An Olympic hopeful as driven in his business as on the mat
Wrestler T.C. Dantzler, owner of a million-dollar company, is competing this weekend for a berth on the 2008 US Olympic Team.
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During many late nights that idea became the seed of a 3-year-old company that now employs 23 people, will add six more in July, and has grown to the point that the industry's biggest names have offered to buy it. If all goes as planned, Dantzler hopes to go public with a $30 million enterprise in several years.Skip to next paragraph
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The only impediment to the plan, he says, turned out to be himself.
"At one point, I thought I could do it all myself," he says, at ease in his office in a trim, charcoal gray, pinstripe suit. Even now, after he has taken on a business partner, his schedule appears to be an attempt to find more than 24 hours in a day.
To ensure at least 12 minutes of rest a day, Dantzler sets his alarm for 4:48, allowing him one snooze. He's out the door by 5:30, giving him two hours in the office before returning home to help get his two children ready for school at 7:40. Then there's the day's first practice from 8:30 to 10, some 4-1/2 hours of work after that, followed by his second wrestling practice. He returns home at 8 o'clock to a frontal assault from his kids. "You go home and you get attacked by a 4-year-old because they think that you should have constant energy," Dantzler says.
The remarkable thing, adds wife Tanya, is that he does. "He'll go through these crazy things for us – coming home at night to spend time with us then going back to work at 10 o'clock."
With trials for the Beijing Olympics this weekend, a third child on the way, and plans to adopt a 1-year-old niece who is in foster care, Dantzler's days are getting even shorter. "Now, I know I can't do it all myself, which is why I surround myself with great people," he says.
Business partner helps him manage
As Dantzler's childhood friend, wrestling with and against Dantzler in Chicago clubs since they were 14, Mr. Wyatt understands how to handle a business partner who is often distracted by other matters – such as a lifelong dream of making the Olympics.
It can be an occupational hazard. When Dantzler was at a crucial tournament in Rome last month, a client demanded to talk with him about the result of a background check. Wyatt refused even to tell Dantzler that there was a problem until his matches were over.
"I almost have to play mental gymnastics with him so I don't interrupt his preparation," Wyatt says. In the end, Dantzler finished third and "the client didn't even recognize it as a delay," Wyatt twinkles, "because I'm very good at what I do."
Wyatt may have to keep it up, because Dantzler – in his late 30s and soon to be father of four – refuses to rule out an attempt at the London Games of 2012 – a thought that makes his wife and business partner cringe. But the benefits of working with an aspiring Olympian far outweigh the inconveniences, Wyatt says.
"There have been times I thought we wouldn't be able to get a client, and he turned that around," he adds. "He has the ability to create an opportunity where one didn't exist."
This is where the lessons of wrestling and business overlap. "I've got to see things one move ahead," says Dantzler. "If a guy stops one move, I've got another I can go to.... It's what keeps it so exciting."
The scent of victory
Michelle Roark probably took the advice a bit too literally. When skiing moguls, the sports psychologist said, she should be able to touch, taste, hear, feel, and smell victory. The smell of victory? Ms. Roark was stumped.
Fortunately, she was also a chemical engineer, so she did what any logical Olympian would do: She invented it. So began Phi-nomenal, the perfume company which has Roark cashing in on frequent-flier miles from her ski season to jet to Madagascar in search of the perfect vanilla. Her six fragrances, available online, are poured by hand using only natural ingredients. (Think 600 Bulgarian rose petals in a $78 bottle).
In the off-season, it's 11-hour days, six days a week. But even in winter, after plummeting piston-legged down bumpy pistes, she stays hunched over her concoctions as late as 11 p.m.
To Roark, there's something almost alchemical about her work, adhering to the same phi proportions in her perfumes that Mozart used in his concertos and da Vinci in his artwork.
And the smell of victory? A dash of rose water, a sprinkling of Florida pink grapefruit, and a hint of Italian Bergamot.