What My Tennis Coach Taught Me About Business

I am a terrible tennis player, but I love my coach. I only see her over my summer vacation and this August I learned more from her than just tennis. I learned lessons in how to be a better leader and entrepreneur.

1. Like your clients.

Irem Hepkorucu, my tennis coach, genuinely makes me feel well liked. She will send short, thoughtful notes throughout the year, ping me as it gets closer to the summer and then she writes me a lovely thank you note after I go back to New York.

Work with people you like, or you can grow to like. Show them you care about having them as clients.

2. Provide good service.

In addition to her professional demeanor--she's always on time, court is always clean, she always looks crisp, even in sports cloths--Hepkorucu anticipates my needs. She'll give me a dry t-shirt, a ride home, a fresh bottle of water or even a snack, depending on the situation.

Anticipate what your clients need, even before they do and be ready to take good care of them. Without breaking a sweat.

3. Concentrate on the balls coming in.

Hepkorucu tells me, "Don't think about the balls you missed. Think instead about the ones coming in." To this day, there are failures and missed professional opportunities I rehash and remember. They're the "tennis balls" I missed. My tennis teacher made me realize if I worry about the past, I won't recognize what is possible in the future.

Remember there are plenty more opportunities coming at you, but you need to be in position, looking forward, not back, and ready to receive them.

4. Feel. Rest. Get ready.

In tennis, there are about 20 seconds between the balls. The way Hepkorucu explained it, you have 5 seconds to be sad or happy, 5 seconds to rest, and 10 seconds to get prepared for the next ball. And that is the key to winning--making time for your feelings, making time to rest, and then getting ready.

At work, find a rhythm between each day, each meeting, and each project. Then give yourself time to celebrate a win or mourn a failure, get some rest and then get ready to play the next round.

5. Use metaphors.

Metaphors help us understand things that are difficult or new to us. When Hepkorucu uses metaphors for various movements--curtsy, broom, and accordion--I learn and remember them quicker.

Find metaphors when you explain new ideas. They'll stick and be more easily understood.

6. Visualize.

My favorite, being a visual person, is when my coach reminds me to visualize. When playing, don't think of how to hit the ball but where you want the ball to land. Visualize the spot. That is how you get the ball to go where you want it to go.

To me, this is just like design. Whether you're designing your life, your work or your next product. You can make happen what you visualize. 

7. Fear your fear. 

This year I feared I was too out of shape, too busy, too old, too ---- (fill the blank) to play. I only played because I wanted to see my teacher and because once I made the first appointment, I couldn't back out. Five minutes into the first lesson, I felt like an idiot. I had almost let fear get in the way of a great experience.

Fear fear itself. Make the appointment, take the decision, write the email, announce the news, play the game. 

This article first appeared on Inc.com on August 14, 2018