I used to live in Wimbledon, and even attended high school there, complete with grass tennis courts. So as you can imagine when I found that my trip to the UK coincided with the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, I was excited. Truth be, I actually became pretty glued to the television and was surprised at how vocal I became about a winning shot, especially if I favoured that player. But what also surprised me were the number of business lessons that could be garnered from the Championships.
Some of the matches, especially in the semi-finals once you got down to the really skilled players, could have been easily won by either opponent, it was that close. But just like in business, you can be neck and neck with your competitors, and suddenly one of you gets ahead. So what did the winners do to make that happen?
1. Change tactics. Tennis like any game is also about strategy and keeping your opponent guessing on just where you will send the ball or what stroke you will use. Changing up you game worked for several of the players and sometimes in business that is what we have to do to stay ahead. It is all about listening to our customers and changing our offerings, if what we usually provide is not working.
2. Be bold. When it came to the final set, it was often the player who was bold, came up to the net and took risks, who won. Trusting your gut as a business owner, and taking that leap into the unknown is something we did when we started our businesses, and we need to continue if we want to become leaders in our industry.
3. Stay calm. As in any crisis situation -- be it winning a tennis game or a new account, keeping a level, balanced perspective helps. Easier said than done, but some of the players lost because their play became more erratic as their nerves took over and dominated their performance, instead of their talents.
4. Don't be complacent. Tennis champions know never to take their winning or leading in a match for granted. It can all change on a dime. Sometimes it can be pure luck on their opponent's part, when the shot just skips over the net, but it is all part of the game, and can change the outcome. Both in tennis and business, you have to play to win. It is never a deal until it is a signed deal.
5. Use your judgment. Skillful tennis players know when to let the ball go out, instead of using up energy chasing a ball that would not win them a point. In business we need to learn that we don't have to win every account/client but more be strategic in how we spend our time.
6. Build your support network. When the players were gracious, friendly and spent time signing the autographs, it was time well-spent as they won over the crowd so when they played their next game, the tennis fans were routing for them. The surly player on the other hand, lost that psychological support from the crowd. They may have been admired for their talent, but the crowd were not behind them. In business it is good to have people in your corner, supporting you. Don't alienate people as you rise through the ranks. It can come back to bite you.
7. Build your stamina for the long haul. No longer is it enough that you are a talented tennis player, you have to be fit, athletic and have the physical stamina to keep going when you don't think you've got the strength to carry on.
Likewise in business, your passion and skills aren't enough. Like the tennis players, you have to build a team of experts who will get you through the tough times. You have to be resilient to the curve balls that may come you way and be able to bounce back.
8. It is not all about you. Lose and win gracefully. In one of the matches, the losing player appeared most ungracious, but in learning more, it would appear that the winner was someone, who while loved by the crowds, was less respected by her peers. She enjoyed and played up to the attention she received as the winner but this detracted from and diminished the talents of her opponent.
Perhaps if she had been more respectful of her losing opponent and how she would be feeling, the outcome would have been different.This really speaks to how no one likes to lose but when they are treated with respect and their efforts acknowledged, that bitter pill is more easily swallowed.
Having observed how much the finalists won at Wimbledon, it seems to me, that no one was really a loser, just some got to take home more.