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What Does It Take To Win?

Dec 28Danny Windsor

Rafael Nadal

I love to play and watch the sport of tennis.  Tennis is both a physically and mentally demanding game, particularly singles tennis.  It has been compared to boxing without actually hitting someone.  There are many factors that come in to play in order to win a tennis match.  Recently in Tennis magazine, long time coach Nick Bollettieri had a article,  “You Win! What does it take to win on a tennis court?”(Bollettieri, 2011).  He listed five principles which I believe can be directly applied to winning in business.  These are the principles and applications:

  1. “Be steady” or consistent.  Bollettieri emphasized that the player who makes the least unforced errors usually wins,  not the one who hits the most winners. In business, companies that consistently focus on the fundamentals win.  In BusinessWeek, Jack Welch pointed to three fundamental areas of a business that if consistently measured and shown to be strong, would result in a solid company.  These areas are customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and cash flow (Welch, 2006).  
  2. Get in shape“.  In other words, a tennis player carrying a few extra pounds around on the tennis court will slow down his reaction time and cause the player to lose patience.  In business it is absolutely necessary to shed unnecessary expenses to remain in shape, lean and trim.  A company that keeps a watchful eye on expenses will improve profits, cash, take advantage of opportunities, and survive tough cycles.
  3. “Do what you do best”.  Some tennis players have a powerful forehand, others a great first serve and still others fantastic net play.  How does this apply to business?  It means to stick to your core.  Ram Charan had this to say during a period of economic uncertainty.  “In every business there is a central set of invaluable assets, including certain customers; people who know technology, operations, or logistics; and in many companies a brand identify that is solid and established.  You need to identify the constituents and things that are at the core of your company and protect them from loss or damage during the crisis” (Charan, 2009, p. 35-36). 
  4. “Play, don’t pray”.  Bollettieri continued, “make things happen on the court, rather than hope that your opponent misses.”  Companies that win must continually and aggressively market and sell their products or services.  If necessary, companies must revise and plan new strategies on an on-going basis, especially since competitors are looking for new ways to gain market share and take away existing customers.  
  5. “Have an attitude”.  In other words it takes a mental edge to win a match.  Bollettieri mentions pros Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt, Serena Williams, and Monica Seles as a few examples of players that never give in.  In their book, The Risk Takers, Renee and Don Martin said there were ten common traits of successful entrepreneurs.  One of these traits was they never let adversity or failure defeat them.  They refused to stop believing in themselves.  They were and are persistent and resilient (Martin, 2010, p. 271-272).

Incorporating these five principles in a business will greatly increase its odds of winning.

* Bollettieri, (2011), TENNIS (January/February p. 52-53)

* Welch, Jack and Suzy. (2006), BusinessWeek (May 8 p.126)

* Charan, LEADERSHIP IN THE ERA OF ECONOMIC UNCERTAINITY

* Martin, Renee and Don. THE RISK TAKERS

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