Soaking up the crowd’s cheers as the buzzer goes at the end of a grand final may seem like a polar opposite experience to sitting in an office, working on corporate strategy. But for Erin Lorenzini, the worlds of business and elite sport have a lot in common.
“The skills that you develop in sport are so similar to the ones that you use in business,” says Lorenzini, a former WNBL basketballer and AFLW Aussie rules footballer, who these days focuses her energy on her roles as head of government relations and infrastructure for Cricket NSW, and a board member for Sport NSW.
“Resilience, meticulous attention to detail and an uncompromising drive for continual improvement — you develop these practices throughout your sporting career. Often, these vital leadership skills are cultivated without full awareness of their development.
“Sport and business just parallel each other so well. As an elite athlete, the capacity to embrace feedback and continuously strive for improved results is a hallmark trait. In the context of business, leveraging these skills to comprehend and evolve one’s business strategies for sustainable and profitable revenue growth represent a valuable asset.”
Lorenzini likes to be busy. When she was a professional basketballer — playing for Dandenong, Adelaide and the Sydney Flames, from 2003 to 2015 — she was either studying or working full-time, eventually setting up her own podiatry clinics in Sydney.
Since then, she’s set up a sports medicine business and sold it to a private equity group. She’s also had two children, worked with Cricket NSW since 2020 (while simultaneously going back to professional sport as an Aussie rules player with the GWS Giants), and joined the board of Sport NSW in 2022.
If that’s making you tired just reading about it, bear in mind that since 2021, Lorenzini has also been studying an MBA (Executive) at AGSM @ UNSW Business School.
“I’ve got just a few weeks to go until I complete the Executive MBA, which is really exciting,” she says. “The best practice business knowledge I have acquired and successfully incorporated into organisational processes has been really fantastic.
“The best year was my Executive Year as I got to really focus on industry landscape and business model transform for success in growth and innovation. I also got a broad understanding of the landscape and the ecosystem of sport and entertainment, and how to set-up and implement business strategies to succeed.”
The AGSM MBA also focuses on how to create shared value for the community, which Lorenzini says has been a great fit for her role with Cricket NSW.
“In sport, you want your organisations and your sporting clubs to be profitable and viable, and to grow, but you really want to share that value with the community,” she says.
“You need to lead your organisation and you need to think strategically, but it’s always through the lens of shared value. And that’s where the AGSM really stands out.”
Lorenzini has also completed a number of AGSM short courses through their executive education offerings, including essentials of finance for non-finance managers, and accelerating innovation in your organisation.
She believes the combination of the MBA, these short courses and her experiences as a professional athlete and a business owner gives her a broad lens through which she can view and analyse the sporting industry and help drive strategic growth.
Women’s sport is one such exciting growth area, says Lorenzini, especially following the recent groundswell of national support for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. As well as being deeply inspirational, she says the achievements of the Matildas also put an end to any debate about economic viability.
“What the Matildas have shown is that if you make the product really good, people want to consume it, sponsor it, attend, buy the jerseys,” she explains. “Women’s sport is a profit opportunity.”
Lorenzini hopes to be among a wave of female executives shaping women’s sport as it continues to grow. And she has no intention of standing still; she’ll continue to bring the same attitude to educating and improving herself as a businesswoman as she did to training as an elite athlete.
“Sport highlights that you need high standards to achieve goals,” Lorenzini says. “And you have to have an openness to keep improving.”
AGSM @ UNSW Business School has been developing Australia’s leaders for over 45 years. From our in-person and virtual short courses that run throughout the year for individuals and small teams, to our bespoke learning solutions designed for large public and private organisations, our purpose is to support you to face the challenges and realise the opportunities of 2023 and into the future.
This article was originally published in the AFR and has been republished with permission.