05/08/2014 09:22 BST | Updated 04/10/2014 06:59 BST

Using the Five S's of Sport to Win in Business

When I first read Ken Doherty's quote it struck an immediate chord - there are so many lessons from sport that can help us to win in business. Stamina, Speed, Strength, Skill and Spirit - each on its own will propel us forwards, but together the five S's have the potential to be a winning formula.

"The five S's of sports training are: stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit." Ken Doherty (1905-1996) US decathlon champion, track and field coach

Ask yourself these questions - Are you as healthy as your business? Are your skills up to speed? Have you got the stamina to succeed?

When I first read Ken Doherty's quote it struck an immediate chord - there are so many lessons from sport that can help us to win in business. Stamina, Speed, Strength, Skill and Spirit - each on its own will propel us forwards, but together the five S's have the potential to be a winning formula.

Your business is an extension of yourself. As business owners, we can't expect to perform at peak potential if we are not taking steps to keep ourselves fit and healthy.


Building a business that will survive the test of time is more of a marathon than a sprint and will often involve working long hours, travelling long distances (sometimes across time-zones) and the ability to stay focused for long periods of time. Doing what it takes to succeed in business demands stamina.

A professional athlete knows that without stamina it is hard to maintain momentum. A strategic advantage is not enough to win on its own, the energy and power to maintain pace is also needed. Building physical and mental stamina takes time - so we owe it to ourselves to make time to get fit and stay fit, - this in turn will help us to stay ahead of the business game and make sure we don't run out of steam at a crucial moment.


Can you adjust your speed to meet the needs of your business and the pace of change in the marketplace? How quickly does your company respond to customers? How fast is your follow-up? Does time manage you, or do you manage your time? Do you put off difficult conversations and hard decisions? Are you moving fast enough to stay ahead of the competition?

Speed of response provides the winning edge in sport. It is not always the most talented sportsperson who scores the goal - it is the one with the fastest reactions, who not only has the skill, but is in right place and has the courage to take the opportunity.

We all know of ventures that have fallen by the wayside because company owners were slow to respond to consumer trends or changes in the financial climate. Nothing stays static in business.

The death of a business leaves casualties and the impact can be far-reaching - though the end is not inevitable. Taking swift and focused action can mean the difference between life and death in an ever-changing marketplace. Conscious speed and control is critical to business success.


Anyone who plays a sport will know how hard it can be to bounce back from losing a race or a tournament. The dream fades for a moment and all the hard work and training have been in vain; but those with a winner's mentality will bounce back from defeat and learn lessons from their loss - ready to fight another day.

Strength and endurance go hand in hand. A strong body helps to maintain courage and strength of mind, helping you to move closer towards your goal without distraction. Personal strength ensures that you act with integrity, and stay true to your personal and business values - even under pressure.

Business owners who have faced setbacks and have gone on to succeed, share a similar mental determination. It takes strength of character to consciously take stock, stay the course, and do the right thing. Sometimes that means making hard decisions about staffing levels or client focus. Personal strength puts winners in the driver's seat and keeps them there, where others would get off the bus.


According to Dun and Bradstreet, one of the main reasons that small businesses fail is due to a lack in the knowledge and skills of the business owner. Don't lose your place on the business podium simply because you haven't taken the time to brush up on your skills.

Successful athletes are forever trying to improve their form. They are reliant on their health and their professional skills for their success and livelihood. A sportsperson knows that to keep ahead of the competition they will need to stay ahead of the game - by honing their skills and training smarter. No athlete can afford to be in denial about the new kids on the block - there will always be someone who is coming up behind them - who is faster, sharper, and just as hungry.

Personal experience counts for a lot, but in a fast-changing world we also need to upgrade our knowledge. Are your skills up to speed, or do you need to get back in training?


The human spirit is the fire that ignites our motivation, inspires others and maximizing personal performance. Having a passion for what we do and knowing why we do it, gives us the drive and determination to succeed - in sport, in business, in life - and it is contagious. We can all be inspired by an athlete striving for Gold, or a team that overcomes the odds to win a match or a trophy. But no athlete succeeds alone - they are part of a whole team who helps them to perform to the optimum.

The spirit of leadership fills others with confidence and makes the whole team pull together. The positive energy then feeds the whole team. Win or lose, everyone is part of the whole, and they are in it together.

Having the desire to stay fully engaged and maintain focus is the difference between going through the motions and going the distance. Sometimes, we get so bogged down in the day-to-day running of the business we can start to forget why we set it up in the first place.

Taking time to rest, renew, regroup and rethink can be the keys to reconnecting and reigniting the energy that drives us forward to achieve great things.