Originally published by Smart Business Cleveland.
Grappling with Issues | By Aaron Grossman, CEO
There were 14 seconds on the clock. I was a senior at Miami University and engaged in a tight wrestling match against an opponent from Purdue University. He had just taken me down to the mat and led by two points. I remember putting my head down, almost ready to accept defeat. Then something sparked in me, and I told myself “I am not going to lose this match.”
I quickly worked myself off the mat and stood up. Now, trailing by just one point and with 5 seconds left, I crouched and sprung in toward my opponent’s legs, knocking him down. The move earned me two points and the victory.
It was an awesome feeling and an amazing lesson that has stuck with me throughout my career as an entrepreneur and business owner: Find a way to win, even when you’re down.
Apply it to business
Years later, I thought back to that time on the mat as I was running my own company and facing defeat again. But this time, it was a bigger, more life-changing defeat: the loss of my business.
It was 2009 and the economy had tanked, seemingly overnight. Companies were not hiring and my employment agency revenues quickly dropped 35 percent. The media predicted a death sentence for a small business like mine.
But instead of conceding defeat, something sparked in me again and I fought back. Like in my wrestling match, I focused on how to get up again.
Within six months, I made some key changes — including establishing a strong social media presence — that kept my business afloat and even made us profitable for the year. Today, six years later, we are not only still in business, but one of the fastest growing small businesses in the country, according to Inc.
It’s amazing how those 14 seconds on the wrestling mat years ago helped establish a mental fortitude that is key to me today.
Lessons carry over
I have been involved in wrestling since I was 6 years old and the sport has taught me several other important life lessons that have carried over to my life as an entrepreneur:
- Accountability — Own your outcomes. Every time I stepped on the mat — alone — I knew I would win or lose. I couldn’t hide from anything. Today, as the head of a company, it’s the same idea: I can’t hide from any problems or challenges.
- Teamwork — Even though I stepped onto the mat alone, I had a team behind me to help me prepare and succeed. In business, I sometimes walk into a meeting alone, but my team is always behind me and helps me succeed.
- Discipline — During wrestling season, I would eat, sleep and live the sport. Often, I would have to lose 12 pounds in a week to make my competition weight. When I started my business in 2001, I employed this same focus: I worked days/night/weekends to ensure success.