Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

Success Profile: Inspiration from Lance Armstrong

Photo by puliarf

Photo by puliarf

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Lance Armstrong is inspiring. His story is one that encourages you to fight to reach your goals.  The story is so good that you almost think it can’t be true.  Think of the sporting accomplishments alone.  Before Lance Armstrong, no one has ever had more that than five Tour de France victories.  Not only did Lance win five, but he went on to win number six and number seven.  Far more than anyone had done before.  Now he’s made a comeback, showing that he is still one of the best in the world at 37 years of age, and with three years off from professional cycling. It is inspiring!

And then there is the other Lance Armstrong story.  This is the story of the cancer survivor. Lance went through a battle with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. When he was diagnosed he was given a 20% chance of survival. Not only did Armstrong survive, but he went on to become a world leader at raising money and awareness in the fight against cancer.

No combine those two stories. Each on their own could make a movie, together they are spectacular.  Armstrong’s fight with cancer came in the middle of his professional cycling career.  He was out for two years and came back better than ever.  The following year he won his first Tour de France, winning the three week race by a substantial margin, over 7 minutes. Some called it a fluke victory, so Lance came back and won again and again and again…. proving to be one of the best cyclists of all times.

Below, we’ll look at some lessons we can learn from Lance Armstrong.  To give you a clear picture of Lance’s story, check out this video:

There is a lot we can learn from Lance Armstrong and the Tour.  Lance himself tells us that we can learn life lessons from the Tour.  He writes,

“It’s not about the bike.  It’s a metaphor for life, not only the longest race in the world but also the most exalting and heartbreaking and potentially tragic.  It poses every conceivable element to the rider, and more: cold, heat, mountains, plains, ruts, flat tires, high winds, unspeakably bad luck, unthinkable beauty, yawning senselessness, and above all a great, deep self-questioning.  During our lives we’re faced with so many different elements as well, we experience so many setbacks, and fight such a hand-to-hand battle with failure, head down in the rain, just trying to stay upright and to have a little hope. The Tour is not just a bike race, not at all.  It is a test.  It tests you physically, it tests you mentally, and it even tests you morally.”

From “It’s Not About the Bike” by Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins.

Here are some lessons that we can learn:

1. Persevere Beyond the Competition

Whether it is in his fight with cancer or in battling to win the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong is a great example of perseverance.  The fact that he made a cycling comeback at all required significant perseverance.  He didn’t need to go back to cycling. Success in any goal requires that you persevere.

In the Tour, pain builds from days of racing and mountain after mountain to climb up.  What makes Armstrong successful is that he fights through the pain.  Cancer taught him how much pain he could endure and cycling can’t match it.  Now he pushes through the pain.  Perseverance towards your goals will mean that you need to push through pain, and do so more than your competition.

Lance knows that if he keeps pushing on through the pain the competition will eventually fall behind him and he will ride on to victory.  The same is true if you are in business.  Your competition won’t keep up with you if you keep doing the things that you need to do to become successful even when you don’t want to – perhaps ESPECIALLY when you don’t want to.

2. When You Fall, Get Up and Keep Going

In one of the most impressive Tour de France performances ever, during the 2003 Tour on the important mountain stage to Luz Ardiden, Lance crashed after clipping a spectator with his handlebars.  As with everything else in his life, Lance didn’t stay down.  He got back up and powered his way back to the leaders catching and eventually blowing past them to take a commanding lead in the Tour.

When something happens in your business or life that gets you down, you need to get back up and keep going. Dust yourself off, get back on your bike, and ride.  We will all face obstacles on a daily basis as we work towards our goals.  Don’t let them slow you down.

Aside: To watch this impressive comeback visit:

3. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

No one prepares for the Tour de France like Lance Armstrong.  Certainly Lance prepare physical by getting into peak condition, but what really sets him apart from the others is the other things he does.  Armstrong goes to the important mountain stages before the Tour and examines the climbs.  He then rides them over and over again making sure he knows exactly where the steepest parts are, where to attack the field, and where to rest.

What kind of preparation can you do that will help you reach your goals more quickly? Perhaps extra practice before you give the big presentation, more research into your potential clients so you can specifically address their needs, or maybe going the extra mile to make sure your blog article has all the facts.  Take the time to prepare well.  Know that those who prepare and then take action will reach the top, they will get the big client and make the big sale.  Do your preparation.

