Gabriel Masfurroll, a former professional swimmer and successful businessman, talks about the qualities that every entrepreneur must have to warrant the name
The typical question “are you studying or working?” has become definitively outdated. What you say now is that you’re an entrepreneur. Any industry, and more in times of crisis where you have to sharpen your wits, needs new knowledge, different ideas and alternative ways of doing business that know how to take advantage the changing habits of a society in constant motion. Sport, an industry of great entrepreneurs, has some illustrious examples. But not every entrepreneur is a good businessman, nor is every businessman a good entrepreneur.
“There aren’t many people who mix both aspects”, says Gabriel Masfurroll, a man who has reinvented himself throughout his life. He dedicated his childhood and part of his youth to swimming – he was a distance swimmer in high-level competition, he swam in the national team on several occasions and spent three years at the Blume Residence in Barcelona on a sports scholarship.
Masfurroll retired at an early age “for personal reasons”, thereby advancing his entry into the business world. He has been a director of FC Barcelona at three different stages –with Josep Lluis Nunez, Joan Gaspart and Sandro Rosell– and is a member of the Laureus Foundation in Spain, promoting the integration of people at risk of exclusion through sport. He has presided over this organization since 2012, when he took over from former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch.
His international projection and links with the United States also led him to occupy the position of ‘chairman’ of the Advisory Board of the NFL in Spain and later to found a sports management consultancy, the Sports & Entertainment Agency. Masfurroll was also a founding partner and member of the Executive Committee of the Sport & Culture Foundation, which brought together the country’s most important sports and cultural organizations.
“Healthy ambition, the desire to progress, curiosity, tenacity, imagination, being able to envision what others don’t see and not being averse to risk”, are traits that identify every entrepreneur, in his experience. Asked to highlight three internationally renowned athletes who have made history for their entrepreneurial spirit, he names three: “One is Johan Cruyff. For me, he was a visionary. He envisioned and understood the world of football in a different way, not only the game itself but also the commercial relations and professional practices. What he implemented 30 years ago has been widely adopted over time and, what’s more, the teams that now triumph are those which, somehow, operate within the parameters that Johan Cruyff set out in his time”.
Mark McCormack, founder of the great global sports representation agency, IMG, is also a great example of an entrepreneur, according to Masfurroll. “He was a golfer and companion of a one-of-a-kind player like Gary Player. McCormack, who wasn’t as good, ended up becoming his manager and that’s how IMG was born”. And the third case is the former NFL commissioner, John Newbauer, who made the American football league the most powerful in the world. “The NFL budget alone is bigger than the NBA, the Ice Hockey League and the Major League Baseball budgets combined“, says Masfurroll.
He is convinced that “in most cases, an entrepreneur is born out of necessity” and gives credence to the Spanish saying “hunger sharpens the wits“. The need to find funding to develop their project will be the next step, and the presentation of a startup to potential investors, who are known as accelerators, must be well planned and reasoned. “Entrepreneurs must present a good project, very well analyzed, very well designed, consistent, with a good team behind them and they must also be willing to risk their resources, their money. You can have a wonderful project, but if you’re not prepared to invest some of your own money … I wouldn’t invest anything in someone if they wouldn’t invest with me“, he warns.
This strategic planning should be based on “common sense and, due to the speed of the world we live in which keeps accelerating every day, it must be updated with some regularity. Some say every six months, but I would say that every year you should review the strategic plan you have made because, for sure, the world, the environment and circumstances are different”.
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