What do top sportspeople and entrepreneurs have in common?

port and business might be two separate realms, but in fact it takes many of the same characteristics to rise to the top in both of these arenas. I’ve been thinking about this lately and, from the late, great boxer Muhammad Ali to high-profile entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, there are a few things these people tend to have in common.


An insatiable hunger for success

What separates a decent sportsperson from a true icon? There are, of course, a lot of factors that feed into this, but one of the things that propels the big sporting names to the very top and keeps them there is an insatiable hunger for success.

When these people win a trophy or break a record, they don’t sit back and think their work is done. Instead, their triumphs fuel their desire to enjoy future successes. From Serena Williams’ staggering seven Wimbledon championship wins to Chris Hoy’s 11 world championship victories and six Olympic golds, the brightest stars in the sporting world strive to continually improve themselves and achieve their next goal.

The same can be said for leading business stars. Take Virgin founder Richard Branson. There are now over 100 Virgin companies globally and the group employs around 60,000 people. Meanwhile, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg grew the social network from a small directory for his fellow Harvard students into a global phenomenon that has helped him amass a fortune. People like this aren’t content to sit back in the knowledge they have achieved ‘enough’. Their drive and passion always keeps them reaching higher.


A tough work ethic

A tough work ethic is a must in both the sporting and the business worlds. While lots of people would love to cross the finish line in first position or land lucrative contracts, it takes a certain kind of individual to actually put in the hard graft required to turn these dreams into reality.

For sportspeople, this could involve spending long hours in the gym or on the training field pushing their bodies to the limit. For entrepreneurs, it could mean working around the clock to set up and keep their companies on track.

As well as the mental and physical strain, this often means making sacrifices like cutting down on holidays and time with friends at the pub, but I have always tried to set aside family time, no matter how hectic work gets.


A passion for what they do


Because of the level of commitment needed to get to the top, passion is an essential part of the mix in both sport and business. The best athletes and entrepreneurs have a zeal for what they do and this helps to sustain them when things get tough. Having a genuine enthusiasm for their sport or business keeps them motivated to keep doing what they’re doing day after day.

The fact is, in both of these spheres, high profile successes are only a small part of the story. The on-going reality is hard work, much of which goes unnoticed. In many cases, it’s unwavering passion that enables people to keep this up.


Founder and chairman of The Cobra Group of Companies, Chris Niarchos knows what it takes to achieve success as an entrepreneur. He set up his first direct sales company at the age of 22 with the goal of building it into an international sales and marketing company. Appco Group, which is the sales and marketing subsidiary of the Cobra Group, now operates in 25 countries around the world.

How ParalympicsGB embody the principle ‘Be Something More’

Recently, tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of Manchester and London to watch parades celebrating the extraordinary achievements of Team GB’s Olympic and Paralympic stars.


These events came just weeks after ParalympicsGB recorded their best-ever performance. They ended the competition in Rio with an impressive 147 medals, which was 27 more than they picked up in London four years earlier and 26 above the target set for them by UK Sport.

What really astounds me about this feat is the adversity that many of the competitors have overcome in their lives to reach the top in their respective sports. To me, this embodies the principle of ‘Be Something More’, which is something I base my working and personal life on.

Amazing stories

One of the biggest names in ParalympicsGB is Dame Sarah Storey. The most successful Paralympian in the modern era, she won three gold medals at the Rio games, taking her career total to an incredible 14 Paralympic golds.


Born without a functioning left hand, Storey refused to let this stop her from achieving great things. Starting her sporting career as a swimmer, her first foray into high-profile competition was the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, when at the age of just 14 she took the podium top spot a staggering five times.


In 2005, ear infections forced her to stop swimming, but rather than retiring from sport, she switched to cycling to keep her fitness levels up. She has since achieved huge things on the track and the road. She was even the first para-cyclist to compete for England against able-bodied athletes at the Commonwealth Games.

Fellow Paralympian Kadeena Cox has another inspirational story. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Always a keen sprinter, she continued training despite her condition and in Rio she earned herself a gold medal in the 400 metres on the athletics track. She also secured the top position in the 500-metre time trial in the velodrome.

Like Storey and Cox, all of the people who competed at the Rio Paralympics have refused to let physical challenges and health issues stop them from achieving success.

Success means stretching yourself and overcoming obstacles

The perseverance and determination that these athletes have shown is a perfect example of the Be Something More principle. As you’ll know if you’ve read my previous blogs, this idea is extremely important to me.


Having first seen the slogan on a poster my mum bought for me as a child, it’s a motto I’ve tried to live by ever since. It’s about stretching yourself to do something worthwhile with your life rather than just going through the motions.

Hearing about the bravery and commitment of the ParalympicsGB team just drives home the importance of this message.

As founder and chairman of Appco Group, Chris Niarchos has adopted the Be Something More phrase as his company motto. He continually strives for excellence and helps others around him to do the same.