Fifteen Grand Slam titles. Ninety-six career tournament wins. Fifteen years ranked No. 1 in the world.
The Bryan brothers — Bob and Mike — are the gold standard in mens’ doubles tennis. As someone who has played the game since I was big enough to hold a racket and came to the U.S. on a college tennis scholarship, I’ve always admired the game’s top pros, especially after trying my hand at pro tennis on the satellite tour (commonly known as tennis’ “minor leagues”).
Recently I had the chance to participate in a three-day media project with the Bryan brothers. I learned some amazing similarities about how they approach their craft and how business owners can improve their organizations.
I’m going to try to break down some of those incredible 72 hours into a few digestible morsels of wisdom that are applicable not just to sports, but also to business and life.
Do the Little Things Well
So often in business, we get caught up in the big picture — whether that’s revenue goals, new product launches or some other “big” idea. These things are certainly important, but they shouldn’t crowd out attention to detail. One of the things that impressed me most about Bob and Mike Bryan was how meticulous they are. They’re still practicing drills their father/coach taught them 20 years ago, because the basics matter. Practice makes perfect and makes permanent. So when they’re in a tough match their movements are unconscious, effortless and effective.
If we took the same approach to business (ensuring every aspect of the deal is covered, double checking your work before you hit “send”, sending a handwritten thank you note to every new client, asking our employees about their new baby or vacation, etc.), we’d reach even greater heights in our professional and personal lives.
Never Settle or Think You’ve Made It
You’d think that the guys with the most wins in the history of mens’ doubles would stop pushing themselves as hard. Not so with Mike and Bob Bryan. They enter every tournament they can — big or small; a few people watching or 10,000; lots of money or free charity events — because they love the game as much now as ever. They’re not thinking about what they’ve already done but rather what they’re going to do next, and how they’ll be better. It’s the same in business. Even if you meet a major revenue goal or have a record year, you shouldn’t be satisfied or become complacent. Look for new challenges and new ways to pursue excellence each and every day. Thinking you have made it is a sure way to ensure you won’t.
Keep Looking for Ways to Improve
There is no perfect tennis player; no perfect set; no perfect tournament. Keeping this in mind enables the Bryan brothers to keep honestly assessing where they’re making mistakes or seeing weakness in their games. Then they find ways to remedy those weaknesses, whether it’s a technique flaw, a mobility restriction or shaking up their tactics. They also actively seek out the latest and greatest ideas in sports nutrition, psychology and physiology — anything and everything that will give them an edge on the court.
It would serve entrepreneurs well to have the same mindset as Bob and Mike when they’re assessing where they’ve been and where they’re heading. What’s a new trend in your industry that your competitors haven’t caught wind of? How are your clients telling you that you can improve? What didn’t go quite right at that last trade show or webinar? The important part is asking these questions continually, and then acting on the answers you come up with. That way you’ll relentlessly move your business forward.
This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.