This sure is a great time of year for the sports fan, isn’t it?
Between the baseball playoffs (go, Dodgers!), the start of the NBA season, and college football, the fall is a sports fans’ favorite time of year, even if rooting for your team is sometimes futile.
But what isn’t futile is the fact that some of the best business advice you may ever get comes from the world of professional athletics.
Being in the business of writing business books as I am, I am naturally drawn to other books and writers of the genre. Perhaps surprisingly, some of my favorite business books come from the sports world. But maybe not.
Sports and business have much in common: Uniting around a common vision, the need for teamwork, overcoming adversity, and playing to win instead of not to lose are just a few.
Here then are four excellent business books by people from the world of professional sports:
“32 Ways to be a Champion in Business” by Magic Johnson
Of course Magic was an amazing basketball player, maybe the best point guard ever. But did you know that he may even be a better businessperson than he was a player?
Starting during his playing days, Magic made it a point to learn business from some of the top CEOs in the world. He learned about business, investing, getting mentors, creating community, and much more, allowing him to turn his $40 million in NBA earnings into Magic Johnson Enterprises, worth some $1 billion today.
This book, in which Magic distills what he learned into 32 practical lessons (he was No. 32 for the Lakers), is a gem: Interesting, easy to read and super helpful for the small businessperson.
“Negotiate Like the Pros” by Kenneth Shropshire
Small business people negotiate all the time. Whether it’s getting that vendor to give you the better deal or working to get that investor to help fund the dream, negotiating is part of every entrepreneur’s life.
Given that, this book is a win-win.
Shropshire is a top sports negotiator who has negotiated many a major sports deal. In this book, he shows you the tricks of the trade, from playing your strengths to finding and using leverage.
“Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight
Knight is the co-founder of shoe and athletic wear giant Nike. When I say that some CEO memoirs are dry and boring, I am not talking about books like this. This is the opposite of that. Nike is a true entrepreneurial startup story, a rags to riches tale and Knight chronicles it all.
If you want to learn how to start a business and build a brand, this is the book for you.
“Moneyball” by Michael Lewis
While this book might be a tad outside the strike zone because Lewis is not by a sports professional, it is about professional athletics (and so much more) so we’re going to give your umpire a break on this one.
And that’s good because this really is a great book for entrepreneurs.
Moneyball tells the tale of how, back in 2002, Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland Athletics, had a problem not unlike many a small business owner: He didn’t have enough money to do what he wanted, namely, create a winner .
Traditionally, big name pitchers and hitters were the answer. But the A’s couldn’t afford them. What to do? Beane’s answer: Use data.
Instead of relying on big names who cost big bucks, Beane and his team culled the numbers to find hidden gems of unknown players at a fraction of the cost. And it worked.
That’s why this is a great book for the small business person.
It turns out that Beane’s lesson is an important one for us too: If you go beyond the glitz, learn your numbers and dig into the data, you can win your own personal small business pennant.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism