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3 Ways You Can Shift from Player to Coach

Have you ever wondered why some athletes fail in the transition from player to coach?

Wayne Gretzky, the best hockey player of all time, failed to make the playoffs in four years as the coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. Ted Williams, the best hitter of all time, like Gretzky, could not lead his team to the playoffs in four years as a manager in the MLB.

By contrast, some of the all-time most successful coaches never excelled or even played the sport they coached professionally. Bill Belichick has won six Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots, yet he never played a down in the NFL. Greg Popovich, considered one of the best NBA coaches of all time, never played professional basketball.

Despite playing four years of professional golf, I’m lousy at teaching beginners how to swing a club. I’ve learned that the easier something comes to you, the more difficult it is to teach.

Like athletes, many entrepreneurs struggle to evolve from player to coach, yet the spoils for those who do evolve are impressive.

Don’t believe a washed-up golf pro? Let’s look at the data.

The team at the Value Builder System™ analyzed more than 70,000 businesses, and the data revealed that companies that can sustain a three-month absence of the owner ​are more than twice as likely to receive a premium offer​ (defined as greater than 6x pre-tax profit).

In other words, the owners that successfully transition from player to coach are more than twice as likely to get a premium offer for their business.

For example, this week on Built to Sell Radio, we interviewed South African entrepreneur Jason Bagley, who successfully made the transition.

How Jason Bagley Made the Move from Player to Coach

In 2013 Bagley started Firing Squad, a lead generation company specializing in cold emails. Bagley referred to copywriting as his “ninja skill,” and during the company’s early years, Bagley did it all.

Wanting to build a business that could thrive without him, Bagley was determined to teach his staff how to write cold emails. During the episode, Bagley shared three ways he successfully transferred his “ninja skill” to his employees.

  1. Create a library. Bagley shared good and bad copywriting examples in a folder that all his employees could access.
  2. Use video. Bagley provided feedback to his employees through screen sharing. Video made it easier for his people to get inside his head, which dramatically helped their performance.
  3. Avoid perfection. Bagley realized there was a diminishing return on nitpicking every detail. Once his employees could write 80% as well as he could, Bagley moved on.

Using this three-step approach allowed Bagley to transition his skillset to his employees, which allowed him to sell his business to Southern Web in 2020.

It’s challenging to transition from player to coach, but if your goal is to sell your business, it may be a requirement.


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