4. Surround Yourself With a Great Team

One of the ironies to professional cycling is that it takes a team to win, even thought there is an individual winner. Lance has consistently surrounded himself with an excellent team that helps him win the Tour.  As the team leader, Lance would rely on others to set the pace, block the wind creating a draft, and help him defend the lead.

Whatever goal you are working towards you need a team. This may be a support team that encourages you on, challenges you, and holds you accountable to your goals.  It might be a team that you work with on a day-to-day basis trying to achieve a common goal. Look to build a team that compliments your skills, encourage you, challenge you, and help you move on to victory.

5. Don’t Listen to the Critics

If you are attempting to do something great you will face critics.  There will be people that will tell you that you can’t do it, or that it can’t be done.  There will be people who look at your weaknesses and focus on those, and there will be people who simply try to pull you down because they want to keep you where you are.

As a champion, Armstrong has faced a constant berrage of critics.  They said he couldn’t win and when he did, they said he couldn’t do it again.  Later they turned to accusations of cheating and anything else they could do that could hurt his image.  Time after time, Lance rose up and showed the critics that he was a real champion.

So ignore your critics; or better yet, use their criticism to energize you and provide the fuel you need to push you over the top.

6. Life Is Short, Use it Well

Cancer attacked Lance Armstrong as a young athlete in the prime of his career.  This should be a reminder that life is short.  We never know when our time will be up. Make every day count. Be thankful for the health you have, enjoy every day, and use it well.

As we leave, check out this inspirational commercial from Nike.


Use today, set your goals, and just do it!

(Last year I wrote about Success Principles from the Tour de France.  Check it out here!)

Written by:
Danny Gamache – The Success Professor

Create wealth with your own business: Visit here!

Posted on July 21st, 2009 by The Success Professor  |  3 Comments »

Entrepreneurship: A Key for Poverty Reduction

Today is blog action day.  All around the world, thousands of blogs will be writing about the same issue – poverty.  There are many ways to combat poverty.  One of the methods that is increasing in importance is microcredit.  Microcredit has come under the world spotlight over the past several years. The United Nations declared 2005 the Year of Microcredit and in 2006, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, considered to be the founder of microcredit, won the Nobel Peace Prize.

What is Microcredit?

Microcredit is the use of small loans to people who are too poor to qualify for standard bank loans. The goal of the loan is to help them move out of poverty by helping them start or expand some form of business known as an income generating activity. The loan is then paid back quickly, generally in one year or less. Payments are made weekly with interest paid as part of those weekly payments. Microcredit caries a natural appeal to people who might be skeptical of traditional methods of international aid because it promotes the idea of a “hand up not a hand out”.

In March of this year I was privileged to take a brief trip to Bangladesh to witness the work of the microcredit division of an organization called Child Development Network.  This was a profound trip that opened my eyes to the issues of global poverty and how microcredit can be used in the fight.

Income Generating Activities – Entrepreneurship

Rickshaw Driver in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Microcredit is all about supporting and developing entrepreneurs.  Loans are made for income generating activities – in other words for small (sometimes very small) businesses.  Some examples from Bangladesh include:

* Rickshaw drivers – one common purchase with a microcredit loan is a rickshaw.  Rickshaws are often used instead of taxis in Bangladesh.  A loan for one rickshaw generally creates two jobs, as the owner will use it for 10-12 hours a day, and then hire an employee to drive it for the remainder of the day.  Enterprising people will turn their profits from their first rickshaw into a second rickshaw that they hire employees for.

Farmer in the slums of Dhaka

Farmer in the slums of Dhaka

* Farmers – in rural areas the farmers are the primary entrepreneurs to benefit from microcredit.  Money is often used for a cow or a bull.  The farmer is able to sell the milk and the calves to create an income, and slowly over time increase their herd.  Even in the slums of

the city entrepreneurs will set up small farms (see photo).

* Small Shops – some entrepreneurs set up small stores with their loans.  These are generally small tin shacks with an open front for customers to come to.  They sell everyday use items such as soap and toothpaste, as well as some basic foodstuffs.

* Fruit and Vegetable stands – similar to the shop owners, some people develop fruit and vegetable stands where they are able to sell fresh produce that has come in to the city from the countryside.

