Being the owner/operator of a growing, thriving business takes guts, persistence and determination. It’s not a hobby; it’s your career, and it’s what provides for you and your family. That’s why you put your time, heart and soul into your company.

When you put your sweat and blood into an endeavor, you start with a dream but the results can be unexpected and, perhaps even, unbelievable. Imagine where your business could go with this level of dedication and drive.

In this way, being a small business owner and striving for sales and growth goals is comparable to that of the professional athlete who trains each and every day to reach his or her personal milestones and accomplishments. Think of those who put in the miles each day in order to win the marathon or those who consistently practice their sport in anticipation of making that one amazing play that wins the championship.

What makes all the difference in the athlete who stacks up the medals versus the one afraid to sign up for the race? Putting in the daily grind, the real work that turns an amateur into a true professional.

Charles Staley, a strength and conditioning coach, recently provided these suggestions for professional athletes who want to compete, and I think a lot of his advice can help the small business owner as well.

1. Show up.

Showing up each and every day to put in the work is half the battle. Athletes practice every day so that they excel during that one moment in competition when it matters. Each day’s work does not produce personal records, such as fastest miles or maximum weighted movements, yet they still show up and put in the work. “It’s funny how when you just show up, you at least have a shot at being successful,” Staley explains.

That’s why it’s important to ride along with the waves of victories and defeats – not over-celebrating the big wins or letting little losses take one down. Each smaller event is another necessary step toward bigger goals and successes. “Pros are grateful for the times that do go well, but are prepared to go to work in the face of adversity,” Staley points out. “While the amateur celebrates every minor win, the pro embraces the creed, ‘There is no joy in victory, no agony in defeat.'”

2. Commit.

Best-selling Author Malcolm Gladwell in his book, “Outliers: The Story of Success,” says it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to really master a subject area or skill. He defines this deep practice as working to the outer limits of one’s ability; not simply doing stuff you’re already good at. Landscape professionals need to challenge themselves every day to continue to become better. The journey is a long one, but it’s also rewarding. Commit to it.

3. Embrace structure.

For an athlete, the body thrives on routine where every day is tightly and carefully scheduled, Staley points out. “That’s not to say that your life has to be totally boring in order to be successful, but a certain level of structure is an absolute requirement,” he says. Structure breeds success. Think about it: If the rest of one’s life is chaotic and stressful – staying out late, lacking sleep, missing meals, missing appointments, etc. – then, as Staley says, “these are all reliable signs that you’re still an amateur” versus a professional. And one can’t meet their big goals by shirking the little ones.

4. Be excuse-free.

Excuses are easy to come up with and very tempting to use, but avoid them at all costs, Staley advises.

5. You and your work are two different entities.

While the end result is your goal, don’t over-identify with your results throughout the process. “Amateurs base their entire self-worth on their results,” Staley says. “Pros, on the other hand, simple go to work, day after day.” They don’t get overly excited about good practices and don’t lose sleep over bad ones; they know they’ll still be back the next day for practice. “Ten years later,” Staley adds, “when asked about their ‘overnight success,’ they just smile.”

Nicole Wisniewski is a 15-year green industry veteran and award-winning journalism and marketing professional. She is currently a senior project manager in The Davey Tree Expert Co.’s marketing/corporate communications department. Visit her blog at or reach her at nwisniews [email protected].