From the top · 10 August 2016

Passion and resilience: Does your business have the Olympic golden touch?

Success in sport can be compared to that in business
Success in sport can be compared to that in business

With the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro now well under way, FreeAgent co-founder and CEO Ed Molyneux suggests a few key sporting traits that could lead to business success.

The Rio Olympics are just getting underway, which means that the world’s top athletes will be giving their all in over the coming weeks to try and secure a place on the podium.

But a “going for gold” mentality isn’t just important for would-be Olympic medallists like Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis-Hill. When you’re in businesses, these values can be just as beneficial and help you stay ahead of the competition.

Discipline

The more disciplined an athlete is, the better their chances are for success in their chosen sport. And, likewise, it’s important to maintain the highest levels of discipline in the business world.

When you’re running a business, you have to do all of the nitty gritty stuff that makes it tick – not just the fun, interesting parts. And that means being disciplined enough to stay on top of chores like business bookkeeping and financial admin, not just focussing on your exciting new advertising plans.

As an entrepreneur, I found it’s incredibly important to set the right amount of time aside to manage all the facets of your business and commit to this schedule. After all, if you’re not disciplined enough to stay on top of one time-consuming and fiddly part of your business, what’s to stop you eventually being tempted to neglect some other important areas?

Passion

Top Olympic athletes need passion and drive to push themselves to their limits and achieve their goals. And you have to have the same level of passion in business too, not just to get your idea off the ground and develop your product or service, but also when it comes to attracting customers and promoting your venture against the competition. It can be a difficult – and sometimes demoralising – experience, but you need to be resolute in order to have any chance of success.

If you aren’t passionate about your business, how can you expect other people to be excited about it? And how will you be able to deal with any inconvenient issues that arise? I’ve found that customers and staff are very quick to see whether you believe in what you’re doing or – and whether they should invest their time or money with your business. Passion is vital and without it, you may be setting yourself up for failure.

Performing under pressure

Elite athletes compete in front of a huge global audience, knowing that a single mistake can mean disaster – so it’s all about who’s able to cope best with pressure. But a good business owner also needs to perform under pressure. You have deadlines to meet and customers to keep happy. You have suppliers that need to be paid and invoices that need to be chased. And you have accounts that need to be completed and tax returns that need to be filed.

With all these factors demanding your attention, it’s easy to get stressed and overwhelmed, so it’s important to try and ease the burden on your workload. Seek out support, whether from specific people or through technology or software designed to help you better manage your work, and remember to take enough breaks to avoid succumbing to mental fatigue. Good organisation is key to helping you deal with, and overcome, the pressure.

Teamwork

Good teamwork isn’t just essential in team sports or Olympic athletic disciplines like the relay: even solo athletes need to build a strong team of trainers, dieticians, sports psychologists and supporters around them to give them the best chance of victory.

And in business, teamwork is just as important. Whether it’s your members of staff, your suppliers, other businesses or the customers who love the products or service you offer, you need to nurture these relationships and ensure that these people are important members of your team.

And don’t be afraid to look for more people who can add value to your team, for example through joining a local business community and finding other successful business owners who can give you advice. Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself – sometimes it’s better to work together and share the workload.

Resilience

Like the 100m sprinter who suffers an injury or the tennis star who is dealt a crushing defeat by a rival, your business is likely to face setbacks. And you’ll need to prove resilient to these obstacles if you want to be successful.

Keep calm and deal with each issue as it arises – for example, seeking customer feedback when a new product or service doesn’t perform as well as expected. In my experience, successful business owners are the ones who learn from their mistakes, improve their service and come back stronger than ever – they don’t keep encountering the same problems time and time again.

Ed Molyneux is CEO and co-founder of cloud accounting software service FreeAgent.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.

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