Going for gold

Recently I read a great book called ‘Velocity’ written by Ajaz Ahmed, the founder of the world’s largest digital agency AKQA, and Stefan Olander, the Vice President of Digital Sport for Nike. The book provides an insight into their working lives - the highlights, the lowlights and lessons they’ve learnt in-between.

Drawing upon their knowledge and experience, the book provides practical tips about how businesses and individuals can give themselves the best possible chance to succeed in today’s increasingly complex, crowded and competitive marketplace. Here are a few key points that really resonated with me:

  • Be focused - In everyday life as well as business, it’s important to have a purpose. Having something to aim for provides drive and commitment. Success is not an entitlement and so a business is only as good as its next output whether that’s a new product or pitch.
  • Be competitive - Just like athletes, businesses need to be honest about their strengths and weaknesses. To stay top of the game, it’s essential to constantly be looking for ways to learn and improve. The key is to never become complacent even when you’re winning.
  • Be personable - Build brands through servicing not advertising. The best brands make sure every customer experience with the brand is a good one. Unless it inspires, contributes or informs the end customer, marketing is pollution.
  • Be active - Know when it’s better to wait and when it’s better to act. Sometimes things are easier done than said. Successful companies often adopt a ‘market stall mentality’, staying close to the customers to figure out what they want before they do.
  • Be imaginative - Innovation by its nature is an experiment with unknown outcomes. Businesses need to be willing to change what they have in order to get what they want. Never let not knowing how to do something get in your way.

Throughout the book many parallels are made between running a business and being an athlete - particularly when it comes to the mindset required. The right mentality needs to be grown and nurtured. Without it, businesses will struggle to keep up with their competitors. Ajaz and Stefan sum up the perfect business mindset for me in one succinct sentence: “To achieve what others can’t, they must do what others won’t”.