It takes a similar set of skills to excel at a sport as it does to achieve business success. That’s why so may prominent sports figures are successful businessmen after retiring.
You can learn their business mindset hacks to help you achieve growth and profitability, whether it’s understanding your role as a leader, using the competition to make you stronger, correctly using your emotions as a leader or implementing the 80/20 principle.
Here are 4 mindset lessons form sporting legends you can use to take your business to the next level.
1. Gary Kirsten: Understanding your role in leadership
As a Protea cricket player, Gary Kirsten loved the game. As an international coach, he discovered that leadership is about more than motivating a team to win.
It’s about leading a successful life, which starts with understanding and working towards a greater good.
“Harry Truman said that it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit. This has always resonated with me. It’s the essence of teamwork, and what you can accomplish when you work together.”
After retiring, and starting a cricket academy, Gary was approached by the Indian cricket team. “They were actually interested in chatting to me, even though I had exactly zero hours of coaching experience.”
The Indian cricket team had some of the best players in the world, and yet they didn’t function as a cohesive unit. This played a part in why they were not doing as well on the international stage as they should have.
Our role wasn’t to tell them how to play better, it was to help them to become a team
“Once I joined the team, I started by asking the whole team to write down on a piece of paper one commitment to the team over the course of the series. What will your commitment be from tomorrow for this team? It was a turning point for us.
“It was when each player stopped functioning as an individual and started working towards a greater good. The fact that it was a commitment that needed to be honoured just made it even stronger. They were choosing what their best contribution to the team could be. They were taking ownership over the team’s success.
“It was a lesson that shaped the kind of leader I wanted to be: I needed to open my ears and shut my mouth. I needed to listen to my team, understand who they were as people, and then assist them.”
2. Dawid Mocke: Understanding that competition only makes you better
“Competitive sport, especially at the high stakes professional level, teaches you very quickly to identify and maximise opportunities while in play,” Dawid Mocke is a champion in Mocke Paddling and founder of the Surf Ski School in Cape Town.
“You need to be able to adapt, so that you are ready to utilise all of your skills, and to take chances. This also means identifying which chances are worth the risk, and which are not.
“At other times, especially if you’re in the lead, it’s better to focus on ‘safety first’ and not take unnecessary risks that could jeopardise your lead. But if you’re coming in second, and you have an opportunity that could get you over the line first, then you need to take it.”
Direction is an important choice
“In my sport, our main racing is done by paddling downwind, and riding ocean swells and chop. Here, every swell in front of you represents an opportunity — except you can’t catch each one, or you’ll burn yourself out, both physically and strategically. You may even end up going the wrong way.
“The same can be said of an entrepreneur faced with a myriad of opportunities — you can do ‘anything’, just not ‘everything’.
“You have to choose. I’ve learnt — in paddling, business and life — that there’s no use looking back. The opportunities lie ahead, you just need to choose your course of action.”
Fierce competition doesn’t need to breed animosity
“If you want to reach the highest level, you have to be fiercely competitive and do everything you can to get ahead of your opponent.
“This doesn’t have to breeds animosity between competitors, there are countless examples of the best athletes in the world who are great friends, but able to compete fiercely on the pitch. These are the athletes we should be emulating.
“First, because they understand that competition only makes them better; second, because they don’t base their significance on performance alone; and third, because they are able to remain humble despite their success. They know it’s a privilege that can be taken away at any moment.
“I try to be on good terms with all my competitors, whether in sport or in business. Are you in business to win at all costs, or do you actually want to make the world and your customers’ lives better?
Focus on your strengths
“There are many things I would change if I could go back. For example, I spent many years in my businesses wasting countless hours on tasks that weren’t my strong point and not asking for the necessary help.
“I needed to learn to focus my effort on my strengths and not my weaknesses. But we can’t look back, we must look forward — because that’s where the opportunities lie.”
3. Corné Krige: Where and when not to use emotion in leadership
Often referred to as ‘Captain Courageous’, Corné Krige is a former Springbok captain who participated as a team leader in Survivor South Africa: Champions. Here’s his take on leadership.
“We often get emotional in business. It’s our passion, life, livelihood and income, and those all come with substantial emotions.
“As leaders though, we need to be able to step back and consider what it means to make decisions when emotions are running high. You need to be particularly careful that you’re not making the wrong decisions because you’re emotional.”
Don’t let emotion hinder your progress
“These lessons were entrenched during my Springbok days, but my experiences on Survivor really brought them home again. Survivor is extreme. You’re tired and emotional all the time and you have to understand that any decision you make is one that’s filled with emotion.
“You need to be so careful – in that state, you still need to evaluate if you’re making the right decisions, and if you’re the best leader you can be, because you’re not the only one who’s tired and emotional.
“During Survivor, I often had people on my team who wanted to quit. I wanted to quit. You’re exhausted, you’re hungry, all you want to do is lie down, but the tide’s up and you know that if you don’t fish right now, no one’s eating tonight. You have to overcome your emotions; master them.
“More than that, you have to help your team master their emotions too. If someone came to me and said that they wanted to quit, I always asked them if it was because they were tired and hungry and emotionally drained. Their answer would generally be ‘yes, but it’s more than that’.
