5 Lessons Businesses Can Learn From Athlete Entrepreneurs

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

What can businesses learn from athlete entrepreneurs? Here are 5 lessons from professional athletes.

All too often, athletes are assumed to be bad at handling finances, foolish about money, and generally not good at understanding the business side of their sport.

In fact, many athletes excel at creating business opportunities, improving their financial standing, and choosing philanthropic opportunities that increase their worth.

What can businesses learn from athlete entrepreneurs?

Build Your Brand

Businesses sometimes spend a great deal of time considering their marketing, but not much time really evaluating what their brand should be. A brand, after all, is more than just the emails and content marketing that a company sends out. A brand is a promise between a business and its customers, an agreement of what non-product benefits a customer is getting from the company. A brand involves customer service, company reputation, and long-term communication.

Formula 1 race car driver Josh Cartu is an expert at building brands. Long before he was racing cars, this entrepreneur built a social media presence that helped him connect with fans and build interest in his business. His current endeavor, SandStorm Holdings, benefits from both his ongoing social media branding efforts, and his success at races like the Gumball3000.

Related Article:The Value of Super Fans: 7 Steps to Bond With Your Biggest Supporters

Create What You Need

If you are the early stages of business development, you might be trying to figure out exactly what sort of product you want to create, or what service you should offer. You might know that you want to be an entrepreneur, but still be searching for that golden idea that is going to build your success.

To build a great business, start by addressing a need that you can personally see. Tennis phenomenon Venus Williams did exactly this when she started her clothing company EleVen. Venus was struggling to find clothing that worked for her athletic lifestyle, both on and off the tennis court, so she partnered with a designer to create clothes that would meet her needs. In doing so, she created a successful business that supports the lifestyles of active women around the world.

When your company builds off a need that you personally understand, you have the benefit of already being involved in the community that you will end up selling to. You will have a more personal understanding of the needs of the community since the problem you are addressing is ultimately your own.

Related Article:6 Traits of Highly Successful Serial Entrepreneurs

Work Toward the Greater Good

Businesses are often advised to be active in their communities. There are many ways to achieve this goal, from sponsoring worthwhile community events to partnering with community organizations through product, service, or monetary donations.

Many athletes have turned to various methods of philanthropy during their athletic careers, or once they enter retirement. After winning the Olympic Gold for figure skating in 1992, Kristi Yamaguchi founded Always Dream. Kristi had written successful picture books after her figure skating career ended, and she uncovered a passion for early literacy. Her foundation works to connect kids with books and ebooks so that they can learn to love reading at an early age.

Help Others Do What You Do

At some point, if you're successful, other entrepreneurs and business owners will start to ask you for your secrets. There are many different ways to share your successful tips and tricks. You could write a book, offer a free course online to boost your website profile, or create a training course to educate others in your method.

While many athletes become trainers, managers, or coaches as they get too old to play, boxer Oscar de la Hoya created Golden Boy Productions, through which he has managed and promoted some of the most successful fighters of the last few years. The company sells tickets, sets up fights, promotes the fighters, and sells merchandise.

Related Article: Listen and Learn: The 6 Best Business Tips From Leading Entrepreneurs

Promotions and Partnerships

When your business gets big enough, it starts to make sense to partner with other companies to get work done more efficiently. You might be able to offer each other a mutual discount, cross-promote each other's endeavors, or let your fans know that you choose your partner for their service, and they should do.

Athletes regularly make money from endorsements and partnerships with other brands. One of the most well known is Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player in history. Though he is most commonly linked with Nike's Air Jordans, he has endorsements with Wheaties, Gatorade, Chevrolet, and many more.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that athletes and celebrities by default do not know how to manage their money. While some high profile social figures certainly do spend their money on parties and houses, others are exemplary business people. Learning from them isn't just a good idea, it's good business.

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