The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang have come to an end. Regardless of what countries dominated the medal count, the achievements by Olympians across the globe can serve as inspiration for all walks of life. That includes small business owners, who can relate to the passion and drive that athletes display in reaching for excellence.
Here are several examples of success that business owners can connect with from this year’s games.
See the prize
The women’s hockey finale was a great example of the drama that can play out in the Olympics. The United States and Canada fought to a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation, and were still tied after overtime. A sudden-death shootout would ultimately decide the winner, and Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson got it for the U.S. with a fantastic move and a tricky shot — fake right, fake left, back to the right — that got past the Canadian goalie. A save by U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney sealed the win for the Americans, who had fallen to Canada in overtime in the 2014 gold-medal game.
Business lesson: Lamoureux-Davidson’s game-winning goal showed her excellent vision on the ice. Prospective entrepreneurs need to have a clear vision before a small business becomes a reality to have a chance to survive and succeed. Robert W. Bly explores business vision in a story for Entrepreneur.
“Your vision — or your ‘mission statement’ — declares where your business is headed and what it will look like when it’s arrived,” he explains. “A mission statement tells you what success (for you) looks like. How else will you know when you’ve achieved it? … A vision can’t be vague. It declares the outcomes you expect and becomes a guiding light that will lead your business forward. So make sure your vision statement clearly states the outcomes you intend to create.”
The drive for more
One of the more entertaining stories of the Winter Olympics was that of the “Shirtless Tongan.” Pita Taufatofua first became known for his flag-bearing entrance into the Summer Olympics in Rio in 2016. He competed in taekwondo in those Olympics, and decided to make another Olympic run in cross-country skiing. As this Today Show story notes, it doesn’t snow in Tonga, and he had never skied before 2017. But the determined Taufatofua qualified. Though he finished 114th in the Games (third from last), he was again a star of the opening and closing ceremonies.
Business lesson: Hard work can pay off in big ways. The freedom and independence that goes with starting a small business is a major selling point, but it also requires an enormous amount of work and responsibility. A story by Kabbage explores the idea that people think owning a business is “glamorous — you get to make big decisions, make big money, and have a carefree lifestyle.”
The reality, according to the story: “Most small business owners have to wear many hats — sometimes getting to be a strategic visionary, but other times having to serve as a front-line customer service person, amateur psychologist, or office janitor.”
All hail the underdog
Of all the Olympic sports, curling may be the one that gets the most curious looks. But the quirky sport served up some of the Winter Games’ biggest upsets. The United States played the underdog role, and got off to a slow start. Here’s how NBC put the unlikely path to gold: “ … They would have to beat 3-time defending Olympic gold medalists Canada twice, Switzerland, Great Britain and world No. 1 ranked Sweden.” The Americans did all that, earning the country’s first gold medal in curling.
Business lesson: New small business owners may often feel like an underdog, compared to the big machine of long-established companies. As this story by Bryan Kramer for the Forbes Coaches Council explains, there can be benefits to this: “Ultimately, being an underdog allows you to see a bigger, clearer picture.”
“There’s so much more to do, and starting from the bottom gives you a unique perspective about what it takes to move your business to the next level,” Kramer writes. “Being an underdog can be tough, but it teaches you important skills as a business owner and a human being. The ability to be humble, empathetic and understanding are emotionally intelligent skills that you can develop when you’re starting out and you don’t have any big backers to fall back on.”
Ice skating and skiing are perhaps the Winter Games’ most relatable sports, but there are several that many of us would never dream of trying, even on the most simple level. The luge, for example, or the skeleton or the bobsled. The potential danger involved is substantial, and athletes have to overcome these fears to compete. As Nancy Armour wrote for USA Today, “… They all flirt with death every time they take a run.”
Business lesson: Small business owners have to have a sense of daring to be successful. It’s brave to make the decision to step out on your own, and it won’t be an easy road. Writing for Entrepreneur, Timothy Sykes says: “I can’t stress this enough. Small businesses need to stand out from the crowd and you have to be brave to make that jump. But don’t confuse bravery with stupidity. They’re not the same thing. Jumping off a cliff for the sake of being brave isn’t the right way to go about it. You must be confident in your decisions without being reckless. That’s bravery.”
Marit Bjoergen’s remarkable Olympic career closed out in a remarkable way. The Norway cross-country skier won the gold in the 30-kilometer mass start, which was her fifth medal of the Winter Olympics — this year. Bjoergen earned a record 15 medals going back to the 2002 Olympics, including eight gold medals. “When I look behind me and see what I have done, it’s incredible,” Bjoergen said in an Associated Press story by Steve Reed. “It has been an amazing career for me, this is my last Olympics and to finish like this is incredible.”
Business lesson: Start a business to be in it for the long haul. The short-term pressures are of course considerable, but keeping a long-term plan in mind may help to maneuver some of those pitfalls along the way. As Dr. Richard Weinberger writes for Forbes, “You need long-term, favorable relationships with your customers in order to build a successful business.”
“Securing future sales is as important as current sales,” he explains. “Thinking today about satisfying tomorrow’s customer sometimes means letting a sale ‘go’ if all the factors are not right. When customers have satisfying buying experiences, they are more likely to become repeat customers. A combination of returning customers and new customers will build your customer base, leading to business growth and sustainability.”
Lindsey Vonn was already one of the United States’ most decorated athletes, and won the gold medal in downhill skiing at the 2010 Winter Olympics. But she had to overcome numerous major injuries to return to the Olympic stage. At 33, she earned the bronze medal in her triumphant final Olympics. “… That’s what makes life interesting and makes you appreciate all the moments like this,” she said in a USA Today story by Nancy Armour. “Because I’ve been through the hard times. That makes me a stronger person and I wouldn’t change it. I would like to have a little less pain but, otherwise, I wouldn’t change it.”
Business lesson: It is inevitable that there will be difficult moments, even failures, for a new small business owner. How he or she handles those moments and learns from them can be a key element to future success. Ron Burley writes for Inc.com that “every monumental endeavor can only be achieved in increments.”
“In business, perseverance means leaning forward, walking one foot after the other into the chill entrepreneurial wind until you’ve reached your milestones and eventually achieved your goal,” he says. “Many people fail because they give up at the first sign of difficulty. On the other hand, almost every success story includes an element of endurance and determination.”