Let's be clear: I’m an athlete (yes a real one), an entrepreneur, and a family man. But I don't think of my ventures the way a National Hockey League team does. I'm not that pretentious and, besides, I don't play hockey. I’m a coureur de bois, a skier, and a golfer. Since high school, where I pursued a Sports-Études program, discipline and physical training have helped me in my career, and I try to pass along my proactive attitude to my team, my clients, and my children.
Yes, I believe sports helps me to be a better leader, entrepreneur and father. But I don't think you absolutely need to be an extreme athlete to succeed in business. Do I believe you need to be physically active every day? Definitely! The armchair quarterback isn’t the one who actually wins the game; no, that person is watching on TV!
Expanding on these thoughts with a former colleague, Julie Archer, a psychologist with a graduate degree in marketing communications, here are the Ten Commandments to follow to derive the most out of your affinity for sports in your entrepreneurial career.
My five business training exercises
Sporting terms are helpful to simplify complex business concepts. Still, the proof is in the pudding: Do sports' metaphors help describe real life? In sports, as in business, there are five exercises I practise every day, and, in my opinion, they guarantee success for any ambitious leader, parent, manager or entrepreneur.
1. Talk to your coach
We all need somebody who guides us and pushes us to go farther – a mentor who follows our progress and isn’t afraid to say what he or she thinks. Challenging myself is what pushes me to always improve the next time. It's easy to lie to yourself, to insulate yourself from your weaknesses or deny that they even exist. Someone who is objective and honest, and who is tactful, will know how to help us face challenges and guide us to find the right solutions.
2. Prepare yourself and simulate
Instant success only happens in the movies. It takes discipline and hard work to be No. 1. If I’m good at improvising when the need arises, it's because I have prepared well in advance. My work requires me to make five client presentations a week. In preparation, I rehearse aloud in front of a mirror, or I make my pitch to my children. I continue until I am convinced my kids can repeat – in their own words – what I've been saying. It's like watching a video of your own golf swing, when you realize it isn't at all what you imagined! In business, as in sports, you must always be more prepared than you originally thought, because things never go as planned and you can’t control everything.
3. Dealing with failure
In the event of a failure, I always conduct a review, a “debriefing,” because it's easy to lay the blame on circumstances, on others, and to ignore the opportunity we have to learn from our mistakes ... If I don't know why I failed in this instance, how will I know what to avoid next time, and how to improve myself? My usual method is to summarize on paper why I didn’t land a contract or why I lost an account, and then burn the paper. I loathe fire, so it sends me a powerful message. If I can't figure out where I went wrong, I bluntly ask my client! And I’m sometimes surprised at the sincerity of the response. That pushes me to stay humble and authentic.
4. Celebrate victories
It’s important to celebrate your victories. In business, the team doesn't have a fan club. Since I don't have actual cheerleaders, I make my own noise. In my office, I have a bell that we ring every time we land a new customer. It's a reminder we need to hear at least once a week. I perform this ritual with my team during office hours because I strongly believe we should share our successes as a group. If we can't do that, I would question why I hired these people!
5. Stay on the lookout for new trends
You need up-to-date equipment to be able to perform and improve in sports. In business, I am continually exploring ever more sophisticated techniques to maintain my edge in the market. When a new application comes out, I give it a try. When a recruit comes with a new idea, I hire the person. When cutting-edge technology appears on the market, I check it out, if only for the trial period. There is little chance of winning a championship with outdated equipment. Before you begin, make sure you're up to date!
It's (almost) all in your head
As I previously stated, you can't run a business like you run a sports team. But having good sportsmanship helps tremendously! Applying these principles of fair play to business requires a certain attitude, a mindset.
I am inspired by performance psychology – used by elite athletes – to nurture certain winning mental dispositions. I will share with you these principles that help me perform better, both on the course and on the job.