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Good sport: bringing lessons from the field into the world of business

18 July 2017

Having transitioned from the sporting world to a role in European franchise development, Simon Darlaston not only had great personal insight into the leading opportunities in franchising – he had a special perspective on what it takes for a person and team to achieve their best.

That’s why, when it came time to start his own business and get a better work/life balance for himself and his young family, he knew exactly where to turn.

Simon explains: “I was overseeing the franchise growth strategy for The Little Gym across Europe, based in Harrogate but travelling back and forth to the company’s head office in Brussels. I have two kids and travelling a lot and spending time away from home wasn’t ideal.

“I knew all about the power of franchising, how it can help you play to your strengths without having to spend a lifetime creating, developing or writing a product – plus all the support, tools and experience you can tap into.

“I wanted to set up my own business and do something that meant something to me, to be in charge of my own destiny and make my own decisions. I knew of Sandler from the wider franchise world and I’d always been impressed. I knew it was the right opportunity for me, especially because I knew I could use my previous sporting background to great effect in the business.”

A sporting chance

Simon’s sporting journey saw him start out in professional football (“Like many others, I took a hard fall – I can’t blame an injury, I just wasn’t good enough!”) before moving to the US after completing his sports degree, which led to him working for Major League Soccer in a regional management and sales role.

It’s a passion that’s never left Simon, and one he’s now bringing to his business.

“I think people generally like to learn from the lessons that sport can offer,” he says. “It’s exciting to be able to help people grow and develop in their sales and management roles using some of the lessons learnt from both Sandler and the world of sport.

“If you look at the fundamentals of how Sandler helps people grow personally as well as professionally, you’ll find the same traits in a top sportsperson. There was a really clear link that I saw between the two.

“If you took the business owner of, say, a sales or legal company, and made them the manager of a top football, rugby or Olympic team, what would they do to prepare their team to succeed? One of the things Sandler can do is to help them to treat their people like superstars, giving their people the best chance in the day to day world that they’re in.

“It excites me – over the last 20 years I’ve enjoyed taking what I learned from the world of sport and dropping it into the world of business. Sandler gives me the perfect platform to take this to another level.”

Under starter’s orders…

Sandler franchisees undertake their initial training at the brand’s home in Baltimore, with an intensive week that comprehensive week that prepares them for the journey ahead.

“It was full-on!” says Simon. “Very interesting, enjoyable and very well delivered. It gave me a really good picture of what Sandler is about and what to expect in the coming weeks and months after launch. It was really relevant to get me up and running.”

And has it proved valuable for the launch of his new venture?

“I’m enjoying it. There’s a lot to learn. Taking the best part of 20 years of selling experience and looking at what Sandler offers, it kind of unpicks a lot of it and offers a very fresh, new and authentic way to selling. The traditional ways of selling can still work, but Sandler’s systems just help you be yourself more.

“It’s a co-operative way of selling for both buyer and seller, more than any other system I’ve seen before. A lot of sales training is about techniques: ‘when they say this, you say that’. Sandler doesn’t do that, which is what I like about it.

“Once somebody knows what to do, what to say and what their goals are, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the business world, sales world or sporting world; unless they’ve got a really strong head on their shoulders to be able to deal with what’s been thrown at them day to day, all the training and all the techniques and all the skills can fall off quickly. But Sandler’s different.

“Building strong people is what we’re really about. Building strong people who have a mindset to understand not only themselves, be self-aware, but understand the different types of people that they come across and how best to communicate with them.”

By capitalising on his previous skill set and adding new ones thanks to the collaborative nature of the Sandler network, it’s clear that Simon is set for plenty of wins in the years ahead.

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