Roger Federer is one of the most revered, if not THE most revered professional tennis player of all time. The Swiss talent has won an incredible 20 men’s Grand Slam singles titles, which is an all-time record shared with Spanish rival, Rafael Nadal. Federer has had a total of 310 weeks as the world No.1 in the ATP rankings, as well as a record of 237 consecutive weeks in this position. Alongside this, he has finished as the year-end No.1 five times! As a versatile all-court player, Federer’s perceived effortlessness has made him extremely popular among tennis fans. Federer is a well-liked celebrity for his graciousness. This is a large factor in why he has won the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award five times. Furthermore, Roger has won the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award 13 times! Federer, however, has not only achieved great things in sport, but also outside of sport. He was a substantial figure in the foundation of the Laver Cup competition. Additionally, Federer is also known for his philanthropism. He formed the Roger Federer Foundation, which aims to raise funds to help impoverished children in southern Africa and has succeeded in this endeavour through organising events such as the Match for Africa exhibition. Federer is regularly one of the highest-paid athletes in all sports. He has ranked first among all athletes with $100 in endorsement income in 2020.

As we can see, Federer has made a huge success for himself, and has generously transferred this success to help those in need alongside this, making us love him even more! So, what is it about Federer that made him a success, and what can businesses learn from this? Let’s have a look at the 7 things that we, as businesses, can learn from the great Roger Federer…

  1. Be Persistent

Roger may be seen as a naturally gifted athlete; however, he will tell you that he had to lose plenty of times on the way to winning! We all view him as this “effortless champion”. This is not true. He lost a lot; he struggled; he had to work hard to get there. Nobody, no matter how talented they are, can be at the top without drawbacks on the way. In reality, we may be talented, but there are 7.6 billion of us on the planet – there are others out there as talented as you and working their butts off! Many successful businessmen will tell you how many times they had to fail and retry in order for their work to finally pay off. Yes, Federer is “a natural”, however, a lot of his slick, effortless looking technical shots have come out of extreme effort and dedication to his craft over the years. This leads us on to our next point…

2. Master Efficiency

This illusion of effortlessness around the court has been created by phenomenal processes. It looms effortless but is in fact years and years of technical growth. The attention to detail in the technique is carefully crafted to perfection over time (or at least it aims to be!). Nobody is perfect, and so we all need to work at our craft to reach a higher level.

In his personal life, Roger has two sets of identical twins – first girls, and then boys. An efficient way to have a family don’t you think? If this is not a great example of efficiency, then I don’t know what else is!

3. Be Versatile

Federer’s versatility has been described by Jimmy Connors: “In an era of specialists, you’re either a clay-court specialist, a grass-court specialist, or a hard-court specialist… or you’re Roger Federer.” A key aspect of his success is that he is able to perform well in all court types. 

How this is related to business is that your business should aim to perform in a variety of circumstances so that it can adapt to socioeconomic changes. Customer/client demands are ever-changing, and so if your business cannot play well in all courts, then perhaps there are other businesses that will fare better than yours in a modern chaotic market.

4. Have Talent

John McEnroe has referred to Federer’s elegant forehand as “the greatest shot in our sport”. Even though without hard work, talent does not pay off, the same is true of the reverse: without talent, you won’t reach the top by working hard. This does not mean that a CEO needs talent themselves, but that they must bring in talent into their business. Federer worked hard, but also has clear talent – he would not have “THAT forehand” without some talent! If Federer’s coaches did not see his talent and take him in as a junior, he would have never made it to where he is today. The same applies to businesses: without bringing in talent at all levels within the business, the business will not make it to the top. Business is a team game – it is not about having one single insightful CEO. It is about bringing in good minds at all levels of the business. Most people will have 99 bad ideas with every one good idea (even CEOs!). So, the more talented people you have in your business, the more chances you’ll have to generate those one-off good ideas.

5. Embrace Change

Stefan Edberg joined Federer’s coaching team at the start of the 2014 season. This has led Federer to play a more offensive game, attacking the net more often, and improving his volley shots. Federer knew that the upcoming youth were going to be more athletic and fitter than he was, so he could not rely solely on long rallies anymore. He needed to work on some more aggressive finishing shots, so that he could beat the younger, fitter players than himself. He was at the top of his game and still worked on changing and adapting his habits. 

As businesses, even if we are at the top, we need to adapt to an ever-changing and advancing industry and ever-improving competitors. Businesses should always be anticipating competitors taking their clients/customers. We should ALWAYS be aiming to improve and change our systems and operations to stay at the top of our game.

6. Be Nice (And Still Profitable!)

Being “Mr Nice Guy” doesn’t mean you need to compromise on your earning potential, in fact, quite the opposite. Federer had won Sportsman of the Year multiple times and look at his earnings! As a business, you can do nice things and still be successful. Federer has done some incredible work for charity; he speaks well of his opponents; he respects his competitors and has kept a gracious demeanour on and off the court. Your business can still raise money for charity, talk well of, and respect, its competitors (whilst out-competing them). If your business can be as gracious as Federer was and still is, then perhaps you can win more people over.

7. Get Some Rest!

The tennis grand master himself is said to sleep an average of 11-12 hours a day! Burn-out is a bigger issue than ever in today’s competitive western world. One of the largest and most believed myths in the business world today is that to be a successful businessman, you must sleep 4-6 hours and spend the rest of your time working. This, however, is false. On a lack of sleep, you will have greatly hindered cognitive performance. Having more sleep will allow your brain to be in pristine condition so that you have the reduction in mental fog and the high levels of mental clarity that is required to generate visionary business ideas. If you want to be at your optimal performance when working, you need to get your 8 hours of sleep at the minimum! Federer is sleeping for half of his life and look what he is achieving!

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