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Greatness: What Do Sport & Business Have In Common?

That way they think, the way they prepare, how they work and live has produced a set of characteristics we can strive to attain as follows.

Max Hussmann

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Sport creates a diversion away from the other aspects of life.

Children as well as adults engage in all kinds of competitive settings where objectives are identified, boundaries are set, order of play is identified, and so on.

In many ways, these games of play mirror and are mirrored by competitive activities in non-sporting settings such as everyday business.

Related: Dreams of Being a Billionaire? Get Your Entrepreneurial Hustle On

The lack of understanding of this visceral appeal of sports has led many to underestimate its influence and value. For instance, the famous sportscaster, Howard Cosell, derisively referred to sports as the “toy department” of life and sought to move beyond sports and into more serious broadcasting jobs his whole life.

Regardless of the setting or circumstance, and whether the challenge is in sports, life or business, the core characteristics of all great champions are the same, Yaeger said (sports journalist, best-selling author and business coach Don Yaeger). 

1. Is it always personal?

Yes – as simple as that. Great champions hate to lose even more than they love to win.

2. Association with the best

Great champions understand the power of association. While they are generally willing to help others at all levels, they are highly conscious that their own greatness is in many respects a summation of the top five individuals they associate with.

3. They provide contagious enthusiasm

Champions are not only positive thinkers, they are enthusiastic, and their enthusiasm rubs off.

4. They anticipate the best yet prepare to deal with all outcomes

Great sports heroes and great CEOs prepare for all possibilities before they step onto the field.

Related: 10 Characteristics of Superior Leaders

5. There is no off-season

What’s the “off season?” There is essentially no time that a great sports champion or a great business leader isn’t working in some way towards the next victory or game.

Great leaders never rest on their past achievements for long. The goal is always ahead and they are always thinking of and planning for the next big victory.

6. They are always a step ahead and visualise their success

successful-sportsman

To a person, great achievers see their victory and experience the result in their mind before the game begins. CEOs who’ve launched great product innovations — Bill Gates, Steve Jobs — have also recalled the experiences of visualising their victories well in advance of the facts.

7. They have ice in their veins

I would define this trait as the ability to act and react with careful consideration. True champions are thoughtful risk takers who don’t fear the possibility of making a mistake.

They deliberately act as opposed to react and they own the results of their decisions in every case. While some sports champions and CEOs are famous for their flaring tempers, the very best champions are able to make key decisions while holding their emotions in check.

8. They are able to adjust in a heartbeat

A new competitor with a market approach you hadn’t anticipated, or a sudden global crisis? A debilitating injury? Great leaders know how to adjust their game plan quickly when the unexpected occurs.

9. They are teammates

The greatest champions are willing to take whatever role is necessary for the team to achieve an ultimate win.

10. They are not motivated solely by money

This is an interesting phenomenon. If it isn’t the money that motivates the greatest sports heroes most — and research shows it isn’t the money that motivates the best CEOs — why do the multi-million dollar contracts and CEO packages need to exist? As it turns out, these are market driven issues more than motivating factors for the greatest achievers in business and sports.

Related: Billionaire Insights With David Rubenstein

11. They know: Records are made to be broken

The greatest champions know that their legacy is far beyond the achievements they made in the boardroom or on the field. They don’t get caught up in the “image of their greatness” and mistake it as the definition of their actual worth.

Great leaders are grateful for the opportunities they’ve been given. In most cases they are humble and active in their efforts to teach and empower the next generations of champion achievers as well.

Most of us will never become sports heroes. However, every entrepreneur carries the opportunity to create a heroic business and to lead their organisation, or their division or even their own career function with the same characteristics that have defined the world’s top sports champions and renowned CEOs.

Important is that you never stop believing. Only if you try you will either fail, learn from it and stand up again or succeed and reach for the next opportunity coming your way.

