Going for Gold in business

Safaraz Ali (Saf)
4 min readSep 8, 2016


After enjoying Team GB’s Olympics success, I’m looking forward to watching (where I can time permitting) the Paralympics. The strength and determination of the athletes is inspiring and like I have discussed before, there are a lot of lessons business leaders can learn from all sports, and of course the Olympic Games itself.

In that context, here are four things I think we can take away from the 2016 Rio games to help us go for “gold” in business.

Set goals and stay focused

Goals are vital both in business and sport. Both athletes and business owners need the motivation to keep hitting targets and stay focused on them. How do they do this? They firstly set goals.

We all know the phrase “you need to learn to walk before you can run”. The same can be said for achieving success in my view, even though this goes against the grain of a business hero of mine, Brian Tracy, and his “Eat That Frog” series. At times you are better off achieving a series of small goals in order to secure a victory. In sport and fitness, you have to build up your stamina before you can run a marathon. When training for a marathon, setting yourself the goal of pushing yourself for just one more lap each time you run means you’ll be able to go further in the long term. Small goals will help you achieve big ones and sometimes picking up the “low hanging fruit” is not a bad thing to get some quick wins to drive you further forward.

Pay attention to the details

The Rio Olympic organisers came under fire recently after they displayed the ‘wrong’ Chinese flag at the games last week. The differences were subtle — the correct Chinese flag has four smaller stars in a semi-circle rotated to point toward a larger one. However, the one they displayed showed the smaller stars parallel to each other.

The mistake was embarrassing, but it could have been easily avoided with a bit of research and attention to detail. In business, attention to detail is a small thing, but it’s a must. This reminds of the saying that in business one needs to comfortable with a ‘microscope as well as the telescope’.

In any fast-paced environment, it’s easy to miss the little things. Whether it’s thoroughly proof-reading marketing material to go out or making sure your data is correct, paying attention to detail not only helps you make a good impression, but ensures efficiency — helping you on your way to success.

Spot and foster talent

Every Team GB sport runs a Talent Identification Programme that screens children as young as 11 to spot and develop the next generation of sports stars. Some of Team GB’s medalists in this year’s Olympic sports include 20-year old swimmer Siobhan-Marie O’Connor and 16-year old gymnast Amy Tinkler — just two examples of why supporting and nurturing young talent can have a huge pay off.

Whether it’s through an apprenticeship, or simply through training and mentoring members of your existing team, investing time and effort in young talent is a great way to give back, but also to ensure that your business has the sector skills that will help it continue to achieve.

Turn setbacks into success

With 16 laps to go, 2-time gold champion Mo Farah was tripped up during the 10,000-meter race. However, despite the fact that he thought he had lost his chance to cross the finish line first, Farah pushed on and won the race, earning himself his third gold medal. How did he do it? With a combination of determination and strategy.

“At one point, I thought the race was over,” he told Sky Sports News HQ, “[but] “It was early on in the race. I was lucky. I had to be strong and not panic and just gradually work my way through close to the pack.”

“The guys at the front didn’t see me, if they saw me they would have hammered it down.”

He also said that thinking of the promise he made to his daughter to win her a medal helped him get through.

Everyone can experience an unexpected setback, even if you’re the Mo Farah of your sector. In order to turn your setback into success, you have to see it as an opportunity — whether that’s an opportunity to try something new, or to push on ahead to achieve your goals. When something goes wrong, take a leaf from Mo Farah’s book and think about your goals and what inspires you to achieve them. Then use that to plan your strategy for recovery.

Thank you again for your time and I’d be keen to hear your views on the above and also any other pointers. Share your views below, or tweet @SafarazAli.

Kind regards,




Safaraz Ali (Saf)

Author of CannyBites business books,host of Canny Conversations Podcast. Founder of BAME Apprenticeship Awards, UK Social Entreoreneur #diversity #DEI