Tag Archive for 'Tour de France'

Finding success in the Tour de France and small business

If it’s July, one of the most amazing athletic competitions in the world is being staged. Since 1903, the Tour de France has been the pinnacle of professional bicycle races, and arguably the most grueling of all sporting competitions.

Contested over 23 days, with the 21 stages averaging more than 110 miles each, there are only two days rest in the middle. These super-athletes from all over the world navigate diverse road conditions, rain, wind, heat and legendary mountain ranges - no less than the Alps and Pyrenees - that God surely made for us to ski down, not pedal up.

If the sun’s coming up on Main Street, millions of small business owners also mount one of the most grueling competitions in the business world merely by opening up. Against all odds, they start, run and grow their operations in conditions few corporate America CEOs would be willing to face. But unlike the Tour de France, small business owners run their race every day of the year.

Combining my admiration for both of these types of super-humans, I’ve identified four required elements to be successful competing in the Tour de France or in the marketplace.

1. Teamwork
Tour participants are part of a couple dozen sponsored teams of about 25 members, each have individual roles to play. Some members are supportive non-riders and some are riders whose primary role is to protect and push their leader. But all work together to meet team performance goals, including getting their leader on the podium at the end of the day or the end of the race. Sounds a lot like a small business, doesn’t it?

Since every day in a small business can be like a mountain stage on the Tour-grueling assaults on impossible peaks and dangerous descents into the valleys-success requires the ability to motivate your team to work together effectively. And a smart leader knows that sustaining successful teamwork requires sharing the recognition, so the team doesn’t mind if you’re the one on the podium.

2. Communication
Competing in the Tour is like running 21 marathons in 23 days while simultaneously playing a 3D chess match. Effective communication between team members is critical so each can deliver their unique contribution to the overall strategy at the appropriate time.

Even the best small business strategy in the world must be communicated to the team in ways that inform, coordinate, motivate, foster engagement and result in success. And the customers and competition combine to create the 3D degree of difficulty.

3. Preparation
All you have to do is watch a Tour de France cyclist in an “above category” mountain stage to see successful preparation. These guys have turned their bodies into human spring steel as they become one with their bikes.

The small business equivalent is to operate your business at the highest professional level possible, at all times. One major differentiator of professional organizations is their commitment to investing time and resources - this means budgeting both - for education, training and practice for all team members.

4. Technology
Tour de France teams leverage technology at every point of the competition, including high-tech bikes, customized chase vehicles, on-course communication tools, etc.

In the 21st century, every small business has to apply technology at essentially every level of its operation. The good news is the barrier to entry has never been lower to extremely powerful technology in the incremental portions small businesses can use, and affordable prices they can afford. Small business Luddites become Troglodytes.

Out here on Main Street, if you don’t develop a high-functioning team, communicate well, achieve a high level of preparation and maximize technology, you will be irrelevant.

Or, as they say on the Tour, you’ll be “off the back.”

Write this on a rock … Customers will tell you about their changing expectations - let them.

What the Tour de France and small business have in common

With 21 stages ridden over 23 days-some almost 150 miles long-navigating cobblestones, assaulting at least two mountain ranges and dealing with thousands of over-enthusiastic crowds, the Tour de France bicycle race is arguably the most grueling of all sporting competitions.

Here are four reasons why competing in the Tour is like running a small business.

1. Team structure
Tour participants are part of 22 sponsored teams of about 25 members, and each have individual roles to play. Some members are supportive non-riders and some are riders whose primary role is to protect and push their leader. But all work together to meet team performance goals, including getting their leader on the podium at the end of the day or the end of the race. Sounds a lot like a small business, doesn’t it?

Since every day in a small business can be like a mountain stage on the Tour-peaks and valleys-success requires the ability to motivate your team to work together effectively. A smart leader knows that sustaining successful teamwork requires sharing the recognition so the team doesn’t mind if you’re the one on the podium.

2. Communication
Competing in the Tour is like running 21 marathons in 23 days while simultaneously playing a chess match. So each team member has to understand his role in the overall strategy.

Even if you have the best business strategy in the world it must be communicated to your small business team so every member understands their role in the organization’s plan to achieve success.

3. Preparation
All you have to do is watch a Tour de France cyclist in a mountain stage to see successful preparation. These guys have turned their bodies into human spring steel as they become one with their bikes.

The small business equivalent is to learn as much as you can about operating your business, your industry, the competition, and especially, your customers. Since your team also needs to know these things, prepare them by investing in training and practice.

4. Technology
Tour de France teams certainly leverage technology, including high-tech bikes, customized chase vehicles, on-course communication tools, etc.

