Susan Jackson, managing director of Campion Homes
Susan Jackson, managing director of Campion Homes

Susan Jackson: How my sporting career prepared me for business

By Susan Jackson, Joint Managing Director, Campion Homes

Focus, hold your nerve, keep your eyes on the target…

During my time as a competitive target shooter for Team GB and Scotland, these words served as a sort of mantra. Now, as managing director of a new homes developer, they do just the same.

I’m often struck by the similarities between the sporting and business worlds. There are of course those you would expect: both are competitive environments and natural habitats for those whose greatest fear is ‘second place.’  

But the similarities go beyond competition. I learnt some important lessons as a competitive sportsperson which I now apply every day in my business role. Here are some of the most valuable takeaways from my sporting days…

Resilience

It’s not about how you succeed, but how you fail. Resilience is the ability to pick yourself up after a fall, dust yourself off, and get back on track.

When it comes to competitive sport, resilience is perhaps the most important quality required to succeed. Failure can be bitterly disappointing. I certainly failed more times than I succeeded in my sporting career, but the key is to learn from that and stay focused on your goals regardless. For me, it was the dream of winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. When that came true, it was resilience that got me there.

In business, resilience is just as crucial. More often than many business leaders would like to admit, there are periods of turbulence, unpredictability, and yes, abject failure. Perhaps targets are missed, important factors overlooked, or something happens that completely floors us.

When that happens, we have two options: we can either give up or get back up. That really is key to success in sport, business, and many other walks of life.

Preparation

It’s that old cliché… fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Preparation is key to success as a sportsperson. Talent is of course important, but it will only get you so far. To truly succeed, practice is essential. Although I possessed a natural talent for target shooting, when I started out I was certainly nowhere near international level. It was only through hours and hours of practice, sacrificing my free time and obsessing over how I could improve my technique, even by a fraction, that I was able to rise to the top.

It’s true that many leaders have an inherent aptitude for business, but I believe that it is a skill that can be learned like any other. Preparation is so important – nothing undermines someone’s credibility more than being clearly unprepared. Whether it’s a board meeting, a networking event or a large-scale presentation, be prepared.

Focus
Target shooting is the perfect metaphor for striving for business success. When shooting, you should never take your eye off the target – you will miss if you allow your concentration to be diverted even for a second.

In business, there are always a thousand different things coming your way – it’s so easy to lose track of your goal. Be it boosting staff retention, increasing annual returns or overtaking a rival company, I find that visualising your target and revisiting it daily serves as a useful exercise to inform your priorities.

New approaches
When you reach a certain level in sport, it can be tempting to believe that you’ve found the perfect formula. You’re at the top of your game, and you know it all. This is a terrible trap to fall into – feelings of complacency set in, and that’s the perfect time for the new guard to make their mark. There is always more that you can learn and improve upon – new techniques, new equipment, new training routines. To keep your edge in sport, you should never stop trying to find that new innovation.

This is certainly a value that has helped me in my business career to date. Even when you are getting results, you should always be open to learning more about your industry and seeking out new ways to innovate and improve.

The similarities between what it takes to succeed in sport and in business are remarkable. Whether it’s sport, business, or any other endeavour, it all comes down to resilience, preparation, dedication and being able to adapt and change.

Susan Jackson is Joint Managing Director of Campion Homes, a new build homes developer in Fife. Before joining Campion, Susan was a competitor for Team GB and team Scotland, winning bronze, silver and gold medals for her country in the Commonwealth Games for target shooting.

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