4 tips for gold medal business success from Olympian Sally Gunnell

Athlete and Olympic gold medal winner Sally Gunnell has unveiled the importance of mentoring in sport and business after research from cloud accountancy firm Xero revealed that a third of successful entrepreneurs have turned to a mentor or support group for advice about their company, compared to just 14% of businesses who ran a business that had to close.

Sally Gunnell and Xero_3[1] gold medalThe Book of Gold Medal Business Advice, has been launched with Xero and Sally Gunnell to define, design and drive success for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Video chapters of business advice and an accompanying online book will give business owners insight into how they can apply sporting values to business.

Sally Gunnell, who remains the only woman ever to hold four major track titles concurrently Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth – is now a small business owner herself, giving her first-hand insight of the importance of the first few years of a business’s life.

Here are Sally’s top five tips for business success:

  1. Know what you want to achieve — Have drive and focus and know what your goal looks like, and don’t be scared to think big.

The first step should always be having a strong visualisation of your goal, as well as the steps you need to take to get there. Sally had to work out exactly what training she had to put in place to improve, just as businesses need to ensure they have the right skills at the right level through every stage. “It’s about small steps and working out how to build a company by increments.”

  1. Build a strong team around you — Don’t be afraid to ask for help and surround yourself with people who are good at what they do – they will help you to excel.

From the moment Sally started out on the path to world-class success, she was careful to surround herself with the right team. From the right nutritionist to the right sports psychologist and mentor, all of her team brought their own specialist skills. It’s the same in business: the sales director shouldn’t be troubled with accounts, and the web designer doesn’t have to close sales, even if they coincidentally have the right skills.

  1. Challenge yourself — Make sure you step out of your comfort zone to keep learning and growing.

When you start to feel established and your customer base is growing, it becomes tempting to think you’ve “arrived”. But Sally believes that it’s crucial to ensure you’re always thinking about the next phase of improvement. Whether it’s personal or business growth, when you reach the stage when you’re truly satisfied that all your goals have been achieved, it could be time to move on.

  1. Accept disappointment — Learn why mistakes happen and how you can learn from them, but don’t dwell.

Starting a business and changing careers can be incredibly daunting. Sally retired from athletics a couple of decades ago, so had to start planning around the idea of radical change very early. Sally’s main piece of advice for adapting to the changes involved in starting a business is to accept disappointment. Mistakes will happen, but the key thing is to learn from them without dwelling for too long.

  1. Have self-belief — All of us will doubt our ability at some point, but use your mind to visualise your goal and control that inner voice.

According to Sally, sustaining excellence in a new business is one of the hardest parts of the journey. In both business and sport, people ask and expect you to consistently perform at a massively high level with challenging deadlines. Sally’s advice in this regard is to stay focused on your goals and remember that they can of course be tweaked when they’ve been achieved or part achieved. She’s a strong advocate for maintaining belief in yourself, as she believes your mind is more powerful than you think.

Click here to access and download your free copy of Business Gold – the Book of Gold Medal Business Advice. Video chapters of Sally’s advice can be viewed on Xero’s blog: