Leadership Lessons From A Professional Athlete Turned Entrepreneur
CEO Jack Latus of Latus Health knows the power of being a team player better than most. He’s a former professional athlete who demonstrated an early aptitude for sports and entrepreneurship that foreshadowed his future career.
“I wasn’t a (Richard) Branson-type character selling sweets on the playground,” he recalls. “In the Youth Enterprise business competition at school, where you team up with classmates to form a business, I had the important role of being the company mascot. Our business was called Tops Off, and we sold custom branded credit card bottle openers. My job was to wear the beer bottle costume at trade shows. I think we placed second in the national competition.”
Latus was known as a formidable competitor on and off the field. He played tennis before school with his brother and challenged his dad and elder brother to cricket matches in the evenings. That’s in addition to daily football training and after school matches.
As his parents continued to push tennis as tops, Latus’ interests took a significant turn.
“At 12 years old I moved to secondary school at Hymers College and was introduced to rugby,” he reminisces “Rugby was my first love, my first passion, and, most importantly, my first understanding of how real intrinsic drive feels. Rugby took over tennis by the age of 14, despite resistance from my parents. And, at age 15, I watched Johnny Wilkinson kick the world cup winning drop goal to beat Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final. This was possibly the single most defining moment in my life to date. I promised myself right then and there that I would become a professional rugby player, no matter what.”
A commitment he made and kept, against all odds. As an average player with a late start, he had to work twice as hard to realize his dream.
“I discovered how powerful a person with an unwavering drive to achieve a mission can be, and this lesson has stayed without me throughout my life,” he emphasizes.
From Sidelined to Start -Up
Four years into his professional rugby career, Latus experienced a potentially career ending knee injury during a contract renewal year. That became the catalyst to set up his first business. He decided to stay true to his passion and his expertise and opted for a gym.
Latus used the same principles he adhered to as an athlete to grow his business from a small gym operating out of an old squash court to the fastest-growing occupational health business in the UK. His company has evolved to become a health-tech company focused on improving access to high quality healthcare and wellness solutions in the workplace.
A Winning Playbook
Latus embraced one lifelong lesson that he believes is critical for every leader thoughtfully considering the future of work right now.
Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility.
“Business leaders need to reconfigure work, if they haven’t already,” he coaches. “Employees have changed their expectations of the ideal work-life balance. Recent research found 33% of employees want to leave their current job in the next year, and 28% of those cite work-life balance as the reason.”
Latus concludes our conversation with three ways employers can be more flexible with employees:
Flexibility in workplace location. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, employees have changed their lifestyle routines and values, and a large percentage have been just as (or more!) productive working from home as they were in the office. Giving options for remote work is truly an opportunity for everyone – employee and employer alike – to thrive.”
Flexibility in time management and project production. “Today, and in the future, employees are showing that they want to be judged on the work they deliver. They are saying ‘set me a task, and let me use my skills, ability, and self-management to achieve it.’”
Flexibility in workplace norms and conditions. “I would strongly advise that businesses critically review their processes to see if there is anything in place which is fundamentally there to control or check up on employees. Whether that be an overly strict dress code or a pointless 9am meeting that serves no other purpose than to make sure everyone is at work on time; these are the sort of things that the modern employee will rebel against.”