7 Ways Running a Small Business is Like Training for the Olympics

Author: Caron Beesley | August 2, 2016

As you settle in to watch the competition and achievements at this year’s Olympics, you may feel more than simply inspired by these amazing athletes—you might actually feel kinship.

That’s because small business owners have quite a lot in common with the legions of athletes descending on Rio this summer. After all, preparing for the Olympics is not too dissimilar from running a small business. Olympians are at the top of their game, have lucrative sponsorship deals, travel the world, and so on. But peel back the glamour of the games, and you’ll find a group of committed, dedicated people ready take risks, make sacrifices, conquer challenges, and go for gold: many qualities that are also important for entrepreneurial success.

Here are just seven ways that running a small business is like training for the Olympics—and how those parallels can be channeled into business success.

Both Take Time and Dedication

It takes time to reach the pinnacle of sport. In fact, the typical athlete trains for four to eight years before making it to the ultimate goal—the Olympics. Getting there also involves checking off several benchmarks first, such as regional, national, and international competitions.

Taking it step by step, setting goals, and reassessing them regularly can also help small business owners. For example, if your goal is to grow your revenues 300% in five years, what benchmarks do you need hit each quarter or year to get there? As you check each off, you’ll earn satisfaction along the way to your big picture goals.

You Learn How to Juggle

Athletes and small business owners alike must learn how to juggle whatever the day throws at them. For the athlete, this could involve family, training, nutrition, travel, and sponsorship commitments. For the business owner, wearing many hats is par for the course. To be successful, both professionals must learn early on how to prioritize, avoid burnout, and achieve a work/life balance.

There’s Always Competition

Conquering the competition is a perpetual challenge. You simply can’t win a battle if you have no idea who you’re up against. In fact, in sports and the Olympics as in business, keeping tabs on your competition can work to your advantage and even be a blessing.

You Pick Yourself Up

In business as in sports, there are highs and lows. The secret is to take these setbacks, accept them, learn from them, find a way back, and put steps in place to mitigate the chances or impact of it happening again.

You Both Need a Support Infrastructure

No man or woman is an island. Successful athletes surround themselves with coaches, nutritionists, strategists, psychologists, physiotherapists, and more. To succeed in business, you also need to lean on the expertise of others, whether it’s your peers, a mentor, your accountant, your tax professional, or your staff. Each of these experts can help supplement your skills, cheer you on, provide help when you need it, and help you be a better business owner. And when you’re in a funk, they can help dig you out!

You’re Always Working on It

Getting to gold comes with caveats. You need structure in your life. Olympians and business owners are up at dawn and push themselves throughout the day, only hitting the hay once they’ve achieved their goals for the day. Even if you aren’t busy with your sport/business, you’re busy working on your sport/business.

For Olympians, that means building body strength, practicing mindfulness, etc. As a business owner, you need to constantly find new ways to market your business, trim unnecessary costs, etc. The key is to put in the work, whatever form it takes, every day.

Both Small Businesses and the Olympics Require Financial Investment

Not all Olympians are blessed with sponsorship deals. Many sacrifice work-related earnings to pursue their Olympic dream. It isn’t too different in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs often start out by dipping their feet into business part-time, while others invest all their time and whatever money they earn back into the business. Managing cash flow becomes paramount, because it can take several years to make a profit.

U.S. athletes and U.S. business owners excel because of these aptitudes and attitudes. Both give back to their country in different ways, but their successes are shared by all. What a great summer to be both!

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