Is there anything more heartbreaking than watching a hardworking sportsperson miss out on fulfilling their long-held dreams of winning a medal? We often feel the failure of our favourite athletes deeply, especially while cheering them on from home, but we often forget that failure is pretty commonplace for start-up owners.
The flipside to potential failure is success and that’s what drives both athletes and the start-up scene. In the same way our favourite athletes work day in, day out to secure their place at the top, so too do business owners. The same dedication to hard work, getting outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself past the point of what you thought capable is a common thread between the two – and no one knows that better than 776BC, a brand that knows exactly what the payoff for hard work looks like in the Olympic arena and now, also, in business.
“As an elite athlete, having represented my country for 12 years on the international stage, I’d experienced first-hand just what it takes to reach the pinnacle of sport,” cofounder Cameron McKenzie-Harg tells Collective Hub. “We wanted to build a platform to inspire the next generation by connecting them with the journeys, knowledge and expertise of the Olympic and Paralympic athlete community. At the same time, having lived in sports kit for 12 years, we’d identified a gap for quality performance clothing that stood up to the needs of those who wear it hardest.”
776BC, named for the founding year of the Olympics, is the company that two-time Olympian and Beijing Silver Medallist Cameron and his wife, marketing and communications pro Kate McKenzie-Harg, created in 2011 to fill the gap for clever, comfortable performance wear for elite athletes.
With Cameron’s know-how and contacts and Katherine’s marketing savvy, the couple spent 12 months in the product development stage before launching sending off their first samples for Australia’s rowing team during their prep for the London Games in July 2012. They officially launched in 2013.
And although Cameron has said he was less nervous waiting at the starting line at the Olympics than he was at the launch of his own business, we think he had a little edge on the competition. There are more than a few similarities between Cameron’s journey to silver and the couple’s journey to business success – there’s a lot of hard work and dedication that goes into striving for success (and avoiding the possibility of failure), for one. Here are some other ways being a top athlete and a successful business owner are similar:
They’re tenacious and resilient
“There are many parallels between what’s required to succeed as an elite athlete, and what it takes to build a successful business,” Cameron tells us. “Persistence, hard work, tenacity, belief and a great team are all required to succeed in starting a business and on the road to an Olympic Games.”
For an elite athlete, training for a competition isn’t a side project – it becomes your life. Much like a budding business, there are endless sacrifices you’ll have to make in order for your ideas become successful, even if that means taking the long, hard but ultimately more considered road.
“In a world where we’re programmed to seek short cuts, the fast road to success, as a business we proudly take the long road,” Cameron adds. “I know from personal experience, you can’t achieve anything world best overnight.”
They’re able to take criticism and feedback in their stride
“Genuine feedback is central to our product development process. We want to know what they genuinely think, as this is the only way we can truly develop kit that meets their needs,” Kate explains of their process. “[We want feedback on] the comfort, fit and performance of the garment, a warts and all assessment.”
If you don’t know what’s not working with your technique, or in the case of business, your product or service, you can’t make the right adjustments. Listening to feedback is essential to being able to pivot, evolve and make changes according to the needs of your customer.
They’re able to focus on what needs to be improved and developed (even if they’re very small tweaks)
“As an athlete you’re acutely aware of the small things, the stitching of a garment, how the panels move with the body, all of which are incredibly important for performance,” Cameron explains. “At 776BC, we’re driven to offer the athlete the freedom to perform and we take this seriously. As an athlete, I’m passionate about the product development process and I’m heavily involved in all aspects – fit, function and fabric selection.” Good entrepreneurs know that the little things count and are willing to make tweaks accordingly – it may take longer, but getting it right is what’s most important.
They take their time to develop
For the thousands of athletes vying for a spot on an Olympic team, performance counts for everything: milliseconds may make the difference between success and a very near miss but behind those minute moments are years of hard work, developing, refining, testing and trying different iterations of the same product.
“Rather than rushing products to market, we take our time in the product development process to ensure optimum fit as well as only using premium fabrics which offer a superior functional benefit for the user,” Kate says of their product development. “If it doesn’t fit, or doesn’t perform well, it doesn’t make the cut.”
There’s little point putting a swimmer in the pool if they’re not ready to perform. Why would you put a product that’s not ready out into the marketplace?
They can bounce back from failure
An athlete, like an entrepreneur has to learn how to fail fast. Disappointment, missed opportunities and mistakes are all a part of the process. If an athlete stopped running because they lost one race, there wouldn’t be many athletes left in the Olympics – remember that the next time you don’t bag a deal. It’s not the failure that counts – it’s what you to bounce back from it after it’s happened.