How to be an Olympic-level entrepreneur

Later this week, the 2012 Summer Olympics will begin with an opening ceremony. Then, we’ll watch as athletes from around the world compete over two weeks in competitions like wrestling and track and BMX cycling and badminton. (As a Canadian, I’m pleased to see hockey in there, although I’m not sure why it’s included as a summer Olympic sport).

As we get ready for these events, I am reminded of what it takes for an Olympic-level athlete to earn the right to compete in the games: This isn’t a competition among weekend hobbyists or junior-level enthusiasts. The winner of the gold medal in each category can proudly call themselves the very best in the world. THAT’s an achievement!

And just like there are different levels of athletes, there are different levels of entrepreneurs — from the wannabes who sit on the couch and dream to the hard-working amateurs who grind it out everyday to the top-level masters who train relentlessly and can truly be called the best in the world.

During the 2010 Olympics, I created a list of 31 qualities that make up an Olympic-style entrepreneur and I’m listing them below. If you’re an entrepreneur, what level are you playing at right now? What level do you aspire to be? And what are your plans to get there?

To be an Olympic-level entrepreneur…

  1. you need to remember that there is a right time for training, parading, competing, and reveling.
  2. you need to be ready to leverage your success.
  3. you need to trust your teammates to perform at the expected level.
  4. you need to pick yourself up after failure.
  5. you need to sign up for the whole package.
  6. you need to work at a higher energy level.
  7. you need to be willing to fail.
  8. you need to be willing to go where you need to go.
  9. you need to ignore the competition.
  10. you need to slow down only after you’ve crossed the finish line.
  11. you need to control as many factors as you can.
  12. you need to recognize that things will be different after… then prepare for it.
  13. all of your life centers around this moment.
  14. you need to play fair to win.
  15. you need to love what you do.
  16. you need to overcome obstacles and use them to grow stronger.
  17. you need to have the right gear.
  18. you need to understand and embrace the extreme risk/reward relationship.
  19. you need to go when the starter pistol fires.
  20. you need to be single-minded while competing.
  21. you need to decide to be an Olympic-level entrepreneur.
  22. you need to find your optimal competition zone.
  23. you need to always be training.
  24. you need to make improvements, however small.
  25. you need to make sacrifices.
  26. you need to be part of a team.
  27. you need to know your competition. Really well.
  28. you need to climb the proficiency ladder.
  29. you need to understand and accelerate your processes.
  30. you need to be confident in your delivery.
  31. you need to master one thing.

How to be an Olympic-level entrepreneur

Statue of Ilanaaq the Inunnguaq, mascot of the...
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There are those who dream of being athletes; there are those who play sports on the weekend; there are those who are serious about their sport and perhaps play in a semi-pro league; there are professional athletes; and, there are the small few who get to the Olympics for the chance to compete for gold and a “best-in-the-world” title.

It’s similar for entrepreneurs. Some dream but never become business owners; some moonlight; some have good businesses; some have great business; and some achieve Olympic-level success.

In the days leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics, I examined 31 traits that I believed were key to being a successful Olympic-level entrepreneur.

Here they are in one post with a link to a more detailed post:

To be an Olympic-level entrepreneur…

  1. you need to remember that there is a right time for training, parading, competing, and reveling.
  2. you need to be ready to leverage your success.
  3. you need to trust your teammates to perform at the expected level.
  4. you need to pick yourself up after failure.
  5. you need to sign up for the whole package.
  6. you need to work at a higher energy level.
  7. you need to be willing to fail.
  8. you need to be willing to go where you need to go.
  9. you need to ignore the competition.
  10. you need to slow down only after you’ve crossed the finish line.
  11. you need to control as many factors as you can.
  12. you need to recognize that things will be different after… then prepare for it.
  13. all of your life centers around this moment.
  14. you need to play fair to win.
  15. you need to love what you do.
  16. you need to overcome obstacles and use them to grow stronger.
  17. you need to have the right gear.
  18. you need to understand and embrace the extreme risk/reward relationship.
  19. you need to go when the starter pistol fires.
  20. you need to be single-minded while competing.
  21. you need to decide to be an Olympic-level entrepreneur.
  22. you need to find your optimal competition zone.
  23. you need to always be training.
  24. you need to make improvements, however small.
  25. you need to make sacrifices.
  26. you need to be part of a team.
  27. you need to know your competition. Really well.
  28. you need to climb the proficiency ladder.
  29. you need to understand and accelerate your processes.
  30. you need to be confident in your delivery.
  31. you need to master one thing.

