Business Lessons From Athletics

Business 11th June 2015

The young woman sat on the sofa with her foot in plaster, tearfully watching the 2008 Olympics on television, live from Beijing. She was not a happy bunny as the Heptathlon unfolded, a drama played out in 7 exhilarating parts and one that she should have been a major player in. Fast forward 4 years and the eyes of the sporting world were watching her, the poster girl of the 2012 London Olympics winning Gold in the same event, with arms aloft and a different kind of tears in her eyes.

As Jessica Ennis-Hill starts her bid to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Athletics remains a prime example of dedication, skill, resilience and practical application, all attributes that apply equally to business. So what can business learn from Athletics?

The key principle:

“Solid foundations lead to peak performance”

Almost every child is born with the ability to run, jump and throw. What happens in their formative years will dictate whether or not they are able to develop the skills required to fulfil their physical potential.

Business is no different, solid foundations will lead to longer term strength and stability. With strong foundations, most things are possible through the application of good processes and the will to win.


“Failure to prepare is preparation to fail”

In Athletics we put the building blocks in place through structured training and conditioning. We practice the elements of our event in isolation and bring them all together when we compete.

In business we meld skills, experience and character to form a unit, with the intention of being the best we can be when we take ourselves to market.


“Most successful individuals recognise the value of their team”

As athletes we benefit from a support structure made up of coaches, mentors and our peers. This serves us well when things are going well and maintains our enthusiasm and focus when we are not performing at our best.

Business can be a lonely place but we can network with other business owners and clients, and gain support from coaches and mentors. In business you do not need to be an expert on everything, help is always at hand from a network of specialists either employed or working independently.

Best practice:

“Nobody has all the answers, always look to improve”

Training sessions give athletes the opportunity to practice and work on the technical elements of their event. This often means trial and error, leading to gradual adaptation and improvement. Applying best practice is the basis of athletic performance and there is nothing to stop us doing this in business.

In business we can try out new ideas and constantly evaluate what works best for us, adapting our strategy and methods as we go. We are never too old or experienced to learn from new ideas and subtle developments add fuel to our resilience.


“Give your best performance every time”

All our efforts and preparation lead to our target event and what we learn through our execution we can add to our experience for the future. As athletes, if things do not go as well as planned we pick ourselves up and come back with increased resilience.

In business we should never stop learning and evolving our approach to keep us ahead of the market. It is unlikely that we will win every time but the key is how we react to any setbacks and the key is resilience.

The whole picture:

“The cycle of performance”

  • Never stop learning
  • Refresh your skills
  • Look for best practice
  • Try things and don’t give up
  • Compete and be the best you can be

Any Business is only as good as the people within it. Whether you win a medal or simply achieve a personal best, performance comes from within, in sport or business. #FulfilYourPotential 

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