Going for a Business Gold

Going for a Business Gold


When you look at the attributes of a world class athlete and compare them to a successful entrepreneur, they may have far more in common than you think. There are in fact many core skills that a top athlete has that any budding entrepreneur can learn from, and one of these is focus.

It’s often said that diversification is the key to being successful, but for an entrepreneur hoping to make a success, this could spell disaster. Here’s why.

Focus like an athlete

When a top athlete trains for a major competition or event they will never take their eyes off the prize. They understand their strengths and their weaknesses and will work on them constantly. They will train relentlessly, honing and perfecting their skills until finally, they are at the peak of their fitness and the best that they can be. All the time never losing focus on the end goal.

Similarly, a successful entrepreneur will fully understand their core business and will have the ability to focus on this. They have a vision of where they want their business to go and have the ability to share that vision with the rest of the team. Everything that they do is centred around the core business and they will not deviate from this in order to achieve their goals.

Sounds simple right? Well not quite.

Diversification might be tempting

You see, many entrepreneurs want to take the easy route. It’s fair to say that most entrepreneurs tend to be ‘ideas’ people and as a result are constantly looking for the next best thing or the next big idea, that will change lives and make them a lot of money in the process.

The trouble is that doing this could be disastrous for a fledgling business. It’s far easier to channel energies into a new and exciting project than it is to laser focus on improving an existing business, and in this respect many entrepreneurs will take the easy way out by trying to diversify. By taking their eyes off the prize and losing focus on the job of improving their core business, they lose an edge. Once that happens there is only one likely outcome… failure!

You could say that this is akin to a coach entering their world class 100 and 200 metre sprinter into a 800 or 1 500 metre race. Clearly, different disciplines are needed and also differing training regimes. A sprinter for instance is more likely to focus on explosive starts and aerobic energy, whereas for a longer distance runner, it’s all about timing and stamina.

All the training that they have focused on and worked so hard to perfect will be wasted through diversification and although not impossible, there is a strong chance that the athlete wouldn’t be equipped enough to able to compete with those who are already established in this discipline. This is undoubtedly the same in the business world.

The reality is that the key to any successful business involves finding a real need, having the solution to that need, and providing a service to that need that is slicker, sweeter and greater than any of your competition. This takes real focus and if you are able to laser focus on what you and your team do really well and work hard to perfect those skills then you will be successful in business.

A case in point

Apple is a truly successful company that have modelled themselves on designing and manufacturing products that are not only aesthetically beautiful, but are also innately functional at the same time. Founder and CEO Steve Jobs knew that his core business lay in producing ground breaking products and as a result, he pursued this vision relentlessly.  For the most part, the company never deviated from this and remained laser focussed to produce some truly inspired products. However, when they did diversify they didn’t always get it right (remember MobileMe!). As a result of Job’s vision, Apple is now one of the largest companies in theUS, yet if you took the company’s entire product range, it would easily fit on the average dining room table.

Talent vs. hard work

The key factors to take from this are that however tempting it might be to aim for additional goals it could be detrimental to your business. In fact all winners know that true success is 10% talent and 90% sheer hard work. If as an entrepreneur you can laser focus and hone in on the core skills that make your company stand head and shoulders above all the rest, and if you can keep striving for perfection time after time, then just like a world class athlete, you can and will be truly successful.

Axel Rittershaus
Axel Rittershaus is an internationally renowned C-Level / Executive Coach & Author who started as an entrepreneur in the IT industry in 1993. He knows that success is the result of hard work and determination even more than innate talent. A master of maintaining focus and follow-through, Axel supports C-Level leaders globally in achieving goals. Axel is dedicated and passionate to see clients succeed beyond their expectations. Axel is also the president of the International Coach Federation South Africa and a multiple Two Oceans and Comrades finisher. You can follow him on twitter.