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Prepare your business for success like an Olympian

Were you inspired by Team GB’s record-breaking performance at this year’s Olympics and Paralympics in Rio? The athletes’ amazing achievements can be more than just inspirational to you and the way you run your business. You have more in common with these top class sports people than you think.

Preparing for the Olympics is not at all dissimilar from preparing your business for success. Olympians and Paralympians need to be at the top of their game to aim for gold. They are committed, fully dedicated, ready to take risks and to overcome challenges in order to win those coveted medals. All of these qualities are vital, too, for entrepreneurial achievement.

It’s All in the Planning

The way an athlete, and the team behind him or her, prepares for the Olympics is to have a 1000 day plan. It’s the same way that I plan, develop and adapt my businesses for successful growth. Start at the end and work backwards, measuring out your strategic framework on a day-by-day basis.

Although 1000 days is really just 3 years in time, by thinking and planning it out this way, you can break it down into manageable chunks. It’s a structure that raises the heartbeat of the business. It means you have something to aim for daily.

So how can the parallels of training for the Olympics be channelled into measurable business success?

Let’s look at the three stages of my 1000 day planning formula:

You need to commit to making a positive decision, then connect with your team to implement a visible process, so that you can create the magic of shared achievement.

1. Commit

What does success look like? Is the team fully on board with the vision you have set out for the business over the next 3 years? Are you prepared to look failure in the face and overcome any setbacks? Can you really aim high enough to achieve your goals?

These are all necessary questions to ask yourself when you’re setting out on the path to world-class achievements. In order to be rewarded with success, you need to be prepared, committed and have a target to aim for – just like an Olympian.

It requires the whole team to be on board, to pull together. After all, we want to be the best at what we do, whether in sport or in business.

An example of a team all pulling together, so they could share in hard won success, was when one of my technology businesses was recently awarded ‘Best Broadband Pioneer’. This showed genuine commitment to reach targets, and evidence that a having a 1000-day plan does work.

2. Connect

Success is difficult; it takes hard work, it needs dedication and a firm commitment to the long game.

For this you need a plan, one that speaks to everyone on the team and one that requires them to be part of the path to success.

Every part of the operation, everyone in the company, should be aiming to be better than the competition – just like when athletes’ coaches are looking for a way to run faster or jump higher than the competition. Look at the amazing results from the GB cycling team – here, every millisecond counts, every piece of equipment has to deliver to its maximum and if it doesn’t, then you find something that can.

Team members need to know how they can contribute to the business’s success, how they connect to the whole. Feedback is therefore essential. By making your plans visible and transparent, you can encourage and inspire individuals.

In my businesses, no one works on their own; everyone is part of a team, all rooting for the same thing.

By thinking bigger than what’s just on the table, ideas can flourish and take hold. After all, some of the most successful businesses started as a ‘crazy idea’, by disregarding the impossible. You too can be the Fosbury Flop of the business world. (This was thought of as something that would never catch on – leaping backwards over a high jump bar anyone? It’s now adopted as standard practice in athletics.)

3. Create: The Magic of Shared Achievement

It’s not all about hard work, though. We aren’t machines. We need to have a bit of fun along the way, too. And by encouraging creativity in business, you’ll find the magic, the spark that keeps everyone going and reaching for that goal.

After all, sport was designed as a recreation and so in business we need to increase the fun quotient and enjoy what we do. So congratulate your team, celebrate with them, reward them for their part in the success story. Create champions and amazing memories.

The End Game

Teamwork, engagement, communication, goal orientation and innovation – the principles are the same, whether you’re aiming for your first Olympic gold or preparing your business for world-beating success.

Prepare, Plan, Proceed

People sometimes look at my adventures and think that the expeditions I take part in are just a hobby, but they are much more than that.

I have learned so much about how people respond to tough situations, work together and respond to different situations that is directly transferable to the business environment.
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Look out for killer whales!

Kevin Gaskell PhotoOn our recent North Pole expedition we knew that the competition would include intense cold, moving ice sheets and hungry polar bears, so we prepared for all of those challenges. The unexpected competitor was the one which eventually caused us the biggest concern – the killer whale that would come through the ice in anticipation of a fleece wrapped hot meal on skis!

Back at work half my time is spent working closely with new and fresh young companies.  Straight out of business incubators these exciting businesses identify a new market niche, rush in with an innovative proposition – often employing fresh technology or an application of social media – try out new ideas, make mistakes, try another idea, learn quickly and begin to grow rapidly.
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Does the leadership hat fit you?

Kevin Gaskell PhotoTwo years ago I sponsored a young guy to help him to achieve his dream of building ‘the best gardening destination in Britain’.  I liked his clear vision of what he wanted to create and his plan of how he would do it.

Did we envisage that the worst British weather on record would stack up as a serious business challenge?  No.  Did my protégée sulk, complain or decide to give up when the recession meant that the market dropped by 30%?  No.  Instead he stepped up, put on the leadership hat and made sure it fit him really well.

What does that mean?  It means that he has proved that he has what it takes to engage his team, inspire them to tackle the challenge and support them in overcoming it.

A leader has commitment to his (or her) vision and the commitment to achieve it.  A problem becomes an opportunity to demonstrate how it is possible to succeed.  A leader focuses on the problem and is creative, determined and single-minded in solving it.

A leader acts.  He sees the big picture and is ready to take a new approach to transform the business.

A leader won’t acknowledge that ‘it can’t be done’.  He doesn’t quit when things get tough and his positive approach is the pattern that the team follow.

A leader recognises achievers and removes those who hold back progress and aren’t actively moving things forwards.  Making tough decisions is all part of the role.

Leaders have vision, but are realistic; they are relentless, compassionate, focused and inclusive.

Every successful leader is also a dreamer.  They turn their dreams into achievable goals and inspire ‘followership’ to help achieve them.  Does the hat fit you?