I am admittedly not a fan of reality TV. I believe there are much worthier endeavors to focus your time and energy on. There is, however, one show that I attentively watch and believe to be reality TV in its truest form: Hard Knocks.

Hard Knocks is a five-episode HBO series that runs from mid-August to early-September every year. The show chronicles the training camp of a National Football League team. For those unfamiliar with NFL training camp, it is the time when teams come together after the offseason to participate in intensive practices to prepare for their grueling 16 regular season games (and hopefully several more in the playoffs). The players and coaches typically go to college campuses in remote areas, where they can live and breathe football with fewer distractions than they would encounter in day-to-day life.

You now might be asking: what is the correlation between Hard Knocks and being an entrepreneur/running a business? Fair question to ask, and here it is:

Earn it Everyday

90 players will arrive at training camp, but only 53 will make the team. No matter who you are, you need to go out and perform every day. Similar to running a business, you cannot afford to have off days when you do not function at a high-level. The competition is out there, and will take advantage of every misstep. Now, the competition for an entrepreneur is not always as visible as it is for teammates battling for a position on the roster, but it does not mean it is not there or is any less fierce. Whether you are a florist, a dentist, or an accountant, or you play in the NFL - you need to come to work every day prepared to give it your all.

Be the ball/quarterback

In the movie Caddyshack, Chevy Chase's character implores a mentee to "be the ball." I would encourage entrepreneurs to "be the quarterback." The quarterback and the entrepreneur are alike in that they hold glamorous titles in some senses, but to succeed you have to outwork everyone else and be a leader. The success of the team is on the quarterback's shoulders, the way the vitality of a business falls on the owner. For example, the quarterback needs to be the first on the field in the morning and the last to leave the film room at night. They are responsible for setting the culture of the locker-room. As a part of this, they should lead by example, but also be vocal when necessary. No different than a quarterback needing to correct a receiver running the wrong route in training camp so that it does not happen in a game, a business owner should swiftly correct an employee who mistreats a customer so that does not persist. Like a good quarterback, never forget your business will be a reflection of your leadership, so constantly be cognizant of what type of culture you want your organization to have.

Bounce back

There will be setbacks in business. It is a fact. A client will leave you, a seemingly integral employee will quit, or a financial challenge will cause you to miss payroll. The same inevitability of setbacks exists in football, and you see it first hand on Hard Knocks. The margin for error is almost non-existent because many players (specifically rookies or newly acquired free agents) only have a finite number of chances to impress. They need to make the most of every opportunity, so when a mistake is made it has the potential to be costly. When a cornerback gives up a touchdown to the receiver he is responsible for covering, he has two options. The first is to sulk, which is understandable, but that will result in more mess-ups as he is now distracted. The second (the preferable option), is to identify why the mistake occurred, what should be changed moving forward and then put the error in the rearview mirror. That last part is the most important. The players who do this are those who succeed, and the entrepreneurs who learn from their challenges but are not weighed down by them are those who triumph.

If you are an entrepreneur, give Hard Knocks a watch. I think it will resonate and remind you of the responsibility you have to work hard every day and to lead through both the good and the bad times alike.

Published on: Sep 15, 2016
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