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Entrepreneur Insights: 6 tips for playing a winning business game

Posted on: July 28, 2014 | Author: ATB Business & Agriculture

Calgary-based entrepreneur Wade Sparks applies lessons learned in sports to Alberta’s competitive marketplace.

Growing up, Wade Sparks was a natural on the ice, ball diamond, and basketball court. But in the family business? Those skills took more time to develop.

“I was fiercely independent growing up, so I thought that coming into the business was probably not where I wanted to be,” Wade recalls.

“[But] I always wanted to work in a small business, and really, it was just to be independent and have the ability to give customers what they’re looking for… Rileys actually fit that bill because we were relatively small business at that particular time, so I thought, for the long haul, this would work out very well.”

And it has. After taking over from his father, Wade has developed Rileys into one of Western Canada’s top graphics communications companies, with 53 corporate locations and 225 staff.

In such a competitive industry, the connection between sports and business is clear for Wade.

“I think that business is a lot like any type of hockey game: you really don’t know what the outcome is going to be until it’s over. And the competition is always there to keep you honest.”

How can you step up your game and find success in your field? Here are Wade’s tips for playing a winning business game:

  1. Embrace your time in the “minors”.

    “I was actually in the field, in selling, for about 16 years. I really feel that gave me a good base of how to communicate to the customers, what the customers were looking for, and how we had to propose things and plan things.”
  2. Evolve your game plan.

    “We’re getting into all kinds of different projects. We do a lot of commercial real estate signage, which is a completely new venture for us, and we’ve also been getting into events… We focus on our customers, and when they keep going in all these different directions, we need to be very flexible and be able to adapt quickly to their needs.”
  3. Be vigilant about keeping with the pack.

    “Everything has become digital since the late 80’s, and ever since then, it’s been a treadmill that just keeps going a little faster.”
  4. Stay close with your team.

    “I actually make a point of walking back through the back of the facility and making sure to check in with all the employees. I’m also back there a little bit just to see what we’re doing and that sort of thing—what are the new projects we’ve accomplished here in the last week or two, what they’re working on, what their challenges are.”
  5. Be prepared.

    “Being in the right place at the right time with the right product, that just takes a lot of preparation and planning… You must always be on your toes. You must always be at your best both mentally and physically.”
  6. Be patient.

    “I didn’t have any patience when I started, but it’s one thing that I had to learn over time. Coming into the business, things happened quickly, and you just needed to learn and let them happen and just keep learning.”

Hear more from Wade and other entrepreneurs in our We Grow Alberta video series.

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