How Unstoppable Athletic Drive Can Turn Into Huge Coaching Success In Business

With Ski Coach Ace Lane

Larry Weidel: I’m here with Ace Lane and we’re talking how he took his drive from ski racing into business and how he changed from competitive athlete to hugely successful business coach. How he turned his unique business style.  

Right from the beginning, when you left your competitive sports career, you immediately started the business when you got the land, all at the same time.

Is that about right?

Ace Lane: I started a little bit before that because I knew I was going to be transitioning.

I was really freaked out about what the next steps were going to look like, because I had been training so hard for so many years. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go.

I had done a lot of other jobs during that time, working for other people. I learned a lot in carpentry and in sales and things of that nature.

LW: Yeah, there is an off season in ski racing. You’re talking about coming off the nine year pro ski racing career. Not everybody’s making a fortune on those things.

So you have to do a little bit of everything to survive.

AL: No, you’re right.

I was a carpenter for a number of summers, I was logging earlier, I was in sales and I was a cook in a restaurant in Snowmass.

LW: You know, it’s interesting how all of those things along with those sports, all those skill sets come into play now.

It opens the door for you to do a project like this, ’cause you’re going to build it, but you have to sell it. So you’re going to have to have some hand in the marketing.

How did the vision of this thing start? ‘Cause you said it took 10 years for you to get up to 130 employees.

AL: I think our max was 148 and I had an office here and an office in Santa Barbara. It just seemed like a natural place for us to be in both.


LW: Yeah and you expanded and took the architectural stance and took a stab at California.

AL: Yeah. Which you know, worked out great.

I got to do some fun work out there, then I started getting involved in energy startups and things of that nature around ’05. It was it was very fun. I really enjoyed it.

I ratched it back, huge. We had a good run in landscape design, build art, the whole thing.

So I decided that I wanted to just focus on designing and building green communities.

I ratcheted way back down to probably like 35 employees and just focused on a couple of outside jobs and took it from there.

LW: You have to constantly shift and adapt in life if you’re going to excel because not every idea we have is going to be the greatest. Not every opportunity is going to last forever.

What looks good on the front end, might actually be great the way you imagine it for a while, but then things kind of fall apart. You know, cause life changes.

Most people are not good at making that change. Click To Tweet

We are on a spinning planet and to a large extent, it’s like your sports career at soccer. The great coaches are great game managers.

They’re situational managers.

You got a game going, you got a team on the field you can’t say, “oh, we need to go draft some more players.” You gotta make it happen with who you’ve got.

You might have some kids injured, your star player might be having a bad day or whatever, but somehow you got to call a shot if you’re going to win that game. In life you have a lot of the same kind of things.

What I’ve heard so far is you make decisions. You decided to make adjustments. 

You came out of the ski racing, you got this piece of land, you got it going on architectural landscape and design and growing trees, but you had to make adjustments along the way.


You learn and you realize when you’re up to 148 employees that you could never imagine when it was just you starting out that, that informed you, making some of these other adjustments, is that right?

AL: Oh, it’s constantly shifting.

To me it feels a lot like sports. You have to be able to pivot and shift right away.

At least for, sometimes I did stay stuck is when I slow the failings.

So like sports, I did have to shift a lot and I did coach soccer for quite a while during this time. I had a lot of success, not because I had this wide knowledge of soccer. I think a lot of it came from because the players knew I was in it with them.

They knew that I loved them and I cared about them. I believed in him when I was in the trenches with them, but I don’t necessarily think I was the best tactical coach, but we did have a good connection, which was great.

LW: In all your careers in coaching did you notice coaches that you could tell did not have that same commitment that you’re talking about here?

You’d seem like it would seem like that would be a given at a higher level and more serious levels of sports, which is where you were competing at and spending your time.

Is that something that a missing ingredient that a lot of coaches don’t seem to understand or be able to convey to their team?

AL: In my lifetime I’ve seen a big shift in coaching and it seems like they’re really great coaches.

When I was coaching, I was always watching other coaches and what they were doing. I would learn a lot from them. Tactically and just drills and how they talked. I studied it quite a bit.

I did find that the way you communicated and if they felt like you were with them, sincerely, that was a game changer.

When I watched sports, now that the best coaches seem to know how to inspire each player and have them work together. That’s amazing.

I admire the quality of being able to get people to be inspired and work together and bring out their absolute best when things are rugged or when things are great.


LW: You find a business that people are usually either really good solo performers or they’re really good coaches.

What you’ve done is gotten to where you were, the guy, like you’re saying winning that season and the pro skiing tour, you’re the guy. Everybody caters to you and you’re the star. Then you go to where you’re the support role.

It’s a total flip over and you gotta do that in business. You got to do everything yourself because you’re the one man band, there’s no one else to call.

You got to do it.

As you settle into a successful pattern of using your day, your week, your month, a year, you start to have success and you run out of hours in the day.

I try to hire people that are much better than me in a lot of areas and want freedom. Click To Tweet

So you start gradually adding people to your team and you go through a gradual transformation. In your case, you said you went from one to 148 over about a 10 year period of time.

Most people are not good at making that change.

Were the things that you had to have talks with yourself or the things that you maybe learned that made it easier for you to do that because you had observed your coaches and learn from coaches and learn to look at situations through your coaches eyes rather than just being the star of the team?

AL: Yeah, I’ve learned a lot from my coaches.

They were so supportive of me. It all applies to life and business. It all feels like the same thing to me.

I also found that I’m a great manager of people that don’t need to be managed.


So I try to hire people that are much better than me in a lot of areas and want freedom.

If I can find that right mixture, wow, that’s a lot of harmonies.

LW: You’ve painted a picture of what we all want to achieve in business and have done it better than most. 

Leave your comment below with your takeaway from legendary ski coach Ace Lane’s insights on how business is like sports!

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