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3 Posts authored by: Dhani Jones

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.

 

Read more from Dhani Jones

 

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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.

 

Sometimes you find your passion. Other times, your passion finds you. In my case, it came from a friend.

 

In 2000, my childhood friend Kunta Littlejohn was in the middle of his battle with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – something that’s impossible to imagine until it strikes so close to home. I didn’t know how to support him. I only knew that I wanted to do something – whatever I could – to help.

 

At around the same time, I began my professional football career as a linebacker with the New York Giants. Kunta and I spoke often as he underwent treatment and I began my journey as a professional athlete. He was fighting for his life while I was launching into the national spotlight. As my star rose, Kunta told me, “If you wanna be somebody, you gotta rock a bowtie.”

 

At first, I took the statement for what it was: one friend imparting some light-hearted advice on another. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the enormous potential inherent in a tiny fashion accessory. A custom-designed bowtie could be used to tell his story of perseverance, resilience and survival – and bowties designed to support good causes could move mountains for those in need across the nation.

 

I started my business by listening and, like other business owners, I became passionate about identifying what the market needed and growing my business.


Today, BowTie Cause provides an avenue to support individuals and organizations they believe in by rockin' a signature BowTie. What began as an idea has transformed into a powerful tool for philanthropy – and a growing enterprise. I hope each bowtie will serve as a catalyst for conversation while having a meaningful impact for those in need. Bowtie Cause now helps raise money and awareness for many charitable organizations, from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to USAID.

 

It would never have been possible to empower the causes and people that BowTie Cause touches without taking a leap – to pursue a passion, to build a business, and—ultimately—to transition from one career to another as a business owner. I played professional football for 11 seasons, but now I am fully dedicated to enterprise.

 

Football and business are similar  in that you take great care to reach the Big Game. In football, you take care of your body like you take care of your business. Your goal is to reach the Big Game. As a business owner, your Big Game may be reaching the Fortune 100.

 

However, running a business has challenges different from professional football. Sales, for example. Sales can be challenging, and I’ve learned it’s important to have a compelling product and a good story in order to thrive – whether that means growing your business into an empire, or growing your business to sell it.

Professional athletes know that their careers won’t last forever. The advice I share with them is the same advice I would give all small business owners: plan while you’re planning. By this I mean focus on your current enterprise, but always look ahead to the next great idea, the next opportunity, and the next adventure.

 

Kunta knows what I’m talking about. He beat cancer, and you know he’s rockin’ a bowtie!

 

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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.

By Dhani Jones

Eleven-year pro football veteran and small business owner

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Dhani's Three Tips for Small Business Success

 

Local events provide unique opportunities for small businesses to capture excitement – and increase sales. The story of my career is filled with such events.

 

Before beginning my journey as an entrepreneur, I played professional football for 11 heart-thumping seasons. In fact, in 2005 with Philadelphia, we made it to the Big Game. Today, as a business owner, I seize opportunities like big football games – and other, local events – to create an uptick in awareness, engagement, and sales. You can learn more about my business, BowTie Cause, here.

 

Here’s the playbook for turning an event into a touchdown for your business:

 

1. Define success. Understand what you want from participating in or sponsoring any event before you dive in. What’s your goal? Define it as specifically as you can, identify how you plan to measure success, and create a game plan to achieve your objectives.Unknown.jpeg

 

2. Pick the right event. Knowledge is power, and the first step to leverage an event to benefit your business is to educate yourself. What about the event is relevant for your business? Engage where it’s most practical. For instance, if you own a record store and a music festival is planned in your area – be a sponsor. The important thing is that it makes sense for your business to be present.

 

3. Be true to your brand. Authenticity—from your brand’s message to its voice—is critical to connect with your target audience. Once you’ve identified an appropriate event, ensure your participation is true to your brand. If you own a T-shirt company that specializes in humor and a comedy festival comes to town, equip comedians with your best shirts to wear during their set; if a burger festival is on the calendar and you own a new restaurant, enter the competition; if a surf tournament comes to your local beach, sponsor a surfer and set up a pop-up shop near the event – just engage in a way that is right for your brand.

 

4. Join the conversation. There are many ways to hit a bullseye in this regard. One of the easiest is to get in on the digital dialogue – create content online paired with a trending event hashtag – and bring your brand to an active online audience. Take full advantage of social media. There are many ways to do this, from promoting targeted messaging to event attendees to streaming live video from the event. Engaging visibly online will draw attention to your business.

 

5. Consider working with a partner. If you are not resourced to plan for event engagement, consider partnering with a marketing or PR firm with values similar to yours. An experienced partner can play an important role in developing a truly impactful strategy – and help bring it to life.

 

Each business has its own story, its own goals, and its own way forward. By prioritizing relevance and authenticity, you can leverage the right event for your business to attract attention and win sales. Stay true to your brand and seize opportunities to connect in the most meaningful ways with your audience. And never forget, the way forward is your way forward.

 

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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