I am a bit of a cycling fan. I love nothing more than getting on my road bike at the weekend and cycling through the city. And each year the Tour de France is firmly in my calendar as the thing to watch.
But it isn’t just my love for the sport that inspired me to write this blog, there are actually a lot of business credentials that can be learnt from cycling and this epic three week competition.
Each team in the tour has nine people, all with different strengths working towards one common goal. Normally to get the team lead over the line first (or within a certain time). The teams train together for months on end to know the strengths of the individuals and how they can play to each of these. When one team member starts to flag, another takes the helm and drives the group forward, all the time fending off the other teams.
Business lesson: We all know it is essential for successful business to have a strong team in place, but a team doesn’t work unless you have great team players. Get to know your team and where your individual strengths and weaknesses lie, harness those strengths and help out when those weaknesses show. In business we are also all working towards a common goal – whether that be to get more customers, or get that sale we all want the same thing. So work together and you will get their much quicker than if you go it alone. The breakaway in cycling rarely makes it to the finish line without the peloton catching up with them.
Within each cycling team there is a leader – the main focus for the tour and what the team’s strategy is derived around. The leader is often protected throughout the main cycle route by his team who push themselves to the limit to make sure the leader can achieve his goals. The leader also is the one who encourages and drives his team. Mark Cavendish is an excellent leader and it was always demonstrated especially when he cycled with HTC, he always commented on his team, that it was a team effort and that he couldn’t do it alone, because he couldn’t – because none of us can.
Business lesson: Leadership is important in business. We need to know where we are going and how we are going to get there. It is important that your leader knows how to pull on the strengths of the team when needed and congratulates when necessary too. Keep your team motivated and working towards success.
Behind each of the teams is a strategy before the tour begins, and before in fact training. It is what they have been training months for – whether that is the overall yellow jersey, or the pokka dot king of the mountains – the teams select the riders that have the strengths that fit their strategy. It would be fair to say that team Sky’s strategy last year and this year is the yellow jersey so they select the team that can produce that. This year the course is very mountainous, so the team has been selected based on climbers, not sprinters.
Business lesson: Thinking about what you want to achieve as a business and making sure you have the right people in place to deliver that is key. If you need more on the ground staff doing the work – get them. If you need more strategy and direction – get those people. Looking at your strategy and your team is essential to make sure you have everything in place to achieve your goals.
This theme has run throughout the main categories – knowing the strengths of the team through its individuals is important. Knowing where a team’s strengths lie is the key to a successful tour. For example, Cannondale’s strengths lie in its leader, Peter Sagan. As he is a sprinter, it makes sense that the team works towards the green jersey. Similarly, the Europcar team always go for the king of the mountains as they are a team of climbers. Their strengths lie in being able to break away up a steep hill when everyone else’s legs have turned to treacle.
Business lesson: Identifying your strengths early on means you have more chance of success. Knowing what you and your team are good at means you can push forward and break away from the crowd when they are stuck with all the noise. Do something different that sets you apart. It is important to play to your strengths and harness that, but don’t forget to have a few secrets locked away so that every so often you can bust open and surprise everyone.
So there you have it, how the tour can help you improve your business. What do you think, can we take lessons from sport and apply them to business, or do you think that in reality it doesn’t work? Share your thoughts below, we would love to hear what you think.