The Business in Sports

I can already see your eyes rolling and your lungs compressing after taking a long and hard sigh. I know. The business world almost has as many sports analogies as it does people giving out stock investment advice every day. It seems like every time I have been to a big conference, the keynote speaker brings up her or his favorite sport to tell a story (usually it’s about golf or football). Honestly, I can’t help but share these nuggets with you because I love my sports and there are some really great lessons that I have learned. I have tried to make these a little unique and personal to differentiate myself from every other speaker and writer on business.  I hope that you bear with me and enjoy my version of the business and sports analogy.

 

The Importance of Patience

Most of you may not know, but the sport that I am most passionate about playing is Ice Hockey. I love hockey because it is so difficult to play. In addition to learning the game and its strategy, you also have to learn how to balance on two skates with 1-1.5mm blades. Simply learning how to skate well enough to play in a game took me almost two years and it took me about another five or six years of on and off playing to really feel comfortable. I didn’t start playing until I was 13 years old so I didn’t really become proficient until I was in college.

This sport, simply put, has taught me patience and hard work. The fact that I couldn’t really play for years meant that I had to spend two miserable years falling, slipping and sliding, all while dreaming of a day when I could glide like the older kids.  Similarly, in business, it is that critical two-year period before a business starts up when things really begin to form. That two-year period is also really hard because we have nothing to show for our efforts yet. We want to score goals and make plays but the market dictates that we must take our time and lay the foundation before we can do so. I think that, as hard as this process is, my experience in learning how to play hockey has made me able to focus on the long-term goal and not the short-term struggle.

 

The Importance of Timing and Vision

The other sport that I play is soccer. Believe it or not I have been playing soccer since I was five years old so it comes much more naturally to me than Ice Hockey. I don’t like to toot my own horn but I understand the game a lot without having to think or struggle because I have been playing so long. In my early 20’s I was a lot faster and better but I can still keep up at 31 with my younger compatriots.

The most important part of soccer that I try to explain to the newer players is about vision and timing. A lot of times, newer players come out to play and they try to force errant passes and shots because they are not looking at the bigger picture. Soccer is simply a numbers game. The longer you have possession of the ball, the more likely you are to score and the less likely it will be for the other team to score. Soccer, therefore, involves a lot of backwards and sideways passes which allow for the offense to naturally develop while maintaining possession. Having the vision to see a play develop and then picking the exact right time to start attacking is paramount. We, as entrepreneurs, have to do the exact same thing. We must have the timing and vision critical to slowly allow our plans to develop so that we can make sure that our plan has the highest chance of success. Most of the time, we only get one chance at making our entrepreneurial dreams come true so it is essential that we nurture and develop that chance as much as possible so as not to waste it when we are ready to launch.

 

The Importance of Sharing

No matter what sport you play or what career you have chosen, there will always be people who are both further along than you as well as those who are behind you in their growth and development. Sports have taught me that competition makes us, as an economy, ultimately better because it forces us all to evolve and grow faster. As a result, I not only try to learn from those who are better than me but I simultaneously try to help those who are behind me to catch up and give them some encouragement. Whether you are a seasoned veteran of your field or a newcomer, simply sharing your story (via a blog, perhaps) can help inspire others follow along in your footsteps. After all, what is the point in learning and growing if we do not share that growth and that good news with others? Paying “it” forward and always trying to improve are keys to our personal success as well as the success of our overall economy.

I hope that the sports references weren’t too boring for those of you who might find sports as interesting as I find C-Span during a Congressional Recess. Even if you did, I hope that you were still able to get a few takeaways from my lessons in sports. If you are a sports fan or athlete, please share your favorite sport(s) as well as a quick lesson or story that you have learned which has helped you in your career. Thank you, as always, for reading.  Remember to take a few minutes this week to help someone below you climb up, while also trying to learn from someone further along. This is what it means to truly evolve.

ice-palace

The ice rink where I play at while here in Orange County.

