Have you, like me, been taking time out of your day to watch the Rio 2016 Olympics? I’ve had the games playing in the background while I do some of my more administrative tasks. I’ve re-arranged my schedule to watch some events. There was no way I was going to miss Charlotte Dujardin going for Olympic gold on super horse, Valegro! I also stayed up to watch the gymnastics and of course to see Andy Murray retain his gold medal in the tennis. Post Brexit, national pride has been restored now that Great Britain is an Olympic super power. Phew!

Business Lessons From Rio 2016

It's watching the passion, strength and dedication of the athletes themselves that inspires me – seeing their hard work over a lifetime come to a head on the world's biggest stage. None more so than Nick Skelton, who in his 7th Olympic games, won gold in the showjumping.

While watching the events this year, I realised there are some important Olympic business lessons we can learn as solopreneurs and small business owners. In this post, I’m going to detail the ones that struck me. But first please forgive me if you’re not from Great Britain. I’m going to use several examples from Team GB to illustrate my points – because we’re a spectacular second in the medals table. :)

1. Clarity Of Vision

Every Olympic athlete has absolute clarity and one goal - to bring home Olympic gold for their country. Without a goal, it’s impossible to score. Take gymnast, Max Whitlock who won two gold medals.

Once the merriment and revelry of London 2012 had dimmed, and the country had got back to normal, Max Whitlock held a meeting with his coach Scott Hann. It was during that one-on-one talk that the boy from Hemel Hempstead said he wanted to be a great, he wanted to be remembered and he wanted to inspire a nation. He was 19 years old at the time. How inspiring and humbling is that?

It was a stirring speech from the winner of two bronze medals at his home Olympics. It excited Scott Hann, and was the start of their journey to Rio - to double Olympic gold, and Olympic history.

"I asked if he wanted to be just a pommel horse specialist," recalled Hann. "He said, 'I want to be an all-around gymnast and I want to be one of the world's greatest. I don't want to be a flash in the pan.' That inspired me."

Wow! That is clarity of vision.

In my article 6 Steps To A Compelling Business Vision I discuss how you can take your ‘big vision’ – your ‘Sistine Chapel’ if you will – and turn it into a reality.

As runner, Allyson Felix says:

If you can dream it, you can do it.”

2. Play For Something Bigger Than Yourself

Yes, Olympians are competing for that gold medal. But they’re playing for something far bigger than themselves. They’re playing for their country and their team mates. This is why you see so many world records broken at the Olympics. These athletes are on a mission – and this creates great magic.

Watching Andy Murray retain his Olympic gold took me back to London 2012, when he beat world number one Roger Federer – in straight sets no less. Back then Federer was at the height of his powers, and hungry for the one title he did not (and still does not) have - being the singles Olympic champion. Exactly four weeks earlier, Federer had comprehensively beaten Murray in the Wimbledon final. Before that, Murray had lost two more grand Slam finals, and seemed to be flirting with the ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride’ tag.

But come the Olympics, and Murray found another gear that took his game to another level. He beat Djokovic in the semi-final, and then notched up his first ever win against Federer in a five set match. With the team GB logo on his chest and his countrymen cheering him on, he was in the zone, focus unwavering, determination intrepid. And this proved to be the tipping point for his career graph as well.

As Andy has often said, he plays his best tennis when playing for his country.

What are you playing for in your business and in life?

For me, it’s helping as many small business owners as possible avoid the post start-up plateau and transition to high growth businesses built to succeed on strong foundations. (Often called gazelles). And on a personal level, it's to have the time and platform to be an effective Ambassador for Half The Sky, a movement to end the oppression of women and create new opportunities for girls.

[callout]To find out more about the different ways of working with me, click HERE. If you’re familiar with my work and would like to discuss how I can help you grow your business, book a Skype coffee chat using this link. There’s no hard sell. Just solid advice and a straightforward, honest assessment of whether 1:1 business coaching or business consultancy would be a good fit for your business, the results you can expect and how to get started.[/callout]

3. Leave It All Out On The Court

In other words, do your very best.

The Olympics is brutal, you might be the best in the world, but in those few seconds, minutes or hours, your best might not be gold medal winning. Sometimes all you can do is your very best, and leave it all out on the court.

Juan Del Potro did just that in his epic encounter with Andy Murray.

“I left the last of my toenails on the court,” said Del Potro after the final. “I was tremendously tired. It was the crowd that made me keep running.”

Juan Del Potro had come back after a series of injuries that have taken him out of the game. At Rio 2016, the tennis gladiator played out of his skin to defeat Kei Nishikori. And then dug as deep as he possibly could  to play to his limits in an attempt to beat Andy Murray. I imagine that he was heartbroken afterwards. But hopefully immensely proud too because he gave his absolute all and could not have done more.

Thankfully in business, there isn’t just one gold medal. We have the opportunity to consistently and continually improve, day by day, week by week, month by month, and quarter by quarter.

4. Nothing Great Can Be Accomplished Without Passion

The bottom line is that nothing truly great can be achieved without passion. And that’s why it’s so important to limit our activities to those we are truly passionate about. That’s why so often you see emotions erupt in great champions once the race is over. It’s the expression of pent up emotion, built up over years of dedicated practice and released once the finish line has been reached.

