Practice Makes Perfect Business

Mar 11, 2011, Written by Sue Miley

To get better in basketball, my son has to go to practice before school starts.  His PE is also basketball.  And then after school they have 2 hours of practice.  He practices about 4 hours per day for about 2 hours of actual game per week.

This is what sports coaches require in all sports all over the world.  They know that if they are going to perform well, their teams need practice, practice, and more practice.

We don’t do a lot of practice in business anymore.  Maybe we practice a speech before giving it or role play an employee issue, but for the most part, we just “do”.

Practice as a Requirement

When I went back to school to become a counselor, practice was required.

Most of the classes were set up so that at least 30-60% of class time was devoted to practicing the skills we needed to become strong counselors.

Then we had a 6 months of what they called “practicum” which  was essentially practicing counseling in a setting with real clients and the last 6 months was an internship where we continue to practice.

Just when I thought I had practiced up, I graduated and entered another season of practice for licensure which required almost 2000 hours of counseling.  They want to make sure that we have significant practice, with supervision and boundaries in place, before they let us loose on an unsuspecting world.

After licensed we are required to earn 40 hours every two years in continuing education in order to keep our knowledge and skills current and sharp.

So Why Do We See Less Practice in Business

This is contrasted to most small business where there may or may not be an orientation of any kind and training consists of shadowing the other guy for a day or two.

When I talk to small business owners they all nod their head at knowing that their business needs more training.

But, they don’t have the time, skills to train, or money to contract out training.  It becomes a circular.  Without the training and practice, the employees don’t have as big an impact on the business.  Thereby limiting success, which limits cash flow, which continues to minimize training and practice!

It is the gerbil wheel in action!

The result of leading a small business forward in a gerbil wheel results in STRESS and little forward movement.

Then we ignore the stress until we crash and burnout!  Not the sunniest future we can imagine.

So here we are totally stressed in our business and, therefore, our life.

We need solutions for our STRESS!

At the beginning of the Stress Solutions series we outlined a 3 Part Process to reducing stress:

  1. Pray – We need to truly devote time to praying about our businesses. I delved into this part of the process in 10 Ways to Connect (pray) with God In Your Business.
  2. PlanPlanning what needs to happen, after spending time in prayer, will help you make the wisest decisions and will result in the most efficient use of your time.  I unfolded this part in the process in Planning Your Way Out of Stress
  3. Practice – Growing up we learn to practice to get good at something: sports, music, and other disciplines.  We don’t seem to practice anymore in business.  Why is that?  How can you practice your business skills to do what you do better?  We will explore this more in this final post of the series and final part in the process.

Practicing encompasses much.

However, the central theme here is to practice enough such that business quality and success improves and STRESS declines.  The better we are in our competencies, the larger impact we can have.

Practice Through the Eyes of a Sales Person

To illustrate different ways to practice in business, let’s apply the applications of “practice” to a sales professional’s position.   How can a sales professional practice their business?

  1. Research different selling techniques, methodologies, strategies and tactics.
  2. Evaluate your own personality, style, strengths and match up to the most suitable techniques.
  3. Seek Training. Read, go to workshops and continue to study and improve your knowledge of this sales strategy.
  4. Get a mentor, or business coach, someone to discuss your methods, issues, opportunities with who will provide objective feedback.
  5. Practice with a fake audience.  An example, practice your sales presentation with someone in your office, or your friend, or spouse, if you are a solopreneur.  Get feedback and keep practicing until you are comfortable. You may even practice a sales pitch in the mirror before heading out for that first customer call.
  6. Volunteer to make all of the upcoming presentations for a new product or service to practice your skill in selling this product.
  7. Make it a habit to do post-completion reviews after a sales presentation.  Review how it went, what went well, what needs improvement.  Document areas you may need to learn more about the product.  We tend to only do a post-completion review after a major project.  This is essential to make into a habit as it is how to identify opportunities to improve your craft.
  8. Visualize yourself selling or making the presentation.  Visualize yourself doing it perfectly and having a positive outcome.  What were the components that you felt were really powerful in your visualization.  Visualize again and see if you can fine tune it in your head.
  9. More training and education.  In most cases, those reading this are the owner.  You don’t have someone in house to train you.  It is up to you to find training and education outside your business through books, workshops, and even finding others doing what you want to do well and observing them.  I will go out on a limb and say that your company will NOT grow if you don’t keep growing personally and professionally.
  10. Practice bringing God into EVERY part of your business.  You may be able to start by practicing spiritual disciplines in your business.  Make the practice of praying for your business, looking to the bible for wisdom, giving back to your community.  These are basically the foundation for practicing your Christian values in your business.

These “practices” will build your business on “rock” vs. “sand”, which will give you comfort that your business will consistently withstand the storms of the business world.

In my mind, being able to whether the storms will reduce STRESS.  Storms may be problems, but at times, they can be opportunities too.  Stress can come from our business falling down.  Other times it may be caused from being ill-prepared for success.  Practicing anticipates the storms and prepares us.

I had a great comment on the first Stress Solutions post Pray, Plan, and Practice from Jon Humberstone, a marketing strategist, about how to translate practicing vocal skills to improving his business.  I think that is a great way to visualize what “practice” looks like in your business.  Be sure to check out the comments and comeback here to share other ways you practice in your business!

Reader Interactions


  1. David Rupert says

    okay. Why do I laugh at ‘practice counseling.’ That explains some of the advice I’ve recieved from therapists!

    But seriously, to test market an idea or a plan never hurts. I am a writer and I always test out my ideas before the ‘committee of naysayers’ first. It’s painful, but they keep me honest and true!

  2. S_Miley says

    David…you are probably right…I was pretty nervous in those first few practice sessions – fortunately I prayed and prayed and the Holy Spirit helped much! Just make sure you choose Licensed Professional Counselor instead of Counselor Intern -they make sure we tell the person we are still practicing; like that helps!

  3. Jon says

    Before you ‘make the team’ you have to put in lots and lots of hours of practice – not to mention have the talent and beat out the competition for a spot.

    Before you because a counselor, you had put in 1000’s of hours in business school, school for counseling, and just in business/life experience.

    But it seems like the message today for business is that anyone can start a business – you don’t need an MBA or even a course in business leadership/management.

    So, I think you are on to something. We need a paradigm shift. Since so many of us are going to be learning on the job, we need a way to ‘practice’ as we go.

    • S_Miley says

      Jon, Maybe the statistic that 9 out of 10 small businesses fail in the first 5 years is partially do to the lack of education/training/practice. I for one know I need to keep working at it. One thing that is a little different in business compared to sports is the rules of the game keep changing. Tools keep changing. It requires consistent and ongoing training and practice! Thanks for all of your thoughts.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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