Small Business

License article

From sports star to entrepreneur

Ricky Ponting joins the list of famous Aussies enjoying commercial success off the field.

A crossroads greets athletes when they step off the sporting field.

In one direction lies a future in the sports industry, another heads to study or a new apprenticeship; the media waits at the end of another path and finally, there's small business ownership.

The latter has attracted some big names in sport – Michael Klim, George Gregan, Greg Norman and Hayley Lewis to name a few. Klim and wife Lindy run Milk & Co skincare products and Gregan and wife Erica own GG Espresso cafes and catering. Greg Norman runs the hugely successful Great White Shark Enterprises, while Lewis runs a swim school and a gift shop.

Enter the newest name, one sure to be recognised by all Australians: Ricky Ponting.

The former Australian cricket captain has signed on as a director of college sports recruitment company NSR Australia.

The company, headed by former soccer professional Marco Maisano, was set up in 2006 and has placed more than 1000 high school students in US colleges specialising in soccer, basketball or golf.


Ponting, who retired from Test cricket in 2012 and all forms of the game the following year, says he was wary of rushing into a post-cricket career and spent months carefully sorting through his options.

“I've been cautious both during my playing and post career,” he says.

“It wasn't like I finished and just jumped into something.”

The Tasmanian admits he will be a little out of his depth working with young basketballers, golfers and soccer stars – cricket is not a speciality area for NSR.

But regardless of the code, Ponting says young athletes need support and advice they can rely on.

“The main reason I got involved was to present opportunities to young Australian sportspeople,” he says. “Once I finished playing I was really conscious of helping the next generation of Australian sportspeople.”

I think sports and businesses have a lot of parallels and I think I have a good grasp on what makes businesses successful.

Asked which would be more challenging – captaining the Australian cricket team or forging a career in the business world – Ponting says he will soon find out.

“I think sports and businesses have a lot of parallels and I think I have a good grasp on what makes businesses successful,” he says.

Maisano, who played for Scottish soccer club Greenock Morton, said he started his own business eight years ago after ending his professional sporting career.

After seeing successful scouting agencies in Britain, Maisano thought he could bring a similar vision to Australia.

“I was at the point where I could see my football career coming to an end,” he says.

“This type of work was popular in the UK and I had the athlete's mentality of giving it a go.”

His initiative paid off. Today NSR is a fast growing multimillion-dollar organisation that employs 10 Australians and more than 150 scouts worldwide.

At 33, Maisano's confidence hasn't waned. He expects NSR to scale greater heights when it expands soon into other sports such as tennis, swimming, athletics, hockey and rowing.

But does a life in the sporting spotlight ensure business success?

Maisano said his name and reputation opened a lot of doors for him initially, but it's been nothing but hard work since then.

But hard work comes naturally to elite-level athletes and this is the natural advantage they take into the business world, Maisano says.

“They have a strong work ethic and dedication, and if you have all of those things it drives you further in the business world,” he says.

Financial planner Chris Browne, of Rising Tide Financial Services, says sports stars accustomed to large salaries and all the trappings of life in the spotlight shouldn't assume equal success as entrepreneurs.

“They're outstanding athletes but often they're not equipped with the tertiary qualifications or business experience to start their own business,” he says.

Only a handful of elite athletes will find a post-retirement job paying as much as they received in their heyday, Browne says. Lucrative positions in commentary, coaching or motivational speaking are few and far between.

The best way for sporting personalities to invest in a business future is to study and gain as much experience during their sports careers, Browne says.

He points to organisations such as AFL SportsReady, which runs a transition program to help footballers move out of the AFL industry and into a career.