My first job: CEO finds boardroom lessons on the basketball court | Crain's Boston

My first job: CEO finds boardroom lessons on the basketball court

  • Shoushan playing basketball in Israel for Maccabi Hadera in 2001. | Photo courtesy of Elad Shoushan

    Shoushan playing basketball in Israel for Maccabi Hadera in 2001. | Photo courtesy of Elad Shoushan

  • Elad Shoushan. (Courtesy Ready4)

    Elad Shoushan. | Photo courtesy of Ready4

Elad Shoushan is CEO and founder of Ready4 (formerly known as LTG Exam Prep Platform), a mobile test-prep company based in Boston. Ready4's phone-based platform provides resources for people training to take the MCAT, GMAT, SAT and other exams.

[My first job] was as a professional basketball player in Israel. I was playing at five years old for a club team in my hometown, Hadera. I continued to play through high school, joining the senior team in the city and eventually joining the national team for junior men ages 16 to 22. ... I was a point guard.

In Israel, when you reach the age of 18 you don't go to college. You go into the military. There are usually about two to three [people] in every sport that are recognized by the military to continue playing while doing a little bit easier military service. So I was one of them in basketball in my year. I got to continue playing and later went to a first division team. It was a tremendous experience.

Basketball taught me a lot about keeping my composure [and] competitiveness. I think that the most important one is just hard work—that mindset that talent is only maybe 10 percent of your success and 90 percent is a very rigorous approach to working night and day diligently to get better all the time on many different aspects of your game.

I was very blessed to also be a point guard, so effectively providing leadership and coordinating teamwork—sort of being the coach, the eyes and the ears of the coach on the court in real time—having a lot of accountability toward the strategies that we were executing, and aligning the team behind one common goal. There's a lot of pressure in being a basketball player. Accepting criticism from the coach, from your peers, as well as at some point from the media.

From an early age I played in pretty important games both at a national level and an international level. I did play in two European championships. One of them was quarterfinals to qualify for the final tournament in Europe. I played against teams like France and Croatia. One of the games was very important for us to win. We were playing against Bulgaria in front of 5,000 people. They were the hosting team of the tournament. So we played against 5,000 fans in Bulgaria and we won by one point. I was 18 years old. That taught me a lot about how to handle pressure.

During another game in Tel Aviv we were down by two points with just seconds until the end, tried a risk play right at the end and we missed. So we lost in front of 5,000 people. I think that taught me that you can plan the strategies, but you have to react in real time to situations on the court. They were guarding us closely and we should have maybe changed the strategy after looking at the situation.

I definitely appreciate hard work. I want to always be the hardest working person in the company, and show a high level of commitment to everyone. Because if I'm not doing that, how would I expect other employees to? The other thing is connecting the dots. In basketball you cannot win a game alone. You want to have the whole team behind you. And similarly with a company, every person in the company has to bring their A-game every day of the week. So I learned how to connect to people and how to inspire people, because I'm expecting from them to bring their best to the workplace every day.

April 13, 2017 - 5:47pm