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Olympic business

Published on September 9, 2016

olympics

My passion is rugby so I was delighted when 7s – the shorter version – was included in the Olympics. My interest is purely as a spectator nowadays. And some may say that I had a similar role when I was captain of the under 13s whose record was a slightly underwhelming P12 W0 D1 L11. But this does allow us to observe and I find that I can learn much from sport to help grow a business. Here’s what I have learned from the Olympics:

Success takes time. I rarely believe forecasts of new businesses that show substantial profits in three years’ time. After four years of investment, cycling had still shown few results. In the eyes of some investors and business founders it wasn’t backable. But the evidence of long term investment is now clear: it took eight years to start to get close to success and has only really blossomed in the last five.

You need to get all the parts to work in order to succeed. I dare to suggest that The Netherlands were the better team in the women’s hockey final except in one significant aspect, the scoring of goals. GB took their chances and Maddy Hinchcliffe saved a penalty stroke in the first quarter as the first part of what was a Woman of the Match performance.

Office romance is ok. Jason Kenny and Laura Trott kept their romance secret until the London Olympics. Thankfully, for them as well as us, they’re still together and their performance stayed at its peak. The Richardson-Walshs were almost as far apart as it’s possible to be on the rostrum. Keeping good relationships with other teammates is one of the small details that the captain and her partner attended to.

Timing is all-important. Very few of the winners had won every competition in the last four years. Getting it all right at Rio (for which read exhibition or major tender) might require sacrifices elsewhere.

Progress is continuous. We got 65 medals in 2012 and this became the new normal.

Second is second. A silver medal still has value, so does bronze. And I’d be pretty impressed by someone who came fourth in the Olympics, or fifth… You may not be the best in your sector but there is still a place for you. Often those who have won find it hard to get motivated (Sir Bradley Wiggins spoke candidly of this pre Rio) and second keeps the team together and engaged in the venture. So long as that’s second in the market not second at each tender.

Or is it? (Did we come second?) The table that we all see ranks countries by gold medals then silver then bronze. But if you gave 3 points for Gold, 2 for silver and 1 for bronze you’d get a different result. In terms of number of sports in which a country won medals we’re top. But how about medals per population (winner – Grenada)  or per GDP (congratulations Taipei)? And giving additional weight to team sports? There is an old saying that asks what is 1+2? A mathematician would say it’s between 1 ½ and 2 ½; an engineer would say it’s3 but to be on the safe side let’s call it 9. And an accountant would say “you’re the client what would you like it to be?”

Rugby is a minority sport and 7s is a subset of it. But I still think that, whatever ranking you prefer, Fiji should be congratulated for winning the inaugural competition. Our women’s team showed what can happen when the pressure gets to you, with yellow cards at the semi-final stage that cost them a medal. Still, their record is somewhat better than mine.