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Tour de Business like Tour de France

A few of my friends and I enjoy road cycling. Almost every Saturday we get together and put in 45-55 miles over 3 hours or so. Naturally, we track Tour de France, one of the most grueling road bike competitions where the riders put in 21 rides/stages over a 23-day period. Each ride can last from 3.5 hours to 5 hours or more with an average distance of 100 to 120 miles. A couple of days of such pace might be alright, if you ride, but riding 21 days with only 2 days of break is just insane and respectable to say the least!

To win in Tour de France, there must be a single rider who performs all 21 stages in the cumulatively least amount of time. At every stage completion the total rider’s time gets added up to determine the rider with the least amount. The best performing rider gets a Yellow Jersey, which marks an overall champion of the competition through the most current stage. Yellow Jersey can change hands a few times throughout the race.

“Business and running operations are like the grind of Tour de France. Yes, we get more breaks, but ultimately the business never sleeps and there are other teams and riders competing for your customers and clients every days and every hour."

Now why would I write about Tour de France? A common strategy to win the race is identify the strongest rider and have his other 7 teammates help him win the stages by letting him draft behind them most of the way until the end where the strongest rider of one team competes for the Yellow Jersey with the strongest riders of other teams. The systematic approach of the teamwork and other riders supporting their champion is not that far off a typical corporate structure including VPs and Managers and other staff members helping the CEO to execute.

Although there’s a specific champion who gets to ring a bell on the stock exchange after an IPO or gets on cover of a magazine, that person wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for his team’s work and execution. Also, because of how co-dependent the riders are on one another, a small deviation or misreading of a road-turn can lead to a disastrous fall and other teams leaving you behind in dust. Similarly, business partners and colleagues supporting the CEO have an immense impact on their leader’s and therefore team’s success.

This is why we hear that investors fund teams and not ideas or that there can’t be two captains navigating the same ship, or a team is as strong as its weakest link.

Business and running operations are like the grind of the Tour de France. Yes, we get more breaks, but ultimately the business never sleeps and there are other teams and riders competing for your customers and clients every day and every hour.

The moral of the story is never forgetting your employees who are your teammates and partners carrying you to your Yellow Jersey and winning the championship.

One of my recent observations of great teamwork comes from a company I recently visited with. The management empowered their employees by clearly explaining how their performance impacts the business’ success. It was done through training, branding and clear communication as well as listening to their people’s needs and matching them to the right projects. Some of the branding techniques were accomplished by doing an office make-over to give their employees a sense of pride and a comfortable place to work. From wall colors to personalized signage and photographs to semi-private booths - all that gave them a sense of comfort and belonginess and pride. This resulted in improved morale, performance and an overall stronger and more competitive business.


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