Role Models Matter in Enterprise

I was struck by a couple of Olympic stories this morning.

The first was the withdrawal from the hurdles of China’s track superstar Liu. One of the Chinese newsreaders was in tears as she announced his withdrawal from the 110m hurdles. When as`ed why, when they had already won 35 gold medals this particular withdrawal was such a tragedy one Chinese Spectator said:

‘When you see that Liu is winning it makes us believe that we can do anything’

And then Michael Johnson was talking about why Jamaica had done so well in the sprint events. He said:

‘When people around you start to do well you believe that you can do well too.’

This is true of athletes but is also true of entrepreneurs.  It just takes one local person to succeed to persuade dozens of others that they too could make something happen.

The secret is to get the first local success and then to get the message out into the local community.  The spreading of the message is just as important to developing and enterprise culture as is helping the first entrepreneur – but rarely does this part of the work get the focus or the attention it demands.


  1. Good point Mike. I think the key issue is about role models that people can relate to. Too often entrepreneurial role models are people who have achieved things at a scale which is inappropriate for where many people in the audience currently find themselves. That’s not to say that people shouldn’t be inspired by great success – but we need to feel that we can do something ourselves too – and a superhuman on stage who’s perhaps forgotten what it’s like at start-up can do more harm than good.

    Your post reminded me of the Denver Mills sketch in Little Britain – the olympic athlete turned motivational business speaker – very funny


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