Revolutionary Measures

Entrepreneurs and the Olympics

London 2012 banner at The Monument.

London 2012 banner at The Monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now the last cheers of the victory parade have subsided the UK is facing up to life without the Olympics and Paralympics. There’s been lots of talk about whether the mood of euphoria will have any lasting impact on the country/economy/attitudes to disability/sport, but putting that aside, what lessons can entrepreneurs learn from London 2012 and the athletes that took part in it?

Here are six that came to mind, I’m sure there are more:

1          Believe in yourself
Obviously you don’t get to become an elite athlete without believing in yourself and your abilities. It should be the same for entrepreneurs – you may not be Usain Bolt but you’ve got the skills and potentially killer idea. Don’t lose sight of that, even when the daily toil of startup life threatens to overwhelm you.

2          Treat your customers well
Like many people I was bracing myself for surly jobsworth games staff who barely tolerated spectators at the Olympics. Instead we got the Gamesmakers, full of happiness, energy and enthusiasm who went out of the way to help people. Obvious, but treat your customers well and meet their needs and they’ll come back again and sing your praises to everyone else.

3          Have a plan
Every detail of London 2012 was worked out, much of it years ago. There were clear short, medium and long term goals up to and beyond the games so that everyone knew what was meant to happen when and where. While startups don’t need this level of preparedness, they do need to have both an idea of where they are going and how they are going to get there.

4          Have a back up plan
While you can work out every detail of your plan, people let you down and circumstances change. G4S’s last minute inability to keep its promises could have been a disaster, but organisers had a back up. In fact deploying the armed forces probably helped deliver a great customer experience as they used common sense and friendliness when guarding the games, rather than narrowly sticking to the rules. So make sure you have an idea of what you’ll do if your wonderful new product doesn’t work or doesn’t sell.

5          Enthusiasm is infectious
Unfortunately you can’t capture and bottle the Olympic spirit – the enthusiasm and goodwill generated would be worth a fortune. For the first time ever people in London randomly struck up conversations on the tube and it was OK to smile at strangers. Make sure you’re enthusiastic about your idea or business – otherwise how can you expect others to embrace it?

6          Be yourself and have a sense of humour
It would have been relatively easy to create a slick, well-organised games without a soul – essentially an event that could have been held anywhere and had no especial personality. Instead we got an idiosyncratic, very British experience from the Queen parachuting into the opening ceremony all the way through playing the Benny Hill theme tune at the Beach Volleyball to Fat Boy Slim astride a giant inflatable octopus at the close. Did everyone understand it? No, but that didn’t matter – visitors and viewers from around the world reacted to the quirkiness and humour much more strongly than they would have to a boring corporate games. So inject your personality into your company and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself if you want to attract interest and supporters.

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September 12, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Great post. Can’t think of anything to add (I was thinking of “have a clear goal”, but on re-reading, you’ve actually said that in point 3).

    Comment by Kim Spence-Jones (@KimSJ) | September 13, 2012 | Reply

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