According to professional golfer Phil Mickelson, choosing the right club for the situation is the first step if you're going to be successful at any point. If you choose the wrong club you will miss your mark, no matter how well you swing. Also, the club that is right for a particular shot will change depending on the player's ability.
The same is true in business. To succeed, you need to choose the right tool for the situation. That tool may be a particular hire that you make or what software you use. The tool that is right for your business in a particular situation can be different from what is right for another business in a similar situation. If you look at the game of golf long enough, you start seeing ways it can inform your entrepreneurial career. Here are five of those lessons.
1. It’s harder than you thought, and that’s OK.
Entrepreneurs often begin their businesses with a fair degree of inexperience, not realizing that running your own business is hard. We often look at the pros (in golf and in business), and most of the time they make it look easy. It’s not. It just takes time, patience, and practice. All you have to do is spend five minutes at a driving range to find that out. It is exceedingly rare to find the athlete or business leader who reached great success without years of painstaking, often repetitive, honing of skills. Much of this hard work is done without glory or praise. The entrepreneur goes through it all for the long-term goals he or she envisioned at the beginning and along the way.
2. Have a strategy.
If you watch a professional golf tournament, you’ll hear commentary about the players or their caddies walking the course before they play a round. Many of history's greatest players, like Jack Nicklaus, did this to get the layout of the course, know the hole positions and discover any potential problems. After doing this, top players will go back and develop a strategy for how they will attack the course. Often times, players will have a strategy for how they play each and every hole. The same is true when running your own business. You should strongly consider building strategies for individual projects, your first year, three years, five years, and beyond.
Consider Apple’s iPad Air strategy. The iPad Air sells for $499 and costs $274 to make. Some competing tablets sell for close to $200 less. Still, Apple is able to sell its tablet for these premiums because of the multiple ways company marketing has differentiated this product from competitors. These selling points are almost universally famous now. They include design, software and usability, among others. The point is, company strategists created plans for different stages of products and executed them, obviously highly effectively in this case.
3. Do the job you're meant to do.
Do you ever see Tiger Woods or Rory McDonald carry their golf bag? You won’t, at least not during a professional tournament. Why not? It's not the job they're suppose to be doing. They need to focus on finishing the course in fewer strokes than anyone else. Many caddies are also very accomplished golfers, but their best contribution to the duo is carrying the bag and helping the professionals talk through difficult shots. For every business owner, you need to have people surrounding you that help you function at your highest level. Even solo-preneurs can outsource tasks that would free up their time to do more productive things for their business. If you're CEO of a startup, you shouldn't be tasked with organizing when and how the food delivery service brings meals for employees during the week. Delegate, and trust the employees you've hired to deliver in the areas they've been hired for.
4. Count on adversity.
I doubt any golfer would tell you that they’ve ever played a perfect round. Time and time again, I hear golfers say that the best you can hope for is a round with the "fewest mistakes." Even the best rounds usually have one or two shots that put players in a difficult spot. The key is to stay focused and not let one or two bad shots color the ones that come after. If you are running your own business, there will be some surprises that take you off guard and have a negative impact on you. The important thing to remember is that you must stay focused on where you need to go (the goal/the hole), and don’t let a bad break here or there take you mentally out of the game.
Consider the example of Jennifer Scully, owner of Discount Designer Furnishings. She went from being broke and homeless to owning a business that makes over $300,000 a year. Like her, you may need to adapt, or even stretch your abilities, but you have to keep your eye on the goal and avoid letting emotion negatively affect you.
5. Even if you start slow, finish strong.
Many business owners, especially entrepreneurs, get down on themselves if they don’t start out "on fire." Doubts fill their minds and they may question themselves and their decisions. In golf, you have the front nine and back nine -- 18 holes. Avid golf fans and the pros themselves will tell you that championships are often decided on the back nine. Many players start off shaky, but they find their rhythm after a few holes. Then they continue to build that momentum all the way through the end.
Being a business owner is tough, but just because the beginning may not go smoothly, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a strong run ahead of you. Don't truly start to question yourself until you've had many weeks or months of refining business operations. If your daily work just isn't resulting in the success or profit you'd hoped for, make changes to your product or to how you do things. Stay in the game and find a way to finish strong.