What can business learn from the Olympics?

The Olympic Opening Ceremony kicked off in style last night with 10,000 of the best and brightest sporting talent in the world. Over the course of the next couple of weeks we will witness amazing feats of nature within a multitude of sporting disciplines. Whether you are excited to see Usain Bolt in the 100metre sprint, Michael Phelps going for gold in the pool or our own Katie Taylor in the boxing ring, it is set to be a wonder of physical strength, passion and ambition.

While being inspired by the physical achievements of the Olympic athletes, I am really struck by how much we can learn from them in the business world. As entrepreneurs or professionals working in any industry we can be motivated by the aspect of the sports world that is displayed in no finer glory than in the Olympics.


What is the difference between an average athlete and a world class athlete? From listening to the athletes interviewed before the games one element that keeps on coming through is their love of their chosen discipline. It appears that the success you gain in any field is the relative passion you have for that work. Watching Usain Bolt in the Beijing Olympics was like watching poetry in motion. It was not only inspiring because of the amazing physical accomplishments and world records but also for the visible enjoyment of Bolt while at the event. As we spend most of our waking day it is more than worth examining what is our level of passion or love for what we do?

Putting in the Work

Talent is a key factor in any of the great sportsmen and women of our time. At some stage they have shown a capacity for their chosen sport and that has since been nurtured year after year, season after season. However, not one person who will stand up on the podiums with laurel leaves resting on their crown will have gotten there by talent alone. Over the past couple of weeks I have devoured the various programmes on the likes of Tom Daly and the Irish Athletes on their “road to London 2012” and I was in awe of the time, dedication and work they put in to achieving their dreams. If we want to have a successful business or career we can learn from them by getting up each day and keep working hard. It requires preparation, training, learning, and continuously improving our performance to achieve our full potential.


On a recent documentary “Can anyone beat Bolt?” the competitors in the 100meter sprint were interviewed about their training and chances of winning a medal in London 2012. The most striking was the absolute 100% self-belief of the two of the Jamaicans runners. While the other athletes were “hopeful” of a medal Bolt and Blake had no doubt about getting a medal. As a result there was no doubt in my mind watching the programme that one of these two men is going to get a medal in the games. As a business person it is essential that you believe in your product or service in order for your consumer to believe in it. While it has to be backed up with evidence of performance subsequently, the initial phase of purchase is to buy into the concept. Let me put it this way, if all the athletes interviewed were selling a car I know who I would be buying mine off!

Great Team behind You

While the athletes are the only people who get to put the medal around their neck when they win it is clear that it is not an individual alone that makes an Olympic winner. Each athlete is surrounded by coaches, physios, family and other supports. We readily accept and recognize that this support is vital for the condition and success of these competitors. It is good then to recognize that we also need support of a good team around us. Whether we are sole traders or working in large organizations, the sum of the parts makes the greatness of the whole. Let us gather people around us who are supportive and challenging so that we too can reach the peak of our potential in our job.


Paula Radcliffe will be participating in the Olympics this year in London. After a disaster struck her in the marathon in Athens in 2004 she went on to continue to set records in various marathon events around the world. She is a wonderful example of not giving up after a setback. The reality is that every business will face some kind of challenge over its lifetime and the key indicator of success will lie in our ability to face and move on from these setbacks. Whether or not Paula wins a medal in this year’s event she is an inspiration for any business person to just keep on fighting!

Be Unique

There are 10,000 athletes competing in this year’s event and there is no chance we will know even 5% of their names. The ones we remember are not only for their talent but also for their personality and ways in which they have stood out. Who will forget Michael Johnson’s gold shoes or Mark Spitz crazy moustache? Bolt is intriguing not only because of his unbelievable talent but also due to the insatiable desire to know more about this vibrant and dynamic character. These are the athletes that go beyond sport into a “brand”. We can learn from this when thinking about our own brands. How do we present them? What is the personality of the brand? What makes us different?

As the games progress I look forward to being wowed, inspired and motivated by the crème de la crème of the world of sport. Fingers crossed that the Irish team get the opportunity to enjoy the glory of becoming an Olympian this summer! Go Team Ireland!

M.F. Marketing Consultancy  Web: www.mfconsultancy.ie

Email: muireann@mfconsultancy.ie  Ph: 0868932768

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