Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned from Eddie the Eagle

Mar 7, 2019

The snow days that limited vehicle transportation recently in the Puget Sound area provided an excellent opportunity to watch missed movies.  One movie watched in our home in February was Eddie the Eagle (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyzQjVUmIxk).  Entertaining movie with a winter theme and multiple tier positive message.    The multiple tier message in the movie correlates hand in ski glove with my area of professional knowledge & experience, entrepreneurship, as the President & CEO of the oldest business brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest.

Eddie the Eagle is the story of a British man, Michael Edwards, with marginal natural athletic ability who has the lifelong dream of competing in the Olympics.  The movie conveys his efforts from childhood to find a sport that will offer him an opportunity to compete in the Olympic games. Eddie’s effort is never about bringing home the “Gold”, it is simply to qualify for the games as conveyed in the Olympic Creed, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”  The passion portrayed by Mr. Edwards in the story is compelling.

Similar to the desire that fuels athletes to train & compete, many people at a young age catch the entrepreneurial “bug” desiring to create a business model and generate income on their own.  The child ran lemonade stand is an iconic image in America.  The number of people who mowed lawns as a kid to put dollar bills in their jeans is large.  The people who caught this “bug” are the lifeblood of IBA as a mergers & acquisitions firm.  Personal stories that started humbly with one-person business models have often ended up with seven & eight figure equity sale events facilitated successfully by IBA business brokers.

The movie time and again shows “Eddie” Edwards failing.  He fails at sports other than ski jumping.  He “crashes & burns” as a ski jumper ending up battered, bruised, and in the hospital.  Failure is part of the learning process and a necessary step in achievement in sports or business.  Bill Gates & Paul Allen created Traf-O-Data, a company that processed and analyzed information from roadway traffic counters and generated reports for traffic engineers. The company failed.  They then created Microsoft. Their success with that venture is legendary.

Michael Edwards identified a pathway to the Olympics for himself as a ski jumper by selecting a sport to compete in at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics that no one had competed in for England since 1928.  Similarly, the road to success as an entrepreneur is often found by blazing a new path with a new product or service or reinventing an existing product or service in a new way.  There was no Facebook before Facebook.  Mark Zuckerberg had the vision & ability to create a virtual product that society has embraced.  Howard Schultz recreated coffee, a kitchen table & restaurant staple for countless generations.  Today, the name Starbucks is synonymous with coffee.

“Eddie the Eagle” faced infrastructure obstacles beyond his control that stood between him & his dream including when the English Olympic Committee changed the rules to qualify for the Olympics and be a member of the 1988 Calgary Olympic team from Great Britain.  Mr. Edwards did not give up in this situation.  He “rolled up his sleeves” and went to work finding a new pathway to the Olympic games around the rule change.  A changing government landscape in terms of laws, regulations, and codes is a common barrier to success for entrepreneurs.  Earlier this month I met with a cannabis industry entrepreneur who was winning the market share battle in her community as one of two licensed retail shops.  The municipality decided to issue a third retail license in the city in 2018.  This decision did not increase the dollars being spent on cannabis in the city, it simply recut the pie in three slices instead of two.  This entrepreneur did not quit.  She innovated, adapted, and competed.  Failure was not an option for “Eddie the Eagle” or this entrepreneur in a new, evolving industry.

Another message provided by the movie was that rewards are relative.  Michael Edwards did not go to the Olympics to win “Gold”.  He went to compete and be part of the experience.  I often convey to entrepreneurs that their success or failure as an entrepreneur should not be judged by the value they receive when they exit the business, but through evaluation of the whole project.  The rewards of entrepreneurship can be financial.  They can also be independence, control, and lifestyle.

A final message conveyed in “Eddie the Eagle” was that a smart person asks for help from someone with more experience, knowledge, and ability.  Michael Edwards found himself a coach in Germany and the coach facilitated the achievement of his goal to be an Olympian.  The successful sale of a business is a sophisticated, nuanced process requiring significant knowledge, experience, and ability.   IBA has successfully helped over 4000 business owners succeed with the sale of their companies over the last 44 years.  No other mergers & acquisitions intermediary firm has coached more business owners to a successful outcome in the Pacific Northwest.   If you own a business and are considering a sale, we would welcome the opportunity to provide an overview of the services we offer our clients.  100% of IBA’s fees are paid upon completion of the transaction.  Just like Michael Edward’s coach’s success could not be recognized until “Eddie the Eagle” planted his landing on the 90 meter ski jump, the business brokerage team at IBA does not consider themselves successful until the sales agreement is executed and the money wired into our client’s account.

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, and mergers & acquisitions community on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses. IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.