It’s an Olympic year and many of our elite athletes are rightly focusing their efforts on the London 2012 Olympic Games. There are a certain number of gold medals on offer and everyone knows their worth in terms of the honour and glory and even more so in terms of ensuing publicity, product endorsements, speaking engagement and the like.

pin the future

pin the future

However, with limited gold medals available, pure focus on winning one will leave many athletes short-changed if they have nothing in reserve. Smart athletes leave nothing to chance. Just like good sales people and business owners they make sure there is always a contingency plan because they know that pinning your future on a gold medal pay day is putting all your eggs into one basket. It may surprise you that besides preparing for the Olympic Games, a number of the VIS (Victorian Institute of Sport) elite athletes have been developing their own businesses and are participating in the Barrett VIS Business Education Scholarship Program via the VIS ACE (Athlete Career & Education) Program to sure up their future success. I’ve had the privilege of being associated with the VIS and the ACE program since 1992. This is where I cut my teeth as a trainer and facilitator before I began making these skills a key part of my career. During this time I’ve met a wide and wonderful range of people, mostly talented elite athletes pursing their dreams as well as the wonderful staff at the VIS, many of whom I now proudly call friends. As my career and subsequent business evolved I found so many similarities between elite sport and business. I therefore wanted to find a way to continue to work with these athletes as they transitioned from their elite sporting careers to their own business careers. Many don’t win that elusive gold medal but simply by being an elite athlete, have gone on to win a plethora of life lessons. These athletes bring so much to the table when it comes to running a business. They start their businesses with in-built focus, stamina, determination and the courage to have a go.

It therefore is a great pleasure that after many iterations we have developed and implemented the VIS Barrett Business Education Scholarship Program which was launched in 2010. The program was developed off the back of research conducted by the ACE Program regarding relevance of ACE Services to athletes in different stages of their sport, career and life. This initiative enables athletes to prepare for their life after sport as an entrepreneur, business owner and manager while continuing their training and participation at an elite level of sport. Barrett‘s scholarship initiative is designed to assist athletes who are serious about starting a business or looking to grow their current business and wish to gain access to industry leaders, resources and professional development. The scholarship program works via Barrett’s partnership with the Victorian Institute of Sport and an annual invitation to VIS athletes to submit their applications for the Barrett Business Education Scholarship Program. Each athlete must already have a business idea or business in development to access the program. Those who are accepted attend a series of workshops across the year to build and test their business ideas. They cover such topics as Building a Business Strategy and Sales & Marketing Plan, Prospecting, Sales Communication, Social Media, Resilience and Sales Neuroscience and begin to apply their new knowledge and skills to their emerging businesses. At the end of the year, athletes who have successfully taken their business to a commercial reality then proceed to pitch their idea and business plans to the Judging Panel: Anne Marie Harrison, CEO of VIS; Kate Palmer, Chairperson of VIS and CEO of Netball Australia and myself. Under the Scholarship parameters the successful athlete receives one-on-one coaching/mentor sessions with me throughout the following year to further develop their business as well as receive funding from the VIS ACE Program to support the growth of their business. The standard of the 2011 finalists was extremely high. All three athletes presented well developed and clever business plans. All knew their purpose and reason for being in business; all had compelling messages; all were ready to go to market with actionable go-to-market action plans. Finalists of the 2011 Barrett Business Education Scholarship Program were: * Christian Williams (Archery – Australian Rep) * Sarah Wall (Netball – Vixens / Australian Rep) * Alli van Omnen (Water polo – Australian Rep) Each has a compelling story that drives them and each knows where they want to be. It was a very hard decision but the scholarship was awarded to Alli van Omnen who has set up her own Osteopath business called Without Limits. I’ll be coaching Alli this year to help her with her business growth. So what can we learn from these amazing young people? We can learn heaps.

dedicated bike rider on training

dedicated bike rider on training

Their dedication to their sporting and business careers is second to none and each is driven to succeed and be their best. It’s a joy to be in company with these people and inspiring to work with them. Their open mindedness, willingness to learn, clarity of purpose and courage to have a go is what I would love to see in everyone. So how can we take these examples and replicate them in our business world? Rather than management be the only ones to present their business and sales plans to their teams, I propose that all sales people take a leaf out of these smart athletes’ books and present their go-to-market action plans each year to senior management and their teams. It is a very rewarding experience and develops a whole range of skills that come in very handy every day i.e. public speaking and presenting, business thinking and planning, strategising, collaborating and so on. Applying ourselves this way will bring home the gold and business success. Sport is a great teacher especially when you are actively involved. It tests you, challenges you and makes you stand up and go for it even when all you want to do is lie down. The synergies between sport and selling are many as I mentioned. So it is a great honour to bring the two together in the Barrett Business Education Scholarship Program. We wish all the VIS athletes and all of our Australian Representatives great success at the London 2012 Olympics. Remember everybody lives by selling something. Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au

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