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Eugene Amo-Dadzie: Lessons from the world’s fastest accountantby
Eugene Amo-Dadzie, the world’s fastest accountant, tells Neil Cutting how he used his skills in metrics and data to drive his performance on the running track.
Eugene Amo-Dadzie is the fourth fastest Britain ever, the tenth fastest European and the 79th fastest person of all time – and a chartered accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
The sprinter smashed the “Born Dull?!” accountant stereotype in June when he broke the ten-second barrier for 100m for the first time. He then went on to reach the final of the British Championships in July.
It’s incredible then that the 31-year-old only took up athletics when he was 26. And he did this while working full time as a senior management accountant. So when he’s not on the track training for his next competition, he’s behind a spreadsheet at Berkeley Group plc, where he’s providing management information for board reporting and working closely with directors on the commercial part of the business.
Amo-Dadzie started his career at a small firm in Piccadilly circus before moving to Grant Thornton. Track and field was never something he imagined he was going to end up doing. As he went down the accounting route and qualified as a chartered accountant, he was just playing football and going to the gym as recreational pursuits.
Assess the gaps
But when he started to take athletics seriously, he applied the same processes and analysis you would expect from an accountant to transform his performance and become the world’s fastest accountant.
For the first two years of training, his personal best (PB) for the 100m was 10.55 seconds. This put him around the top 60 in the country, but his coach felt he was capable of running it in 10.2 seconds.
“I realised that if I wanted to run as fast as [the athletes ahead of me], I needed a setup that mirrored what those guys had,” he said. This meant a dedicated strength and conditioning coach, dedicated weekly therapy contacts (such as soft tissue massage, acupuncture and so on), consultations with a sports doctor to discuss supplementation and nutrition.
He was training as if he was already operating at the level of someone running 100m in 10.2 seconds. Amo-Dadzie was familiar with this approach from navigating the travails of accountancy.
“It’s similar to when you want a promotion at work,” he said. “They set out the expectations of that role and even though you’re not in that role, they want to see you displaying those qualities and those skills in the role you’re currently in, which then gives them the confidence and evidence that you can step into the role and do a good job.”
So in this scenario, he said he was trying to promote himself to 10.2 seconds but he was operating at a 10.5 seconds level. “I wasn’t showing those skills, he said. “I wasn’t doing the same things that they were doing.”
Then getting even more technical, he was tracking the number of steps other sprinters take to run the 100m sprint. He said on average most sprinters take 44 or 45 steps to complete the race but before he moved to his current coach he was doing the 100m sprint in around 48 or 49 steps, and that many steps was putting him at a disadvantage.
But he realised that with the right coaching and strength work, he could improve his stride length and decrease the number of steps to 44 or 45.
Meeting the desired state
The way Amo-Dadzie described his approach is similar to someone looking to become a CFO or a director: they look at what’s needed in the role and how those people already in post operate, and then they break down their career goal into milestones.
“I always say that I’m not a results-orientated type of guy. I’m a process guy,” he said. “If you get your process right you give yourself the opportunity to do great things.”
He started by questioning how he could improve his process and go on to improve his personal best of 10.55 seconds to 10.2 seconds. Once he got there, he repeated the process – his next goal was 10.0 seconds, and then he set his sights on sub-10 seconds.
The blink of an eye is between 0.1 and 0.4 seconds – that is what he is trying to achieve.
If you get your process right you give yourself the opportunity to do great things
“The possibility is that every step of the way, it was very much building up my team and my environment to achieve that particular level, and then ‘Okay, how can we take it to the next level?’”
Looking at Amo-Dadzie’s success through the finance transformation lens, each stage is focused on mini goals (a desired state), and it’s achieved through the process of constant evaluation and continuous improvement.
Unsurprisingly, data and analytics feed into Amo-Dadzie’s performance. He shared the examples of measuring the speed of moving the bar when lifting weights to measuring his stride length and managing the intensity of training sessions.
Regarding the latter, he said one of the data points they monitor as part of the improvement process is checking his ‘freshness score’. His coach will ask him out of 10 how he is feeling in terms of energy.
“The reason why they're doing that is because they want to, they want to be able to judge how the training programme is impacting how I feel each day and week as necessary. Because if I come in, and at the start of the week, I’m saying, I feel like a 10 or a nine but by the end of the week, I’m saying I’m feeling like a two, they probably know they’ve pushed it a bit too much,” he said.
The stress score is relevant in a work environment too. It can be applied to the classic finance person who is burned out due to working too many late nights trying to get the accounts closed. You can’t do that every day and management who don’t take it seriously end up seeing people leaving.
When it came to his transformation from chartered accountant to Team GB athlete, Amo-Dadzie agreed that mindset is everything.
He said he’s had “various naysayers” throughout his career. He recalled when he ran 9.93 seconds in Austria and his achievement was met with scepticism from some people. However, he silenced his critics when he backed up his success at the World Championships.
