PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi grew up playing cricket in college in India, but famously picked up baseball when she moved to the states. Nooyi even reportedly studied the New York Yankees as a way to relate to her American peers. My hobby of choice is fishing, and it's taught me a lot about being a business leader.
Fishing is an American pastime. Many of us outdoorsmen remember with pride the first fish we ever caught. For me, fishing is a recreational sport that has remained a constant in my life. There's an old adage, "The fight isn't won with the first bite of the hook," that rings particularly true in the workplace. That first bite might prompt excitement, maybe some nervousness, but that first bite is when you dig in your heels, and prepare for the long haul. Business deals take time, and patience, just like fishing.
Many parallels exist between my passion for fishing and business, but there are 3 lessons that I've taken away from fishing, and successfully applied in the business world.
1. If the fish aren't biting in one spot, move.
Don't get attached to one way of thinking -- if the bluefish aren't biting at the spot you've cast, move to a new location. And if the bass aren't chowing down on one type of bait, try another. My biggest piece of advice, particularly for startup leaders looking to scale their company but not sure how: don't get stuck in the same routine every single time you fish.
Let's take an easy example: think about how you source software developers. Do you always go to the same school or follow the same process? It's time to shake it up then. Have you thought about putting an ad in the newspaper, contacting professors at another school to see who their top students are, or even reaching out to local community groups directly to let them know you're looking to hire? You may find the next hot talent that never graduated college but has been working on their skills every day in the meantime.
One of the biggest talents in my current organization is someone I met through a friend of a friend as I was scaling up a previous organization. This person turned out to be part of an extended team that participated in meetups where, once I realized the depth of knowledge available, I was able to pull in a talented group of people my recruiters normally wouldn't have focused on. Keep those eyes open and don't get comfortable with routine!
2. It's rare to catch the biggest fish on your first trip.
It takes time to become skilled, and aside from the lucky few, not many are going to catch their biggest fish on the first trip out. The same lesson holds in business. In building experience in catching trout, you become skilled at knowing where to go and when to fish. And once you have that down, you can go after the bigger fish in the pond.
3. Fishing is a team sport.
Many sports emphasize teamwork, and fishing is no different. For me, fishing is a team sport -- it's more fun to be doing it with a great group of people that you enjoy, trust and want to be with, then stuck on a small boat with someone you don't. I pick who I fish with as closely as I select who I work alongside. Doing business together requires much time spent and faith placed in the other individuals on your boat.
As a CEO, I had a much smaller pond to work with. At IBM, I have a much larger pond which extends worldwide. However, the parallels between fishing and business remain the same in each pond. Always remember that patience is a virtue and optimism is key. Go into every business interaction believing that you're going to get what you want at the end and nine times out of ten, you will.