Why aspiring business players should learn from the game

21 Aug, 2017

It’s no doubt business has endless parallels with sporting performance. The fierce competition, team dynamics – and even having to swallow your pride and click a (metaphorical) broken nose back into place after a scuffle – all suggest the boardroom and change-room are variations on the same model. With the imminent kick-off of the Currie Cup, proud partner Nashua lines up key practices to be adopted by professionals to boost the bottom line.

It’s in the hours
Training, practice and dedication – it doesn’t happen overnight or with one morale-boosting motivational speaker. Did you know the Springboks train on average 30 to 35 hours a week? It’s the day-to-day grind that fuels success.

Adopt dogged development and training habits. Organise, engage in and encourage your team to actively focus on growth as a unit, as well as self-development. Reading, measurable goals, development workshops and thought-leadership lock-downs are all effective ways to start. If you need any more assurance that experience and practice is the only way to become an expert, look to the 10 000 hour rule. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. It’s the long haul that breeds professionals.

Find your Zen
Rest days are as important as training. You can’t cheat the system, over-work yourself and expect positive results. Respect the laws of balance for long-term success.

Most professional sports players engage in activities completely out of the scope of their normal day-to-day training to completely unwind. Some SA rugby players choose golf or surfing to unwind. Cristiano Ronaldo is rumoured to play bingo and swimmer Ryan Lochte apparently chooses to doodle in his down-time. It’s the only time in business and sport where no rules apply. Apply the same rules to business: make it a rule for you and your employees to have adequate time to rest and recoup. Just as in sport, this is particularly important after ‘sprints’ – periods of extreme activity.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn
It’s said approximately 50% of all rugby injuries occur when a player is tackling or being tackled – which means players are actively going after what they want, or what needs to be done to achieve the goal of the team.

The lesson? When you take a risk and put yourself on the line, you can win big or learn big. And learning allows you to grow. Not making the move is the biggest mistake.

True grit is in picking yourself up, wiping the mud off your face, and not being afraid to run again at the opponent. Though tackling in this context is metaphorical, if a real-life tackle happens in business, you may want to question whether your adversaries are of the right calibre.

Keep ‘em humble
Before leaving the dressing room at the end of the game, some of the most famous names in rugby – including ex-All Blacks captain Richie McCaw – clean up after themselves. Literally and figuratively ‘sweeping the sheds’. The point being, you’re never too good to do the work at the bottom rung of the ladder. And neither is your team.

Hone in
Focused, specific and psychological prep is crucial to conquer. In the lead-up to the 2007 World Cup, famed Springbok Bryan Habana is said to have taken up additional training with a hand-eye co-ordination specialist, knowing that fine-tuning his focus was key to success – and it paid off.

Most professional athletes regularly call on the assistance of sports psychologists to optimise performance. Key take-away: throw pride to the wind and analyse, improve and optimise with the help of professionals.

People to people
The fan interaction, the post-match interview, the selfies with fans at the airport: successful teams know capturing hearts is so more than winning. A Harvard study reveals 95% of purchasing decisions are made using emotional and not rational thought.

Find and keep customers who agree with the core principles of your business, which makes them more likely to be forgiving if you do make a mistake (which will happen, so bank on it).

Nashua, for example, speaks business as its first language, but knows the complexities of its customers require a more nuanced approach to doing business. Initiatives like the Nashua Children’s Charity Foundation (NCCF) improves the lives of underprivileged children in local communities, while the Nashua Rugby Skills Project (NRSP) develops the skills of young rugby players.

It’s these kinds of engaged and community-based initiatives that keep Nashua customers loyal in an increasingly fickle environment, as well as their customer-focused network of franchises, built on solid and deeply human relationships.

The competitive business landscape mirrors the sports South Africans spectate in their out-of-business hours. Draw lessons from one to the other – it might mean the difference between lukewarm participants and a striking win. And it’s an excuse to watch every Currie Cup match this season – it’s research, after all?

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