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 sports.
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 products;
- 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 ball.
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 of time.
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 and learn.
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 loans.
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, 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].