Fancy reading advice from a Wimbledon, French Open, and Australian Open champion?
That’s the kind of level of knowledge and expertise MILI, a non-profit organization co-founded by Ronen Menipaz, M51’s CEO, tries to provide in these times. It gathers mentors who try to help entrepreneurs and business owners deal with the current unfavorable business environment through a wide range of financial and operational guidance.
Today, we are graced with the presence of Andy Ram.
Andy is a retired Israeli professional tennis player who has 19 titles in doubles attached to his tennis career sheet. He is the first Israeli tennis player to win a senior Grand Slam event, and he also competed in three Olympics.
It’s safe to say Andy is one of those select few people who know what it takes to be at the very top. As a winning athlete who has had to handle extreme high-pressure situations, we wanted to get Andy’s two cents on how entrepreneurs can cope with these unstable times.
But first things first we were curious:
How did a 3x Grand Slam champ come to be a part of MILI’s effort?
I am good friends with Ronen. He called me with the idea of a new project and I immediately said yes without him even going into details. I knew that if Ronen is involved, it must be something positive. If I can help small businesses and people in any way, especially in these crazy times – I’m in.
It was a no-brainer decision because I do similar work on a regular basis, like visiting companies and schools throughout Israel to educate about the value of teamwork and perseverance. I am also committed to improving the welfare of children by volunteering for a variety of organizations so joining MILI was a natural choice.
So how can a successful tennis player help those affected by the pandemic?
For starters, I am well connected. I know a lot of business people, I have some connections in the government and quite a few media relationships so I can easily facilitate a meeting or get businesses in touch with certain people. Business development, marketing, PR – those are all the things where I can come handy.
In addition, I do a fair amount of consulting. For many years, I’ve run a tech-centric startup called Pulse Play so I understand how entrepreneurship works and what it takes to get a business running and maintain it. As a result, I can offer practical suggestions and draw from my experience, whether it’s avoiding the mistakes I’ve made in the past or repeating some of the relevant things that made me successful. I don’t have the formula to succeed but I know how to focus on the specific issues and improve the chances of success.
Just recently, we had a retired professional cyclist in MILI offices who wanted to open a cycling school but had certain issues. Now, I know little to nothing about cycling but what I do know are certain business principles that are the same in tennis and other sports, such as how to manage people, how to scale, and so on. That’s how I try to help.
As someone heavily invested in sports, what has changed in the industry on a global level?
It’s not just sports – the entire world has changed. Still, sports – a huge business on its own – had it rougher than most. Big events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and countless competitions around the world have been canceled, which meant revenue streams drying up with no ticket sales and decreased media payments.
Tennis has been hit particularly hard because it’s virtually impossible to continue as other sports have. Unlike football, basketball, and other sports players who can continue national competitions within their respective country’s bubble, tennis players need to travel abroad. This is a sport that has been played every week in a different country, and current restrictions make it impossible to come back because it’s too huge of an undertaking at the moment.
In that spirit, what’s your advice to a business that’s struggling to adjust to the new reality?
There are a few things, starting with having a clear vision. Not everyone has it. Envision where you want to get to because it makes it much easier to actually get there, especially when things don’t go as planned or you feel unsure about your next step.
In order to reach the finish line, you need to have a good plan. Take a good look at the big picture and build a plan that is specific to your circumstances, measurable, and realistic to execute. Divide it into steps for easier implementation. A plan outlining a clear path to your goal is as of a good start as you can hope for.
Another important thing (something we help with a lot in MILI) is to be creative in attracting your customers because the competition is getting fiercer by the day. Try to find a unique aspect to what you do and provide an added value. Be faster in delivering a service or increase the level of convenience or just offer a better quality product.
I’ll take the example of that cyclist. Why should I send my son to his school when there is another one close to where we live? If the level of service is the same, him being a retired professional doesn’t differentiate him from this amateur school of cycling. But if he were to provide something like nutritional advice, fitness classes, or anything else he can draw upon from his pro experience, that’s his factor X. Now, the narrative changes: an Israeli champion is teaching my kid to be the best cyclist in Israel. Arguably, that’s something that sells.
The sports field works on the same principle. Every top athlete has something unique about them. I’m speaking from experience here as I’m friends with guys like Djokovic and Federer and I’ve shared locker rooms with them. They all do a little bit extra of something, whether it’s another half an hour of practice, specific workout and eating regimes, mental preparation, and so on. A good business should do the same – be a little bit different than the rest.
Also, if you are a local Israeli business owner that needs help or an entrepreneur that would like to be a mentor, please get in touch via the MILI website.