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I admit it, I'm an Olympic junkie. It's in my blood.

As a native of northwestern Ontario and a die-hard snowboarder, I have a special affinity for the Winter Games. But I'm also a business owner, and as I watch coverage of the 2010 Games I can't help but notice how much more savvy athletes have become. They're not just amateur athletes any more – they're amateur business people too.

And they have to be.

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In fact, all those fresh-faced 19-year-olds stand as a reminder to all of us about what it takes to build and maintain a successful company, and as entrepreneurs we can learn a thing or two from their example.

Effort

Alexandre Bilodeau, the winner of Canada's first at-home gold medal, says he worked four years to get a chance at his 23 seconds. I can relate. Building a business requires endless hours of hard work, commitment and an unwavering "eye on the prize" mentality. That's why the experts say it's not for everyone – it isn't. But for those who have a passion for their business and are willing to do what it takes, the rewards can be well worth it.





Pick your battles

Even the best athletes know when it's better to sit out a race in order to be that much stronger for the next – and more important – event. The same is true for entrepreneurs. Do you risk it all now to grow quickly, or bide your time and strike when the stars are better aligned? Sometimes the gutsy call is to bide your time.

There's never enough publicity

Athletes love the spotlight. But as a PR professional, I'm always struck by how many business owners are wary of media or publicity outside of paid advertising. If someone wants to put you in the spotlight, let them. If not, make every effort to make your voice heard – get your name out there and tell everyone about your business.

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Get social

Yes, most Olympic competitors are under the age of 30, so of course they live online. But athletes who have an online profile attract followers, and followers generate buzz. So should you. Keep your website fresh and compelling, start or freshen up your blog, and get your audience following you.

Thankfully, we don't have to push your physical endurance to the limit. But we do have to push. So next time you watch a Canadian stand on the podium, take a step back and ask yourself: "Am I ready for my Olympic moment?"

Special to the Globe and Mail

Mia Wedgbury, president and co-founder of High Road Communications, operates Canada's largest public relations agency focused on technology and digital lifestyle. The company, which has been recognized as one of the best workplaces in Canada for two years running, has offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and San Francisco. A seasoned PR expert with more than 18 years of experience, Ms. Wedgbury has directed global brand positioning programs, handled crisis communications, managed international product launches and developed PR strategy for companies across the entire tech and lifestyle spectrum. In 2006, she also helped the agency launch the High Road Connect practice – a social media, Web 2.0 and marketing services group – to help companies transcend conventional communications. Ms. Wedgbury's clients include Microsoft Canada, MSN, Canon Canada, Disney and LG Electronics.

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