Sports and business have a lot in common.

Discovering how to effectively lead a team. Or how to successfully follow. Dealing graciously with the thrill of victory. Learning from the agony of defeat.

As the 2016 Rio Olympics kick off with tonight's opening ceremonies, I spoke to eight successful business leaders--who also happen to be passionate athletes. From learning how to view competitors via a local rugby league to pushing beyond personal limits through weight-lifting, these execs share great lessons for current (or aspiring) entrepreneurs.

So as you enjoy the summer games, here's some inspiration:

Track and Field

Allan Staker, co-founder and CEO of Brain Chase, runs 4-5 miles per day

Pace yourself: There are definitely times when running a business feels more like a 100-meter dash than an Olympic marathon, but in general, carefully managing your pace for the long haul is crucial. When the distance, hills, and competition become daunting, sometimes it helps to take your eyes off the horizon and focus only on the path immediately ahead.

Races are won one step at a time.

Angela Mader, founder of Fitlosophy and avid runner

Run at your own pace: Running requires you to drown out the noise, ignore those who may pass you by, and find your own inner strength. In a race, in life, and in business, you may not always outpace the competition, but I've learned that what matters isn't speed, size, or success, but an insane amount of perseverance. Being an entrepreneur is absolutely a marathon and not a sprint--and even when I've hit a proverbial "wall," I just put one foot in front of the other.

My competitive nature has served me well because anytime I face adversity, rather than letting it stop me, it drives me.

Tennis

Young Lee, CEO and founder of The Flame Broiler, lifelong tennis player

Play your strengths: In tennis, I've learned the importance of maximizing my strengths on the court so that I can properly manage my weaknesses in both single and double matches.  

The same goes in my business--especially as it pertains to hiring. When bringing on a new team member, I like to hire someone who thinks differently than me, whose strengths are my weaknesses.

Weight-lifting

Heather McDowell, CEO and founder of Tickle Water, zealous weight-lifter

Pain is gain: Sweat, tears, and pushing yourself doesn't feel that great until after the fact. When it's all over, you reap the rewards of the agony, and that is how you improve. Pushing out those last three impossible reps is tough, but if you can remember to push through it, you will be far greater for your hard work.

This same mindset can be applied to business and failure. To come out successful on the other side, you must learn work through the setbacks.

Rugby

Jeff Salter, CEO of Caring Senior Services, and member of a San Antonio competitive men's rugby team, the Mighty Armadillos

Don't be afraid to build camaraderie with competitors: In rugby, teams often host dinners for the out of town team. This bonding and respect with competition should ring true in the business world. Competition is competition, but it's okay to be friendly and cordial with your competitors. Doing so will likely build stronger relationships.

Trampoline

Jeff Platt, CEO of Sky Zone Trampoline Park

Don't let your work consume you: When you're jumping on a trampoline, you're totally present in the moment, and thinking about nothing else in the world.

This way of thinking should ring true when we are on vacation, or even just spending time with friends and family over the weekend. As business people, we get so caught up in our work that it can sometimes consume our personal lives. Although we may think that answering that one email and taking that one call won't affect much, it does. We need mental breaks from our professional lives no matter our position in a company to come back with a clear mind. 

Triathlon

Michael Epstein, executive producer of the Nautica Malibu Triathlon and president of MESP

Be dynamic: A triathlon is three sports in one. You need to be able to navigate through uncontrolled ocean water, conquer a many times hilly long-distance bike ride, while having enough endurance to run several miles. Similarly, in the business world you need to be able to wear multiple hats and understand all aspects of your business for it to be successful and run smoothly.

Cycling

Jonathan Fornaci, COO of Trufusion and devoted team cyclist

Every employee has a role:  Team cycling is one of the toughest team sports to compete in, and each team member has a specific and clear function.  In cycling, team members include "domestiques" (which literally translates as "servant"), team leaders, climbing specialists, time trial specialists, and more. 

In business, employees should also have clear functions, bring different skill sets to the table, and work together as a unit to provide the best possible team for the client. When a team is unified through specific roles, each team member is appreciated and the individual's true talent is brought to the forefront for the betterment of the team. 

Published on: Aug 5, 2016
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