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Six things small businesses can learn from our Olympic athletes

Six things small businesses can learn from our Olympic athletes
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Posted: Wed 17th Aug 2016

This post was originally published in August 2012 following the London Olympics, but given the success Team GB is currently enjoying in Rio we thought it was a good time to share it again.

What can possibly live up to incredible Olympic Games we've just experienced? Well, in your own small way, perhaps you can. At least part of the Olympic legacy is the inspiration the athletes have provided to us all over the past few weeks, says Beryl Pettitt, founder of Ridgeway Marketing. Here are her thoughts on what you can learn from Team GB as a business owner.

Like many people in Great Britain, I have gone from a vague interest in the Olympics to being fascinated by sports which I hadn't even heard of a few weeks ago. We have all been moved by the determination, hard work and courage of the athletes, regardless of whether they won a medal or not. Let's remember that competing in the Olympics is an achievement in itself. But as small businesses, it seems there is a huge lesson to be learnt from these athletes.

Here are six thing you can learn from the way our best athletes train, prepare and overcome setbacks en route to meeting their goals.

1. Get a great support team

So many of the athletes have thanked their support team; coaches, physios, dieticians, and so on. Make sure you have a great support team of specialists and take their advice. It might be your accountant, your partner, your marketing adviser. Build a team who believe in you, understand your business and have the specialist knowledge that you don't have.

2. Deal with setbacks and move on

If you read the stories of these athletes, they have all had their setbacks but have persevered. Heptathlete Jessica Ennis could not compete in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 because of three stress fractures in her right foot. She has had to re-train herself to take off for the long jump on her left foot. This hasn't stopped her from winning a gold medal four years later. All successful businesses have suffered setbacks, so we need to learn from them and move on.

3. Small changes can make a big difference

Many have asked what is behind the success of British cyclists in recent years. The answer is Dave Brailsford, performance director for British Cycling. As Jeremy Wilson said in the Daily Telegraph: "There is, quite simply, no more impressive coach or manager in world sport. Brailsford obviously has many qualities, from his eye for the small detail, or what he calls 'marginal gains' to an ability to appoint and delegate work to his team of experts."

We have mentioned the team of experts, but the 'marginal gains' philosophy is also something we can learn from in business. As a marketing mentor and trainer, my clients often want a silver bullet to solve their marketing issues, but it is usually making small changes which add up to a big difference; from a different subject line in an email campaign to how enquiries are recorded and followed up.

4. Competition and co-operation

In the women's triathlon, we saw Lucy Hall lead the swimming and cycling, to set the pace and tire others so that team mate Helen Jenkins could save her energy for the running, her own strength, leading Helen to fifth place. This was well deserved when she had been injured not long before the race. We all have competition, but sometimes we should consider working with our competitors rather than against them. Co-operation could lead to getting bigger projects, learning from their strengths and using your different strengths to build a stronger team.

5. Focus on your strengths

Each of the athletes has their own strengths and uses them.  Are you a heptathlete, built for a wide range of events, or is the long jump really your strength? Focusing on what you do best (and getting help in your weaker areas) will give you the unique selling point you need to get ahead.

6. Don't forget those who helped you and give back

Jessica Ennis still turns out for her local club, City of Sheffield Athletics Club, even though it is in division three of the northern league. When you have achieved success, don't forget your roots, and those who helped you, and be willing to help others.

So let the Olympic athletes inspire you to do greater things in your business!

Beryl Pettitt is a marketing mentor and trainer for small businesses and organisations across the UK. She has worked in marketing for over 25 years, and her experience spans both the corporate environment and running her own independent business, Ridgeway Marketing. Follow Beryl on Twitter here.

This post was originally published in August 2012.

 
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