Rolling with the Punches

Article by:
Ben Ridler, EO New Zealand
Ben Ridler
EO New Zealand

Running a business can bruise your soul and damage your ego. Anyone who has ever started a business can attest to that. Three years ago, I tried something a little more punishing. My journey into the boxing ring began when a new sensation called “corporate boxing” came into town. My motivation was to get fit, lose weight and learn a new discipline. It turns out you can learn a lot about business from boxing.

Understand Your Strengths
The ideal boxer is tall, thin, light-weight, super-fit, well-coordinated and equipped with fast-twitch muscles. Unfortunately, I’m short, heavy and slow, so I had to focus on other things that I could influence. I decided I would not be out-trained. Understanding how you’re going to make the most of your strengths and your opponent’s weaknesses can turn a no-win situation into a winning one.

I’ve applied this same lesson to my business. In order to get a competitive edge in the online industry, we sought a narrower market, played to our strengths and didn’t try to take on the big boys at their own game. Within a few short years, we’ve become the market leader and have avoided going toe to toe with larger competitors.

Learn to Pace Yourself
In boxing, no matter how fit you become, you can’t throw wild punches the entire fight. You have to know when to conserve your energy and when to explode. This was a great lesson for me. At work, I used to rush into everything, and I always wanted it done yesterday. Learning to pace myself has made our business growth sustainable. Also, I’ve stopped burning out business partners and key staff, and I’ve made my career as an entrepreneur far more enjoyable.

Put Emotions Aside
Boxing teaches you to control your most basic emotions: fight or flight. When you’re in the ring, you must stay calm, keep your hands up, stick with your plan and ultimately not let your emotions make your decisions for you. In business being able to find that calm place, apart from your emotions, allows you to make smart and thoughtful decisions.

At the start of the recession, our revenue dropped 26 percent after nearly four years of growth. Although I had a plan, we were engulfed in emotions. Once we took them out of our decision-making, we were able to review our plan and focus relentlessly on execution. Nine months later, we were achieving record growth.

Execute Under Pressure
Boxing is about executing your plan under pressure. It’s easy to throw combinations on the punching bag and look good, but when someone tries to take your head off, most of your preparation goes out the window. In business, plans are important, but execution is everything.

I learned that the hard way when I had to turn my business around during the economic downturn. The key to our success was sticking to a plan amidst the chaos. Our banking partners were in turmoil, clients were panicking and the market was unstable. By staying on track and letting everyone know we were sticking to our plan, we became a place of stability in crazy times.

Listen to the People in Your Corner
Listening to the people in your corner is another crucial skill and one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned. The people who surround you can always show you opportunities that you would ordinarily miss. My company exists because I learned that everyone is able to achieve more with someone in their corner, watching things from a different perspective when you’re busy ducking the punches that come with running a business.

I’m still boxing to this day, and it continues to provide me with new ways to work out challenges. More importantly, it’s taught me that life, like work, is all about being able to take a punch, shake it off and step back into that ring.

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