By Dean Williams
It doesn’t take me to tell you that a successful business never stands still, it’s continually moving forward, searching out new and innovative ways to stay ahead of the competition and identify new opportunities.
The need for constant development, improvement and evolution is never more apt then during a time of prolonged economic downturn. If you simply tuned into the economic news over the past few months, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world was all doom and gloom, however you’d have allowed one of Britain’s proudest sporting moments pass you by.
For 17 days in the summer of 2012, the UK was the centre of global attention as London 2012 delivered one of the greatest sporting spectacles in history. In amongst the countless golden moments, from the worlds’ most talented athletes, one stands out for me, Mo Farah, double Olympic champion in the 10,000m and 5,000m. For consecutive Saturdays he had a nation on it’s feet, cheering, gasping and celebrating wildly as he became the first British man in history to win a long distance Olympic gold medal, let alone two.
After his remarkable win in the 10,000m he would have been forgiven for sitting out the second race, putting his feet up and unwinding after an energy sapping twenty seven minutes on the track and countless press commitments after his triumph. Instead, with a nation cheering him on he stepped up to the mark and produced a dazzling display in the 5,000m, perhaps an even finer achievement than his victory a week earlier and the result saw him move from national hero to global sporting icon. Put the natural talent and training to one side for now and I’ll let you in on the secret to that 5,000m success; MOmentum.
Momentum is critical to your success, it enables entrepreneurs and managers to move beyond past mistakes quickly, to inspire stakeholders and where one success quickly follows another, it delivers scale and growth.
The key to achieving momentum begins with the trickiest part, creating an initial forward movement. Reflect for a moment of the basic principle of inertia “the vis insita, or innate force of matter, is a power of resisting by which every body, as much as in it lies, endeavours to preserve its present state, whether it be of rest or of moving uniformly forward in a straight line”. Momentum, therefore is what happens when you break the inertia and you create positive forward movements, building towards your own success and here are four key tips from the undisputed champion of distance speed, Mo Farah:
1. Plan for Success
Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest ever sports star, once said that "the fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights."
The foundations of that double Olympic glory was built many years earlier, as Farah and his team plotted the route to glory. His intense training regime ultimately saw him and his family relocate to the United States to assist in his preparation. For every golden night inside the Olympic stadium, there were many more spent on running tracks, often at midnight under floodlights with his coach Alberto Salazar and training partners perfecting every aspect of his race from start to sprint finish.
Just as athletes spend months preparing mentally and physically in the build up to competing, so your business needs a clear vision of what it wants to achieve and how you intend to successfully deliver that goal. You must prove to yourself and team the precise steps you plan to take each day to accomplish your objective and the resources and support you intend to commit. Without being able to visualise and ‘sell’ the potential of your business or idea, you will fail to energise those around you and bring together all those individuals who can help make your potential a reality.
2. Momentum Requires Leadership
Leaders are responsible for the success of an entire team. Elite athletes are surrounded by teams; teams which consist of coaches, doctors, physio-therapists, psychologists, managers, sponsors and not forgetting friends, family, supporters and spectators. The livelihoods, success and happiness of all these stakeholders ultimately depends upon the vision, commitment and performance of one individual; it’s never a task to be taken lightly.
In delivering your vision you hold responsibility for the performance of your team and thus you need to be both motivated and confident in yourself in order to succeed. The most successful companies use this vision as the driver behind continual momentum. The desire to continually innovate and evolve for the better means that their job is never complete and that the culture of the company is dynamic and success orientated. Continual constructive or positive feedback and transparent leadership means that all stakeholders understand and share in that vision.
The author John Maxwell describes momentum as “a leader’s best friend. Sometimes it’s the only difference between winning and losing.” You’ll no doubt have heard sports commentators on TV talking about how the momentum of a football match has shifted. It is that act of turning inertia or negativity into a positive forward momentum that sets the successful leader apart from the less so.
Four years ago in Beijing, Mo Farah failed to even qualify past the heats of the 5,000m event, a few weeks ago in London, in front of a jubilant home crowd, the momentum of success swept him home to one of the most remarkable track results in British history.
3. Kick Start Your Success
Anyone who watched the 100m finals at the Olympics understands that the most important part of a sprint race is getting out of the starting blocks. But what athletes like Usain Bolt and Mo Farah have proved to us is that the key is not being the first out but rather putting yourself in a position from which you can kick start your race and win.
With startup businesses, the hardest part is the getting started. We could all sit around working on mountains of business plans and projected financials but until you stop the talking and start the doing you have no business. The key therefore is to gain sufficient positive momentum and develop a position from which you can kick on to greater success.
Even existing businesses from time to time need to convert slow growth into fulfilled potential. If for instance, sales are going slow then dedicate sufficient time and resources that you next batch of calls or campaigns will yield better results. Plan such bursts with the launch of a new promotion or updates to your products or services.
A critical part of creating explosive momentum is making effective use of your resources, including your team. Real teamwork helps to build momentum. Mo Farah’s team of experts prepared him physically and mentally for the challenges on the track at London 2012. But it was the final critical cog in his team that delivered him victory, 80,000 supporters inside the stadium and millions at home helped sweep him past his opponents to victory. Each part of your team has a role to play so delegate wisely so be sure to avoid micromanaging tasks and instead deliver a vision of a successful team.
4. Follow One Success With Another
Momentum is never ending, the second you stop to celebrate a success, so the momentum slows. As I mentioned earlier, momentum begins with the leader and is instilled in team and stakeholders. The best way to build teams who believe in success is thus to deliver success and that means as a business leader you must enable them to see the success in what they are doing. The more successful your team, the easier the success is to replicate, the greater the craving for success and ultimately the greater the momentum.
Success, must be followed by success. Mo Farah didn’t chose to settle for national hero after winning the 10,000 metres. He stood at the start line a week later determined to win the 5,000m gold and ensure himself the status of global sporting icon.
In the same way, the best time to make a sales call is directly after making a major sale. If you’re lining up a major client presentation, have a smaller one lined up for the next day. If the first isn’t successful then you can dive straight into the next without creating a feeling of failure. If it’s successful you have the potential to win two defining new pieces of business.
The same applies to your company vision. If you set yourself an objective or goal, the day you succeed simply means you have the chance to move straight on to the next one. As and when an opportunity presents itself, it is your responsibility as a business leader to be ready to take it. Don’t let opportunity pass you by, simply because you are unprepared or scared to seize the opportunity.
Do the Mo-Bot
Whatever your business may be it is your role as a leader to build the momentum needed to take the company forward and to seize every opportunity that comes your way. Plan meticulously, work hard and develop the team and strategy that enables you to ride the positive momentum that you create.
Reward yourself when the time is right but don’t take your foot off the pedal. Develop a culture that expects success and equates being busy with accomplishing your objectives and dreams. However you choose to develop your business growth, start by creating momentum by doing whatever you believe it takes to deliver your dream. For Mohammed Farah, double Olympic Champion, two Saturday nights in August 2012 cemented his name in the history books and in the hearts of a nation!
Dean Williams is an acclaimed business coach and author of the book ‘Creating Grade A Business Relationships’. He works with blue chip companies and SMEs providing 121 executive coaching, team coaching, leadership seminars and alongside Olympic Gold Medalist Jason Gardener presents motivational speeches. He has been successful in helping suffering businesses by increasing their profitability and is a regular contributor to a range of business press including the Sunday Times.