One of the keys to success for small businesses in the 21st century is leveraging technology.  If you want to stand in the winner’s circle you MUST find ways to use technology to make existing systems more efficient as well as help you take advantage of new opportunities.

Write this on a rock … Small businesses can learn a lot from the Tour de France teams.

Social media and the Tour de France

The 99th Tour de France is underway as the pinnacle of bicycle races. Small businesses can learn a lot from how Tour teams execute their strategy.

Perhaps you’ve seen a Tour competitor “breakaway” and leave behind the peloton (the biggest bunch of riders). Whereupon one of the commentators will say, “Someone better chase him down,” before he gets out of sight and glides across the finish line unchallenged.

But the “chasing down” only happens once it’s clear that the breakaway has the “legs” and isn’t going to fizzle back into the pack. Making a countermove on an ill-advised dash just wastes energy.

Whenever something new comes to the marketplace, our response should be to determine if the shiny new object has legs, or is an ill-fated breakaway. Wise managers don’t chase down fads.

Three years ago, I predicted that while social media might be a craze, it is not a fad. This means when the dust settles on the hype about new rules, we will be left with something more intuitive to a business than the unfortunate term “social media” – productive and powerful new tools.

These tools are powerful because they help small businesses create online customer communities. And they’re productive because anyone can use them without spending a lot of precious capital.

We wanted to know where our small business audience was on keeping social media breakaway leaders in sight, so recently we asked this question:

“How much of a commitment has your business made toward a social media strategy?” Here’s what we learned:

Only 13% of our respondents said, “We have a social media strategy and it’s working.” Almost four of ten said, “We have a social media strategy, but not sure if it’s working,” while 31% said they want a social media strategy, “but can’t seem to make it happen.” And one-fifth of our sample said, “We’re doing nothing with social media on purpose.”

Every day that goes by, qualified prospects will increasingly come from online activity – including communities you build and join – and less from traditional prospecting methods.

The good news is you don’t have to win the social media race, but you do have to participate. And like almost half of our survey respondents, you must keep the leaders in sight.

If, like the other half of our survey, you’re struggling with a social media strategy, hire a 20-something to help you.

You don’t have to win the social media race, but you have to keep the winners in sight.

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Recently on The Small Business Advocate Show I talked more about what small business can learn from the Tour de France about social media.

I also spoke with Dan Burrus, one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists and Technotrends, about how to integrate social into your media strategy. Click on one of the links below to download or listen to our conversations.

What we can learn about social media from the Tour de France

Social has become much more than media

Make sure your media strategy integrates all the options

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Small business, social media and the Tour de France

The 96th Tour de France will be staged soon to determine the greatest cyclist of the year. Competitive cycling is a lot like being a small business owner: You have to sprint when necessary and grind out mountains of endurance all the other times.

Regularly, a Tour competitor will “break away” into the lead and leave the peloton (the biggest bunch of riders) behind. Whereupon one of the TV commentators will say, “Someone better chase him down,” so he doesn’t get too far ahead and glide across the finish line unchallenged. But the “chasing down” only happens once it’s clear that the break-away has the “legs” and isn’t going to fizzle and fade back into the pack. To make the move too quickly would waste energy resources on someone else’s ill-advised dash.

Whenever something is new, trendy and/or unproven in the marketplace, there is often a lot of hype about it as the next greatest thing, not unlike the early stage of a break-away. Wise small business owners are not easily pulled into chasing down these fads because the return on investment has not been proven. The social media craze has been one such example – until now.

Reasonable people can disagree as to the relative value of social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, just to name a few. And I’m on record saying that in a few years, we won’t talk much about these brands. But we will still do what these sites have helped create: build online communities; and for a business: build online customer communities – a term I prefer to social media.

So, if you’re one of the many skeptics of the value of social media, your reaction may have been to not participate. But it’s now time to realize that this guy has legs. Let me say this one more time: Social media may be a craze, but it’s not a fad.

Even if you don’t yet have a social media strategy, even if you don’t know how to create value for your company, even if you still think it’s just silly, you must now think like a member of that Tour de France peloton: You can’t let the break-away leaders get too far ahead, or you’ll lose sight of them.

Start chasing down the leaders by opening a Twitter account and spend only a few minutes there once a day; post your profile on Facebook and learn how the inhabitants of this universe behave; find someone, or a company, whose values and ideas you like and subscribe to – and comment on – their blog.

You can be successful without winning the social media race, but not if you don’t at least keep the break-away leaders in sight.

Recently, on my small business radio program, I talked about social media with marketing expert and Brain Trust member, Ilise Benun, author of Stop Pushing Me Around! Take a few minutes to listen to our conversation on this important topic. And, as always, be sure to leave your thoughts.




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