Professional athletes and entrepreneurs are very similar. From the ability to create goals and see them through, to the understanding that there will be many obstacles along the way, they understand what it takes to be successful.
As a former professional baseball player turned entrepreneur myself, I am often reminded of how the same characteristics that helped me on the baseball diamond now contribute to my success as a business owner.
I want to touch on six similarities that I see between professional athletes and entrepreneurs, and why I feel professional athletes turned business owners have a major advantage. We are seeing so many athletes start businesses and brands both during and after their playing days are over, and it’s a trend that I believe will only continue to increase.
- Success Requires Dedication
When I was younger all I wanted to do was play baseball and once I set a goal of becoming a professional baseball player I knew I had to dedicate all of my time to practicing and training. I made sacrifices and while my friends were out having fun I was practicing.
I knew that the only way I was going to make it was to put in the time and effort. I wanted it bad enough that I was willing to dedicate every waking hour to advancing my baseball skills.
The same applies to starting a business. You have to put in the effort and time if you want to succeed. There are always going to be people willing to work as hard as you are. It’s the little extra dedication that makes the difference.
- Not Afraid to Fail
In baseball, winning is everything. It’s the goal of every player and every team to go out there and win the game. While winning is great, I also knew that there were going to be some games we would lose.
You cannot be scared to lose. It’s part of the game and it’s what made us better as individual players and as a team. Business requires the same mental approach. While I’d love to win over every client and land every deal, I know that there are going to be times where we miss out.
You have to go into every situation willing to accept the outcome, even if it’s not favorable.
Every time you fail provides a lesson to learn from that will make you better. If you fail seven out of ten times at the plate in baseball, you’re likely to become a Hall of Famer — think about that for a second and let it sink in.
- Winning Requires a Team
In baseball, while my personal stats were important, those alone would not win games. Winning required a team. A team of like-minded players all focused on not only performing to his own highest ability, but working together as one unit. A well-oiled machine.
Building a successful business also requires a team. When I co-founded my companies I was focused on creating the best team. I knew that I couldn’t do it alone — and the people I brought into each venture would have a direct impact on its success.
From co-founders to entry-level positions, each team member is vital in the success of a company. The same way every position player on a baseball team plays a role in the overall success.
- Understand the Importance of Supporters (Fans and Customers)
As a player, fans and supporters are very important. We would feed off the energy in the ballpark. Fans also make the world of professional sports go around — without their support, there would be no professional baseball.
Fans purchase tickets to the games, they buy merchandise and they watch games on TV. Without them, a team wouldn’t make it and without the team, players would have no home.
A business relies on its customers in the same sense. Without them, the business doesn’t survive. Professional athletes learn early on in their career the importance of their fans and supporters and the role they play.
So, when former professional athletes transition to a business owner the concept of valuing customers isn’t foreign — the concept is fully understood.
- Competition is a Motivator
Competition — the best of the best — was one of my biggest motivators when I played baseball. I wanted to face the most dominant pitchers in the league. I wanted to play the best teams. That is how you get better. Steamrolling weaker opponents didn’t provide me with the same satisfaction.
I view business competition in the same way. Healthy competition can help you build a better business. When you are constantly making improvements you ultimately create a better product or service for your customer.
Look at the most successful companies. They are constantly evolving and pivoting, introducing additional offerings that benefit their core customers. A business isn’t going to grow and become more successful if they stay stagnant.
I’ve used competition as a source of motivation from day one, and I’m not sure if that would have been the case if I didn’t leverage and view it that way during my baseball days. Someone else might be intimidated by competition rather than leveraging it as a motivator.
- Always Practicing and Learning
After I was drafted by the Seattle Mariners out of high school I didn’t just suddenly stop training or practicing. If anything, I had to train even harder. As a professional athlete, you have to constantly improve.
Because you have to earn your spot on the roster every day. There is always going to be someone behind you, working hard to try to take your spot. This goes for every team, from Single-A and throughout the Minor Leagues to the Major League team.
As a business owner, you have to constantly learn and self-educate. From keeping up to industry news to learning new technology platforms, you have to stay up-to-date with everything related to your industry.
Self-improvement is important also. One of the things I do to keep my mind sharp is to read daily, even if it’s just a few pages. Your mind is a sponge for information — constantly learning has a direct impact on your business.