Six Brilliant Business Lessons About Culture and Discipline I Learnt At The Australian Open

Every January I head south to The Australian Open in Melbourne with my girlfriends because tennis has played a huge part of my life since I was a little girl.

My Dad was an amazing tennis player with Grand Slam winning potential but, unfortunately, when he was 18 he dove into the ocean without realising how shallow it was, and broke his neck. Luckily for him, after 18mths of plaster from the top of his head to his waist, he was still able to walk and play sport and continued to be an A Grade tennis player, but the window of opportunity of being a ‘star’ had passed him.

When I was 8, Mum and Dad bought a house with a tennis court and nearly every day I spent hours being coached by Dad because he dreamed that I would become the ‘star’ that he had been stripped of. Unfortunately, I did not have as much talent as he hoped, but it instilled in me a deep love of tennis that has remained to this day.

Back to the Australian Open.

I believe I have been to this awesome event about sixteen times, plus to Wimbledon twice and Roland Garros once, so I suppose you could call me a tennis junkie.

This year though I broadened my view of the event and observed it with my business eyes. I was surprised with what I learned about culture and discipline.

Culture

  1. Measuring The Right Numbers: Tennis Australia are very proud of their ability to increase the number of people who attend this incredible event every year. 2018 saw over 750,000 people come through the gates, compared to last years 728,000. What I observed though is that this number is a misrepresentation of the tennis spectators. The event includes a fabulous festival experience that we all love, but unfortunately there has been an increase in the outdoor bar areas, so thousands of people are coming in every day to drink copious amounts of alcohol in the sun and pay no attention to the tennis. Not only does this distort the measurement of spectator numbers, but it also detracts from the experience that us tennis junkies have.

Business Lesson: Be clear about what numbers need to be measured. KPI’s need to be specific to your particular business and to what is important for your growth.  Tweet: When you have an early meeting or you just can’t face eating before you rush out the door, then a smoothie is the perfect morning companion.  Click to tweet

  1. Getting The Right Bums On Seats: I suppose this has a little to do with the above point. Surely Tennis Australia would want to attract those of us who truly appreciate the sport as well as the aspiring players and spectators who have an appreciation for the skill, the talent, the history, the competition, the personalities, and/or the spectacle. One of the games I was lucky enough to see on Rod Laver Arena was between Roger Federer and Richard Gasquet. Two incredibly talented tennis players. Unfortunately, I was sitting next to a lady who had too much to drink and absolutely no respect for the etiquette of the game. She loved Roger, which was fine. But what wasn’t fine was her calling out at the most inappropriate times with the most inappropriate words. Historically, tennis fans have been very respectful but it seemed this year there were ALOT of spectators who didn’t give a damn!

Business Lesson: What message are you portraying? Are you sending a message to your target market that will resonate with them or are you using a scatter-gun approach that will attract anyone and everyone – no matter if they are the right fit.

  1. Health and Wellbeing Of Your Greatest Assets: There has been a lot of discussion about the intensity of the heat during this year’s tournament and whether or not safe decisions were made for the players. In the first week, Gael Monfils was playing Novak Djokovic under what most would consider extreme conditions – 39.9 degrees temperature outside and sixty-nine degrees court-side. Gael was really struggling and pleaded with the chair umpire to allow them a little more time between points declaring that otherwise he would collapse. The extreme heat policy only comes into play once it gets to 40 degrees, so nothing changed.

Business Lesson: When you notice that your most valuable assets, the people in your business, are struggling and asking for help – listen to them.  Tweet: When you have an early meeting or you just can’t face eating before you rush out the door, then a smoothie is the perfect morning companion. Click to tweet  There is nothing more important than the health and wellbeing of your team members. Give up on the ‘set in stone’ policies. Do what is right, otherwise be prepared to lose them.

Discipline:

  1. Habits: Having a process that you go through at the beginning of an important moment has always been used by elite sports people. Rafael Nadal is a master at this, and I have to say I am a little fascinated with his rituals. He has his drink bottles positioned in certain ways, he tapes particular fingers despite no blisters, and prior to every point he has a routine that he goes through that involves wiping his hands, touching his nose, settling his shirt, tucking his hair, and picking his undies from his bottom!! He does it every single point. This habit is crucial for him to let go of what was before, and set himself up for what is coming next.

Business Lesson: What can you do every morning to set yourself up for success? Let go of what happened yesterday, don’t stress about what might happen tomorrow, just go through your morning ritual so that you are prepared and ‘on fire’ for today’s schedule.

  1. Mental Clarity: Tennis players have to have such control of their thoughts. When you lose a critical point (maybe even a match point), you have to immediately put it behind you and step up to the next point. How easy would it be to spiral into self-loathing for missing an opportunity (and perhaps a massive paycheck!!!!)? The best tennis players have mental clarity and are in control of their thoughts, rather than their thoughts controlling them.

Business Lesson: Make sure you are in the driver’s seat of your mind. Don’t let your mind drive you. What can you do to ensure that you can be in control of this? Meditation, sitting in silence, and deep breathing are some of the tools people use so that they can have clarity during high-pressure moments at work.

  1. Gratitude: It might be the PR training that they all get, but I noticed this year how during every court-side interview on Rod Laver Arena, that the winning player always thanked the fans first, no matter what the first question was. Tennis players (mostly) understand that without their fans who buy tickets and merchandise, the tournament organisers would not be able to attract the sponsors and secure the prize money. So, of course, there is a commercial reason for this thanks, but you can really see through the layers of those who have deep gratitude for the support and cheering of the fans.

Business Lesson: Look after and acknowledge and thank those in your business who matter.  Tweet: When you have an early meeting or you just can’t face eating before you rush out the door, then a smoothie is the perfect morning companion.  Click to tweet  Not just the ones who pay you money, but also those who give their time and support and goodwill.

I love tennis, and I will always be a dedicated spectator because I have a deep appreciation for the history, the skill, the courage, the personalities and the athleticism of the players.

What I have loved learning even more this year though are these business lessons that were so clear to me once I looked through different glasses.

What are the business lessons you have learnt from great sporting moments or events?

Be Well / Love Life / Heidi Dening / Founder and CEO / Workable Wellness

Photo credit: James D Morgan
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