our working lives. From my expertise, it is always of importance to look at the deeper meaning of why we do the things we do and the lessons we have learned from this deeper meaning. I’ve found the benefit from drawing these parallels, try to do so with your respective sport or pastime!
Nothing stated in this article is a recommendation from Forehand Financial to buy or sell a particular security or asset class. You should wisely consider your tolerance for risk, time horizon, and financial goals before making an investment. With investing, you run the risk of losing money, always read an investment prospectus and make an informed decision before allocating capital to a particular investment.