I coach kids sports. I started when my oldest son was playing basketball at the YMCA. I didn’t know much about the game as a coach, but luckily I had another dad to help me and we figured it out. It was so new to me and I wanted to do a great job. They were only 6 years old, so we got by. As my son grew, more and more coaching opportunities arose. I always got involved, one way or another. Sometimes my company would sponsor, other times I would help coach. He loved basketball and I never really understood it enough to help him. So I did what I could. He became the top scorer for his club team and eventually a star in high school. I knew I wasn’t the right coach for him, so I let others do the job. It worked.
Later in life, I had another son. This time, it was very different. I coach baseball, soccer and I’m about to start coaching his flag football team. I think I can help him become a great soccer player, as that is my expertise and more importantly, my passion. But he’s a star in hockey, not my expertise, and he loves it more than any other sport. So I coach the sports I know and love, and let the dads that actually know the game handle hockey. Knowing your limitations in life, at least the ones that lead to your happiness, is important.
Coaching is a lot like being a business owner and an entrepreneur. I’ve learned many things at each, but the one thing I remember is a coach is respected most when they put as much into the game as the team. The same holds true in business. When the CEO gives it their all and works closely with their team, supporting them each step of the way, but also being the “boss” when necessary, teams have the best chance of success. Coach Lombardi said, “Leaders are made, they are not born…” and I believe this to be true. So if your desire exists, you can do anything. If your desire exists…
As a player, we learn the game. As an employee, we learn the business. Both grow. One might become coach. The other, the boss. Is it important to have played on the field before becoming a great coach? Can a business owner with no experience become a great CEO? Maybe, but that’s not the company I would want to work for. Remember what happened when Apple brought in the Pepsi guy. Then, when Jobs returned, the company exploded. Passion and on-field experience returned.
Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have been in the trenches, on the field and have proven that they are great entrepreneurs and amazing CEOs. Like a player on the field, these guys started at the bottom and worked their way up. Their passion and dedication to doing something transformative, not always about money, was their driving force. Not all entrepreneurs can do this and not all should.
To sum this all up, some of us are entrepreneurs and maybe become a great CEO someday. Some of us are players and perhaps we can become a great coach. Desire, passion, and commitment is what lead to these stages. If you are a great player but have no passion to be a coach, stay off the field after retirement. The same goes for you entrepreneurs and CEOs. In the end, you will win the race you choose to run and more will likely benefit. There’s no shame in being just a great entrepreneur or just a great player.