Success and failure: The line is very fine

Philip Salter
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THE road to success is not only long and winding, but it can also be rather rocky. There are always obstacles to trip you up along the way – and many are outside of your control.

Consider the example of London businesses selling bicycles. When the Mayor of London launched his eponymous Boris bikes with Barclays, owners of bicycle shops across the capital must have looked on in despair. Anyone renting bicycles must have shut up shop. How could they compete?

However, lady luck sometimes steps in to help. And good fortune took the form, in the first instance, in the remarkable victory of Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France – the first Brit to win in its 109-year history. Wiggins took this success into London’s Olympics, winning the men’s individual time trial. In the velodrome, Jason Kenny, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Laura Trott all also struck gold. Suddenly, cycling is fast-becoming a significant national sport. Wiggo’s annus mirabilis will have inspired British competitors to take on the mighty European nations of France, Belgium and Spain. The business of cycling just got a lot bigger.

For start-ups, the margin between profit and loss can be as small as the gap between success and failure in the velodrome. No matter how much research you do, events can always trip you up. But the benefit of being small means that start-ups are better able to react to obstacles in the road. Large companies might know that demand is decreasing for what they offer, but refocusing a huge business can be impossible.

But as with so much in life, including sport and business, a little bit of luck can make a huge difference. But when the wind changes direction entrepreneurs can be the quickest to cash in. Creative destruction means failure is always just around the corner, but this is what makes us all more prosperous. As Britain’s Olympic success shows, even if this proves to be our best Olympics for a century, it will have been worth it.

Twitter: @Philip_Salter