Stephanie Rudnick is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Toronto, author, motivational speaker and founder and CEO of Elite Camps. As a former All-Star basketball player at the University of Toronto and a leader skilled in relaying business strategy via sports analogies, we asked Stephanie about the benefits of a strong postseason. Here's what she shared.
It is 5:30 p.m. on the Friday before Labor Day. I'm sitting in my black Honda minivan. It's the last minute of my work day on the last day of our biggest season―in the most successful year we have ever experienced as a company. I lean my head back, close my eyes, take a deep breath and exhale slowly, trying to release all the stress of the last 11 weeks, the most intense period of our business year.
My phone vibrates in my pocket. I take one last glance and quickly scroll through the first few emails―mostly junk, thank goodness. But then I stumble upon a publication opportunity with a local business magazine looking for an article about strategies business owners use to re-energize employees after a long summer.
As luck would have it, this is something I love to do―specifically using sports metaphors, and what perfect timing: Labor Day is almost here, and the U.S. is gearing up for regular season football.
I suddenly wish my entire "team"/staff could hear this pep talk, giving them one final life-is-like-sports lesson to prepare them for the challenges in the year ahead. I close my eyes and envision myself as a coach standing in front of her team in the locker room before the playoffs:
Okay, everyone. If you look at your year at work as a sports season, you will see Labor Day Weekend in our business as a sacred time called the postseason. Don't waste it!
This is a time to identify what went well in the past year, which teammates you will keep and which will move on―whether by their choice or yours. Think of your recruits and how they might impact team dynamics and culture. Study the game plan you followed last year and anticipate the changes you will make for the next season. Consider modifying your priorities and changing timelines if necessary. Use this postseason period as a time to assess which projects worked and which projects tanked―and why. Think about how you can be better for your team and how the team itself can get better.
In the first week of September, solidify the goals you want to achieve in the upcoming year, both for yourself and for your team. Then spend the rest of this postseason month planning, learning and practicing all you can to prepare for the months ahead: the regular season. It will be here before you know it.
During the regular season, you have to expect lots of obstacles. Things will go wrong. Your teammates will get sick or injured; you will both love and hate your coach; you will like and dislike your teammates; and you will win some and lose some. But when the end of the regular season arrives and you have a chance to go to the playoffs, you and your team will be ready because you'll have fought your way there together.
When you get to your championships, you won't hold anything back. You will dig deep to find the energy to conquer the most intense challenges of your year, and you will fight 'til you can't fight anymore. Win or lose, you will grow as a person, and your players will grow as a team. And just like any sport or business season, right after the championship, the cycle starts all over again.
I picture my staff challenging me, asking how this concept would apply to a company with a different timeline―one with their busy season in the winter or spring. I would reply that many sports have different seasons, but the timelines within that season are always the same: preseason, regular season, postseason, playoffs and championships.
I would remind them that 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs played a varsity sport and that they very likely continue to live their lives with the intensity of high-performance athletes.
That's what I would share with my whole staff if they were still here, but I can't because the parking lot is empty and everyone has gone home. So, I take another deep breath, put on my sunglasses, and start the car to meet my full-time team for a celebratory dinner marking the end of another amazing season together. Maybe I can at least work my speech in with my full-timers as we reminisce about the good, the bad, the ugly and the amazing victories of the season we're celebrating even as we look forward to the challenges of the season to come.
Imagine what you could achieve if you lived your entrepreneurial life like a sports season. That's how I live my life because to me, life is a sport―and I always play to win.