Max was born to German parents and having grown up in West Africa, Max studied in one of Europe's well known Universities International Relations and Finance - which let his move at an early stage after his degree to Latin America where he remained for 3 years and worked on his business ideas. Africa - you either love it or you hate it as the saying goes: Max returned to Africa in 2009 and has been here ever since growing a number of businesses. His extreme focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and the change so urgently needing in South Africa have raised controversy - not stopping him on his path of change. He believes in the continent being the land of opportunities which we way too often seem to forget. Openly speaking about the political issues Africa faces he aims to be the game changer - his book provides more inside on his chain of thought and passion! A saying by Winston Churchill he strongly believes in: “To improve is to change, to perfect is to change constant."

Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

Build Solid Back-Room Basics For Business Success

What do South African entrepreneurs really know about what goes on behind the scenes building of businesses?

Marc Wachsberger

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South Africa has a vibrant start-up culture with great ideas starting out with a bang, but closing down with a whimper because entrepreneurs picture the glory at the destination, but not the nitty gritty of the journey to get there.

Be smart about scale

When I started out, I literally did everything myself. I negotiated and signed leases, I arranged the furnishing for our apartments and managed the interior décor process. When guests started using our apartments, I signed them in at reception, and then carried their bags.

At that stage, there was no money in my business to pay for attorneys, interior designers and decorators and there certainly wasn’t enough money for porters.

However, when we got to 70 apartments, it didn’t make sense for me to be a porter any longer, so I hired someone to do that job, explaining clearly what I expected of him. Before I did that, though, I spent time designing incentives for him so that he would be more affordable for me, and so that he could earn as much money as possible.

Related: Training Is A Two-Way Trick

Know your talents – and your limitations

There are certain things I’m really good at, but I know without a doubt that sales isn’t one of them – and without sales, you don’t have a business. I couldn’t afford a top-flight salesperson, but I knew that I could attract the right talent with the right business model. I set some high targets for Pamela Niemand, but offered her one third of the business if she met them. We both won: she earned a share in a successful, trend-setting business, and my trend-setting business became successful!

Use your skills – but know when to hand over

My background in corporate finance meant that I had all the accounting skills I needed when we first started out, but I knew that the time would come when I would need someone focused on that side of the business full time. Doing it all myself first meant that I could brief my first full-time accountant clearly and with a deep understanding of what would be required – and that I could help that person find and fix any challenges based on my experience.

In summary, my simple advice to anyone starting out would be to bootstrap your business yourself without investors or staff for as long as you can, but don’t over-extend yourself. Know when to delegate tasks away so that you can focus on what you’re really good at – but don’t do it before you have a solid understanding of what’s required. Know what you’ll never be able to do, and bring in that resource from the beginning – but do it based on performance-based incentives, so that your fledgling business doesn’t lose out if your early hires don’t perform.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

The Myth About The Relationship Between Entrepreneurs And Taking Risks

This is the true relationship between entrepreneurs and the apparent illusion of risk.

Lisa Illingworth

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“I can’t be an entrepreneur or start a business. I don’t have the appetite for risk.” This line is spoken regularly to brave few that leave the perceived safety of a job, take the plunge and venture into the unknown world of being an entrepreneur. However, there is a gross misunderstanding in the appetite for risk that entrepreneurs are believed to have innately inside of them.

The little-known truth is that the majority of entrepreneurs don’t like taking risks and according to Luca Rigotti and Mathew Ryan in their paper that explores a model for quantifying risk and its translation into enterprising action, the results were very interesting.

Risk is explained by these theorists as taking action where the outcomes are unpredictable as well the factors leading to that outcome are unknown. One of the theorists in this area, Saraswati, who coined the term “tolerance for ambiguity” has a more accurate description of what the outside world deems taking a risk.

