Five lessons business people can learn from athletes

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Seeking inspiration but bored with traditional business bibles? Here are some hidden gems from top athletes that are equally applicable to the world of work:
Starting out
“You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great.” Sports presenter Vassos Alexander couldn’t run to the end of his street when he first started exercising. He has since completed marathons, a full Ironman and – most recently – the historic Spartathlon 246km ultra-distance foot race.
Lesson: In business, as in sport, no-one starts at the top. An MBA is not required to set up in business. The essentials are passion, commitment and the ability to work hard.
Accept setbacks
Setbacks – in the form of injury – are part and parcel of most elite athletes’ careers. Imagine Jessica Ennis-Hill’s crushing disappointment when years of training were wiped out by injury immediately prior to the Beijing Olympics in 2008. As we now know, she recovered, regrouped and went on to claim gold in London four years later.
Lesson: If you can survive painful setbacks, your business will be stronger. Think like an athlete and work on injury prevention too: a great business advisor is the equivalent to an athlete’s physiotherapist.
Marginal gains
Cyclists especially love this one. Team Sky is renowned for its meticulous attention to detail with everything from skinsuits to power meters. Results suggest that this painstaking approach gives its riders an edge over their rivals.
Lesson: Unique selling points (USPs) are important in business but don’t neglect the small stuff either. Excellent customer service, in particular, can help tip the buyer’s decision in your favour.
Motivational mantras
Chrissie Wellington, four-times Ironman triathlon world champion, used powerful words to motivate her prior to major events – even going to the lengths of inscribing Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ on her water bottles.
Lesson: The internet is awash with motivational statements, to the point where many of us are left cold. Find a statement, quote or indeed poem that truly resonates with you and revisit it during periods of career pressure.
Play the long game
It would have been all too easy for Jo Pavey to turn her back on the world of athletics; Pavey was repeatedly dogged by injury after a promising start in her youth. Instead, she kept the faith and claimed 10,000m gold in the 2014 European Championships aged 40.
Lesson: Tenacity is an important yet often underrated quality. If, like Pavey, you love what you do and believe you are good at it, success will eventually follow.
Clare Scott is a Communications Consultant and founder of CJS Communication & Marketing


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