What entrepreneurs can learn from the Special Olympics

Hard work and perseverance never goes to waste, writes Manar Al Hinai

UAE athletes compete in a basketball event at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi. It's only by giving it your all that dreams can come alive. Antonie Robertson/The National
UAE athletes compete in a basketball event at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi. It's only by giving it your all that dreams can come alive. Antonie Robertson/The National

On Thursday, I was among the crowd at the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest sports and humanitarian event this year. More than 7,000 athletes from 190 countries are gathered in the UAE's capital this week to compete across 24 sports.

I was overwhelmed by a sense of pride to have such a distinguished event hosted for the first time in the Arab world. I remember sitting in the office of Maryam Eid AlMheiri, the chief executive of Media Zone Authority for Abu Dhabi and twofour54, almost two years ago, as she passionately spoke about the preparations for the event and how proud she was about it.

More than 20,000 volunteers, 40 per cent of which are Emiratis, registered for the event. The volunteer programme is also the largest in the country, which will set an unprecedented standard for all future events in the country.

The World Games in Abu Dhabi shows us that with perseverance, determination and passion, any goal is attainable. As entrepreneurs, we are often overcome with an urge to quit our business when things get tough. We often wonder how long we should wait to see results. Are we wasting our time? Would it be better to do something else? Just as we try to overcome pain with painkillers when we get sick, we sometimes feel that quitting may be the remedy for the dilemma we’re facing.

In the early stages of my latest business venture last year, my business partner and I were under a great deal of stress, which left us feeling discouraged. Growing our business felt like a lost cause. We were stuck in a rut, feeling as though we had failed, wasted our money and should give up on our idea. It’s not a pleasant feeling to see a business idea, that dream, fail spectacularly, and at the time it appeared there was nothing we could do about it.

Then one night at the end of last year, we decided that we would give it 100 per cent, for a couple of months. If it didn’t work out, then we were going to give up and accept the situation. That way, we would leave no room for regret later, or wonder how things would have turned out if we had put in more effort.

I recall how we geared up, working on our venture in a way we had never done before. It involved sleepless nights, lots of product revision and countless quality checks. We didn’t accept anything unless it was 100 per cent. We went back, reviewed our product, slept on it, and then reviewed it again until we were satisfied.

In those two months, we dedicated so much energy and passion into our business that the outstanding results surpassed our expectations and presented a business opportunity for growth. It made up for all those lost and “failed” moments in the past.

This, like the dedication and determination invested into bringing the Special Olympics to the UAE and the Arab world, proves that hard work and effort never goes to waste. As entrepreneurs, we must strongly believe that it's only with perseverance and giving it our all that we can make our dreams come to life.

This brings to mind the famous American author Stephen King, whose first novel was rejected 30 times. Despite the setback, he kept working on it until he wrote the hugely successful Carrie. Since then, much of his work has been adapted into movies and inspired a generation of aspiring writers.

Last week, my business partner and I met over dinner and reflected on the great performance of our venture so far this year. We wondered how things would have turned out had we not persevered and given it our all. We certainly would not be where we are today if we had not decided to turn our situation around.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi

Published: March 17, 2019 11:06 AM


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