Any good tennis player can adjust their strategy and think creatively to win a match. This adaptability is often the killer edge that pushes some players far ahead of others. The same is true in the “game” of business, of which coaching is only one small element.

A successful entrepreneur understands incentives, both their own and those that work with their target audience. They have a clear understanding of their goals and how to achieve them, and will consistently reevaluate those goals as they work towards improving themselves and their business. And they’re constantly growing in professional, personal, and financial ways.

Winning tennis players know to constantly practice fundamental skills. Successful entrepreneurs should also seek constant improvement on certain key business intangibles:

  • Branding (how will I stand out?)
  • Networking (how will I bring in new customers and partners?)
  • Data analytics (how will I understand what works in my business?)
  • Leadership + management training (how can I expand my business with others’ help?)
  • Mentoring (how can I give back to my community of entrepreneurs?)
  • Customer service (how will I keep my customers happy?)

Many successful entrepreneurs build businesses and brands driven by their personal stories. The emotional connection created by a well-told story will keep your customers coming back time and again, which builds financial stability and provides easier pathways to growth. Successful personal branding involves active participation within and outside of the tennis industry, which involves things like writing articles and pursuing public speaking opportunities — two avenues I’ve traveled well in my career.

Networking, in addition to expanding your reach in the market, also puts you in contact with people who can help you build your knowledge and skills, and who can provide valuable perspectives when you need them.

Understanding the data your business generates can help you optimize the pricing, timing, and variety of your business’ offers. You can collect data in any number of ways — through client relationship management (CRM) or point-of-sale (POS) systems, customer surveys, website and search analytics, and social media feedback, among others. The goal of analyzing your data is to get more revenue out of your work and that of your employees. I analyze data in accordance with the tennis revenue cycle:

  1. Cluster your customers
  2. Classify your customers
  3. Optimize your time
  4. Optimize your offerings
  5. Optimize your pricing
  6. Maximize your profits

Good management can also work towards developing future leaders for your business. Develop a clear organizational strategy and constantly articulate it to your workforce. Build an inclusive institution in which all levels of employees are incentivized towards continual improvement. Give everyone regular, structured feedback, and don’t be afraid to give your staff extra attention and effort, which will establish best practices from the top down.

Mentoring works both ways and can serve to enhance the management of your business. A great entrepreneur can both have mentors to help them overcome challenges and understand problems and be a mentor to others to guide the next generation of business leaders. You can be a mentor both to those within your organization and to others in the business world. Don’t limit yourself only to tennis industry professionals! Sometimes, the best help you’ll give and receive will involve those whose work looks quite different than your own, because different perspectives can build a more complete understanding of entrepreneurship’s challenges.

Of course, none of this will matter if your customers aren’t happy. A great product isn’t enough — you must provide genuine service, and you need to do it quickly whenever demanded because a slow response is almost as bad as no response at all.

Great entrepreneurs are always growing in a planned and structured way, and this focused growth can be more easily achieved when you follow clear blueprints, like the one I’ve offered here. This is only a start, but a motivated entrepreneur can take this starting point use it to progress towards a stronger and more sustainable business.

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