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Run Your Business Like an Olympian

What the Small Business Owner Can Learn from Professional Athletes

By Mario Armstrong

Source: Networking Exchange Blog

Mario Armstrong, Digital Lifestyle Expert, is Emmy Award winning, tech commentator for the TODAY show and CNN, and the host of a tech talk radio show on SiriusXM. An entrepreneur by nature, Mario made his passion his career by quitting his day job and founding Mario Armstrong Media. Follow Mario at @MarioArmstrong. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.

With the Olympics in full swing, a lot of focus and hope is being placed on some of the world’s top athletes. While Michael Phelps, Hope Solo, and Usain Bolt have become household names, even making it to the Olympics is an incredible achievement. All Olympians have worked incredibly hard to make it to the top of their field, whether swimming pool, tennis court, or pommel horse.

Small business owners, their employees, and entrepreneurs alike face similar challenges. For them, it’s all or nothing with the hopes and dreams of their families and friends often depending on their success.  Just as nobody remembers who took home 4th place in an event, a start-up that goes under is quickly forgotten as business flows to competitors.

With that said, there are several key things to learn from the way Olympians train and conduct themselves.

1. Be prepared to do it all. Michael Phelps reportedly eats 12,000 calories a day. While his events only last a few minutes each, he swims between three and six hours a day, and that’s on top of dry-land training like weight lifting. While he used to train every day, starting in 2008 he cut back to only six days a week. That may seem inhuman, but that’s what it takes to be the absolute best at what you do. When you’re an entrepreneur you might have a coach, but ultimately only you will know if you’re putting in the hours, the time, the sweat, and the tears to truly make your dream a reality.

2. Make sacrifices. Gary Hall Jr. represented the United States for 16 years, winning 10 Olympic medals. Over that time he was incredibly lucky—unlike most Olympians, he actually made money doing what he loved. Hall Jr. earned $750,000 swimming over those 16 years, which sounds like a lot of money until you do the math—he made barely $47,000 a year before taxes, a paltry sum when you consider his achievement. A small business owner or entrepreneur has to be prepared to make huge sacrifices of not just guaranteed income but their time in order to rise to the top. This reality may mean years of prioritizing success ahead of things like material wealth or a rich family life. But if you’re prepared to make those sacrifices, you’re prepared to win gold.

3. Take pride. Noting that 205 different countries are competing in the Olympics this year, with many of them smaller countries who can only field a few individuals or teams, helps put things in perspective. While the United States, Russia, Germany, United Kingdom, and China often dominate the coverage (and medals), plenty of countries have national heroes to root for, individuals who will be heading to the Olympics and coming home empty handed. Will an inevitable loss change the love of their fans back home? Probably not, because to even make it to the Olympics is a huge achievement, one worth taking much pride in. In the business world, you may hope you’re going to become a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates someday. I hate to break it to you, but the odds are stacked against you. Where are the odds much better? Becoming a business leader in your neighborhood or your community and by taking bold strides in your field and earning the respect of your peers. You may never be on the cover of Time, but that’s no reason not to feel pride in the successes you do find along the way.

Olympians set the bar high, and often jump higher. We all struggle running our business, making sacrifices, and trying to be the best we can. When you hit rough patches, find someone to look up to—you’ll find plenty of inspiration from Olympic athletes this summer. A part of that Olympic spirit is giving back to those who helped you along the way, so feel free to share your best tips for small biz success in the comments below.