Every Olympics, athletes pull off truly amazing feats. Here are seven inspirational Winter Olympic moments with valuable entrepreneurial lessons to inspire you and your company to a record-breaking performance.
The 2014 Winter Olympics are underway in Sochi, and we’re already being introduced to a new crop of athletes, and incredible stories about the dedication and perseverance it takes to win Olympic gold. In the spirit of the games, we thought it would be appropriate to revisit some of the best moments from Winter Olympics gone by, and uncover the entrepreneurial lessons to take away from those legendary performances.
Go Big or Go Home
Trailing his rival, Canada’s Brian Orser, after the short program in the Men’s 1988 ice skating competition, USA’s Brian Boitano went for broke and became the first American skater to land a triple axel. When the pressure was on he pulled out all the stops and delivered a performance for the ages, bringing home the gold.
Lesson: When you’re a new, growing company fighting to break through, it can pay to take risks your more established competitors can’t or aren’t willing to take.
Look for Great Talent Outside Your Industry
Two heroes in the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City were an unlikely pair of bobsledders whose paths to the Winter Games were anything but ordinary. Jill Bakken was a member of the National Guard, and her partner Vonetta Flowers was a seven-time track All-American who made her way onto the Olympic team after answering a want-ad from the U.S. Bobsled Federation. Together, they won the Gold Medal in the Bobsled competition.
Lesson: Don’t get tunnel vision when it comes to recruiting talent — you could find your next all-star in the most unexpected of places.
Never Give Up
After three failed attempts to win an Olympic medal, the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer were American speed skater Dan Jansen’s final attempt. For entrepreneurs who have tasted their fair share of failure, Jansen’s story is an inspiring reminder that persistence and determination really can pay off. And that the third, fourth, or fifth time around might be the charm.
Lesson: In the startup world, failure is often the name of the game. Learn what you can from your setbacks, dust yourself off, and move on.
Don’t Be Afraid to Leave Your Comfort Zone
The first Jamaican Bobsled team consisted of sprinters who had never competed in the Bobsled event. Despite their lack of experience, the team qualified for the Olympics. While they did not win, they did earn the respect of the community and established a precedent for Jamaica to be legitimate competitors in bobsledding events (they will compete again in these 2014 games).
Lesson: Even if you don’t think your company has the most qualified staff to take on a new project, don’t shy away from experimenting with new business ideas. They might just take your company to the next level.
Your Brand Can Be as Valuable as Your Product
Not all famous athletes achieve their fame by being the fastest, the strongest, or the most likely to win. Some simply have something special that fans are able to rally around. Case in point: Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards, who despite finishing dead last in both the 70 and 90 meter Olympic jumps for skiing, become a beloved fan favorite and a symbol for the Calgary games thanks to his enthusiasm and personality.
Lesson: When it’s strong enough, your brand and relationship with your customers can help carry you past more advanced competition.
The Competition is Never Truly Over
In the 2010 Half-pipe competition, Shaun White had already clinched the Gold Medal before his final run. Instead of taking the equivalent of a victory lap, he took the opportunity to push his limits, performing an infamous ‘Double McTwist 1260.’ The run earned him the competition’s best score: a 48.4 out of 50.
Lesson: Grabbing an initial piece of market-share or hitting your monthly sales goals early may be cause for celebration, but it’s no reason to let up. If anything, that’s the time for taking risks and raising your performance to the next level.