Roger Federer's career is extraordinary not only for its success but for its longevity. At the grand old tennis age of 36, Federer remains at the top of his game. This week, he is competing in the 2017 ATP Finals (an elite event for the world's top eight players).
He holds an-all time record of 19 grand slam titles and eight Wimbledon titles. Although today ranked number two behind Rafael Nadal, Federer was world number one for a record 305 weeks.
At the same time, Federer has secured and retained some of the most lucrative sponsorships in tennis with leading brands across a wide range of verticals such as Rolex watches, Mercedes-Benz automobiles, Barilla pasta, Nike sportswear, Credit Suisse banking and Lindt chocolate. In a sense, he has also become an unofficial ambassador for his home country of Switzerland.
Make no mistake, Federer's tennis career is his business; and he is the founder and CEO with an estimated net worth of more than $400 million.
Here are four smart strategies Federer uses that every business leader can learn from.
1. He prioritizes and is not afraid to say no.
Federer is focused and selective. He prioritizes the events he wants to win and is not afraid to say no. As Christopher Clarey reports in The New York Times, Federer:
''skipped the entire clay-court season to preserve his body and his spark, [and subsequently] he has swept nearly all else before him, winning seven titles, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and losing just four matches all year.''
As a business leader, you need to be laser-focused on your priorities and not afraid to say no to tempting opportunities that may distract you from delivering on them.
2. He surrounds himself with the right support.
Federer has been working with the same coach, Pierre Paganini, for two decades. Federer attributes much of his success to Paganini. He has delegated his training sessions to his coach and trusted advisor:
"I just follow his beat. Whatever he tells me I'll do it because I trust him,'' he tells Clarey.
Successful leaders recognize that they are not experts on everything and surround themselves with the right support. They leverage their expertise, trust their advice and empower them to get on with their jobs.
3. He builds capabilities that increase his capacity.
For instance, Federer and his coach work hard to build up his speed capability because it is directly linked to increasing his tennis capacity. Clarey writes that Paganini says,
"You have to be strong, fast, coordinated and have endurance in tennis and you have to do drills for that...Nine times out of 10 on the court, the speed is in the first three steps and then you're playing the tennis ball. So you have to train to be particularly strong in the first three steps.''
When you are leading a business you need to identify and develop the capabilities, like top-tier computer engineering or a strong sales team or that will increase your business's capacity for growth.
At the same time, you need to identify the capabilities you will need to increase your leadership capacity, whether it is building investor networks, developing media skills or getting better at effectively delegating key work to your team.
4. He knows the importance of good recovery
After a knee injury in 2016, Federer took six whole months off to recover and then he built himself up from scratch. His coach told the New York Times that recovery is one of the most important messages for young athletes and, no doubt, an important factor in the longevity of Federer's career. He tells The New York Times:
"I think if we manage to motivate the young ones to give time to their bodies to recover from training before playing and then to give time to their bodies to recover from playing before training, this simple message can help us have fewer injuries in the future."
How many times after a big exertion like a product launch, sales deal or project do you move straight onto the next task, and expect your team to do the same? In business we need to make adequate time to recover, stop to reflect and take stock of what we have learnt and, importantly, recover.
That doesn't mean stopping for six months, but it could mean active recovery like doing some less taxing work for a few days, taking you team out for lunch or on a field trip to meet a customer.
Federer's combination of talent and leadership has enabled him to have one of the world's most successful sports career and to build a highly successful businesses but it's not over yet.