RUNMARK’s business development specialist and newest employee, Zac Houck, shares his experience with the hockey community and how it relates to marketing and business.
I’ve played hockey for over 75% of my life and experienced great success and defeating loss, but those lessons have proven to be very beneficial in my academic and work life.
I began playing hockey in Clackamas, Oregon, at the age of four. After that, I played in Washington while I was developing skills. Then, at the age of 16 years, I began junior hockey with kids a lot older than me. I learned how to be a follower first and how to put the team before myself.
I developed rapidly and hoped to play D1 NCAA at the University of Michigan. Unfortunately, I experienced an injury that resulted in a shattered hip and hip reconstruction surgery.
Competing on a junior-level team requires a lot from a 16-year-old who hasn’t experienced life yet. Loneliness was only the start of my struggles over the next ten years.
Ice Hockey and Business: They are not that different
Ice hockey is different from your typical sport. Not everyone gets ice time just because they are a part of the team. Spots are limited, and if you’re good enough to make the team, don’t think you can stop trying because you have 19 teammates counting on you to do the work. Hockey is for fast-paced, committed, and driven people who want to succeed.
Above all else, communication and hard work are essential factors in hockey. You will be hard-pressed to find another sport that requires every player to know everyone’s job.
The same goes for situations in a working environment. Openly communicating and working cross-functionally in the workplace can lead to more effective problem-solving, greater efficiency and productivity, better decision-making, enhanced collaboration, personal growth, and development. Forbes explains how to work cross-functionally and increase your impact on those around you: 10 Tips To Work Cross-Functionally (And Increase Your Impact As A Leader)
Communication is key to business success, just like in hockey. Nick Burton and Norm O’Reilly said it best in their book, Business the NHL Way: Lessons from the Fastest Game on Ice.
“It requires a different kind of camaraderie, bonding, and commitment to the team.”
Transferable Skills: Ice Hockey to Business
Hockey has taught me many lessons, values, and skills that translate to many other attributes—teamwork, communication, discipline, work ethic, adaptability, and problem-solving.
Over the last 23 years, I’ve perfected the art of teamwork. Teamwork is a vital component of success in almost any field or industry. Whether you are working on a project, delivering a service, or running a business, the ability to collaborate effectively with others can make a huge difference in achieving your goals.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different coaches, players, trainers, and even parents that have different personalities. Through that experience, I’ve perfected my communication skills from years of practice, feedback, and learning. The most important advice I can give you is to listen first.
Above all else, actively listening to your peers will give you so much insight into what others think and feel, even if they are not sharing it.
Discipline is critical in hockey and business, as it enables individuals and teams to stay focused on their goals, make effective decisions, and maintain a high level of performance. Discipline means avoiding penalties and staying focused on the game plan in hockey. In business, it means adhering to rules and policies, meeting deadlines, and maintaining a solid work ethic.
Work ethic in hockey and business reflects an individual’s commitment, perseverance, and dedication to achieving their goals. In hockey, a strong work ethic means practicing hard, playing with intensity, and pushing through challenges. In business, it means meeting deadlines, exceeding expectations, and continuously improving one’s skills and performance.
Adaptability is crucial in hockey and business, as it allows individuals and teams to respond to changing situations and succeed in dynamic environments. Adaptability means adjusting to different opponents, game strategies, and conditions in hockey. In business, it means embracing new technologies, market trends, and customer needs to stay competitive and relevant.
For a while, I was on a new hockey team every year. I had to adjust to a new environment, new coaches, new teammates, new ideas, new locations, and new friends. It wasn’t easy, but learning to adapt to different situations greatly benefitted my adult life.
Problem-solving is a key skill in hockey and business, allowing individuals and teams to overcome challenges and achieve their goals. In hockey, problem-solving means finding ways to outmaneuver opponents and win games. Business means identifying and resolving issues, creating innovative solutions, and continuously improving processes and products.
Hockey is a very intense sport as it is one of the most physically demanding. As a result, many younger and older players experience anger and frustration, leading to intense situations. But at the end of the day, we’re all brothers. I believe problem-solving is a tremendous strength, as I can diffuse any situation that gets out of hand.
Player Turned Coach: Applying My Skills in a New Context
In August 2022, I started coaching my first travel hockey team. Very quickly, I learned coaching is a whole new monster. I quickly went from absorbing, listening, and implementing what my coaches wanted me to, to observing, interpreting, communicating, and praising.
Every single kid is different. They have different personalities, emotions, work ethics, and skills, so you must communicate with them based on how they will absorb the knowledge. Sometimes it means explaining something in 18 different ways. Therefore, I must exhaust every avenue of communication.
The same goes for business. Learn the needs of those around you and cater your strategies so you can work as a team to achieve a common goal.
Transitioning to Life Outside of Hockey
When the time came to start college, I knew I wanted to major in something I was good at. In Juniors, I was very good at connecting with people, which brought me into Marketing and sales. So, I started college in August 2018 at Grand Canyon University and declared a major in Marketing and Advertising.
As my schooling continued, I threw myself into the different theories and strategies I learned and began using them daily.
One class, Marketing Management, really helped me refine my skills. The class incorporated a real-world simulation where we ran a business and competed against others in the class. Unfortunately, something occurred in my group, resulting in our company being in last place. But, putting everything I’ve learned into action, I got my group up to the second position in the class within a week.
This small sample of what Marketing was in the real world got me hooked on the theories of psychology and how people think. As a result, I ultimately added a minor in Psychology to my degree.
I’m a people person; what can I say?
My whole life has led me to where I am today, and I am a people person. I am excited to learn and grow at RUNMARK and take my passion for hockey into the business world.