Margaret Court - AutobiographyLike many of you I suspect, I received a few books for Christmas. One of these was the autobiography of Australian tennis legend Margaret Court. I couldn’t put it down and had finished it less than 24 hours after unwrapping it!

As I read about Margaret Court’s extraordinary life and sporting achievements it struck me there are some great lessons from her that we can apply to accounting firm success. (As an accounting firm coach I see everything in terms of how it can help accounting firms!)

Before I share with you the lessons I have gleaned for you from Margaret Court’s book let me share with you some astonishing statistics from her career. I quote from the book:

Between 1960 and 1977, she won 192 singles titles and 64 major titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles – including a singles Grand Slam in 1970 and mixed doubles Grand Slams in 1963 and 1965 – and for seven years was ranked the world’s No. 1 female player. Nearly forty years after her final match, Margaret’s achievement of 64 major championships remains an all time record.

The world’s best tennis players are converging on Australia for the Australian Open tournament, which Margaret Court first won at age 17 and then another 10 times after that! And let’s not forget that she still holds the record for the most grand slam titles of any player (male or female) in history – 24. She is quite simply the best of the best. More recently Margaret Court has achieved great success as the pastor of a church in Perth making a huge contribution to the community.

Here are three things accounting firms can learn from Margaret Court’s success:

  1. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing / do something different

In fact if you want to be the best you have to do something different. When Margaret Court (then Margaret Smith) started working out at the gym and employing all sorts of techniques to improve her stamina and strength this was unheard of in women’s tennis. No one else was doing it. She was different. And that is part of what made her great. She trained more with men than women and pretty quickly figured out that she needed to build strength and stamina to win matches (in addition to great technique and mental toughness).

So in your firm don’t be scared to do something different. In fact look for ways to be different, ways that differentiate you from your competitors. Ways that make you attractive to your ideal clients.

  1. Focus

Margaret Court had a very clear goal which she had a laser like focus on – to win each of the four major “grand slam” tournaments in the one calendar year. Everything she did was focused on achieving this goal. Everything.

Focus is a really important word for accounting firm owners and managers. I say that because I often see owners and managers with great goals getting distracted – to use the tennis analogy they take their eye off the ball. In in some cases they have not really even had enough focus to have a clear goal or goals.

Margaret Court was very clear about her goals and what she had to do to achieve them. Are you?

  1. Perseverance

Although she had that incredible focus, the truth is it didn’t go entirely to plan for Margaret Court. As successful as Margaret Court was ,she did not win every game she played and suffered some notable losses that stopped her from achieving her goal. She lost some matches she was expected to win and ended up with 3 of the 4 titles she craved on a couple of occasions. Rather than abandon her goal she persevered and learned from her losses and in 1970 achieved her goal.

Most tennis players would think it amazing if they won 3 of the 4 major titles in a year but for Margaret Court that was not enough. By doing some things differently to other players, by maintaining her focus and persevering when lesser players would have given up, she achieved greatness.

I think we can all learn from her.