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Unlocking Entrepreneurial Success: Five Insights From An Olympian How to fight the fear of starting a business (and then do it anyway!)

By Sarah Lindsay

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It's notably difficult for ex-professional sportspeople to transition into new lives or new careers post athletic success. Also, it's important to remember that not every pro has earned Premier League salaries, or enjoyed the fruits of lucrative brand endorsements, or merchandise dividends. For that individual, there is a real sense of personal loss when a sporting career comes to an end, as usually, it is all they have known from a very young age, if not their whole lives to that point. This sits alongside the very real need to find purpose and earn a living.

As a three-time Olympic short track speed skater for Great Britain, and British Ladies Champion for nine consecutive years, I had been competing at the highest level ever since I was a child. When my career on the ice came to an end, it was my turn to find something new. Whilst it's not unusual for sportsmen and sportswomen to move into fitness and personal training, it's often as a freelancer.

But I went a step further, and I now own and run my business, Roar Fitness, successfully in both London and Dubai- taking me into the realm of life as a business owner and entrepreneur. There is no handbook or schooling to guide you through the ups and downs of starting, running, and growing a business, but with that said, there are some things I've learned as an Olympian that have held me in amazing stead for this new chapter in my life. Here's a primer:

1/ Work ethic We know there is a backlash today against "hustle culture," and everyone is looking for more of a work-life balance. The truth is very different, however, when you are just starting up and starting out, with the full commitment to build and grow a business. In speed skating, I trained for six to nine hours a day, every day. If I wasn't training, I was in physio, looking at technical analysis, the upkeep of equipment, and more. It was a full-time job, never off, and always on. In business, you cannot expect a work-life balance in the startup or growth phase. If you are not working on it, you are thinking about it. Speed skating taught me that you are either in or out- you must give it your everything. People used to talk about "sacrifice" whilst I was skating, and that I sacrificed "life" to train versus socializing with friends and family. But I never saw it as a sacrifice, I saw it as a privilege. I chose this, both sport and now business, I'm doing what I love to do, and want to do. I was -and I still am- grateful for the chance to work hard on something I believe in.'

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Sarah Lindsay, three-time Olympic speed skater, and owner, Roar Fitness. Source: Roar Fitness

2/ Resilience In sport, I would compete in up to five races a day. Maybe the first one would go great, and the second one not as well. I'd have 20 minutes maybe to recompose and patch myself up before the next one. The pressure is on, because if you don't get through, you may miss out on qualifying for goal events such as the World Championship, for example. You do have to perform, and the fact is, it doesn't always go your way. I probably "lost" 90 out of 100 races- but you do it for the other 10. A life lesson in "getting back up" almost every day! It's not just about resilience race to race either, it's year to year, season to season. Building yourself back up from injuries or poor form takes time, and it can feel slow, which dents both your confidence and enthusiasm. You don't win them all, in life, business, or sport. You will make mistakes and the wrong decisions. A huge reason that a business will fail is because people quit too soon. But the "dream" doesn't come easy, nor do the medals or championships. You must get up, and go again, and again- and again. Never give up.

3/ Goal setting Aim high and think big when it comes to goal setting. Think about what "can" be done, not just the easiest thing. If you aim for a gold medal, you have a chance; if you aim to make "the top ten," you'll never win gold. This attitude also transfers across to our clients at Roar Fitness too, not just our business. If your goal is just to open a gym, and own your own space, I'm sure you can do that, but is that it? Growth and bigger picture goals don't happen by mistake.

4/ Team work You can only go so far on your own. Everyone needs a team around them. Sportspeople have physios, coaches, and support staff. Even in individual sports, you have teammates around you to train with, against, and for moral support. Exactly the same applies in business, and I recommend making sure that the team around you is chosen carefully. Do they have the same vision? Are you confident to delegate to them? Are they good to be around? I'm not a fan of hierarchy, but I always enjoyed seeing the team pull together to help even one person win. From senior to junior, there was no ego. We would all do what we could to help your teammate perform to a result. If the team performs, the sport keeps getting funded. Bosses should be there to help each other improve and support, not just to "rule."

5/ Take risks My team psychologist used to say to me "Dr Pepper" before a race. You see, I was always scared of overtaking and messing up. I didn't want to put myself on the line for making a mistake. Here was where an old advertisement for the Dr Pepper soft drink came into play, with its tagline being: "What's the worst that can happen?" This served as the motivation I needed to fight the fear, and take a risk on the ice. When you put yourself out there, you risk failure, that's a fact, but if you don't put yourself out there at all, you are guaranteed to achieve nothing. It's okay if something makes you uncomfortable or nervous. That's normal- feel those things, and do it anyway. Take the risk where fear is holding you back- just remember Dr Pepper.

Related: Not For The Light-Hearted: Navigating The Realities Of Entrepreneurship

Sarah Lindsay

Owner, Roar Fitness

Sarah Lindsay, a three-time Olympic speed skater, is the owner of Roar Fitness.  
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