The Olympics for Small Business Owners

The Olympics for Small Business Owners

Who isn’t watching the Olympics this year? With 3,600 hours of programming available in the U.S. and more coverage than in all previous Olympics, it’s hard to escape watching these exciting Games. But what, you may ask, do the Olympics have to do with small business owners?

As a small business coach and consultant to entrepreneurial women starting up businesses worldwide, I have found the 2008 Olympic Games to be both personally and professionally inspiring.

This year’s Olympic Games are a great model of success for small business owners. From the impressively choreographed opening ceremony to the individual and team competitions, the Olympics are full of powerful examples of what it means to be a successful small business owner in the world today.

15 Ways the Olympics Exemplify Success for Small Business Owners

  1. Be consistent. Become the very best you can be. Then deliver that level of excellence time and time again. Whether your event is table tennis, kayaking, or Taekwondo, practice your shot, stroke, or move until you can do it consistently well.
  2. Be disciplined. Nothing takes the place of discipline. Not hard work. Not a perfect physique. Not even luck. Getting up each day and committing yourself to your improvement and the betterment of your sport is what it takes to win gold.
  3. Come back from defeat. Don’t let defeat keep you down. Whether you have fallen from your horse, cracked your head on the diving board, or tripped while running, get back up. Keep going.
  4. It takes a team to raise a champion. Even an athlete competing in an individual sport does not do so alone. Behind your success stands a whole team of supporters raising you up.
  5. Listen to your inner knowing. Tune out the crowd. Whether they cheer or boo, go inward. Don’t listen to what others say. Tune into your strong inner knower, what I call your Inner Samurai, and let that be your guide.
  6. Pay attention to details. The slightest nuance will add or deduct tenths of a point. Pay attention to details. You can bet that’s what your competitors are doing.
  7. Stay the course. No matter how long it takes, stay the course. Don’t give up on yourself, your vision, or your goal. So what if it takes many years to realize your dream? The feeling of achievement cannot be measured in years.
  8. Do your personal best, no matter what. Even with water in your goggles, sun glare in your eyes, and fists flying at you, do your best. Then be proud that you did.
  9. Have a game plan. Have a game plan and stick with it. Know how many strokes you need before the flip turn, how many paces between each hurdle, and when to pull up on your horse to clear the gate.
  10. Be strong. Be strong physically, mentally, and emotionally. In spirit, thought, and word. Stand strong. Land strong. Stay strong.
  11. Have heart. Have heart and don’t be afraid to show it. Scream, shout, and cheer your way to success. Put your heart into everything you do.
  12. Finish what you start. Even if you know you are coming in dead last, finish the race. Complete what you’ve started. Let the world know you mean business.
  13. Work with your nerves. Not against them. Nerves mean you care a lot about something. Embrace them. Let them fuel you toward greatness.
  14. Prove them wrong. When you hear negative things said about you, rejoice! These negative words are a powerful ally adding fuel to your inner fire. There’s nothing quite so sweet as proving you can do what others say you cannot.
  15. Leave a legacy. The Olympic athletes have shown the world that they know they are fencing, boxing, or rowing for more than themselves. They do this for their country. For those who have gone before and for those who come after them. For all that is right and good in the world of competition.

With gold, silver and bronze medals at stake and bragging rights for the taking, this year’s Olympics are much more than just Games. Within each event, on every team, and in every individual athlete, you’ll find a shining example of what it means to be a successful small business owner in the world today.



Susan L Reid Dr. Susan L. Reid is a business coach and consultant for entrepreneurial women starting up businesses. She is the author of "Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Journey to Business Success." Her website is

32 Reactions
  1. One thing is for sure, the Olympics are a great motivator. You’ve done a great job with this list, Susan. You’ve made it easy to see how we as business owners can take that motivation and apply it to our own lives. I will take all 15 tips to heart.

  2. I agree with Paula. Susan wrote a very good article. But I think it has ‘difficult to implement’ advice. The reason I say that is because we all want to be what you prescribed in the article but very few actually succeed in being disciplined, consistent etc. If you notice those who succeed, they have some but not all the ‘ideal’ qualities. We have to look at our own strengths and play to our strengths to succeed.

    But I would like to commend Susan on her work. It’s no doubt a very good article – something we should take notice as Olympics are currently underway.

  3. Hi Susan,
    great post. being an owner can be filled with the same glories and defeats. i really appreciate what you wrote. thanks for taking the time.
    A book that i’m sure you’ve read would be Po Bronson’s “What Should i Do with My Life?”. Motivating stories of people’s successful (and a few not successful) ventures.
    Thanks for the list. I’ll be carrying it around for a while.

  4. This is great inspiration and so timely. We can watch the Olympics and get motivated to work harder at our business endeavors and overcome setbacks as many of the athletes have done. Thanks for a great article!

  5. Very interesting analogy. Here’s to winning gold in the SBO!

  6. It was inspiring to see so many “come from behind” stories at the Olympics. Someone who seemed underrated or underestimated would come along and blow away the pack and win a medal. If that doesn’t convince you to keep truckin’ toward your dreams, I don’t know what will.

