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Being the MVP

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Sports people and startups

Footballers (or any sports people) have good form and bad form. Some are heroes and play to their optimum every single game. Some are inconsistent but sometimes brilliant. And others just fill the numbers.

As entrepreneurs, we should aim to be like the footballer… not just a footballer in the league, but the Most Valuable Player – the MVP.

It’s hard to understand why some footballers who have the raw talent and the opportunity in the big league never seem to reach their potential. These people frustrate us so much. We can’t help but get annoyed with them.

Chances are, we too are that person – but in business.

We’ve been told by our friends and colleagues that we’ve got the talent to make it happen. They believe in us, but we’re not there – yet. That said, we should refer to that football player we all have in our mind already. The guy who could be an absolute hero if he just pulled it all together – the training, the preparation, the team effort, the professionalism. It’s the same with our startup. The idea, and our potential, is only part of the equation. In fact, it’s really just like getting drafted. Just like getting an opportunity to play the game. It amounts to nothing. We’ve got a long way to go.

If we’re going to play, we may as well behave like the MVP. Do it all. Aim for perfection and strive to extract every ounce of the gifts we’ve been given. Or even better, know we are not the most talented person on the field, but the one who will make the most of every opportunity. As we know, the MVP is never the guy with the most raw talent. It’s usually the guy who maximizes his potential.

So in startup land, what’s the stuff of champions? To take the analogy to the next level we need to isolate a repertoire of activities that champion entrepreneurs do all the time. These make them the MVP of their startup, and often their industry. And we are not just talking about ideas and belief – they’re easy. We’re talking about the boring stuff, the hard and thankless stuff that doesn’t really get us all that excited. The stuff that has nothing to do with the glory of succeeding, but in all probability makes it possible.

And here’s what they are:

  • The ability to sell. To make a cold call and be able to deal with rejection. To even get laughed at or told to get *@!%#. The ability to know that 9/10 people won’t like you or your idea and still have the gumption to keep trying.
  • The ability to keep your expenses ridiculously low. To use creativity to fill in the gaps in funds available. How will you promote your business without the million dollar budgets of the incumbents?
  • The ability and will to stay the course. To deal with loneliness and work late nights while your friends who stayed in their high-paying jobs are eating at nice restaurants and swilling imported beers.
  • The wisdom to know that you’re probably not going to be the next overnight successes, and your startup may take many years to catch on. To know it and not be disheartened.
  • The ability to trap revenue and stay on top of business administration. To be good at, or outsource effectively, all the really boring stuff like taxation, cash flow statements, insurance, work cover, invoicing and GST BAS statements. Sure they’re not game winners, but get them wrong and it can really put your startup in a hole.
  • The ability to lead by example and be more than a business 2.0 nice guy, but inspire your team to get stuff done and in a timely fashion. This also requires the ability to motivate people who in all probability don’t care as much as you do about your business, brand or dream – even if they have a piece of equity.
  • The tenacity to refine your business value chain again and again until it all runs smoothly.
  • The ability to not get annoyed with customers – ever – but to embrace their ideas and wisdom, and afford them absolute respect.
  • To test products and systems until they drive you mad and they are perfected.

It’s the extra hard yards and focus on the miniature that wins. Just like the MVP in any sport does it all, from diet to mental preparation, business is no different. All elements in the skills mix need your attention, and any gaps must be outsourced and managed effectively.

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur you must act like the MVP, or you’ll end up on the startup scrap heap.

Stephen Sammartino escaped his cubicle after 10 years marketing global brands. He has now founded two startups, recently launching rentoid.com – the place to rent anything.

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