There were many memorable moments from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. We’ll remember the stunning displays of physical achievement and countless images of victorious athletes. And we’ll try to forget Bob Costas’ pink-eye adventures. But beyond the sports aspect, there are lessons to be learned. Here are five that can apply to small businesses:

1. Be bold: The word “daring” applies to a slew of events in the Winter Olympics. After all, these are athletes who choose to go screaming down an icy path head-first (skeleton) or feet-first (luge), both of which are scary enough to seem like punishment for a heinous deed. And there are those who gladly ski down a steep hill and then go airborne, for what seems like 20 minutes, to what they hope is a triumphant snow landing instead of “the agony of defeat.” In other words, you have to have guts, and so do those who step out on their own with a new small business. Bold ideas and a smart business approach can get you on the path to success. Taking risks is part of it. As is proper planning, which leads us to …

2. Safety precautions: A chilling moment happened toward the end of the Olympics. The Canada 3 bobsled turned on its side, putting its four members’ heads (covered by helmets, of course) in direct contact with the ice until finally skidding to a stop. It was a horrifying moment, and instantly put viewers in fear that they were watching four athletes endure terrible injuries. But the protective gear did its job. All four team members got up relatively unscathed. It’s a reminder that risks will be made, but proper precautions — from physical safety to ensuring that business efforts and transactions are as well-thought-out and as secure as possible — can be the difference between success and failure.

3. Skip the hyperbole: Some of the more ridiculous Olympic moments came during the ice skating. Not from the athletes, but from the commentators. Imagine the number of eyes that rolled among TV viewers when a young woman’s performance inspired this comment: “She’s casting a spell!” All skating-and-sorcery analysis aside, small business owners should know where to draw the line in over-the-top sales language. “Under a constant barrage of advertising, customers simply don’t like pushy marketing,” according to this story on “They don’t trust it, they don’t like it and in the end, super pushy, hype-filled sales hyperbole marketing is only going to make your brand seem a little bit desperate — not exactly the best way to win anybody over.”

4. Grace under pressure: A breakout star for the United States was hockey player T.J. Oshie, who scored four shootout goals in the team’s big win over Russia. Though Oshie plays for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, his name wasn’t widely familiar to the average American. But it is now. He added to that with his postgame comments. When a reporter referred to him as a hero, Oshie’s response was, “The American heroes are wearing camo. That’s not me.” It was a mature and gracious reaction, and one that instantly went viral. We all can’t be that quick on our feet when the spotlight is on, but it’s a good lesson in maintaining composure and focus in a pressure situation. Entrepreneurs have to cut through distractions to put their businesses in a position to succeed.

5. Laugh at yourself: One of the enduring visuals from the opening ceremony is of the elaborate snowflake contraptions that expanded into the five Olympic rings. Great idea. But the final ring, the one furthest to the right, malfunctioned and didn’t expand. The gaffe led to the coining of the phrase “the Olympic asterisk” and new versions of the “You had ONE job” Internet meme. But give Russia credit. During the closing ceremony, performers gathered to form the rings. In a sly bit of self-deprecation, the same ring stayed small before finally expanding. It was an unexpected bit of humor, and that can go a long way. New small business owners will likely have moments when they fall on their faces. They can get up and claim “I meant to do that,” but acknowledging the fall and learning from it will show employees a more human side.
Photo credit: { QUEEN YUNA } via photopin cc

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