“Okay, I’d reply, so let’s take the emotion out of it. Let’s say you’ve just had a big steak, and you’ve just had your first good night’s sleep of ten hours, (because on average we were sleeping about three to four hours), would this decision still be the right one? And they’d say no. ‘I sacrificed a lot to get here, I’m prepared to carry on’.”
Not all emotion is bad if your use it strategically
“In business, the higher up you go, the more important this lesson becomes. There’s a lot riding on your decisions, and you can’t let your emotions get the better of you. Complicating matters further, as a leader emotion is also hugely important.
“You need to have empathy and be able to understand people’s situations and make decisions based on this understanding. There’s a fine line you need to walk, and that takes practice.”
4. Bob Skinstad: The impact of the 80/20 principle
To really make an impact, Bob Skinstad, ex-Springbok rugby captain, businessman and now venture capitalist, turned to the 80/20 principle. What small but significant area could he turn all of his attention towards, to achieve 80% of the results he was looking for?
The 80/20 principle is one of the most powerful success secrets in the world — provided you implement it. Most people have heard of it, few put it into action.
Bob is re-energising an age-old principle by sharing a collection of real-life examples from highly successful people of 80/20 in action. Here’s how you can start embracing an 80/20 mindset today — and see phenomenal results in return.
How you can use the 80/20 principle
“What’s incredible about the 80/20 principle is that it’s relevant in every single facet of life. I first discovered it while I was playing rugby in my early 20s, and I read Richard Koch’s book, The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More With Less, but I use it in my business development capacity at Knife Capital today and have applied it in various ways throughout my life and career.
“It’s an absolute game changer if you understand how to apply the principles, and the success that putting pressure on the right levers can achieve in your life.
“I really wanted to share all the lessons I’d learnt, and also the experiences of so many other sportsmen, business leaders and entrepreneurs whom I know have used 80/20 to achieve success.
“I didn’t want to write a book though — I thought a course would be more immediate and practical, particularly for millennials, who I believe can really benefit from fostering an 80/20 mindset early in their careers.
“Richard and I collaborated on the course. I wrote the content, recruited a number of my contacts to share their own success stories, and Richard reviewed all the material before it went live.
“It’s been a great experience, and one I hope will spread the word of how significant a shift to the 80/20 mindset can be. Once you understand the principles in action, it becomes the lens you use to make all of your decisions, which has an exponential impact on your life, business and career.”
80/20 principle in action
“A few years ago, I was involved in a restaurant in Cape Town. We realised that 80% of the food customers ordered came from 20% of the menu.
“Through this simple insight, we were able to take a 36-page menu down to two pages. We saved costs on wastage, streamlined kitchen processes, and increased our efficiencies and customer service levels through this one simple change.
“The hardest part is getting started. Once you see success in one area though, you naturally start looking for the 80/20 in other areas of your life, and before you know it that’s how you look at everything.
“I see examples of 80/20 everywhere, but I also see a lot of what I call ‘2080’ thinking. Take the ‘latte factor’ as an example. A few years ago, the idea took hold in the US (and South Africa) that if you just stopped drinking a latte once a day, you’d save $250 in 100 days. I disagree completely. If you really want to impact your savings, renegotiate your bond with your bank once a year.
“That will give you a far greater saving than cutting out lattes, and you haven’t deprived yourself of something that makes life pleasant.
“One key negotiation at the right time will have a much bigger impact on your life — speak to your bank, negotiate a raise — but look at the key area that will have an 80% impact, instead of an almost insignificant impact. That’s where you should be putting your willpower, energy and self-discipline.”
Implementing 80/20 principle in business
“We recently invested in a Swedish-based business called MOST, which develops environmental monitoring solutions for the transport and shipping industry. An early investor in MOST is King Digital Entertainment, the creator of Candy Crush. We love MOST.
“It’s tracking really nice numbers, the management team is excellent, the product is next level, the business model allows for recurring revenues — but our aim as an investor is to grow the business.
“We needed to analyse which areas to concentrate on that will have the biggest impact on growth. Through applying 80/20 we realised that 12% of MOST’s current customers are responsible for 82% of the business’s revenues.
“How much energy, time and resources are put into the other 88% of clients who are only responsible for 18% of the company’s revenue? And what can be done to bring more customers on board who are like the 12%, and not the 88% of MOST’s customer base?
“Focus on the right areas, and you’ll exponentially grow your revenues without increasing overheads or expending more energy — in fact, you could actually do more in less time, with fewer people, if you know where to concentrate your efforts.”
How to apply the 80/20 principle
Bob believes that at its core, 80/20 is common sense — you just need to apply your mind to the principles, and ask the right questions:
- What’s your 80/20?
- Who are your biggest customers?
- Where are you spending most of your time?
- Which actions have the biggest impact?
- Where are your waste areas?
- In each case, can you 80/20 the results you’re looking for?
- What’s the 20% that will generate 80% of your returns, or impact 80% of your success?
- What’s the 20% that will affect the world and your customers’ lives and businesses?