What Boxing Can Teach You About Going the Distance

January 19, 2015

I provide a lot of analogies when discussing business situations. Most often, I find myself using sports, and most specifically boxing, to make my point. Rarely has boxing left me unable to make someone better understand just about any business situation.

Pay attention to your corner

Your “corner” not only has your back but also sees things from different angles. Pay attention to your team – they may see a different side of the deal or have seen this situation before. Treat your team with respect and look after them … They’ll continue to have your back. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude towards team members who have always been there for me and our business, as well as the boxing and fitness coaches who have always helped me get into fighting form. Unfortunately, I have also learned a lot from those who didn’t have my back when i needed them.

Keep your hands up

You have to assume that in business “you’re gonna get hit!” Accept it. Embrace it even. Employ a strong defence and you’ll be fine: appropriate legal agreements; holdbacks on acquisitions; good accounting and due diligence. The shot that KOs someone is the shot that they didn’t see coming.

Fight fair

Boxing is considered a gentleman’s sport. Regardless of the pugilistic nature, it’s still a gentleman’s sport – as demonstrated by the Marquess of Queensberry rules. Fight clean. Don’t hit below the belt. And don’t hit after the bell. And don’t hit when your opponent goes to touch gloves. Make sure you treat the people on the other side of a transaction with respect and understanding. Be fair.

Get back up!

You can’t give up. Get back up and keep fighting. A lot of business is about tenacity. Don’t give up. If your bank calls a loan – get another bank. If you can’t get bank financing then get an asset-based lender or mortgage and remortgage your house. Clear out your retirement fund. Use credit cards. You have a responsibility to your shareholders and yourself. Don’t throw in the towel. As Henry Ford said “Failure is just the opportunity to begin again. This time, more intelligently.” I’ve failed many times, but have always gotten back up. Don’t let anyone take away your will.

Don’t throw the first punch

Now this isn’t necessarily the best boxing strategy for everyone, but Roy Jones Jr. made a living from counterpunching. By not throwing the first punch in business, I mean don’t attack someone unless it is deserved. If a vendor of a business has legally and morally lived up to everything as promised then you have an absolute obligation to do the same. If the vendor has misled on information then the first punch has been thrown and you have to be prepared to punch back.

Stay off the ropes and out of the corner

Keep moving. The “rope-a-dope” ain’t easy. Try your best to have a strong balance sheet. Try to take control of the situation. Diversify yourself as much as you can – from financing sources to customers to suppliers. If you have a strong position you may take a shot or two but you won’t get KO’d.

Lastly, if you want to be somewhat decent at boxing you need to be committed. Go regularly. Spar. Train. Stay fit. Eat healthy. Enjoy. Same in business. It is non-stop. And I love it. At the end of the day, though, nobody put it better than Mike Tyson – Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.

Originally published in The Globe & Mail January 19, 2015