Sewing Shop

Sewing Shop

* Sewing shop – another popular use of microcredit is to purchase a sewing machine and do sewing services for people.  Again, this has the potential to create many jobs as people often will pay off their first sewing machine and use future income to purchase a second machine and start hiring people.

Benefits of using Microcredit

1. Freedom from moneylenders
Microcredit moves the debt out of the hands of moneylenders who charge extremely high rates of interest. These borrowers are not eligible for loans from traditional banks for many reasons. In general, they are not considered to be viable borrowers. Usually, they do not have a suitable form of collateral, many are illiterate, and often the loans are so small that the bank would not make enough profit to cover the costs of completing the paperwork. Because of this, people who are already struggling with severe poverty are forced to go to the money lenders. Much to the surprise of the traditional banks, microcredit organizations tend to have repayment rates around 98%.

2. Creating savings
Many microcredit organizations require beneficiaries to save for the future. Dr. Yunus’ Grameen bank requires that 5% of each loan is saved on a weekly basis in a group fund.  Other organizations save the funds on behalf of the borrowers allowing for the funds to be used only in cases of emergency. Beyond required savings, many microcredit organizations allow borrowers to save at their own initiative. By encouraging people to save for their future they are able to help people prepare for the possibilities of floods, famines or other disasters, as well as saving for future purchases.

3. Empowerment of Women
Another advantage of microcredit is that most loans are made primarily to women. This results in significant empowerment for women in cultures that often have very few rights for women. Empowerment also comes through the relationships that women develop. As women meet weekly with other borrowers they develop relationships that help them both with business growth and other life goals.

4. Providing Other Services
The framework of microcredit provides for the possibility for organizations to provide borrowers with many other services.  The variety of extra services is vast and may include provision of health care and disease prevention, literacy programs, as well as savings and insurance programs. One of the most important services that many microcredit organizations focus on is training. The group approach especially provides opportunity for easy and efficient training whether on business skills, character development.

5. Multiplication of Donations
The donations that are made also have a multiplier effect as the money is often loaned out several times. Each time it is repaid it is loaned out to another beneficiary. This is a big part of what makes it so appealing to donors.  The multiplication effect can be even greater when you consider that more than one job is often started from each loan. As the borrower grows her business, she is able to hire other people increasing the level of employment in the region.

Further, the lending agency should eventually be able to become a self-sustaining enterprise. After an initial period of funding from outside organizations, the lending agency will be able to continue to expand their services to more and more beneficiaries by simply using existing revenues.

6. Poverty Alleviation
Naturally the big benefit of microcredit is that it helps people move out of poverty.  This is a slow and steady process that occurs as borrowers grow their business. As their standard of living increases through their business or other income generating activity the borrowers move past the point of fighting for survival and are able to start dreaming about the future.

It may take a year or two for a borrower to move from $1 a day in income to $2 a day in income. By progressing even in this small way, the borrower is able to substantially improve their life. The goal for borrowers with their extra income is to move to a point where they are not worried on a daily basis about what they will eat. This moves people from a point where they are barely surviving to a point where they are able to start to focus on other goals.  Normally the next goal becomes providing education for their children.

Book Recommendations

Banker for the Poor – Muhammad Yunus – The original book on microcredit, written by the man many consider to be the founder.

A Billion Bootstraps – Thurman and Smith – A thorough book looking at the use of microcredit and related services for poverty alleviation

End of Poverty – Jeffery Sachs – The most important book written in recent years on the topic of poverty

Action Steps

Before blog action day ends today you need to take action.  Here are a few concrete options:

1. Phone your favorite international aid agency and ask them how you can support microcredit through them.

2. Visit to personally loan to an entrepreneur.

3. Sponsor a child through Compassion or World Vision.

Final Comment

Poverty needs to be all of our concerns.  Too often we neglect to care for world wide poverty because it doesn’t hit close to home.  As a Christ-follower, it frustrates me that the Christian church often focuses on secondary (even petty) issues rather than the important work of fighting poverty.  After all Jesus started his ministry with poverty on his heart:

“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. ”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  (Luke 4:16-20).

Written by:
The Success Professor – Danny Gamache
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Posted on October 15th, 2008 by The Success Professor  |  6 Comments »