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What You Can Learn About Business From an Athlete in Training

You’ve got a great business but it sometimes feels like others are breaking through and you are not. Your proposition is pretty good (not perfect, but good enough), your team are pretty good, and you have a good flow of work coming through, but you still can’t quite crack it. Recognise this feeling?

All developing businesses go through this stage. The difference is that some move through it relatively quickly while others stay stuck for years and years.

Those that move through experience a huge uptick in business levels and growth (top and bottom line if they are doing it well) this is what we call the J-curve. Instead of growing at 10% or 15% per annum (which is fine) they have a couple of years where they grow 50% or 90% year on year, taking the business to a whole new level.

So, what’s the magic?

Ooh that’s a toughie and to be honest I’m not sure I can nail it down precisely because it varies from firm to firm. Whenever I’m working with a business, I get them (and me) to try and stay focused on the issues at hand and not to worry too much about the results. Results come when they are good and ready and only when each of the blocking issues has been properly resolved. Remove one blockage and you free up time, space, resource and budget to work on the next one. Eventually you see the dam break and the floodgates open up.

Great athletes focus on controlling the ‘controllables’. Their goals for the year are based on their inputs rather than their outputs. They set goals around their training regime, rather than their race results. You can do the same. Your goals for the quarter or year could be around the things you can control; development of projects, hiring and firing to build your perfect team, evaluating better technology options, etc.

You might not be able to control the number of client referrals you get but you can control the way in which existing clients are reminded of your desire to receive referrals. You can’t control how many leads your marketing programme will generate, but you can control how many times you publish your blog or newsletter.

By staying focused on the right tasks and projects (and they don’t have to be big to be a project), you will eventually experience your own J-curve moment. The key word here is ‘right’. Just putting in the hours rarely gets you anywhere. You have to be working on the right things to take your business forward.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What are your challenges in this area? How have you resolved some of these issues? Leave a comment in the comments section or drop me an email to

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If you want more direct assistance with this or any other aspect of your business drop me a line at or give me a call on 0207 431 3663.

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