07/07/2014 12:58 BST | Updated 06/09/2014 06:59 BST

If Djokovic and Federer Did Start Ups

The Wimbledon men's final was incredible to watch.

Sure there is the fantastic fitness, talent and stamina to admire and watching universally admired sportsmen giving their best is an inspiring way to spend an afternoon. To watch them determinedly pursuing every ball, every point and every opportunity made ogling the sea of celebrities positively boring.

Even I, who generally isn't that interested in sport (unless it's live!), preferring to do almost anything else, was enthralled.

And not just by the action on court. It is not the first time I have been struck by the lessons we can glean from sportspeople. The goings on at SW19 were no different. Tucked away, among all the sport stuff were a myriad of lessons, obvious and apparent, for us all to learn.

For those of us with start up businesses pursing excellence and growth the lessons are all the more pertinent. Here are my top three.


We can all learn a lot from the humility and gratitude on display on centre court during the trophy giving. In fact twitter was filled with calls for footballers (and politicians!) to demonstrate such grace.

Like me, you probably got a warm and fuzzy feeling when the players gave their acceptance speeches. Given the stakes are so high (over £1.7m for the winner, only £880k for the runner up) it was an exemplary demonstration of sportsmanship to see the players compliment, and thank, each other for a superb game.

Both men thanked their families, their fans and those who supported them and trained them to become great. Winners do not exist in a vacuum!

Supporters are important. That is why in business we seek mentors and guides; so they can encourage and push us to be great.

Competitors are important too. Emotionally, when it comes to our business, we would be happier to be the only players in the market. Deep down a monopoly is quite appealing. In reality if you are the only player you have a problem. If there is no one else on the court perhaps it's a game not worth playing.

Our competitors are great allies when it comes to developing our industry and bringing out the best in our business. They force us to strive to be better, and they inspire us to put our customers, and our vision, at the centre of the game.


Finding the balance between playing the long game and focussing on the immediate is a real challenge. Good players are cool and calm under pressure. They play each point as though it is the only one which counts, which I guess is the truth of the matter.

Djokovic slipped a number of times - he took a tumble, shook it off and got back up. Federer's cool demeanor is majestic - the man is almost completely unflappable. In 2002 I was lucky to sit in a prime seat at the Rod Laver arena to watch Agassi - nothing could faze him, it's as though after each ball he simply does a mental reset and starts again.

Especially at the start up stage, a rejection from a client can feel like the end of the world and a criticism of your product or service can feel very personal..

If you treat each win (and each loss) as a single step in a long journey then a stumble is temporary, a rejection an opportunity to learn and a criticism a chance to improve and tweak.

Smart start-ups try to move fast between milestones but focus on each milestone as though it was the only one. Sometimes it means changing our strategy, making a major pivot or a small iteration but keeping an eye on the ball as if it is the only one in the world.

It's down to determination, and no doubt a healthy self belief, we fight back from adversity almost as if to say "if I'm going down, I'm going down fighting"


Did you call the winner accurately on Sunday?

For long stretches we couldn't be sure whose hands would raise that trophy and even the commentators were stumped. During the epic match no one was guaranteed success. Both men doggedly pursued the win because until the last call is made the outcome was unknown and the slightest breeze can change everything.

It is the Japanese proverb which says it best; Fall seven times and stand up eight. When life knocks you down, stand back up. You never know which fall is the last. Often people quit just before the corner.

From a cerebral perspective it was Einstein who said "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer". There are countless stories of the overnight success that took 20 years to achieve.

Nothing is obstacle free, it is the way we deal with obstacles which sets us up for success or failure - and often the trick is to simply keep going.

In 2000 the Australian swimmer Michael Klim was asked about his strategy before an Olympic race. His classic response? I'm just going to get in the water and swim really fast.

You have to get in. You have to do your best every day. While success is never guaranteed failure is certain for those who don't try.