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Five Business Lessons Independent Retailers Can Take Away from Sochi Olympics

It comes only every two years, and, as many of us have over the last few nights, we have spent time enamored by the amazing feats of athleticism displayed by the athletes at the Olympics. These athletes display such an impressive ability to overcome countless obstacles to fight for their chance to be the undisputed best in their respective disciplines. As we watched in amazement, we began to think about how we at Vendor2Member approach obstacles and barriers in our own organization and how similar we, and all independents, are to the athletes in the Olympics.

  1. Passion: It’s not enough just to want to achieve your goals. You have to yearn for and thirst after your goals as if your very existence depended on it.
  2. Discipline: Passion alone is not enough to create a winner. Focused development of core competencies is essential to any time-tested business. Practice, measure your progress and repeat. Your best business practices should be just that, your BEST business practices.
  3. Vulnerability: In business we like to toughen up this word and call it risk. We have all heard the phrase “high risk, high reward.” Never has an athlete earned an Olympic gold medal by performing the “safest” routine. While it’s not necessarily wise to go “all in, all the time,” knowing when it’s time to be vulnerable and take the risk can make all the difference. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and jump.
  4. Differentiation: What defines you and your organization? Athletes generally only focus and compete in one event. Occasionally a star will rise after conquering one event and add another event in which to compete. Differentiation and identity development is crucial for an independent’s ability to claim stake in your local market.
  5. The Entourage: Rock stars, movie stars and Olympic athletes all have them and for good reason. Coaches, friends, family and even employees play a defining role in an independent’s success. Having the right team around you, encouraging you, supporting you and advising you can provide the needed motivation and direction during difficult times. This is the same team that will celebrate with you in times of prosperity and revel with you in your successes. Choose your entourage wisely and weed out suckers quickly.

As independent small businesses, we are faced with breaking down barriers every single day. There is no way around it. And, as owners, we have absolute control over how we respond and react to these challenges. This, in my mind, is the defining element in our success as business owners. We have an uncanny ability to see opportunity out of our failures and an undefinable grit and tenacity that prevents us from viewing life in any other way.

Reed Smith, co-founder of Vendor2Member, also contributed to this article.

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