What Two Pro Football Players Can Teach You About Business

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Entrepreneur is on the ground for SXSW. Check back for highlights from the festival as well as insights on trends from a range of thought leaders and innovators. See Entrepreneur’s Linda Lacina moderate a panel today with Israel Idonije and Mike Kafka, The Athlete Slash Entrepreneur.

The focus that helps pro athletes on the field is also helping them in the business world. We talked to two football players turned emerging entrepreneurs about how sports has prepared them for entrepreneurship. Their strategies can be helpful for any business leader.

Picture your rivals.
Israel Idonije, who’s played for the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns, says that while preparing for a big game, he’d think about his opponent. He’d imagine that man training for the game of his life, focused on beating just him. This inspired Idonije, “to run more, to push harder.”

Tapping into that competitor’s mindset can also help a new business find its edge, and helped him find the niche for his company Athlitacomics, a comics company that gives athletes the super hero treatment.

Related: NFL Veteran-Turned-Entrepreneur Says Adaptability Is Key to a Winning Game Plan

Build your team. 
Mike Kafka says he thought twice before asking friends to support a Kickstarter campaign for his business, RooOutdoor. But he learned that friends and family wanted to support him and help get the word out however they could. The founder and CEO who’s played for the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also reached out to his alma mater, Northwestern University, for feedback and advice, as well as other players who were knowledgeable about sports like fishing and hiking, to better understand his market. Since he’s always reaching out to others, he says, “I never feel lonely.”

Train for success.
To run his business and balance his time, Kafka has a regimen for both sports and his business. His trick is time blocking: Waking up early to run and train, and ensuring that by 11 a.m. he can focus solely on what he needs to do for his business. He also themes his weeks by the goals he wants to accomplish, making those goals more manageable.

Says Kafka, “You can’t do everything at once.”

Related: 4 Leadership Traits Shared by Successful Quarterbacks and CEOs

The idea isn’t enough.
Most people who dream of becoming a professional athlete won’t become one any more than someone who has a compelling business idea will find him or herself running the next Google or Facebook. Your dream must be tested and validated, often after long hours and set-backs.

“There’s no magic formula,” says Idonije. “Just time and energy.”


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