So if you haven’t spotted yet that sports are a big part of my life this must be one of the first articles you have read on my site. What is more subtle and often hidden in the undertones are the parallels I draw between training, competing and coaching in sport and the important aspects of running a business consulting to others.

Let’s start with my chosen sport(s). For the last five years I have completed various triathlons ranging from sprint distance (750m swim / 25km bike / 5k run usually) up to ‘half ironman’ distance (1.9k swim / 90km bike / 21.1km run also known as a half marathon). Over the past two years I’ve started also racing the aquabike format over a longer distance. Usually 3-4km swim and up to 120km bike.  This is partially choice as these are my strongest disciplines, and partially due to injuries hampering my run training.  In 2017 I also completed my British Triathlon coaching qualification allowing me to coach athletes at various levels in the sport.

During my years of racing I’ve experienced all the emotions you can imagine from failing to complete my first race attempt to racing through the pain barrier with a severe back injury, despite being almost in tears with the agony. I’ve also raced at the pinnacle of the sport representing Team GB for the first time in May 2019 at the ITU Long Course Age Group World Championships, finishing 26. Unless you are training full time professional it doesn’t get much bigger than that.

Below are a list of some of the common traits needed in both sport and business management. This is far from exhaustive, but it’s no surprise that many business owners compete in sport and many sportsman become business owners after retirement when you look at the commonalities.

Disipline

Triathlon / Multi-sport is broadly an individual sport. You train alone (or as part of club, but with individual goals), and often racing at longer course distance means some training runs and rides are up to 5 or 6 hours. There is only one person making me train, only one person dictating how hard I’m working at any one time, only one person keeping going when the weathers poor, the waters cold or the body is aching. Only one person drags me out of bed to hit the pool at 6:30am, or putting in that final sprint effort after 4 hours in the saddle. It’s often a lonely place, especially on a long training day. Imagine getting back from a three hour bike ride and having a one hour run yet to do. That’s easy to dodge. To be successful in this sport you need to be disciplined, the same way as running a business.  It’s no good cutting corners, no good doing things the easy way, you get found out. You have to do the boring jobs as well as the exciting stuff. You also have to know when to stop. You can over train your body. That’s the same in business. Working too many hours, not managing your work life balance results in fatigue and over time burn out. Discipline, needed in both business management and sport.

Self Belief

It’s a common saying

“it’s lonely at the top.”

Now I don’t always believe that has to be the case. In many businesses you can get a mix between being the business owner, and having a good relationship with your team at all levels in the business. There’s no denying though that your self belief has to come from within. As a business owner you have confidence in yourself, there’s no boss telling you what to do. .

I remember a time at Armour when results were poor, the macro economic environment was against us and we’d lost a couple of critical personnel to competitors. It was my responsibility to remain positive, and map how we were going to improve, and to then deliver that to the team in one of the toughest environments possible. There was no-one telling me how to do it. Sure there was a team to bounce ideas off, but the responsibility was mine. I had to believe in. y plan being effective. This is the same in sport. You need to know that if you do the right training you can deliver on race day. You need to believe in yourself, your training and your equipment!

It’s not all plain sailing…..

In sport and in business you are faced with challenges, some you can foresee, some not so much. In sport injuries are the easiest to think of but mechanical defects are another. Long term injuries are especially hard to get over, especially if your heart is set on a specific race, or training event and you can’t make it. In there are many external and some internal factors you just cannot predict or control, but you need to overcome these in both fields. As I type this I have a shoulder niggle thats affecting my swimming. Long term back issues have adjusted my running volume and ability, probably permanently, but we adapt and we overcome.

It’s the same in business. A new competitor enters your market and affects your market share you don’t keep doing the same thing, you innovate, you deliver better service, you add value, or maybe you reduce prices to compete and try to find value in your supply chain to maintain margins. The actions are of course different, the principles the same.

Competitive Spirit….

In my seven years running A&S I’ve worked with in excess fifty business owners in some form. The “most successful,” (depends on your definition of successful of course), have a drive to succeed. A will to grow and improve that is almost tangible enough to touch. I happen to think this isn’t absolutely essential, but I do think it helps. A competitive person will see a challenging circumstance and think,

“how can I make an opportunity from this” 

rather than looking for a way round, or worse perhaps accepting a negative. A competitive person will look for opportunity in adversity. They won’t merely try to come back from a tough period, they’ll try to bounce back bigger and stronger.

In sport very similar. As an athlete you’re constantly looking for a way to develop an edge over the competition. Equipment, training methodology, nutrition, course profiles etc. And when you get beaten, or hit by adversity you resolve to come back harder, faster and stronger. That determination, that will to succeed and harnessing it successfully exists in sport and business.

Enjoying downtime and recovery…

In sport and in business recovery and relaxation are very much part of the fuel that drive performance. Post big race its key to relax and let your body recover from perhaps a big block of training. In business if you have a major achievement such as winning or delivering a new contract, perhaps an office move or similarly big milestone its key you take time to reflect and enjoy the results. I often use a phase in work.

“We work to live, we don’t live to work”

You need to recognise when it’s time to have a break, chill out and relax. Its also vital to see this within your team as well. If they have been under pressure working on a major deliverable for some time it maybe they need a break. Often a small break can also give a different perspective if you’ve been working on a challenge for some time.

Those are a few of the examples I have seen in my years in sports, coaching and business consulting. There are plenty more of course. Hope you enjoyed the read! More than happy to hear comments on mail@asbusinessconsultants.uk