The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat make the Olympics a must-see in many ways. And as those athletes compete for their country, there are lessons that we can learn from them. Here’s a look at some of the biggest stories from the Olympics in Rio, and how they can connect to small business owners.
The swimming icon blew away expectations in his final Olympics, winning six medals, including five gold. Phelps, who first competed in the Olympics at age 15 in 2000, steps away from the pool with a record 28 total medals (23 gold).
Small-business lesson: To achieve successful longevity in business, it takes planning and strategy. As Brian Hill writes for studioD, reaching business goals “can require an effort undertaken over a number of years, with many steps that must be completed along the way.”
“Define what long-term means for your organization,” he explains. “Industrial technology companies may need to do a long-term plan that spans five to seven years because of the complex development steps involved in bringing new technologies to a marketable stage. For a clothing designer, a three-year look into the future may be as long as is feasible because fashion trends change so quickly. Choose a time frame that represents the time required to take your company to the next level of success.”
The swimmer was dominant in winning four gold medals and a silver in Rio. That included the 800-meter race, in which she set a new world record, and finished an astonishing 11 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
Small-business lesson: Work hard. Harder than you thought you could. Harder than your competitors work. In an interview with Entrepreneur, Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban explains his key to being a success in business.
“It’s not about money or connections — it’s the willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone when it comes to your business,” he says. “And if it fails, you learn from what happened and do a better job next time. As I say in my book, ‘It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. You only have to be right once and then everyone can tell you that you are an overnight success.’”
The team of NBA stars won its third straight gold medal, but there were some tight games involved, including a 94-91 squeaker against Serbia and a 100-97 win over France. With Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving and other NBA superstars on the team, this raised a few eyebrows. But when you consider that many players from other countries now star in the NBA, it makes sense that international competition has only gotten tougher.
Small-business lesson: Know the competition. Dig into who is out there that could affect your business’ growth and potential. As JK Harris writes for Entrepreneur, this will require research.
“Don’t get blindsided; pay attention to anything your competitors do. Set up intelligence files for each competitor. Look for articles about them in trade journals, newspapers and magazines. Study their websites. Use programs like Google Alerts to track what’s said about them online. If possible and practical, shop them secretly on a regular basis to observe their operations firsthand.”
Perhaps the leading breakout star of the Olympics, Biles was dominant in several gymnastics events, including the all-around competition, which she won by an astounding 2.1 points. Biles’ background — raised by her grandfather and his wife, who eventually adopted her because of her birth mother’s struggles with addiction — makes her rise to stardom all the more inspiring.
Small-business lesson: Though obstacles may seem insurmountable at the beginning of a small-business journey, you can get past them. Ben Gran examines beating the business odds in a story for kabbage.com.
“ … The great lesson for entrepreneurs is: if you can overcome an inauspicious beginning to your business, you can survive anything. Some of the best businesses started by overcoming the biggest challenges and the most difficult odds. After all, if everything in your life was going smoothly and you had no problems to overcome, why would you ever start a business in the first place? Sometimes the best business ideas come from being prompted to suddenly make big changes — disruptive forces, bad luck, and painful events often cause people to totally re-evaluate what they’re doing with their lives.”
Mongolian wrestling coaches
In one of the more odd moments in the Olympics, a penalty point was given at the end of a wrestling match, costing Mongolian wrestler Mandakhnaran Ganzorig a medal. Two coaches responded by stripping off their clothes, throwing down each item of clothing in furious protest of the referee’s call.
Small-business lesson: Slow down and calm down (and never do what those coaches did). Conflicts and mistakes will happen. How you handle them is crucial to your business’ success. Bruna Martinuzzi writes about this for American Express’ Open Forum, and explains that understanding what happens physically in moments of anger can help to get through them.
“One of the most effective things you can do as soon as you start to feel the manifestations of anger is to train yourself to take a few deep breaths,” she says. “Deep breathing can slow your heartbeat and lower or stabilize your blood pressure. Don’t breathe from the chest — that won’t help relax you. You need to breathe deeply from your diaphragm. If you’re not used to doing this, take a hint from the American Psychological Association: The APA recommends that you picture your breath coming up from your ‘gut’ and slowly repeat a calming word or phrase, such as ‘relax’ or ‘take it easy.’ Continue to repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.”
The fastest man in the world has an uncanny talent in the 100-meter race. It’s not just that the Jamaican sprinter is faster than the rest, but that he at times seems to start out slower than his competitors, then blows by them to win by a wide margin. He also makes it look easy, with enough time to look around at the other runners, as he did in the moment captured in this photo.
Small-business lesson: It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. In a story for studioD, Kevin Johnson writes that identifying a problem is the first step to solving it.
“You may realize that something is not working in your business, but you may not be able to put your finger on it. Take the time to identify exactly what difficulty repeats itself. Describe it in detail so that you get a clear picture of who or what disrupts the profitable flow of your business operations.”
Many are dumbfounded by the actions of the swimming star, with his perplexing story of getting robbed in Rio that turned out to be false. Lochte has become a national punch line, and may be better known going forward for this confusing scenario than for winning 12 Olympic medals.
Small business lesson: Honesty is always the best policy. Rebekah Campbell examines the cost of lies in business in a story for The New York Times, and quotes an English entrepreneur (who she identifies only as “Peter”).
“Peter maintains that telling lies is the No. 1 reason entrepreneurs fail,” Campbell writes. “Not because telling lies makes you a bad person but because the act of lying plucks you from the present, preventing you from facing what is really going on in your world. Every time you overreport a metric, underreport a cost, are less than honest with a client or a member of your team, you create a false reality and you start living in it. You know the right path to take and choose another, and in so doing you lose control of the situation.”
What the Olympics Can Teach Us About Small Businesses