What Swim Team Can Teach Us About Business

In the summer, my boys swim on a team. It’s hot and noisy and beautiful and confusing. Things change at the drop of a hat as kid’s show up or leave due to other obligations or a family member needing to leave for whatever reason.

Last year was our first year on the team. Walking into the first meet, I was nervous. This year, we’ve got a much better handle on things. I saw then how much having a good swim meet experience was like having a good business experience. Meaning, there are a few things we can always do that help set us up for success.

Business Lessons Learned from Swim Team

Business Lessons Learned from Swim Team

  1. Be Prepared Heaven help you if you show up to a swim meet without goggles. This is an unforgivable swim parent sin. In fact, it’s worthwhile to prep a bag the night before a meet with sunscreen and towels and all the other swim detritus you need. Similarly, if you are a business that simply throws ideas around with no idea whether customers will respond, whether you have the inventory to support your ideas, what your margins are, etc., your business may not be able to recover. Take time to prepare for what’s coming. A quarterly review and planning session can help you get prepared for whatever a new season brings.
  2. Be a Good Listener At any swim meet, there’s a lot going on. It’s important to listen for not only what events are occurring, but which events are lining up. Knowing not just what’s happening right this second, but also what’s coming down the pipeline requires excellent listening skills (but is instrumental in being prepared). Good listening skills mean focusing on what you want to hear as well as being able to hear things you may not like. Listening to your customers, your accountants, your employees are all key parts of success. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you will have to do every thing every person says – no one can be everything to everyone – but it’s important to listen to get a baseline for where you are, what you’re doing right, and what you can improve.
  3. Be Proactive At a swim meet, your life is much easier if you don’t just sit around and wait for the coach or announcer to tell you what to do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a kid wolf down a burger because they had no idea their next race was minutes away until their coach told them. Likewise, it is helpful in any business to be proactive. Clean your office – don’t wait for a client to tell you that your business is dirty. Pay your taxes – don’t wait for the IRS to come knocking on your door. There’s no excuse for not proactively working on your business. You need to take care of your day-to-day work, but also make sure that you’re staying on top of the many things a small business owner needs to do. Sound overwhelming? It can be. That’s why it makes sense to know what you can outsource.

Sports teams aren’t all that different than a company. You need to be well organized and prepared to face anything that comes your way. Even if it means calling in a sub because one of your best employees is sick. Being prepared, proactive and a good listener can only help you in sports and business.


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