 

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” – Hebrews 12:11-13

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CSR as a KPI for a Better ROI

We all have our, seemingly, endless list of duties and responsibilities in our lives. Those may include anything from going to work every day, taking the kids to school, paying the bills or even volunteering at a local food bank or shelter. Our businesses are no different. We have our list of daily duties, tasks and to-dos but where does our responsibility as business owners and managers end? That is a growing conversation in the business world right now.

Corporate Social Responsibility. It’s a trendy phrase right now in business. In short, it refers to programs that corporations are implementing in order to expand their positive reach outside of the products and services they provide in order to help others who aren’t necessarily stakeholders (owners, employees, vendors, customers, etc.). Companies both large and small are actively hiring people to help them seek out opportunities to give back so that their capital, people and products are being used for the greater good of society. I, personally, think that this is awesome and I hope that the trend continues. I suppose that the question is, however, what is the appropriate amount for each company.

If a company takes on too many philanthropic programs outside of their normal operations, they run the risk of depleting cash and no longer being able to operate. Conversely, if a company does nothing but collect profit, they can lose market share and brand equity as their reputation for “not caring” is spread and publicized. Frankly, I don’t think that there is an “appropriate amount” of CSR. Rather, I choose to instead applaud people’s efforts no matter how big or small as long as they are sustainable and won’t drive them into bankruptcy. Any company’s efforts to help make the lives of those around them better is, ultimately, going to make that company better in its company.

As “responsibility” becomes more important there will, of course, be companies adopting new standards and programs solely to “hop on the band wagon.” In my opinion, that’s fine because what they are doing is still positive even if the motivation for doing so is solely out of a foreseen “duty” rather than a “privilege” or “right.” The mere fact that more corporations are thinking outside of themselves and outside of their profits is a big step in the right direction and we, as consumers and fellow entrepreneurs, should applaud ourselves for it. After all, truly improving societal norms and conditions requires an all hands on deck approach, so we will all need to pitch in and do our part. Let’s roll up those sleeves and get busy.

Do you have a favorite company doing great things in your community? If you do, please feel free to describe share what they are doing. We can all grow from hearing one another’s efforts to do good.

 

j-crew-2

Last year, I purchased this shirt from a J Crew store here in Orange County. Part of the proceeds from the shirt went to non-profits to help improve education. My sister-in-law is a teacher so I bought the shirt to support her and all of the other great teachers throughout the world. Thank you for everything that you do and thank you to J. Crew for contributing to their success.

 

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” – Hebrews 6:10 NIV

The Fruits of Our Labor

Yesterday, our nation celebrated Labor Day. This is a day where we can relax so that we can take a step back and bear witness to the work that we have accomplished to date. I spent part of yesterday morning reflecting on the Genesis Goods journey and how far we’ve come. I know that we still have a very long ways to go before we can begin selling our items but I think that it’s important that we celebrate the progress we have made.

In honor of making our labor fruitful, not only for us but also for you (our friends and consumers), I would like to invite you to participate in this week’s blog. This work that we are doing is, ultimately, by and for the people and we want to be cognizant of that from the beginning. As we move into the final phase of our production sample generation, I would like you all to tell us in the comments what characteristic is paramount in your favorite brand of jeans? What makes you a loyal consumer of that brand? We have done several marketing studies in the past asking similar questions but I am curious to hear what you all say. Ultimately, the happier and more loyal that we can make you, our consumers, the more we can grow to help change the lives of our stakeholders as well as those in our communities and beyond via meaningful donations as well as job creation.

I hope that you all had a restful and peaceful Labor Day and I hope that are looking forward to continuing your work this week. Enjoy this time of reflection and I pray that we, all, are able to conduct the work that allows us to make the world around us and beyond a better place. This is the true meaning and spirit of our work. Happy Labor Day week!

food-bank

My wife and I spent Friday morning volunteering at the Second Harvest Food Bank here in Orange County. We had a great time and it reminded us that our work consists of more than just our day-to-day to-do lists. We, literally, were able to stand back and observe the fruits of our labor after our few hours working there.

 

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” – Romans 12:4-8 ESV