Why Entrepreneurs Should Always Be Learning

Sage business advice comes from an unlikely source – one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

Sage business advice comes from an unlikely source – one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

You should always be willing to try new things. Peyton Manning, despite winning five MVP awards in the NFL, says he’s still itching to learn and be coached every day.

Dressed in a light blue blazer, checked shirt, crisp tie and dark slacks, Peyton Manning strode onto the stage at ASI Chicago in July with the confidence of a winner. His speech, which was meant to provide leadership lessons from a future Hall of Famer, ended up offering a reminder to businesspeople of all ages: You should never stop trying to improve yourself.

It’s a simple message, but it’s one that people forget as they find success in business. You can’t ever become complacent. You should always be willing to try new things. And, maybe most important, you should be ready and willing to accept criticism.

“I still want to be coached,” said Manning. Despite winning five Most Valuable Player awards and one Super Bowl, Manning told the audience during his morning keynote speech that he still wanted to learn and grow. “When you stop wanting to be mentored, I think you’re in big trouble.”

You might think that Manning – one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time – would reach a point where he’d tune out advice. After all, it would be natural for today’s elite athletes to do that. Yet, what has always made Manning unique is his intense preparation. He will soak up all the video, all the reports, and all the information he can before he gets on the field.

With that in mind, Manning explained that he’s recently spent more time with one of his college coaches,David Cutcliffe, saying “he sees some things in my game that other people might not.” Manning admitted that Cutcliffe tells it the way that it is – meaning he’s not afraid to highlight mistakes, however small.

Manning’s thirst to have someone be blunt with him is something we should all desire in the business world. It will do you no good – in fact, it will do you harm – to surround yourself with “yes” men and “yes” women who stroke your ego and applaud your every move. You’re doing yourself and your company a disservice if you follow your great accomplishments with complacency. Manning’s advice: “Invest in a coach that can help you continue to grow.”

Wherever you are in your career, from the most respected CEO to the most junior salesperson, you should ask yourself: Who can be my mentor? Who can I talk through big decisions with? Who can I trust to be straight with me? Who can help me get better at what I do?

This is not to say you need to hire a motivational guru to coach you up. You might find an old college friend, a sibling, or even a business competitor to be a great coach. In a mentor, you don’t necessarily need to look for someone with sales or marketing expertise as much as a person who’s willing to listen, give you a different perspective, and won’t shy away from being direct. Your coach should also be encouraging, not judgmental, and be a voice, not a decider.

If you’d prefer a professional business coach, though, there are benefits to hiring one. You can lock in an hour each week just to chat about whatever’s on your mind and avoid the small talk pleasantries. The best coaches have been in lots of challenging business situation themselves and can relate well to your emotions – good or bad.

Whoever you pick for your coach, here’s one last piece of advice: Don’t be defensive if you don’t hear what you want from a mentor. You may do things really well, but there could also be a better approach you haven’t thought of. Remember, the great ones – even a Hall-of-Fame-bound quarterback like Peyton Manning – are always looking for an edge. Don’t miss a chance to find yours. Enjoy the issue!