Are you prepared to run a business?
This is the question that Linda J. Lord’s new book “The Pitch: Business Lessons Learned on the Soccer Field” explores. Making the decision to start a business is just the first step; the real test is how well you can run the business. Your level of preparedness – mentally, intellectually and emotionally — can spell the difference between the success and failure of your business.
Lord draws on her experience as a soccer mom to create a fictionalized business book. In it she tells the story of Liz, a struggling single mother whose catering and events business is in steady decline. While waiting for her son to finish his soccer practice, she heard the advice being given by the coach to the team – and soon realized that the same concepts are applicable to help turn her business around.
Starting a business just “kinda happened” for Liz. Like many events in her life, she just let things happened, and never fully prepared for anything –a big mistake when you are running a business.
While she did have a great business plan, and even surrounded herself with the right set of professionals from an accountant to a business advisor, she found herself to be in a very tight bind. Her cash flow is a disaster, she is far from meeting her financial projections, her marketing is ineffective, and her employees are whiney. Her trusted assistant stole her clients’ information to start her own business to compete with Liz. Liz didn’t even have money to buy her son the soccer shoes that he wanted.
Amidst all the business turmoil, Liz was crumbling as she sees her business start to unravel. She was simply not prepared to face the tough realities of entrepreneurship. Worst of all, she realized that she had absolutely no idea how to run a business.
According to the author, “I recognized that many of the business owners I knew and worked with were struggling with the same issues. I wanted to help them in a way that would be practical and useful.” Like the main character Liz, Lord is a single mother (of two children) struggling to run a business and raise a family.
I have known times of self-doubt and I have been challenged by wondering if I am focusing on the right things in the right proportions, at the right time. Learning the business of running a business was a long process for me, too.
The book explores how Liz had to dig deep into herself to realize what she wants out of her life and in her business. She was inspired to go through this process upon hearing the teachings of her son’s soccer coach in the pitch. She found that the strategies being championed by the coach could be applied to her own business. According to Lord,
“Many people will never do what Liz did. It is hard work. It is much easier to band aid symptoms than to try to find root cause for problems. When a person is willing to consider that part of the problem may be the person in the mirror, then they are in a better position to discover what they really need to know to change things. The journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance is a powerful one whether a business owner or not.”
The Importance of Starting the Right Business
One of the biggest questions that Liz had to face is whether she chose the right business for her. She started the business when she was still married and had money, but her circumstances have now changed. With everything going downhill, she’s not even sure anymore if she started the right business.
“I think it is important to be passionate about any business you choose,” Lord explains. “Passion remains the number one ingredient that successful business owners share.”
The author explains that there are a number of factors that an entrepreneur needs to consider when deciding on the right business:
- Do they really want to own and run that business? Can they see themselves being successful? They need to have passion for the business, then a strong desire to be a business owner.
- They need to have a positive belief system in the business idea and themselves as owners.
- They should also consider who needs the product or service and are they willing to pay for it.
- They need to consider how willing they are to talk about and promote the business.
- Finally, can it make the kind of money that will be required to create the lifestyle the business owner is seeking?
Lessons from the Book
The book teaches that entrepreneurs should “get to know themselves the best they can; from personality, to habits, to attitudes, to self-sabotage. Second, they need to match who they are with what they want to do.” Liz was able to dig herself out of the hole through an intense process of self-evaluation with the help of the soccer coach and the coffee shop owner who unexpectedly became her mentor. She had to know who she is as a person and as a mom, and determine what she really wants to do in her life.
Based on the story, the author gives the following steps entrepreneurs can follow when things go wrong and it starts to get overwhelming:
- Step back and gain some perspective.
- Look at the big picture.
- Identify what’s working and what’s not.
- Isolate what isn’t working; analyze data to understand what’s going on.
- Make one adjustment at a time and track the results before you change the next thing.
- Focus on the one thing that will have the greatest single impact then move on from there.
As the author advices:
Take care of yourselves. Learn to put yourself high on the list of people you love. Then show yourself the same amount of compassion you show others and have realistic expectations of yourself. Be patient and forgiving. You will make mistakes. You will get tired. You will say and do things that don’t show your best self, learn from those moments and move on.