I rarely disagree with my wife and business partner Gail. But today on a train journey back from London this week she gave me one of those looks and said “you were sucker punched!”
The comment was in relation to an email chain she was copied in to where I’d agreed to give a small proud Welsh 7s team a helping hand.
I’d originally explained that our marketing fund for this year is already allocated. The chap thanked me for my time and explained openly they are in real trouble if they don’t get a sponsor they were done for. He offered me the sponsorship for a fraction of the original price. There were clearly a lot of people relying on this man.
I sent him a message back giving him twice what he asked for, explaining to my wife that without persistence we are nothing. The coach of this team will go back and explain this story to his players and each one will learn the lesson that persistence is key both on and off the field.
This is another example of how business and sport are incredibly similar. I have learned the parallels personally – the tenacity and resilience learned on the rugby field have stood me well in the business arena too; the ability to bounce back from a loss, the hours of practice before a glimmer of hope.
These are lessons that made me who I am today and which continue to help me grow and evolve. Equally important though is the impact that sport has on the community. These groups are extraordinarily valuable and give people their chance to thrive, and learn these lessons for themselves just as I did back in Denbigh and Ruthin as a kid. It is essential we do our level best to create as many opportunities as possible for the next generation.
Whilst there is much discussion about competition in schools and whether or not children should be given medals and trophies just for taking part, on the squash court, rugby pitch or in a race there is no room for this – it’s win or lose (or occasionally draw) and whatever the result, a valuable lesson is learned. Losing is something we all have to deal with in the real world and schools should prepare us for the pain we feel when things don’t go our way. It’s these feelings that drive improvements and more effort the next time we try. Sport teaches us to bounce back, to get up off the ground when we are knocked over and have another go.
People who fail to see the link or the importance of sport in business miss a huge trick. If not for the winning, losing and the lessons we learn from participating or watching but for the cammeradery and team building which happen hand in hand.
Entrepreneurs have an opportunity to support these communities and teams both financially but also with time and resouces when finances may be tight. I believe that it is my responsibility to give back to the very communities that helped shape me to become the person I am today.
It is also beneficial to the business too – it’s a win win. At UKFast we sponsor many different community groups and teams. Sale Sharks which was my first commercial deal I signed in 2000 when there were just 2 of us in UKFast, the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation that helps young athletes with challenging backgrounds. Squash champion Laura Massaro who incidentally just won the British Open a few minutes ago in Hull.
Following these athletes’ progress is incredibly motivational for me personally and for the UKFast team and we’ve had a number of momentous events, Q&A’s and workshops involving olympic athletes, premiership rugby legends and world champions where the whole company gets involved.
I am looking forward to supporting our new venture into rugby 7s, it may only be a small investment, but its impact on the community is incalculable if just a few youngsters are inspired. Ultimately the persistence of their coach is inspiring to me and a great reminder. It’s persistence that has put a roof over our heads since the day we started in 1999 and it’s arguable the most important quality to nurture in future entrepreneurs.
So was I sucker punched? Definitely not and hearing the feedback from the manager and team I am very proud to help. It’s a win:win.