We use sports analogies often in the business world. Winning comes from motivation and determination. Practicing hard and focusing on the details will lead us to victory. Never give up until the game is over. The phrases could go on. But very rarely do those of us in business consider the possibility that a practicing professional athlete can give us an actual lesson in conducting business.
One of the project types my company specializes in is the design and construction of athletic training and medical facilities owned by professional athletes, which has allowed us to work with some of the top professional athletes in the sports industry today. We just recently completed one of these facilities in the Dallas area for NFL player Aqib Talib, a veteran cornerback considered one of the best in the league. Not long ago, I had the opportunity to visit Aqib’s new facility, and given it was the off-season, he happened to be there that day.
During my visit, Aqib and I talked about a number of topics including family, football and business ownership. At one point, Aqib asked me how long my company had been in business. When I responded we were coming up on 15 years, he was curious to know what I felt was necessary for a new company such as his to succeed and stay in business for many years. I enjoyed sharing a few of the business lessons I had learned with Aqib, but as the day went on, he demonstrated and reminded me of a few important business lessons as well.
Aqib, by nature, is friendly and outgoing. He obviously enjoys being around people and talking with them. Throughout the day, as customers would come into the facility for workouts or physical therapy sessions, I witnessed how Aqib is using his engaging and open personality to grow his new business.
Virtually everyone who came into the facility was at some point greeted and engaged by Aqib. There was the middle-aged gentleman who came in for a workout, which he started by taking a warm-up jog around the turf field. Aqib casually joined him on this jog while making easy conversation. Later, a young athlete, who I learned plays at a high level, came in for some rehab therapy. Aqib took it upon himself to show the young man around the new facility and introduce him to the therapist. Another young man, who was engaged in a grueling private training session, numerous times heard words of sideline encouragement from Aqib.
Here was one of the top players in the NFL, who has been to multiple Pro Bowls, earned a Super Bowl ring, and makes millions of dollars every year playing America’s most popular sport, taking the time to make sure everyone who came to his facility, regardless of their athletic ability, received personal attention from him. Ultimately, what Aqib was really doing, was making his customers feel important.
Throughout the day, I saw this level of engagement happen over and over again from Aqib, and what I witnessed is that he understands some of the first rules of business when it comes to working with people. Be yourself, be friendly, and make others feel special.
Aqib was being himself, and maybe that was the easy part. More importantly though, and what so many people forget to do, is that he was taking the time to engage with his customers, giving them a reason to choose his facility over his competitors. That is an important and powerful offering that his competitors simply can’t match.
I think back to Aqib asking me what it would take for his business to still be around in 15 years, and my response is simple. Keep being yourself, and use the ability you have – some natural and some learned – to keep making every person who walks into your facility feel special and important.
To connect with Brian, visit www.briantking.com.