Could Your Business Win Olympic Gold?

It’s that wonderful time in the world again, where for the next two weeks we are going to rally around our (hopefully Zika-free) athletes, and celebrate public nationalism. Every 2 years, we get together and shout a collective USA! USA! USA! for an entire fortnight, and I couldn’t’ be happier about it. I don’t think I have ever had one single bowl of Wheaties, but I am heavily invested in who makes the cover of the post-Olympic box. Is it going to be Michael Phelps again, one of 19 people to ever dawn the cover twice? Simone Biles? They even have odds on it! Simone Biles 2-1, Ashton Eaton 4-1, Katie Ledecky 13-1, Sarah McLaughlin[1] 15-1, and Michael Phelps 18-1.


We are going to hear tear-jerkers and about scandals (mostly Russian I would assume). We are going to see triumph and defeat, and several life-long (even if that life only began 16 or 17 years ago) dreams realized. We are going to care about sports like gymnastics, and swimming like it was the start of the NFL season and fall in love with sports like Rugby 7’s (believe me, this is going to happen). We are going to realize that men do in fact play field hockey, and it’s pretty impressive, and that canoeing is an actual event. This guy probably didn’t make it though.

In the spirit of the 2016 Rio games, here are a few Olympic-esque ideas you should be implementing into your business strategy.

1. Metrics:

Olympic athletes live and breathe metrics: minutes, seconds, hundredths of a second, meters and feet, with tons of statistics on performances, ball speed, rotations per second, miles per hour, torque, etc.

ROI, sure, there are phenomenal athletes who perform above all normal levels because of god given talents with the metrics to back them up. Usain Bolt can run 100m in 9.58 seconds but admitted recently, he has never even run a mile in his life! Jamaican elementary school gym classes must be more relaxed than America. I guess they don’t have Presidential Fitness Tests there. As an aside, look at the metrics of the Presidential Tests from the 80’s. They expected 13 year old boys to be able to run sub 7 min miles[2]! This distance was lessened to a half mile around 1998 and the program completely revamped in 2013 because you know, kids are fat now. But, being a world-class Olympian is more the result of hard work, not god given talent (except the basketball players. You can’t train to be 6’9” with a 7’3” wingspan). As in business, the harder you work, the more success you have, but it is monumentally important to measure why success is achieved and to use metrics along the way to define and tweak your strategies.  Business may be god given talent in some cases, I’m talking to you Elon Musk, but more often than not it’s hard work and unsurpassed dedication that allows business and athletes alike to succeed.

2. It Pays to Plan

And not because planning predicts the future, either, but rather – and much like business planning – because it sets goals and steps and interdependencies into manageable pieces. As with business, there is always the difference between plan and actual, and that’s what people manage.

Becoming an elite Olympic athlete is as much about planning as it is about execution. You have to peak at exactly the right time and under the right conditions. If you plan your business effectively, you can do the same. Whether it is at a specific conference or meeting, or in front of a new client you are trying to acquire. Make sure to plan your strategy so you peak at the perfect time.

3. Visualization

Visualization improves performance. Dreaming about what your business can be helps you move it in the right direction, and, eventually helps you reach your goals. Create stretch goals for your business and summit goals beyond that. Put specific bonuses and incentives in place so that if you far exceed your expectations, the members of your company benefits as well. Much like soccer, or water polo, your business is a team sport. It only succeeds if all members share the same goals and visions.

I know he’s not competing in the Olympics this year, but look to professional golfer Jason Day as an example. Before he hits every shot he closes his eyes and visualizes where he wants the ball to go. Far more often than not, he hits it in exactly that spot. There is a reason he is number 1 in the world.

4. Focus On What You Do Best

You can’t do everything. Olympians come in all shapes and sizes. Simone Biles doesn’t have to spike volleyball, though she had fun taking this picture with someone who does, and Michael Phelps might be the fastest man in the water, but he doesn’t have to dive from a 10m platform, yet they are all competing for the same team, America. Make sure you specialize in doing some things you do really well, and encourage your team members to do other things that they do extremely well. Creating a team environment that focuses on bring out the best individual qualities in everyone is a winning strategy for business success.

5. You Only Get One Chance to Deliver

Sometimes Olympic athletes have the opportunity to compete in multiple games, but if they lose their first opportunity, believe me it hurts. And who knows if they will ever get that opportunity again. Even if they are elite in their sport, injuries or some other upstart we haven’t ever heard of can derail their dreams. In your business, you generally only get one chance to succeed on the highest level, so capitalize on it. If it’s a big client meeting, nail it. If you have to present to the CEO, crush it. You have to leave it all on the table which I’m sure every athlete competing in the Rio games will do, especially our table tennis team, you know, cause they have an actual table.

Now go out and not only deliver but have them chanting your name like you are Olympic athlete, or maybe just like Glenn from this classic Starbucks commercial from the mid 2000’s.

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[1] Ok, it is actual Sydney McLaughlin who is competing in the hurdles, but Olympic stories are supposed to make you cry right? Who better than Sarah McLaughlin for that. “In the arms of an angel, fly away from here….” Cut to sad picture of dog in need of home.

[2] I’ve still got my certificate from 5th grade when I was finally strong enough to do 7 pull ups. Suck it Presidential Fitness Test.