When we look at our favorite sport, it could be American football, tennis, rugby, track & field, football (can’t say soccer), basketball, ice hockey, there is a common thread. It’s amazing how more professional they have become. Conditioning, training, techniques, playbooks, diets, psychological mentoring, recovery technology all help to add more and more levels of professionalism to the performance. The quality of football displayed by all teams especially the top teams at the recent woman’s world cup was stunning. Obviously, there is the dark side to performance in terms of more and more sophisticated drugs, but sidestepping that unacceptable path to success, there is no doubt that athletes are getting stronger, faster, more skillful, and in general mentally tougher and the results are pretty clear to see. Even outside of the top professional athletes it is remarkable to see the level of achievement that masters athletes can deliver. The M70 (men 70 years and older) 400m track world record is held by a legend called Charlie Allie with a time of 57.26 seconds! Preparation, weights, diet, rest, smart interval work all help make Charlie a once in a lifetime athlete.

So how do we make our business more professional? What are the equivalents of diet, training, psychology, practice, planning, competition in the business world? As leaders in business can we learn from sport? Here’s a link to a chat with Sir Alex Ferguson who over 26 years transformed Manchester United worth £10 million to a club worth £2 Billion Link

Professionalism for me is not a size issue. You don’t suddenly become professional at $100m in sales.

Professionalism is about building a business that’s in the zone. It’s hard but all departments know their place. They understand how they can contribute to the strategic plan. It’s not an event, it’s a journey. As a leader, you are constantly striving to drive your team to greater success.

The common DNA amongst successful, professionally run businesses must include:

  1. Control: Processes are in place to run the manufacturing operation effortlessly, aligned to the supply chain, aligned to the customer. Sales forecasts reflect a deep relationship with the customer, which makes them more accurate which builds strong predictive cash flow. Everything is measured and teams take pride in improving those metrics. Customer relationships, support tickets, budget assumptions, Accounts Receivable Days, SEO rankings, open rates on Marcon content, competitive ROIs on your products, The mindset is always – can I measure this activity to ensure I’m making a difference. It’s the stopwatch equivalent. The watch never lies.
    Each business, each niche has metrics worth measuring. Metrics bring control and control relieves stress, inspires innovation and creates fun and produces winners.
  2. Alignment: Professionalism demands we all do our job. But jobs need to be aligned to the cause. Being busy fools is an affliction affecting most entrepreneurs. It’s not good enough to be busy. You need to busy on the right stuff. That’s why strategic plans are vital. Choosing which part of the market you want to dominate is non-negotiable. You are either remarkable or invisible. Stake out your positioning and then align your talented team to go execute.
  3. Predictability: Leaders need to be consistent. Behavior needs to be consistent. Building process and automation into a business creates predictability. It allows more time for dreaming, planning, studying the drivers of your market. Talent wants to be lead by a consistent leadership team that understands words matter. A leadership team that is consistent on their strategic goals. Product road maps indicate long term thinking. The secret is to find the right balance between a top-down approach and a bottom-up approach. This should lead to a better visibility of earnings and a much more predictable financial performance.
  4. Safety: A professionally run business is financially safe, is a safe place to work both physically and emotionally and strives to relieve stress for employees rather than create it. Business is unpredictable. It requires steely determination and grit to succeed but smart insights, remaining calm, remaining focused on the objectives and letting success be your noise is the best way forward.

We call it CAPS. Control, Alignment, Predictability, and Safety.

The consequences of a professionally business are rewarding and include:

  • A clear positioning staked out in the market
  • Innovation-driven products that satisfy the needs of the customers
  • A supportive culture for all staff
  • A metric-driven mindset for the right reasons
  • People who want accountability but understand success often requires a team effort
  • An open-minded meritocracy
  • A belief that the more fun I have at work the more money the business makes
  • A desire to continually create processes that simplify tasks, make them repeatable and that require continual improvement
  • The development and encouragement of a naturally curious workforce
  • A fierce competitor who yields respect from all rivals

For more ideas on specific ways you can professionalize any aspect of your business please use the search box above to mine over 500 blog posts from sales commission to acquisitions.

Good luck.