What tennis has taught me about startups, and why you should play a sport if you are an entrepreneur

[As part of Bring Your Own Insights series, we invite Pluggd.in readers to share their insights with the audience. This is a by-invite section and you will get to see insightful posts from our these selected guests.

After Sanket, we have Mukund Mohan sharing his insights with Pluggd.in readers. Mukund Mohan is the Chief Executive Officer of EOVL, a leading social commerce company. He founded and sold BuzzGain, a leader in Do It Yourself PR, to Meltwater in January 2010. He has founded and successfully sold 3 Silicon Valley startups in the Internet & Enterprise software markets.]

I met 25 eager, enthusiastic entrepreneurs last week at Vishakapatnam as part of the NASSCOM workshop on Sales for emerging companies. Besides discussing how to get customers using social media, sales pipeline management and hiring we had a chance to discuss our interests outside of our work.

Not surprisingly most people felt they had no time for sports outside of their startup and their families. Arjun of NASSCOM Hyderabad, plays Ultimate frisbee every weekend, which was an exception not the rule.

Ultimate Sports

I play tennis daily (5 days a week) and have been either running or playing a sport (golf, cricket) for as long as I can remember being in startups. I would highly recommend it to every entrepreneur to get out and play something if they can daily, but if they cannot, at least a competitive sport 2-3 times a week.

There are 3 important things I learned while playing tennis.

1. Follow through is absolutely important, sometimes more than the impact itself. Regardless of whether you are hitting a shot forehand or backhand, having a great follow through is more important to “finish” the shot and get it in the right place. Similarly, follow through on sales appointments, customer service requests is more important than setting up the next meeting in the first place.

2. Being persistently good beats flashes of brilliance every time. You will get some awesome shots that you will admire for a few seconds after you hit them, but if you are consistent with your game, and still lose some points over good shorts, over the long term you still will win. Similarly in a startup, hiring a good performer who shows up daily, is consistent and delivers on time, beats any number of brilliant but eccentric engineers.

3. You will always get a second, third, fourth and fifth chance. Have a bad first serve, you have a second. Down 15-40, you still have a chance. Down one set, losing 2-4 in the second, there’s still the next game. Startups as they say are like a marathon, having the discipline to meet prospects and customers daily, progressing on your product fit to market, and ensuring customer success will create multiple opportunities for you to succeed. What you do on that second, third or next chance will determine if you do well.

The key is to ensure that “temporarily forget” the setback and start fresh. Although people advice you to “learn from your mistakes”, I advocate the “learning” for a later time, upon reflection at the end of a month or a quarter.

What’s your opinion?

[Image credit: wikipedia]

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