Earl Morais is a friend and entrepreneur who operates out of Johannesburg.
He started boxing at the age of 9, and turned professional at the age of 20.
He excelled in the sport and achieved honours by being awarded three of the top major awards.
He is also a former SA Cruiserweight Champion and former WBA Pan African Champion.
While boxing, Earl was encouraged to engage in certain business courses by his sporting mentor, in an effort to secure his future in the event that his sporting career should come to an abrupt end.
Earl has shared key lessons learnt from boxing that apply to the entrepreneurial journey. These lessons are still being applied in his company, Greennovation. He launched Greennovation Energy Services in 2010. This is a company which focuses on carbon emission reduction as well as operation cost reduction through investment in energy efficient technology.
Here are five challenges Earl encountered while launching a business and the solutions from boxing, which he still applies in his business today:
Your corner and your support Successful entrepreneurs attest to many things that contributed to their success.
One common denominator is that of a strong supportive environment. So who is in “your corner” as you take on the fight?
Earl reflected on how having a multi-disciplined team in his corner allowed him the space to focus on the fight 100%. Thus his corner included the roles of a manager, trainer, psychologist and lawyer who all handled the business of boxing, while he was solely responsible for fulfilling the vision of champion.
In Greennovation, Earl has a great team in his corner, who all have specialist knowledge and expertise. This allows him the space to work “on” his business, and not only “in” his business
Preparation is key
“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights,” said Muhammad Ali.
It’s amazing how long a three-minute round can feel when you’re squared off against an opponent.
More so than in most sports, boxing places a premium on optimal conditioning. To achieve mastery one has to put in the hours to have a firm hold on the basics and fundamentals. Only then, with focus and true grit, can one set out on the path of greatness.
Business is no different. One has to have the commitment, drive and focus in order to potentially reach success. The difference between winning and losing in boxing, as well as in business, often comes down to that all-important advance legwork.
In boxing it is important to know what you know and to know what you don’t know. The worst thing you can do as an entrepreneur is think that you know everything or try and learn everything.
Are you licensed?
Finalising a strong value proposition for consumers and businesses alike requires getting accreditation from governing bodies.
One cannot pitch your business to corporate South Africa without having been accredited by certain government bodies, particularly in the green environment.
You cannot fight without your boxing licence, so even if it takes long and is cumbersome, you must push through, and be fully compliant.
One of the reasons small businesses struggle is their lack of compliance. In business, accreditation brings confidence and credibility in dealing with customers and corporates.
Consider this quote by former US Deputy Attorney Paul McNulty: “If you think compliance is expensive-try non-compliance.”
Plan for the best but cater for the sucker punch
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, said Mike Tyson.
It’s great to strategise and plan and think that everything will roll out seamlessly. It’s another thing to get the wind knocked out of you as soon as you step in the ring and forget everything.
Boxers and entrepreneurs have to rebound and get up quickly.
In boxing after a knock down, a fighter has 10 seconds to recover.
They have to get up, shake off the dizziness and prove to the ref they are able and ready to continue; so do entrepreneurs.
To survive this field you have to learn quickly, adjust and handle selfdoubt immediately.
A common catchphrase in boxing says: “Protect yourself at all times!”
Make a plan to cover your vulnerabilities and learn from them.
Earl adds a further nugget: “Never choose a fight that you’re not sure you can win, no over promising and under delivering” and “Getting knocked-down will happen, the secret is to keep getting up. Fall forward.”
Remember, it is 12 rounds
“The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It’s the same thing, fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters,” said legendary trainer, Cus D’Amato.
Entrepreneurship is a similar marathon. It’s not just about making it through three minutes, it’s about the long hall. And lasting longer than everyone else. Boxing is about never quitting and leaving it all in the ring.
It can be frightening to assume the risk of starting a business venture into an unknown field or ask for funding for a product that doesn’t yet exist. The entrepreneur must be able to move beyond the fear by harnessing it and using it as fuel.
When Earl won the WBA championship, he recalls that he felt like his legs were made of rubber and that he had never been hit so hard. Yet he gathered himself, stared his opponent down, and realised that his competition was also in trouble. That gave him enough momentum to go on and win the fight.
Here’s to those who are entering or are already in the ring of entrepreneurship. May these nuggets help you to persevere, go through all 12 roundsand go on to win.
Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at False Bay College. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.falsebayincubate.co.za for more about the CFE.