In simple terms, entrepreneurs don’t go head-first into the shark infested water because they like the idea of danger and potentially being eaten alive; or the thrill of being able to say that they survived whilst others perished in a pool of maimed flesh. They carefully calculate that the sharks have been fed recently, some of the sharks are ragged tooth sharks that whilst looking like they are set to devour a human being, are actually incapable of opening their jaws wide enough to bite. For those sharks that still have space or who smell blood and can’t resist the urge to kill, the entrepreneur has a cage set up that he can retreat into quickly and a knife with which to protect himself.

Related: 5 Infamous Risks Every Entrepreneur Must Face

Tolerance for ambiguity is the careful evaluation of what is known at the moment where a decision must be made and an open-mindedness for what is not known. This, coupled with the agility to change course when new information is presented, has earned the label of high risk appetite. The appetite is not for the risk, but it is the ability to move down a path, when all the information is not known.

I likened it to a person moving around in the dark holding a candle. The candle casts a light that illuminates a limited parameter around the person holding the candle. What is beyond the light that the candle casts, is unknown and potentially a risk. But as the person moves forward, the light reveals what was unknown and in the shadows. As the light reveals new information and new challenges added to what they have already learnt, the person can make better informed decisions. The tolerance is in not knowing what lies in the shadows yet to be illuminated by the candle and then the confidence in his or her own ability to act on what new information is discovered.

None of this behaviour is risky or irresponsible. There is careful consideration for what is known and a tolerance for what is unknown. And once there is more information available, a calculated next step is taken and more information is assimilated into what is now known. This is the true relationship between entrepreneurs and the apparent illusion of risk.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

7 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs To Adopt Today

Want to know what skills can help you build confidence and your business? Here are seven…

Nicholas Bell

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For some people, becoming an entrepreneur is as easy as stepping off a bus. They have a big idea, they bring it to life, they hire employees and the next thing they are in a building smothered in branding and living the business dream. For others, the idea and the passion are there but they are unsure as to how they can make these into a sustainable reality. Entrepreneurial spirit isn’t like instant coffee – you don’t add ideas and suddenly get all the skills you need to thrive.

Want to know what skills can help you build confidence and your business? Here are seven…

1. Believable vision

Make sure that your vision is believable and achievable. It has to live in the realms of possibility, not as a blue-sky idea that looks good on paper but wouldn’t work in reality. You need to be able to live this vision so make it realistic and achievable. This will not only keep you on track, but your employees as well.

2. Be inclusive

You need to ensure that every person who works with you feels as if they are part of your vision and understand it. They need to relate to where the business is going and how it plans to get there. Many leaders don’t understand why employees are not engaged with their business and it’s because many of them don’t actually understand what the business does.

Related: 4 Ways To Improve Your Budgeting Skills

3. Communication is critical

If you don’t have fantastic communication skills, then now is the time to hone them. When it comes to building employee morale, commitment and engagement, nothing works as effectively as constant communication. The same applies to client relationships. You need to repeat the vision and ethos of the company at every opportunity and you need to be part of the team that does this communication.

4. Be visible and transparent

You are communicating, now you need to make that communication genuine by being both open and clear. People respond incredibly well to transparency. They feel as if they are part of something that recognises their value and contribution and it fosters a more inclusive company culture. Often toxic cultures come about thanks to a lack of communication and visibility. People know when things are being kept secret and react negatively to it, regardless of whether they’re an employee, a customer or a manager.

5. Be practical

You aren’t going to build an empire in a fortnight so focus on a realistic and practical business strategy that has clear benchmarks and even clearer goals. Communicate these with the company and keep everybody on the same page. Practical and achievable means long-term success.

Related: Crucial Skills You Need To Be An Entrepreneur

6. Build opportunities

As people become immersed in your company and part of its growth they will also need opportunities to grow. You need to tie their careers to the business and create opportunities for them.

7. Be human

It takes people to build a culture, a company and a future. It’s essential that you are human in your interactions and your treatment of others. The impact that a down to earth and authentic attitude can have on a company is extraordinary.

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