Are You a World-Class Business Athlete?

Guest post by Richard H. Tyson, president of CEObuilder, and Alan Davis, president of i5Services 

Lindsey Vonn, arguably the greatest women’s skier of all time…

Lance Armstrong, 7-time winner of the Tour de France…

Michael Phelps, winner of 14 Olympic Gold Medals…

What do these world-class athletes have to do with business? The answer is much more than you might think!

The connection is not skiing or cycling or swimming, of course. Rather, it is the incredible commitment each athlete has to excellence—to becoming the best in the world in their respective sports. Comparing them to the casual athlete is akin to comparing the Mona Lisa to one’s third-grade art project.

Consider the average casual athlete: He tries out for a sport as a child. If he has an enjoyable experience, he goes out for the team again next year. His skills increase until he is either cut, opts out or moves on to other avocations. He may continue to enjoy the sport throughout his life, but he never attains “world-class” stature.

The world-class folks don’t start out much differently, but at some point, their skills take a quantum leap upward. This inevitably correlates with a significant increase in the time committed to their athletic endeavors. Their sport becomes virtually a full-time pursuit. 

While a major time investment is clearly important, what sets the extraordinary athlete apart from the casual athlete is the intensive focus that occupies the time committed to their sport. Unlike the casual sportsman who tinkers occasionally with her bindings, experiments with his bike’s gears or adds a lap or two in the pool, these athletes track and analyze every facet of their game. Vonn recognizes nuances in how the edges of her skis bite into an icy slope; Lance knows his oxygen absorption in the mountains, the sprints and everything in between; and Michael is aware of the smallest advantages that will carve hundredths of seconds off his lap times. The results of this intensive focus are stunning—and therein lies the connection to business.

Consider the average business: it focuses on top-line growth, strives to ensure that compliance and security guidelines are met, operates as efficiently as possible, and during financial difficulties, reduces headcount to ensure viability. These are common practices that may keep a business alive and possibly even growing, but will not allow it to attain “world-class” stature.

Like athletes, world-class businesses didn’t start out that way, but at some point they too took a quantum leap upward. Their climb progressed as they increased the time and effort expended to make improvements to their company. This full-time pursuit requires intensive focus. It starts with measuring baselines and tracking improvements toward clear, well-defined targets. Setting, measuring and tracking goals are not new concepts to businesses, but the correct use of technologies currently available and the understanding of where to place emphasis clearly set the world-class apart from the average.

No professional athlete has reached the pinnacle of performance by themselves. However, a common misconception is that world-class athletes and world-class businesses achieved their results alone. Only when a business acknowledges that they can and must engage outside help do they truly make their greatest progress. That said, wading through the sea of options available can be a daunting and even overwhelming prospect. Focusing on results gives decision makers an edge in this process.

World-class companies and athletes have these attributes in common: they have an intensive focus on improvement, they set clear targets, they baseline and track progress against their targets, they use the best technologies correctly, they place their emphasis in the right places, and they engage others who have proven results to aid them in their pursuits.

Richard Tyson is the founder, principal owner and president of CEObuilder, which provides forums for consulting and coaching to executives in small businesses. For 21 years, CEObuilder has successfully brought about an outstanding financial return for CEO and executive clients through providing leading-edge content in the areas of strategizing, team-building, problem-solving and managing for results, as well as the use of proprietary learning and coaching processes.


For the last 15 years Alan Davis has been helping companies set and exceed recovery, savings, and improvement goals. The largest project recovered $40 million per year and deterred over $120 million of loss annually for a top 5 worldwide airline. Alan started i5Servicesjust over 2.5 years ago with the goal of helping many companies reach comparable results. I5 Services has quickly become the leading cost reduction technology provider, helping their clients put as much as 3% of annual revenues back to the bottom line.

Information in this article should not be considered legal or accounting advice from Bank of American Fork or its affiliates. Readers should seek such advice from their own qualified professionals.

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