5 02 2012

As the London Olympics get ever nearer, if your inbox is anything like mine it is a rare day when you don’t receive some form of promotion offering ‘Olympic expertise’ or the chance to ‘do it like an Olympian.’ 

But how many of these opportunities are from people with genuine knowledge and experience and how many from people seeing the chance to piggy back the greatest show on earth? 

For those readers unaware of the term, ‘Caveat Emptor’ is Latin for ‘let the buyer beware’ and it is a term you would be well advised to keep at the forefront of your mind if considering employing advice and/or training from someone offering ‘Olympian’ knowledge.

Typical offers sound like; ‘learn the secrets used by Olympic coaches (or athletes)’ or ‘lessons from the podium for your business’ and include claims that you will learn how top athletes plan or prepare and become a gold-medal winning company.

I took a look at some of the offers arriving in my inbox and found that, far from offering any expertise the vast majority of these promotions offer little other than carefully spun titles which take advantage of raised public perception of the elite sporting show which is about to hit town.

Most offer the same as they offered before under a different title. In short they apply the same standard business models they did previously but throw in some random Olympic, elite sport and high performance references to make them sound better informed than they really are.

Then there are the new(ish) offerings from people with some experience in business who might have read an article or two on how sports people prepare and then sell that as ‘expert’ knowledge your business can benefit from.

Also in my inbox are promotions from business people who have a reasonable grasp of sport at the grass-roots end of the spectrum and who assume that elite preparation is not dissimilar. In short, they invite you to mimic the preparation used by the mediocre masses in the mistaken belief that when applied to business it will have a higher value outcome.

There is a smaller group of former elite sports people and coaches who have little or no business experience but who, somehow, know which lessons from their background to apply to your business. Great for motivational speaking maybe; less so for business learning and development.

Of course, there is a minority who do know their stuff but they are only in a minority hence my ‘Caveat Emptor’ warning. The trick is to know how to recognise those who do know the topics which are important to you and your business thus gaining value from working with them.

What they understand is that the nearer you get to the top whether in sport or in business, the more personalised your ‘programme’ needs to become. They will not therefore be among those selling one-size fits all ‘Olympian’ solutions; they know there is no such thing. They will however advise your business on the relevant lessons should you wish to benefit.

Knowing how to prepare for elite sport without understanding business is akin to a business owner believing he/she has the knowledge to advise an Olympic champion on his/her preparation. Whether this is delusional or arrogant depends on your standpoint.

Caveat Emptor; don’t buy a great sounding product today which does not take you where you want to be tomorrow.

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, February 2012

About the author: Jim Cowan has an extensive knowledge of elite sport including working with a world champion, a world record holder, other elite athletes and acting as a consultant to elite sporting teams and organisations around the world. He now blends that with knowledge of corporate strategy, business planning and experience of working with businesses from one man start-ups to £multi-million organisations.

Read more blogs by Jim Cowan


Twitter @cowanglobal




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