The Definitive Guide to Business

Billionaire Richard Branson: The critical business lesson I learned from playing tennis

Richard Branson dreamed of playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon as a kid.

While his tennis aspirations didn't unfold, he's seen tremendous success in the business world: Since dropping out of school at age 16 to start his first business, Branson has overseen hundreds of companies and accumulated a fortune of approximately $5 billion.

Part of that success can be credited to the game of tennis, a sport that parallels the life of an entrepreneur, the Virgin Group founder wrote this year in a LinkedIn post, "Why Athletes Make Great Entrepreneurs."

"A lot of things learned through sport are transferable into other aspects of life. I certainly found that the skills I've acquired playing tennis have been beneficial to my business career," said Branson, who hosts an exclusive pro-am tennis tournament on his private island annually.

The billionaire may be on to something. Studies have shown that playing sports early in life is correlated with greater success in business, since competitive sports can teach discipline, teamwork and leadership skills.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group
Julian Finney | Getty Images
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group

"One key lesson I've learned, which applies far beyond the court, is to treat each point separately," said Branson.

By that, he means it's critical to move on from the last mistake you made and focus on the next point or, in business, the next challenge.

"Tennis, like business, moves so quickly that if you dwell on the past for even a few minutes, an opportunity will have passed and the moment will be lost," Branson explained.

"You have to get into the right frame of mind in order to perform your best, and need to be able to put setbacks behind you instantly. In effect, the discipline and determination it takes to compete as a professional athlete is not unlike what it takes to be an entrepreneur."