“I think the mental side is huge,” he said. “The higher you go, you realise the difference [between competitors] really is just management of the mental side in sport.”
That’s why one of his general principles is: “We need to autograph everything we do with excellence.”
He continued: “When I’m training, I train with race intensities. You’ve got to make every single moment count; you’ve got to make every rep count and every lift in the gym count, because that’s where you put in the hard yards.
“When you get to the field of play in the arena – the tracks – that’s where I can express myself and have a little fun. Why? Because I’ve already put myself through those hard yards.”
He added that with everything he does, even if it’s submaximal running, the way he approaches it, and the mindset he has, is the same as if he’s racing. “I very much think to myself: ‘I’ve got to make every single rep count – I’ve got to have that same intensity in the training space.’”
So when Amo-Dadzie sets foot on the track this mindset is ingrained in his nature. “I don’t have to think about it. It’s almost like I’m on autopilot when I’m on the field of play. I hear the gun and my body knows exactly what to do because I’ve already put the work in in the training.”
He said this same mindset and self-belief can be applied in the finance arena too. “Every single task, whatever space it’s in, whether you’re in a corporate world or in track and field, is an opportunity to impress. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your talent, your skill and your ability.
“If you’re going through the motions, you’re selling yourself short. You aren’t putting your best foot forward, and you’re not giving yourself the best opportunity to excel. Every time I step on the track, it’s an opportunity to show my coach that I am improving and able to reach my potential.”
Extending this to the work environment, he said some people may hold back because they feel like they’re making somebody else wealthy or they’re getting no personal benefit from a task. But he disagreed with this thinking.
“I think people sell themselves short because if what you do improves the bottom line of your company, there is also something to be gained for you, too. You’re gaining experience, you’re gaining something that you can leverage and utilise, whether it’s in that company, or if you move on to a different company or you launch your own.”
Whatever it may be, your mindset should always be: how is [this task] going to make me better?
He added: “Whatever it may be, your mindset should always be: how is [this task] going to make me better? How is it going to make me improve? And what am I going to get from this?”
He said the result is almost irrelevant. “You’ve just got to fall in love with the journey and the process, and understand that it’s not about this big achievement at the end of it. It’s more about personal development and becoming your truest self.”
Measure and manage
Asked how he tracks the metrics behind his sprinting success, Amo-Dadzie showed that he’s an accountant to his core – he uses an Excel spreadsheet.
The accountant’s much-used tool comes in useful in tracking his top 10 average. This is his preferred performance metric to measure his progress from season to season, rather than focusing on his stand-out times. So while his personal best is sub-10 seconds, the metric he obsesses over is his top 10 average of 10.16 seconds.
“Being an accountant, I like seeing the numbers and the progression. Sometimes I’ll take all the figures and visualise them on a chart, just so I can see the upward trajectory from when I started the sport.”
Evaluate and improve
In evaluating his success, Amo-Dadzie reflected that one of the biggest limiting factors is our mindsets and subscribing to what other people think. “Steve Cram, the British distance legend, made the assumption that I was at the back end of my career because I was 27 when I arrived at the British Championships, but fast forward to the 2023 World Championships and he was calling me the flying accountant!”
When faced with misconceptions about his age, the sprinter reminds people that we all have access to the biggest room in the world – the room for improvement. “It’s never too late to achieve. So long as we have breath in our lungs, it’s possible,” he said.
“I’m a man of faith. So I believe God’s given me this talent for a reason. And it’s for me to take care of what I can control. The rest is above me. I don’t want to go to the ground with unspent potential. I came into the world with something and I just want to completely spend that while I’m here.”
Many readers are probably wondering where Amo-Dadzie finds the time. Life as an accountant is busy enough, whether you’re spinning plates in practice doing compliance and advisory work or if you’re juggling forecasting and budgeting in industry.
However, Amo-Dadzie revealed that his ability to compartmentalise his life has enabled him to achieve high performance in work and on the track, comparing his situation to being in a massive bathtub with a number of different taps.
Flowing into that bathtub are the family tap, the corporate tap, the working tap, the athletics tap and the tap as a governor of a primary school. He said that all these taps are running at the same time and at different intensities. The accounting sprinter described his approach as, “managing the bathtub so it doesn’t overflow”.
“I’m a qualified chartered accountant and I’m one of the fastest men that’s graced this country, and I’ve been able to do that by the grace of God, but also by being super organised, and being able to compartmentalise my life.
“Everybody wants the end result and these big achievements, but I always say the best place to start is nailing the fundamentals in your field. Get really, really good at doing those things and I guarantee you, that’s an unbelievable platform to then build and become the best version of yourself.”
You can vote for Eugene Amo-Dadzie to be Athletics Weekly's best male athlete of 2023.
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Neil Cutting is a transformation director at Oracle. Over the course of his career, he has held many CFO and transformation leadership roles with complex global organisations.
Most recently he was vice-president of finance at Jacobs Solutions Incorporated, a $15bn Fortune 250 organisation. He is also a member of ICAEW’s Business Committee...