Three Olympic Athletes Share How Sport Can Inspire Small Business Success

(BPT) - Olympic athletes are some of the strongest people in the world — both physically and mentally. Under constant pressure to perform as they represent their respective countries, they have what it takes to succeed and accomplish what they set out to do.

It should come as no surprise that much of what they’ve learned both on and off the field of competition — built on practice, skill and grit — resonates for small business owners who are striving for their own success.

Visa — a longtime sponsor of both The Olympic and Paralympic Games and athletes — recently hosted over 40 Olympian and Paralympian hopefuls at the company’s San Francisco Innovation Center. The two-day Team Visa event offered athletes resources on how to improve financial literacy, benefit from digital payments and elevate their personal brand. It also gave them an opportunity to meet and interact with their peers ahead of The Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 and, more immediately, to find new inspiration heading into a new year of challenges and victories. Founded in 2000, Team Visa has championed nearly 500 athletes — each selected based on athletic achievements, character and personal journey.

For over 30 years, Visa has been a partner with The Olympics. And every day, the company supports small businesses with payment services designed to help them pay and get paid. In conversation with Visa, U.S. Women’s National Team player and Olympic gold medalist Megan Rapinoe, surfer Kanoa Igarashi representing Japan at the Olympics this summer, and American swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky shared some of the ways their own experiences can serve to inspire entrepreneurs in the new decade.

Staying true to your brand

"All the time, we talk about what’s going to influence people," says Rapinoe. "The goal is to surround yourself with people with similar ideals who are pushing for important change and have that influence. Partnering with a brand like Visa provides access to ideas and a larger network that shares the same goal of empowering female athletes."

No matter the environment — on the field or in the office — it's important to stand up for what you believe in and stay true to your values. As a small business owner, the new year encourages personal reflection and planning for the year ahead. With 2020 underway, identifying your values is the first step toward maintaining authenticity. From establishing your key values to communicating them to new employees during training, the key is being consistent across every level of your organization.

Accepting support

Having a strong support system in place is critical, regardless of the sport or challenge. Whether you're on a team or surround yourselves with friends and family who lift you up, coming together and uniting as you work toward a common goal helps clear the path to success.

For many small business owners, especially in the early years, it can be a stressful and demanding experience. Speaking with others who have been in a similar situation can be invaluable and you will find that most people are happy to give their time and advice to others who are starting out. According to Visa's State of Female Entrepreneurship report, nearly a quarter of women business owners cited building a support network as a top challenge as they seek to fund, run and grow their business.

"It’s important to identify your goals from the beginning and continue refining as you work toward your vision,” advises Igarashi. “Whether you are an athlete or a business owner, having a network or community of like-minded individuals by your side makes the journey a bit easier.”

Your 2020 Resolution: Challenge yourself everyday

Maintaining drive and motivation as a small business owner can sometimes prove difficult. The reality is, staying motivated is directly tied to feeling challenged, says Ledecky.

“As a business owner, or in my case, athlete, you are solely responsible for your progress, goal setting and performance,” she says. “As challenging as it can be at times, being able to push yourself to overcome obstacles is extremely rewarding.”

Visa has long been committed to delivering services, products and programs to help small businesses grow, and it extends that commitment to its Team Visa athletes as they go for the gold in Tokyo.

To learn more about Visa’s ongoing support of Olympic and Paralympic athletes, visit Visa’s Olympic partnership page.

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