Business lessons from athletic gamesGary Oppermarketing, leads, selling
It is my belief that businesspeople can learn a lot by applying
the skills and techniques that they have learned in sports. They
also can apply the skills and techniques they see in spectator
Tennis is a game that takes speed and agility; however, you are not
beaten by your opponent's speed and agility, but by his serve. Your
opponent makes points during the serve.
After your opponent scores a point from the serve, it does not
matter how good his actual game is. An excellent serve gives a
distinct advantage to the server.
In business, the ability to make that great first impression or
presentation will put you at a distinct advantage over your
competition. Therefore, the following is suggested so that you will
win the serve:
- Have a firm handshake;
- Have a great self-introduction;
- Create a three-minute speech about you and your products;
- Create a 10- to 20-minute speech about you and your
- Be prompt; and
- Follow up on promises.
When you meet someone and shake his hand, give a firm and
confident feeling about yourself by having a firm and confident
handshake. While shaking his hand, introduce yourself with your
prepared and practiced self-introduction.
While shaking hands, most mortgage people say something like,
"I'm Jan Littman. I'm a mortgage broker with the Great Atlantic and
Pacific Funding Corporation." This common introduction has not
differentiated you from the pack. You faulted. You had a net
A great self-introduction is more like this. "Hi! I'm Gary
Opper, and I will lend money to anyone with sufficient equity in
his property without regard to income or credit." Your
self-introduction could also be, "Hello! I'm Judy Blum with
Cleveland's best mortgage company. We provide all types of
financing for everyone, from the very best borrowers to borrowers
who currently have financial difficulties." Another is, "Hi! My
name is Marilyn Bargman. I help new, young homebuyers fulfill their
dreams by providing affordable financing." Don't guess anymore
about what the wording of your self-introduction should be.
Anytime you are given the opportunity to speak about yourself
and your products, accept the opportunity. Generally, your speeches
will either be very short or of medium length. A very short speech
is more difficult to deliver than a medium-length speech;
therefore, the preparations for a short speech and medium speech,
ironically, take a similar amount of time to write and perfect. A
very short speech of one to three minutes must be written and
practiced in order to be properly delivered in the allotted amount
Fencing is a very ancient and noble sport. In fencing, as in
tennis, you study your opponent and plan your offense and defense
according to how your opponent fences. Fencing is a series of
strategic advances and retreats. Retreats are an important and
integral part of landing on target and winning.
In business, sometimes you need to step back, consolidate or
wait for the proper time to advance to the next level in your
career, relationship or level of performance. When I worked at Peat
Marwick Mitchell and was disappointed about not achieving
advancement, Steve Messing, a tax partner, told me, "Sometimes you
have to take a step backward in order to take two steps forward.
Eventually, by taking a step or two backward, you will achieve your
goals." Thus, in business, as in fencing, sometimes you need to
retreat in order to finally advance and score.
With fencing and tennis, you are constantly changing from
offense to defense and back again. You must be physically and
mentally agile. In business, you must have the ability to shift
back and forth between many different events. You must be able to
converse with people of different incomes, statuses and values.
Additionally, you must be able to market, manage, delegate, listen
The Olympic Decathlon provides some of the most exciting events and
the best athletes on Earth. While champion decathlon athletes are
not the best athletes in all 10 events, they are near the top in
every event and score at the top in one or two other events.
In business, you cannot do everything. Another Peat Marwick
Mitchell tax partner, John Forch, gave me this important business
advice: "It is important to have a wide breadth of knowledge and to
have depth of knowledge in one or two topics," that is, know a
little about many subjects and be an expert in one or two topics.
You may be an expert in one mortgage niche and have a good
knowledge about many other mortgage niches.
Baseball is a team sport. Many times, a baseball team is composed
of several superstars; however, the team fails to win
championships. Alternatively, many times, teams are made up of
average players and win a higher percentage of their games.
This is no mysterious phenomenon. The average players play as a
team; the superstars play as individuals. Additionally, the other
teammates may not support the team and the superstars 100 percent,
whereas a winning team plays as a team, and teammates always give
100 percent in practice and during the game.
Business is a team sport! Your team changes from each
transaction. The team is made up of you, the borrower, your staff,
the appraiser, the lender, the borrower's attorney, the borrower's
CPA, the surveyor, the title company and other professionals. Your
team must work together to close the loan. A loose superstar can
ruin a good closing.
Football is the quintessential game to which business is compared.
Generally, the only closer comparison to business is war. Football
also provides an interesting analogy in scoring.
There are many ways to score in football. You can score six
points on a touchdown with a run or a pass. After the touchdown,
you can score extra points with a run, pass or kick. You can also
score with a touchback or safety. The team with the highest point
combination wins the game.
In business, there are many ways to score. There are many ways
to make a profit. The proper product mix will provide you with your
highest profit, in the most efficient manner. For example, a
mortgage brokerage business specializes in A loans. The best
product mix may be to concentrate on A loans and work on the
fallout as B/C and hard equity loans. Another product mix may be to
offer all mortgage services and concentrate on hard equity
You cannot sail all the time. When the seas are rough and the
storms come, stay on shore and protect your yacht the best that you
can. The best sailor cannot fight nature, and an executive cannot
fight the economy or the markets. Nature always wins.
The same is true in business. A businessperson cannot fight the
economy, the interest rates, the stock market, foreign trade, the
commodities markets or the Federal Reserve. The invisible hand
moves our free market. Sometimes, the best business strategy is to
protect the business you already have, study the market and develop
a new course of action. Again, a sailor cannot fight nature, and an
executive cannot fight the market. Neither will win.
It may take you time to develop the proper product mix for your
office staff, personality, skill and knowledge. Your product mix
will need to be adapted to a swiftly changing economy, changing
competition and a changing mortgage marketplace.
The final play
Both sports and business are a game of strategies and tactics.
Successful procedures will greatly improve your game. As in sports,
you must follow the rules of business or you will be penalized. I
will give the same advice to you as I give my sons: If you want to
be a great mortgage professional or athlete, practice, practice,
Gary Opper, CPA, CFP is the president of Approved Financial
Corporation and is past president of the Florida Association of
Mortgage Brokers Miami Chapter. He may be reached at (954) 384-4557
or e-mail [email protected]