Do you find the Olympics inspiring?

Do you think to yourself – maybe I could do that?

Or maybe more realistically, you’ve found yourself thinking – that reminds me of…

That’s what I’ve found myself doing over the past two weeks. In between being awed by the skill of the athletes, and moved by so many of their personal stories, I found parallels to my job and my company ATR International.

Lesson #1

Never give up.

If you don’t make the team or win a medal, it isn’t “wait until next year,” it’s a lot longer than that. The Olympics happen every four years. And while many athletes are one and done, regardless of success, many others go home and train harder, get better, and try again. Lindsey Vonn, the first American woman to win the downhill, missed the Sochi games because of injury but came back to ski in her fourth Olympic games and win a bronze medal. The men’s curling team was led by John Schuster, whose past Olympic performances had been disappointing, and who found themselves on the brink of elimination before turning it around to make it to the finals and win the gold medal.

In the staffing business you don’t just get client accounts handed to you. It isn’t easy to find the right candidate. You have to work hard and not be discouraged. Spend time developing a relationship with a company, show them you can do the job, and then you’ll get a chance. You have to know where to find great candidates and be willing to look at dozens of possibilities before you find the best one. You simply can’t give up.

Lesson #2

The favorite doesn’t always win.

Many of the athletes have amazing resumes. They’ve been world champions or posted the best times or scores at events over the past four years or in qualifying for the Olympics and sometimes they even win! But plenty of times there are upsets. A younger athlete or “less qualified” team takes home the gold.

Every job requisition for an IT contractor comes with a list of required skills and experience. And that’s fine but if you let that be a rigid list and don’t consider candidates that have most of what you are looking for, and just might bring something else to the table, you may miss out on gold medal talent. You may think you need an IT professional who has experience with every programming language on your list. But someone with a strong work ethic, great people skills, or the willingness and ability to learn may turn out to be the better choice. Ester Ledecka, a world champion snowboarder, took gold in the Super G, shocking everyone, before she also took gold in her main event. How about the aforementioned men’s curling team? We counsel our clients that they should consider candidates who might not have everything on paper but who can “learn.” We also encourage candidates to improve their skills and broaden their experience.

Lesson #3

Bigger isn’t always better

Norway, a country of 5.2 million people led the total medal count in Pyeongchang. By a lot. They are beating countries that are a little bigger, somewhat bigger, and those that are a lot bigger. A lot. Countries that spend more money on travel, training, coaching, uniforms – you name it. Countries that have populations in the triple digit millions. How?

Understanding this was easy for me. They are specialists. Geography and the resulting weather have made them experts. They have a deep expertise and centuries (lol) of experience with cold and snow and, well, winter. And it shows. They dominated across multiple winter disciplines. That’s ATR. We know IT. We know it broadly and deeply. We understand our clients’ IT needs, whether IT is their primary business or simply critical to their success as a financial services, health care, or aerospace company. We specialize, and that gives us, and our clients, a Norway-like advantage. There are bigger staffing firms, just like there are bigger countries, but bigger isn’t always better.

Lesson #4

How do you react to failure?

When something goes wrong, how does your team react? Are your employees like figure skater Nathan Chen? Chen was a gold medal contender, who had a disastrous short program, and found himself in 17th place going into the men’s long program, pretty much out of contention for a medal of any color. But he shook off his mistakes and disappointment to land five quads cleanly and a sixth, almost. Chen’s the only one to do that many in competition.  And he was rewarded with the highest score of the night, although no medal.

These are the kind of people that can really make a difference. Failure is not an option, at some point it’s a certainty. There will always be challenges. Things will go wrong. No one, no company, is immune. Avoidance is not what makes people or businesses successful. How they deal with set backs is. When we hire people to work at ATR, we look for Nathan Chen-like qualities. When we find candidates for our clients, we look for people who bounce back, who are problem solvers, who don’t give up. People who find a way to succeed in the face of adversity make the best employees. They are more likely to be the medal winners in the end.

And so, as I watched the closing ceremony, I thought of the athletes I had watched over the past two weeks. I only mentioned a few of them here, there were so many thrilling and inspiring performances and a few things to take away and inspire my own life. I hope you found the same!

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