Five business lessons from skateboarding

"Blood, sweat and tears are critical for mastering skateboarding," says Zach Olson. "The same goes for the early days of launching a company." 

By Taylor Ovalle

Backside and frontside 180s and kickflips have been integral to Zach Olson’s life since he was a teenager. Even today, as a successful entrepreneur, you can find him at the skateboard park when he’s not helping clients adopt the innovative technology he helped develop.

The former skate shop owner, serial entrepreneur and one-time founder and CEO of tech-based Bookly is now a managing director at KPMG, leading KPMG Spark, a service that is based on the firm’s acquisition of Bookly’s technology. 

Zach Olson’s five skateboarding lessons for business success:


1.    Imagination – you have to be very creative in skateboarding, and, similarly, creative in business about your approach to problem solving.

2.    Perseverance – blood, sweat, and tears are critical for mastering skateboarding. The same goes for the early days of launching a company and finding your product/market fit.

3.    Team – there are so many high performers in skateboarding who can help take you and your craft to the next level. In business, it’s critical to line up the right investors and build a strong operational team.

4.    Passion – the moment you lose passion for skateboarding, you risk injury and it becomes a chore. So, too, when business becomes all about process is when things become stagnant.

5.    Disrupt status quo – to push the limits of skateboarding you have to constantly try new things and explore the unknown. With tech prevalent across all industries, you must constantly look for opportunities to apply an unconventional solution to an industry.

“I started originally to disrupt companies like KPMG, but I later discovered that we have more in common than I ever thought. Like the way we think about the future,” Olson said. “We share the realization that in order for KPMG to stay on top, we need to think about using tech for better results and better client relationships. It’s all about driving the future forward and that’s what we are both after.”

And that drive toward the forward is what led to the recently launched KPMG Spark – a new software-enabled accounting service that is delivering real-time bookkeeping, tax preparation and payroll facilitation designed to help small and mid-sized businesses, startups and non-profits comply more easily with a host of bookkeeping and reporting requirements, including last year’s U.S. tax reform legislation.

KPMG Spark blends newer technologies and “human in the loop” personalized service. The service’s solutions are appropriate for a range of enterprises, from small and closely held businesses and private companies to family offices, venture-backed startups and exempt organizations.

“KPMG Spark and its solutions are focused on giving business owners the tools they need to gain back the time they’re spending on finance management so that they can pursue their passions and grow their businesses,” Olson said. “We have a vision for leveraging technology to disrupt the old way of doing things and bring greater value to businesses and their owners.”

Some or all of the services described herein may not be permissible for KPMG audit clients and their affiliates or related entities.

Taylor Ovalle

Taylor Ovalle

Manager, Corporate Communications, KPMG US

+1 201-307-8279

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Zach Olson

Zach Olson

Managing Director, KPMG Spark

+1 855-777-7696