Sport and business might be two separate realms, but in fact it takes many of the same characteristics to rise to the top in both of these arenas. I’ve been thinking about this lately and, from the late, great boxer Muhammad Ali to high-profile entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, there are a few things these people tend to have in common.
An insatiable hunger for success
What separates a decent sportsperson from a true icon? There are, of course, a lot of factors that feed into this, but one of the things that propels the big sporting names to the very top and keeps them there is an insatiable hunger for success.
When these people win a trophy or break a record, they don’t sit back and think their work is done. Instead, their triumphs fuel their desire to enjoy future successes. From Serena Williams’ staggering seven Wimbledon championship wins to Sir Chris Hoy’s 11 world championship victories and six Olympic golds, the brightest stars in the sporting world strive to continually improve themselves and achieve their next goal.
The same can be said for leading business stars. Take Virgin founder Richard Branson. There are now over 100 Virgin companies globally and the group employs around 60,000 people. Meanwhile, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg grew the social network from a small directory for his fellow Harvard students into a global phenomenon that has helped him amass a fortune. People like this aren’t content to sit back in the knowledge they have achieved ‘enough’. Their drive and passion always keeps them reaching higher.
A tough work ethic
A tough work ethic is a must in both the sporting and the business worlds. While lots of people would love to cross the finish line in first position or land lucrative contracts, it takes a certain kind of individual to actually put in the hard graft required to turn these dreams into reality.
For sportspeople, this could involve spending long hours in the gym or on the training field pushing their bodies to the limit. For entrepreneurs, it could mean working around the clock to set up and keep their companies on track.
As well as the mental and physical strain, this often means making sacrifices like cutting down on holidays and time with friends at the pub, but I have always tried to set aside family time, no matter how hectic work gets.
A passion for what they do
Because of the level of commitment needed to get to the top, passion is an essential part of the mix in both sport and business. The best athletes and entrepreneurs have a zeal for what they do and this helps to sustain them when things get tough. Having a genuine enthusiasm for their sport or business keeps them motivated to keep doing what they’re doing day after day.
The fact is, in both of these spheres, high-profile successes are only a small part of the story. The ongoing reality is hard work, much of which goes unnoticed. In many cases, it’s unwavering passion that enables people to keep this up.
Founder and chairman of The Cobra Group of Companies, Chris Niarchos knows what it takes to achieve success as an entrepreneur. He set up his first direct sales company at the age of 22 with the goal of building it into an international sales and marketing company. Appco Group, which is the sales and marketing subsidiary of the Cobra Group, now operates in 25 countries around the world.