What Figure Skating Teaches Us About Business

I am a huge believer in the fact that there are learning opportunities to be found in all aspects of everyday life.  So to pay homage to my past career on the ice, today we’re going to take a closer look at the sport of figure skating, and the lessons that we can learn by paying close attention and listening to the swish of the blades.

Business Lessons from Figure Skating

Lesson 1: Determination and perseverance pay off

By far the most heartwarming figure skating story of the Vancouver Olympics was that of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao.  Married since 2007, Shen and Zhao returned from retirement to compete in their fourth Olympics at the ages of 31 and 36 (unheard of for modern figure skating).  They broke through to win the Olympic gold medal.

From Xue and Hongbo, we learn that things get better with time.  The couple had been skating together since 1992, but only fell in love in the last few years of their partnership, and only reached Olympic gold in 2010, after eighteen years of working towards their goal.

While hopefully it won’t take you eighteen years to reach your business goals, it’s important to know that you will continue to grow and define yourself over time.  Your business and your industry will evolve and you must be willing to stick with it, work hard and work smart, and trust that the solid foundation you lay will help catapult you to success when the time is right.

Lesson 2: Healthy competition only makes you better

What do the ice dancing teams of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have in common? It used to be their coaches – Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband. Then Belbin and Agosto left Michigan and began training with Linichuk and Karponosov. Only two of these couples went on to become Olympic champions.

So why did the teams of Virtue and Moir and Davis and White (who are good friends in addition to being training partners) rise to success so quickly and ascend to the highest level in their sport? Aside from their phenomenal talent, the fact is that training together pushed them to raise their game each and every day.

Although competition might seem scary at first, it’s something you should welcome. It will raise the stakes, but that is what allows you to challenge yourself and become even better tomorrow than you were yesterday.

Lesson 3: How you handle controversy defines you

It wouldn’t be an Olympics without a figure skating controversy and Vancouver was no different.  Evan Lysacek and Evgeny Plushenko were 1-2 after the short program, with the slimmest of margins separating them.  In the free skate, Evan’s all around skating skills were enough to vault him to the gold medal, and Plushenko settled for silver.

The battle didn’t end on the ice.  And while we won’t debate the ins and outs of the code of points here (suffice it to say that I think they both have nuggets of truth in their arguments), what we can take away from this experience is that your poise and grace under pressure – your ability to handle controversy – can define you in business.

  • Do you crack under stress?
  • Do you write or speak without thinking?
  • How do you respond when someone lashes out at you?

As a small business, you are your own public relations, so be cognizant of your actions and their impact on your image, and on your business results.

Lesson 4: Costumes can make all of the difference

Notice, if you will, the difference between the costume on the left and the costume on the right.

Domnina and Shabalin OlympicsDomnina Shablin Olympics

Same couple, my friends.

So what can we learn from Domnina and Shabalin? Well, it’s simple. No matter how great your skills are, branding is important.

  • How do you differentiate yourself?
  • Is your website design consistent and pleasing to the eye?
  • Do others see you as you want to be seen?

Your design, and not your talent, is the first thing that someone sees when they visit your website. And you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

So there you have it, four lessons that figure skating can teach us about business. What other life and business lessons can you find from my favorite sport?

12 comments on “What Figure Skating Teaches Us About Business

  1. As a former figure skater, myself, I can attest that this is AMAZING. My favorite motto when times get tough is “keep on skating” because its all about getting back up again and continuing on like nothing happened. Wonderful post!

  2. Rachel writes...

    What a great post and use of analogies!!! You are very right in all your points – I just didn’t see any of them before you pointed them out!
    Great blog!!! :-)

  3. Hannah writes...

    Ahhh – this is awesome – great article!!

  4. Cendi writes...

    Very interesting perspective!

  5. Lisa writes...

    I’m a former figure skater, so you’ve got me hooked. My coach always used to say that pushing through the bad days (when you are tired, sick, etc) will make the good days so much better.

    And just a note on lesson 2: Belbin and Agosto train with Domnina and Shabalin (same rink, same coach), so although they did leave Michigan, they still trained alongside a major competitor.

    • Ami writes...

      Lisa – yay for another figure skater and thanks for the clarification on Belbin and Agosto! I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether training with the more “traditional” methods of the Russian coaches and couple might have been better/worse than training with the more “pushing the boundaries/younger” philosophy in Michigan (competition-wise).

      Love your coach’s saying, and it’s so true! Leaving it all on the ice is what it was all about, right? :)

  6. Phyllis Cheung writes...

    Hello Ami!

    Love your new blog – the wedding world definitely needs more business blogs that apply to the industry. Looking forward to seeing what you have in store for us!



  7. Holly Chapple writes...

    Congratulations on your new blog, a fabulous post, and some really sound business advice. This was a totally great read, it was also fun to catch up on the Olympics. I missed the skating and it is my favorite part.

  8. Larissa Banting writes...

    As a former figure skater (well, I took lessons but never competed), love the article One omission that I think would be perfect is grace under pressure – Joannie Rochette. Having the courage to skate only days after her mom’s death and bring home bronze is a testament to incredible focus. We all suffer setbacks – how we overcome them defines us.

  9. Susan writes...

    You are so right…love the post. I think many of us women have found the entrepreneurial spirit and don’t know how to achieve these goals. Even more so for those of us who are over 40! The internet and the strategies of successful marketing can be challenging. I hate to say this, but sometimes we don’t have a clue!

    I will be sure to share your blog.

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