The Rio Olympics are here. Recently I watched a documentary in the build about London 2012 Super Saturday where 12 gold medals were awarded to Team GB members (everyone seems to forget that rowers and cyclists also got the ultimate prize in addition to Farah, Ennis and Rutherford).
The overwhelming emotion that the winners talked about in the immediate aftermath was relief. They were not ecstatic, overjoyed or even overwhelmed but almost glad that it was over and they had achieved their goal. I guess that this is understandable because many of them had been dreaming of that moment since they were a small child and were worried that they would throw away a chance that only comes around once every four years.
Andy Murray has recently won Wimbledon for the second time and he said, immediately after the win whilst still on court, that he planned to enjoy the win because he had not made the most of celebrating his first victory. Again he cited relief rather then elation as the reason for not enjoying the first home turf major. Similarly, he had built up winning major tournaments, particularly Wimbledon, to such an extent that getting over the line had become such a huge deal that it made winning so important that he felt numb once achieving it.
I have seen this consistently in business too. This is especially true when business owners set revenue targets for their business. I wish I had a pound for every time that a business owner told me that they wanted to double their revenue or get to a million pound turnover (do I get two quid if they start at half a million??) When they get there they feel absolutely no joy in their achievement and also often just feel relieved – and somewhat disappointed that their world has not changed significantly after reaching that milestone.
Setting goals and going for business gold needs to be thought through if you want to avoid just feeling relief rather than a real sense of achievement. Setting goals based on long-term profitability (rather than turnover) is probably the very best starting point. If this profitability is based on strong positive cash flows then working out what to do with the cash will most likely lead to a more fulfilling business career.
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There are only three things that a business can do with the free cash flow it generates. Pay it out to the shareholders in the form of dividends, pay down any debt or reinvest it in the business in the expectation of greater future profits. If you plan to build your business up to make it profitable and generating cash and also have a purpose for that cash then you will not be feeling relief but a sense of accomplishment with a clear plan for what happens next.
That is why I believe elite athletes struggle when they achieve their goals. They have no idea of what comes next. They have spent four years working hard, sacrificing everything and pushing themselves to the limit and now they have won they only have the prospect of going through that pain all over again to retain the title or retiring and leaving a massive void.
In business it does not need to be that way as if you focus on the right things – like making a good profit whilst serving your customers to the best of your ability – then you can have a clear plan about what comes next and what you plan to do with the cash your profitable business can provide.
What will you do when you hit gold?