How to deliver an Olympic performance in business

As the medal tallies climb, and the number of heart-warming stories of success grows by the day, the Olympics continues to be a constant source of inspiration, providing lessons for people well beyond the sporting world.

For those in business, I believe the Games exemplifies a range of qualities that we can use to improve how we work.

Team GB gymnast Nile Wilson
Business leaders can learn from Team GB gymnast Nile Wilson, who didn’t achieve this feat without setting a few goals and putting in some serious effort. (A.Ricardo/

Set goals like an Olympic athlete

For many athletes, simply reaching the Olympics is the goal.

Hours, weeks, months and years of gruelling training have gone before the ultimate recognition of being able to walk behind their country’s flag in the opening ceremony and compete with the best of the best in their sport or event.

The hard work can not be underestimated and the determination it takes should be the aspiration of anyone with their sights set on business leadership and success.

Setting your sights high, and having a clear aim in mind is, without a doubt, one of the best motivational tools you can have.

It doesn’t have to be an immediate goal – as Olympians have shown us, the biggest rewards are rarely an overnight win – but simply knowing what you want to achieve can give you the stamina to fight for it.

In a recent blog, I reflected on the importance of retaining this level of focus: “One of the things that has helped me to remain motivated throughout my career is my desire to ‘Be Something More’. This phrase was printed on a poster that I put up on my bedroom wall as a youngster living a home and it has helped me to shape my approach to work and to life more generally.”


Team work takes you to the top

Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Jessica Ennis-Hill. They might be the faces of the Olympics, but behind them there is a huge group of coaching and administration staff. Not to mention all of the mums, dads, partners and siblings who provide vital emotional support (and chauffeuring services).

Although they are not the ones on television, that support crew is a vital part of the success that the sports stars experience.

In business, team work is equally important. No one person can do it all – or at least, do it all well. So make sure you have people around you that believe in your mission, have skills that you don’t and can fulfil the essential roles and tasks required for business success.

You then need to get everyone talking. Watch any of the Olympics events and you will see the competitors continually communicating with each other and their coaches – the gymnastics, synchronised diving and tennis doubles are great examples – to ensure they’re aligned and also for motivation and support.

Great communication in a company is crucial too. It will enable you to maximise results and achieve more than you can as an individual. By supporting one another in a business, you can also learn faster and make fewer mistakes.


Develop a gold-medal attitude

A gold-medal mindset does not come from fearing failure.

Using positive self-talk and mental imagery, and managing emotions effectively, are skills that professional athletes frequently allude to when speaking about what helps them to reach the heights of their sports.

Maintaining a positive outlook, and visualising a successful outcome is not just a mental device for Olympians, it is something that can assist everyone in their day-to-day lives.

When facing challenges in business, taking a positive stance and looking for ways to solve a problem, rather than dwelling on the negative, is the best way to move forward.

In another of my previous blogs, I mentioned that inspirational leaders tend to have a bold visions: “Whether this is outselling competitors, developing groundbreaking products or services that advance industry standards or meeting ambitious growth targets, being able to think big and articulate their goals clearly and convincingly helps to set the best businesspeople apart.”

So, as the Rio Olympics draw to a close, I believe it’s not only worth celebrating the wins and the medals, but also the incredible drive, commitment, gruelling work and passion that the athletes and the their support teams have brought to this event. For me, that is what’s truly inspiring about the Games.


Chris Niarchos is founder and chairman of The Cobra Group of Companies, which includes the global field-marketing organisation Appco Group and high-performance race-car manufacturer McLaren GT.   


The key to keeping a balanced perspective in business

As the leader of a business, it can be all too easy to lose your perspective. You might find yourself working all hours and, even when you’re not officially on duty, your thoughts might be consumed by the latest developments in your company.

If you’re not careful, you could find it impossible to keep a balanced view of your business – and on life more generally. With decades of experience as an entrepreneur, I know that maintaining a clear perspective can sometimes be difficult, but here are some techniques I’ve picked up that have made it easier for me to stay positive and in control.

Manage your time effectively

Effective time management is a must for all businesspeople. If you don’t plan your days properly, you will quickly start to feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do.

Part of time management is prioritising the most important tasks and focussing on them first. It’s also important to delegate responsibilities to suitable people within your organisation. If you try to micromanage too many elements of your company, you won’t give yourself the time you need to set the strategic direction for your business.

Take care of your health

Trying to get by on minimal sleep, compensating with copious amounts of caffeine, filling up on convenient but unhealthy food and failing to get enough exercise are all things that many business leaders can relate to.

Bear in mind though, it’s difficult to stay mentally strong if you’re not looking after your physical wellbeing. If you’re unfit, tired and generally rundown, you’ll find managing your company more difficult. So, even when you’re busy, it’s important to put some time and effort into staying healthy. This could involve adopting a better sleeping routine, changing your diet and squeezing exercise sessions into your daily routine.

These things can all help you to keep a clear head and cope more easily with any difficulties you encounter in your work. They’re also important for your long-term health, so this isn’t an issue you can afford to ignore.

Make time for friends and family

Many – if not most – entrepreneurs fail to achieve a good work-life balance and it certainly can be a challenge. But not seeing enough of your family and friends, or simply taking time out for yourself, can make you lose sight of what’s really important and why you’re striving for business success in the first place.

By reserving some personal time in your schedule, you should find it easier to keep sight of the bigger picture and ensure your stress levels stay in check.

As founder and chairman of the Cobra Group of Companies, Chris Niarchos is responsible for setting the strategic direction for all the businesses within the group, including AGS Global Fundraising Services. As the leader of an international conglomerate, he knows exactly what it takes to keep a clear head in business.

Why leadership doesn’t have to be lonely

Being a business leader can give you a great feeling of professional achievement and satisfaction, but it does also have the potential to be lonely. You have ultimate responsibility for the success of your company and this puts you in a unique position within your organisation.

However, my own experience as an entrepreneur tells me that heading up a business doesn’t necessarily have to be isolating. Drawing on observations I’ve made throughout my career, here are some suggestions that could help you to stay connected to the people around you.

Continue reading “Why leadership doesn’t have to be lonely”

4 skills that will set you apart in business

Anyone can set up their own company, but it takes a certain type of person to climb to the very top in the business arena. Following are four skills that I believe help to set people apart as successful entrepreneurs. If you are planning to start your own company, it’s worth asking yourself if you already have these abilities or you need to work on them.

Continue reading “4 skills that will set you apart in business”