Commenting on her 4 gold and 1 bronze medals, Simone Biles said:

I hope people remember our passion and our drive towards this sport and our good sportsmanship to each other and we had fun…and that is why we are so successful.”

I wrote about the importance of passion in my review of Jim Collins’ seminal work, Good To Great. In ‘Good To Great,’ Collins explains the Hedgehog effect. That a truly great business – one I call Built To Succeed™ - is founded on passion. It’s this passion that fuels our vision and drives us on, when times are hard, and when we don’t feel that we’re getting the results we deserve. It’s that passion that allows us to be monomaniacally focused on our achieving our goals.

5. Do What You Can Be Best In The World At

As gymnast Max Whitlock said: “I want to be one of the world's greatest.” So he broke down exactly what he needed to do to become the world’s best all-around gymnast – and with the help of his team and single-minded focus, he executed his plan.

This is what Jim Collins means when he says that Good To Great businesses do only what they can be best in the world at. In Max Whitlock’s case, he wanted to be the best all-round gymnast as opposed to the best beam or pommel horse specialist. Your aim might be to be the best all round digital marketing agency. But a more targeted aim, at least in the early days, would be the best digital marketing agency for the Fintech industry. Or dentistry. Or accountancy. Whichever sector you’re most passionate and knowledgeable about.

6. Develop Your Self-Discipline

Earlier this week, my friend Christina Jones was telling me the story of how Michael Phelps trained for 5 years solid without taking a single day off! Not on his birthday. Not on Christmas Day. Not even on Prom Day.

This gave Phelps an additional 51 days of practice which he believed would give him the edge over his opponents. That’s self-discipline!

I believe we all need to take time to ‘sharpen the saw’ or risk burn out so I’d never recommend this level of relentless pace. However these are the words that I want to be associated with me:

Disciplined. Rigorous. Dogged. Determined. Diligent. Precise. Systematic. Methodical. Demanding. Consistent. Relentless. Focused.

How about you? What words do you want to people to use to describe you?

[callout]To find out more about the different ways of working with me, click HERE. If you’re familiar with my work and would like to discuss how I can help you grow your business, book a Skype coffee chat using this link. There’s no hard sell. Just solid advice and a straightforward, honest assessment of whether 1:1 business coaching or business consultancy would be a good fit for your business, the results you can expect and how to get started.[/callout]

7. Know What You Need To Stop Doing

…. and stop doing it!

Hitting your goals requires relentless, monomaniacal focus. This means cutting out anything and everything that does not further your vision and primary goals.

At age 14, Simone Biles was competing on a national level and keen to progress to the elite ranks. This would mean training as much as 32 hours a week and travelling to more competitions. And that would make attending public high school impossible. Simone had to make a choice between home-schooling so that she could make gymnastics her top priority. Or joining her friends at the local high school which would mean giving up on her dreams of reaching the elite ranks.

“All my friends went to public school,” she explained. “The football games, just being a normal kid - I don’t think anyone really wants to home-schooled by themselves for four years.”

When Simone earned her high school diploma, her grandmother asked whether she felt she had made the right decision in choosing home-schooling.

This was her reply.

“I have lost so much. By giving up public school, I lost a lot of friends because we don’t have the same interests. I don’t do this ‘hanging out,’ whatever that is. I’ve never gone to someone’s party, so I don’t know what they do there. And I’ve never gone to a homecoming; never a prom. I gave up a lot, but I made the right decision because look what I’ve accomplished.”

Every day I see business owners wasting time on activities that are not delivering their goals. Social media is a prime example. Meanwhile they refuse to write a business plan because they want to ‘go with the flow.’ They ignore their financials because they ‘don’t have time’ or think it's too hard. But they do have time to deal with a cash flow crisis.

What do you need to stop doing in your business? And what activities do you need to do more of?

8. Acknowledge Your Accomplishments

Have you noticed how self-critical entrepreneurs can be? It’s the curse of perfectionism which I write about this in The Mindset Of A Champion. We forget to acknowledge our achievements.

This morning, I was listening to an Amy Porterfield podcast where she reviews her product launch. Once Amy had wrapped up the launch, she took herself off on a mini break to Mexico. She made the point that in her early days in business, she couldn’t have afforded this luxury. BUT she nevertheless made a point of celebrating her achievements with a spa day or other treat.

The lesson here is to be sure to reward yourself for a job well done.

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Question: What were your key learnings from Rio 2016, and how will you apply these to your business?

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I’m Denyse Whillier, a London based business coach and consultant. I guide entrepreneurs from across the globe to achieve profitable, scaleable growth and create businesses that are Built To Succeed™. Built To Succeed™ is my proven success system, developed during my 8 years in the trenches as a CEO, 25 years’ experience at senior leadership and managerial level and training at Cranfield School of Management, the UK's leading business school. It's this background that sets me apart and helps my clients to get BIG results.
I’d love to start a conversation. Simply use this link to arrange an informal Skype coffee chat. There’s no hard sell. Just solid advice and a straightforward, honest assessment of whether 1:1 business coaching (or business consultancy) would be a good fit for your business, the results you can expect and how to get started.
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