Countdown to the Olympics: How to be an Olympic-level entrepreneur #1

The Olympic Flag flying in Victoria, British C...
Image via Wikipedia

In 1 day, the 2010 Winter Olympic athletes will compete to be the best in the world. Entrepreneurs compete for a similar pinnacle of success every single day. This series of blogs will countdown to the Olympics with 31 ideas about what it takes to achieve gold in your business.

To be an Olympic-level entrepreneur, you need to remember that there is a right time for training, parading, competing, and reveling.

Olympic athletes know that it’s not all about training. It’s not all about competing. Those are key, of course. But there are specific times to do specific things. They train hard – very hard – to get to the Olympics. Once there, they pause to participate in the opening ceremonies. And then, it’s time to act. They compete at their event and give everything they have. And if they win? They revel in the glory of the moment. Each of those activities is acceptable at the right time and in the right proportion. Doing the wrong thing at the wrong time can be embarrassing, ineffective, and unsportsman-like.

Olympic-level entrepreneurs have a similar responsibility to do the right things at the right time and in the right proportion. There’s no use in parading well before you do any training. And you should revel in your own success – if just for a moment – because you’ve earned it. And somewhere in there is your Olympic effort to make the whole thing worthwhile.

And you may also observe that there is a close connection between athletic training, parading, competing, and reveling, and entrepreneurial training parading (promoting), competing, and reveling.

Countdown to the Olympics: How to be an Olympic-level entrepreneur #2

The Olympic Flag flying in Victoria, British C...
Image via Wikipedia

In 2 days, the 2010 Winter Olympic athletes will compete to be the best in the world. Entrepreneurs compete for a similar pinnacle of success every single day. This series of blogs will countdown to the Olympics with 31 ideas about what it takes to achieve gold in your business.

To be an Olympic-level entrepreneur, you need to be ready to leverage your success.

I’ve hinted at this one before. After competing and winning at the Olympics, the best athletes will turn that into something more. They might accept endorsements, which is a reward for the years of effort they put in to get there. More importantly, they will inspire others; perhaps that might be through speaking tours or a book deal or spokesperson roles. Paid or not, these are opportunities for them to leverage their Olympian success into something greater and longer lasting than their gold medal.

Olympic-level entrepreneurs should do the same. They will take one win and turn it into two. They will take two wins and turn it into two more. They will take four wins and turn it into sixteen wins. They will build on each success and aim to use those successes to create more success.

The “one hit wonder” entrepreneur who succeeds and then fades is not an Olympic-level entrepreneur. They might have had meteoric success but it is just temporary. The true Olympians of business will generate long term success with repeated wins, and they will train and inspire others to achieve similar success.

Countdown to the Olympics: How to be an Olympic-level entrepreneur #3

The Olympic Flag flying in Victoria, British C...
Image via Wikipedia

In 3 days, the 2010 Winter Olympic athletes will compete to be the best in the world. Entrepreneurs compete for a similar pinnacle of success every single day. This series of blogs will countdown to the Olympics with 31 ideas about what it takes to achieve gold in your business.

To be an Olympic-level entrepreneur, you need to trust your teammates to perform at the expected level.

Many Olympic sports are individual competitions. But there are several sports in both the summer and winter Olympics that are team sports. In the winter Olympics, events like bobsled, curling, figure skating, and hockey all are team sports. This adds another element that can make or break your success. You can have a couple of superstars on your team but if the entire team isn’t working together then they won’t win. Teammates rely on each other to perform the way they are supposed to. Teams probably won’t win, or even get to play in the Olympics, if there are a few Olympic athletes and a few remedial-level athletes.

In the same way, Olympic-level entrepreneurs who are part of a team need to make sure their teammates are also performing at an Olympic level. If you are performing at an Olympic-level (or you’re headed there) but you’re carrying your partner, you need to cut them loose and either work solo or replace them with someone who can operate at the level you need. Yes, it seems cold but you won’t achieve Olympic-level entrepreneurial success if your entire team isn’t competing at the level it needs to be.