Few people prepare longer and harder than professional athletes. Hours of dedication to training, diet, and study ensure athletes can bring it during game day, and they know better than anyone there is no substitute for hard work.


As a professional football player turned entrepreneur, I believe small business owners can learn a lot from athletes. To open and run a successful small business takes research, commitment, agility and teamwork. Everything doesn’t always go your way, but it’s up to you to do everything you can to achieve success.


Here’s how you can think like an athlete to the benefit of your business.


1. Get comfortable with discipline


Athletes discipline themselves with relentless training to ensure they perform to the best of their ability. Similarly, small business owners must understand that discipline is not a hobby – it’s a lifestyle. Commit yourself to being as organized as possible, and eliminate the risk of making careless errors that could be detrimental to the health of your enterprise.


Entrepreneurs need to take great care to understand their industry inside and out, to stay on top of trends, attend conferences, capitalize on events, read the right books and trade publications, train themselves and their employees, and understand the competition better than it knows itself. This commitment will broaden understanding of your field, sharpen your skillset as an entrepreneur and ensure you run a tight – and profitable – ship.


2. Be better than yesterday


Athletes train to improve themselves – to be better than who they were last season. Teams do the same. When a season ends, players and coaches reflect to see what they could have done better, and then act on those learnings.


Businesses should do the same. What worked last quarter? What didn’t? There’s no such thing as a perfect athlete, a perfect business, or a perfect person, but there are winners and losers in business and those who win do so by constantly improving.  Every day is an opportunity to examine what works and what doesn’t work, acquire a new skill or a new team member, and cut or add where you need to. Regular self-examination is essential for evolution, and evolution is what enables some businesses to thrive while others fail.


3. Your team will make or break your business


A football team’s success is rooted in collaboration. Players must understand how to work with one another to put the most points on the board. In the same way, businesses depend on teamwork. You need the right players for the job – for strong performance and for a healthy environment.


Culture is crucial to building a positive environment for a team or an office. In a sense, the culture of your company begins with you. Create and cultivate that culture by finding the right teammates and leaders who will champion your objectives and your brand. If you have a happy and harmonious team that wants to do great things, there’s little to stop you.


Teamwork is Key to Success




4. Believe in yourself


Finally, and most importantly, believe in yourself. There will be many voices who say you can’t do it, it’s impossible, and there’s no way forward. Some of those voices might even come from inside yourself. The truth is, for most entrepreneurs, building a business is twice as hard as they thought it would be.


But if you have the passion, if your business plan is strong enough, if you can see a clear way forward, and if you’ve put the right people in place who have what it takes to evolve, you will succeed. Trust your team, trust your plan, and understand you have what it takes.


While every business has unique challenges, one truth remains consistent for all small business owners: smart, hard work is necessary to run a successful business. By dedicating yourself to improve, focusing on teamwork and understanding you can succeed, you’re on the right track to a successful career as a small business owner.


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About Dhani Jones

Dhani Jones is the owner of BowTie Cause, which empowers numerous organizations with custom bowties designed to support their initiatives. Before his journey into entrepreneurship, Jones played for eleven seasons in pro football as a linebacker in New York, Philadelphia, and with Cincinnati. Additionally, he hosted the Travel Channel series, Dhani Tackles the Globe and the CNBC series, Adventure Capitalist. He is a guest contributor to the Small Business Community.

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