  7. This is a great example of how everyday events can inspire us. The other “Olympic Spirit” that should inspire small business owners is the many stories about the athletes. I’m specifically thinking about Michael Phels’ story of having ADHD and using that perceived weakness and turning it into a real strength. Really inspiring.

  8. One of the best examples, to me, was that of the American women gymnasts. Both Shawn Johnson and Nastia Luykin were each robbed of a gold medal in an individual event.

    But they didn’t complain.

    They didn’t storm off in anger.

    They didn’t let themselves give up hope and act like losers.

    No — they each came back and competed again.

    Each won a gold medal, too, by having that don’t quit attitude and keeping control of their thoughts and emotions.

  9. This is an excellent article! Great comparison with small business owners and the 2008 Olympics. Great advice that I feel will stick with small business owners!

  10. >>>Stay the course. No matter how long it takes, stay the course. Don’t give up on yourself, your vision, or your goal. So what if it takes many years to realize your dream? The feeling of achievement cannot be measured in years.<<<

    This is the piece I will bring to my students tomorrow! Thanks, my friend!

  11. There is something I learned in the business as well, that might well apply also to most competitions….

    choose your battles.

    Many people refuse to acknowledge that they are not good in certain things, and more people I know choose to spread themselves too thin.

    Excelling means understanding what you can excel at, and focusing your energies to such. We can be good in something but there is only one in a few billion like Phelps who can really excel in many……

  12. This is a very inspiring article. Well, I agree with the views presented by the author and the commenter. Also, I would like to stress out Wilson Ng’s view – that there are really certain things that we are good at and we can excel. We will just have to accept that truth and be determined to get that skills nurtured.

  13. This is good advice and one that applies for me in the olympics is number 14. In Athens the favourite Leisal Jones came second in one of the breastsroke finals pouted on the podium and was told off in Australia media by all including famous swimmers. It was said at the time she did not have what it takes to win.

    This year, she one Gold in the 100m, was favourite in the 200m and was beaten by the US swimmer Rebecca Soni. She was happy for Rebecca as witnessed after the event, acted like a champion and obviously worked hard for 4 years not only on her swimming but on her attitude and proved all the Aussie knockers wrong.

  14. Great post. And may I add that running a small business is more like running a marathon than a sprint.

  15. Wilson,
    Your thoughts are incredibly insightful and I often use this phrase myself, “choose your battles.”

    “Many people refuse to acknowledge that they are not good in certain things, and more people I know choose to spread themselves too thin. Excelling means understanding what you can excel at, and focusing your energies to such. We can be good in something but there is only one in a few billion like Phelps who can really excel in many”

    I think a really defined focus helps to create success. And if you look at the 15 points that Susan makes here, you’ll see that it’s all about focus. From being consistent right on down.

  16. I really have enjoyed reading the suggestions for additions to the list. Choose your battles is certainly one we have seen played out with the U.S. Olympic committee over the age of China’s women gymnastics team. Now, after the gymnastics portion is finished, the Olympic committee has been petitioned to look into it. Not during, when it would have been a distraction and created a disturbance.

    Viewing your business from the perspective of a marathon rather than a sprint is also sound advice. As is, find what you’re good at and do that – don’t try to be it all. And there is much to be said about attitude. Being gracious in the face of loss is a hard thing to do. No need to show the world by pouting or showing disappointment. Instead, be gracious. Smile and congratulate the winner.

  17. This is a great article and great comments. I agree with Wilson, though I think that “choose your niche” or choose your sport would be the way I would describe his point. Even though many of the competitors are undoubtedly great all-around athletes, no one at that level of competition tries to be both a runner and a swimmer, or a gymnast and a diver, etc… Focusing on your strengths allows you to excel in one area and set yourself apart from your competitors.

  18. The ancient Greece is an inspirational source for the Olympic spirit. In today’s games we have seen things that are not so good, but also excellence and great athletic achievements.

  19. The most important thing is recovering from a defeat. The best example is Chinese gymnast Yang Wei. After struggling for eight years, he finally got his Men’s individual all around gold medal.

  20. What an outstanding list. I’m going to be using this in my talks going forward. Susan has a knack for demonstrating how to succeed in small business by looking at the usual tasks in an unusual way. I like that – being able to step aside and watch myself go by, as it were. Allow my “inner knowing” to guide me.

    Of course, I’m Susan’s publisher – so, I am very acquainted with her work. And, I have learned a great deal from her.

  21. I think the stories that touched me most in the olympics weren’t about the champions, but those who lost.

    In the women’s gymnastics, the story I most related to was that of Alicia Sacramone. After missing her mount on the balance beam, she still went on to do the rest of her routine.

    When your world has just come crashing down around you – how do you find the courage to go on, and still perform, and still try to do your best. This ties in with “finish what you start”, but it’s also about the ability to dig deep down and find courage when you are faced with defeat. That’s what’s inspiring to me.

    I always learn the most about someone when I see how he or she conducts himself/herself during adversity.

  22. This is a marvelous article, The principles of Successful Olympics can definitely be applied to Small Business. To succeed in any field takes dedication and executing a multitude of efficient actions.

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