A few weeks ago I and two more colleagues from Marble Hill Partners took part in London’s biggest charity bike ride, Prudential RideLondon 2015. An event we had all looked forward to, being keen cyclists. Hours of training and dedication paid off once we all passed the finish line together.

Looking back at this experience and my time spent cycling over the past years it is easy to see there are cross-references between cycling (sport in general) and running a business. Apart from the obvious skills that are developed (leadership, teamwork, competitiveness, determination etc.) cycling has more lessons to teach the business world.

As in any sport the results and crossing the finish-line in good time is what most people pay attention to. Similarly, in business the results and success are what most people see but it’s the day-to-day grind of running a business that determines a firm’s success.

1.       Avoid drag: In cycling air resistance is key. Cyclists’ clothing, bike position and equipment are designed carefully to reduce drag. This mentality can be applied in business. Business processes should be assessed regularly and tested for speed and efficiency.

2.       Change tactics according to circumstances: Although the team will have already planned their race, they need to adapt their tactics as the race unfolds. A team member will be keeping an eye on his teammates as well as feeding back intelligence about how other riders are performing. Similarly, in any market, conditions change rapidly and you have to be ready to adapt. Feedback mechanisms need to be in place to get information into the business.

3.       Deal with the pressure of high expectations: Cycling teams and successful companies depend on individuals consistently achieving the expected. Managing expectations and coping under pressure are vital for both disciplines.

4.       Preparation  is key: Before every race cyclists study their route, their competitors and know what to expect from them. Businesses need to make sure they are prepared for the competition and have a clear direction planned for their organisation.

5.       Performance transparency: Performance is often more transparent in sport than business, so it is easier to monitor improvement. Setting clear performance measures (KPIs) in a business can make monitoring development easier and also make sure that the performance improvement they are striving for is actually occurring.

6.       Putting successful teams together: In sport high emphasis is put on selecting the right people for the team and this should be the case in business. Make sure you spend enough time on getting the right people on the team in the first place.

Nick Kingma, Associate