While the football field might not be the first place you'd expect to learn about business, Matt Engel, president and CEO of Attend.com, says playing college ball for Villanova University is where he honed the skills that have helped him succeed as a venture capitalist and leader. Here's what he means.

To succeed, you need to define your vision and get there with a plan of attack carried out by star players.

A football team has the goal of progressing into and winning a specific championship. Similarly, in business it's important to have a vision of what success looks like. In the case of Attend.com, Engel says it's to become the world's best and the easiest-to-use event management platform. And just like a football team has a game plan, to reach a lofty goal a company needs a strategy enacted by high-performing players.

"With football it's coaches and captains. In the business world it's a CEO on the management team who picks all those extraordinary individuals and pulls them together into a team [with] a common goal. And then at that point the people have to execute," he says. "And then... you think about what are the outcomes. For a football team, it's wins and losses. For a business you have happy customers and happy employees."

You're going to screw up some plays.

With dozens of snaps in every game--each one involving multiple decisions--sometimes things aren't going to go as planned. It's the same thing in business. You're going to make mistakes. The important thing is learning from and not dwelling on them. "At times you'll see people who are just so worried about doing the wrong thing that it paralyzes them from being able to execute," he says.

To succeed on the field and in business you need a balance of gut instinct and preparation.

Whether you're on the field or in the office, too much of either isn't going to yield good results, so it's important to do the homework to know what you're up against and then use intuition to make informed decisions. "At any given point, there's always more than one decision that can be made and that's where experience and gut instinct come in," he says. "You just have to have confidence that the call you're making is the right way to go... and then also having that confidence to say, 'Oh, I was wrong. We'll fix that for next time.'"

Published on: Oct 2, 2014
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