Olympic training negative for small business ownersAfter watching the Summer Olympics, it’s tempting to model the single-minded dedication and pursuit of being the best. Let me say this first, I love the Olympics! It’s extraordinary to see people who have dedicated themselves for a sporting event that only happens every 4 years. Their whole lives -diet, exercise, psychological training, competitions, downtime – are dedicated to improving their performance. Witnessing this performance is awe inspiring! And yet…this is a bad model for small business owners.

Like Olympic athletes, small business owners are dedicated to success

This is a given. But there are differences that could actually harm you and your business.  In a nutshell, Olympic athletes are extremes by definition. Every aspect of their lives from sleep to activity to rest is devoted to becoming specialists in their sport. They will even move so they can train with a particular coach or in a particular facility.  They tweak every thing in their lives so their bodies serve them well when they compete in the Olympics.

However, small business owners are not specialists.

And that may be the biggest difference. While the Olympic athletes can eat, sleep and train with a single-minded dedication, it just isn’t possible and may not even be healthy for small business owners to become so hyper-focused. Certainly it makes sense to tweak your performance , it is clear that managing and leading a small business is a much longer commitment of one’s life.

See, a business owner must be a leader, visionary, coach, task master, strategist, networker, manager and the list goes on. It is even likely that you spend part of your day providing the service or working on the product that your business produces. There really is no way you can specialize if you are changing roles throughout the day.

Running a business is a longer term commitment

It is remarkable to see someone dedicate a portion of their lives to compete in an event that occurs every four years. But if you looked at the age of most of the athletes, they are in their teens and early twenties. For most sports, athletes are considered “old” by thirty years of age. (There are exceptions, of course.) Leading your business through the good and bad times (and even the in-between times) is smoother with experience and maturity.

It’s not a healthy way to run a small business

Certainly if all you had to do is focus on one overarching goal in your life, it would be great. But running a business can take a lot out of you. While there is a great deal of self-management that Olympic athletes do, it is often a time-limited moment for a specific race. Keep in mind also that Olympic athletes often miss out on family events and spontaneous moments with friends. Like business owners, they put in long hours.

However, if you are putting in excessive hours at your business, you run the risk of getting tapped out . There is the risk of alienating your significant other, your children or friends because you’re “always working.” It’s a seductive mindset that acts like blinders so you can’t see how you’re limiting innovation, creativity or effective decision-making. This affects your bottom line and leaves you open for problems like alcoholism, negative eating habits and other psychological issues.

There is also your business’ corporate culture. Your employees take more notice of what you do than what you say. When you show them that working 60, 70 or more hours a week is preferred or that winning (results) is most important, they will take note and do what they think will please you. This brings you into the potentially hazardous place that leads to scandals and legal issues.

The Olympics can inspire you

But this inspiration has to be used judiciously. Be dedicated to the success of your business as well as your off-work life. Be excellent in what you do and how you lead your business. Use tools and resources that will improve your skills as  a leader, manager and subject matter expert. And remain aware that, unlike an Olympic athlete, you are in a long time commitment that will use all if not most of you and your talents.

Agree? Disagree? Add your thoughts


*Photo via iStockphoto, Berc

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and trainer who guides established small business owners to be comfortable in their own skin. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Whether you are expanding in your own backyard or into another country, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about a new business opportunity to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary coaching session here.

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