By Steven Austin Stovall
Steven Austin Stovall is Professor of Management at Wilmington College in Ohio and has started three successful companies. He is also a consultant and trainer specializing in management, entrepreneuring, and marketing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Athletic Management, 15.5, August/September 2003, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1505/gpmonday.htm
What do you think of when you hear the term “entrepreneur”? Do you think of a maverick? Or does the most aggressive, risk-taking person you know come to mind? Are entrepreneurs millionaires? Do they forego family and friends for the sake of their business? Do “entrepreneur” and “athletic administrator” ever appear in the same sentence?
Entrepreneurs are an interesting breed. No matter how you view them, they are individuals willing to strike out on their own in an attempt to create a business that will be successful.
As an athletic administrator, you can’t also be an entrepreneur. There is too much institutional structure and too many people to answer to. But, in today’s competitive athletic environment, the secrets of entrepreneurs can prove helpful in realizing your own operational and personal success.
Successful entrepreneurs exhibit certain characteristics that distinguish them from mediocre ones. Here are eight attributes shared by top entrepreneurs and ways you can make these qualities work for you.
Entrepreneurs don’t grumble and groan when Monday morning rolls around. They’re excited for a new week and the opportunities it brings. They tell everyone, “TGIM!” (“Thank goodness it’s Monday!”). The reason? They have a strong, deep-seated passion for their endeavors. They live and breathe their business.
If you once had a glowing passion for this profession but lost it, find out why. Without passion, none of the other qualities really matter.
Successful entrepreneurs wake up in the middle of the night having dreamed of the ideal strategy, and immediately write it down so they don’t lose it before morning. They constantly talk about their plans and ask questions of everyone they meet to see if they can discover something they hadn’t thought of before. Passion drives effort, and entrepreneurs maintain the highest levels of passion.
Entrepreneurs are risk-takers. Certainly they don’t jump into a new venture without thought—just as administrators won’t take risks that would compromise student-athlete safety—but they are willing to take the road less traveled.
Do you always take the well-worn path? Or are you taking calculated chances for the department? Taking risks means that you’re willing to try something new—you have a propensity to go into uncharted territory.
Will you make mistakes? Of course. Entrepreneurs know that not every risk they take will result in a brilliant success. They take missteps just like the rest of us. But those missteps become learning opportunities they build upon in the future.
Know what you do well.
Entrepreneurs understand that they cannot exceed at every single managerial task. They realize that it’s important to be surrounded by people who can “fill in the blanks” where they’re lacking. If your talents lie in motivating staff and focusing on strategy, for example, then let somebody else handle marketing schemes and fund-raising ideas.
When entrepreneurs start out, “shoestring budget” is usually the mantra. They find creative ways to cut costs, increase sales, and ensure smooth operations. They learn that creativity must become commonplace in everyday operations, not the exception.
In an athletic department, take the time to work with every member of your staff to develop unique ideas in their areas of operations. Talk one-on-one or try a group brainstorming session. The creative process is fun and it’s an opportunity for people to share ideas they would have otherwise kept hidden.
Don’t forget the basics.
Though entrepreneurs are very creative people and are always seeking new ways to operate, they don’t lose sight of the simple things. In other words, they don’t get so bogged down in uniqueness that they forget about the basics of running a business. They continue to run their operations in ways that have been successful in the past, pay bills on time, keep their workplace clean, and maintain solid records. Even if you discover the most innovative fund-raising idea in athletics, failing to report to upper-level administrators, keep basic budgetary practices, and manage staff appropriately will put you on a very slippery slope.
Observe, learn, steal.
There’s no reason for you to develop strategies, motivational tools, and new programs for your department from scratch. If your competitors are doing something great, make it better at your school. Entrepreneurs look for useful ideas everywhere. When they’re at meetings, at games, driving down the highway, or even watching TV, they seek opportunities they can copy or improve upon in their own operation.
You can do it!
When entrepreneurs start their businesses, many people—including friends and family—will not always be encouraging or supportive. Sometimes, they’ll even be downright discouraging. They’ll say, “Why don’t you get a real job,” or “This will never be as successful as you think it will be.” But entrepreneurs persist. They set their goals and every effort focuses on meeting those objectives.
For you, the challenge is surrounding yourself with positive people. Avoid staff members who say things like, “This place is never going to be a league leader,” or “Maybe I should get a job in another field.” Instead, look for workers who are positive all the time and know how to encourage those around them.
Be a team manager.
Entrepreneurs are inherently focused on their business, but they know that no matter how good or how bad times become, it’s the team they have established that comes first. Make sure your coaches and staff members get everything they need to excel at their jobs, and give them the motivation and recognition they require to keep going.
You already consider your department the pride and joy of the campus. And you try to deliver your best every day. However, if every day is like the last, you’ll remain stagnant. Though you may not be the owner of the athletic department, there’s no reason you can’t think like an entrepreneur and approach your daily efforts as if your name was on the door.
Take risks. Look for new ideas. Keep a positive attitude. And never forget that paying attention to your department staff is a giant step toward phenomenal success.