Go for the gold: what small businesses can learn from Olympians

By Alex J | Friday, 2 September 2016

You don't have to be an Olympian to succeed. Whatever you decide to do, you can come out on top. This goes for business owners, too.

Regardless of your industry, there are many ways you can best your competitors. Naturally, these strategies can vary depending on the field you're in. However, no matter how extensive your plans are, they won't amount to anything without a positive attitude.

Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Mack Horton, and Catherine Skinner didn't just win gold medals through their hard work. As a business owner, you, too, can be in first place as long as you stick to the following principles:

Learn from your mistakes

When Michael Phelps lost to Chad Le Clos in the 200m butterfly relay during the 2012 London Olympics, he reportedly studied footage of the race over and over to gauge his performance. He assessed his weaknesses and trained hard to overcome them.

Fast forward to this year's Rio Olympics, not only did he reclaim his gold medal, but also completed the relay at 1:53.36. His rival? He finished fourth.

This same principle can be applied to your business. It's not unusual to experience challenges, but it's how you bounce back that matters.

One way you can get back on track is to study your business' performance. Gather as much information as you can to figure out what went wrong. Studying the data not only helps you fix any mistakes, but also helps determine how to prevent the problem in the future.

Dan Greenberg, CEO of Sharethrough, particularly believes in trial and error. Greenberg told Huffington Post that it took a while for the company to establish its niche, mentioning that the company's biggest mistake was not clearly defining the tone of their content and services.

Sharethrough amended this by solidifying their vision and goals, aiming to monetise the modern internet through meaningful and relevant content.

Keep your focus

Performing in front of a crowd is no easy task. If the slightest clap or cheer distracts an athlete, it could completely ruin his or her entire performance.

Kohei Uchimura, one of the most decorated gymnasts of all time, seems to expertly tune out everything. When you see him perform, you could almost say that he is in a world of his own. You can clearly see in his eyes that he is completely focused on his routine.

Naturally, there are a lot of distractions in business, including looming deadlines, tough competitors, and industry changes. However, if you are easily thrown off by any of them, then it becomes harder to achieve your goals.

This is why it helps to outline your goals before then figuring out how to achieve them. Your business will always encounter problems along the way, but what is important is not to lose sight of your targets.

A perfect example of this is Isaac Lidsky from ODC Construction. Before the age of 25, he lost his sight, but Lidsky's disability didn't stop him from attaining a degree from Harvard College before he turned 20, selling a tech company, and earning a prestigious law degree.

In an interview with Nicole Taylor of Business News Daily, Lidsky said "I learned that the ultimate responsibility for my life and my limitations begins and ends with me," and that it was his "responsibility to proactively identify ... obstacles in my way and to look for solutions."

Build an efficient team

You hire people to help you deliver products and services to your target audience.

In order to build an effective team, it is important to first hire the right individuals for each role. Next, you need to foster cooperation: each member should understand that their work affects everyone else. Lastly, they should understand that they should help each other out. One way they can do this is to pick up the slack when one of them is struggling with a task. These are just some ways of establishing team spirit.

One of the most efficient teams in the Rio Olympics were New Zealand's rowers Eric Murray and Hamish Bond.

These Kiwis were able to successfully defend their Olympic gold medal for the coxless pair relay. Eelco Meenhorst, a coach from another team, shared with the The Indian Express that an edge these two have over the other teams is their size and weight; they are large enough to row powerfully, while being light enough that they could still move smoothly on the water. This is an important part of why Murray and Bond were able to defend their title.

William Nobrega of CQS International, said it best. When his company struggled back in 2014, he simply followed the footsteps of other successful brands, and brought on new dedicated and passionate team members. These people have served as the backbone of his company's success.

It will take a lot of effort to make your business work. As long as you follow the lead of these individuals, and remain savvy enough to know what is best for your business, then you can surely take home gold.