Farrar's Faucet: A psychologist’s candid, productive and often humorous take on principled business behavior and better business outcomes.

Update on the Tour De France...

It's Tour De France time. I love cycling. A year ago I wrote an article on the tour and how success in professional cycling and success in business is very similar. The article is just as relevant today, so here it is again...

This isn’t a post just for cycling lovers.  As you can see on the left, I enjoy getting out on two wheels whenever I can.  However, I’ve just spent three weeks watching the biggest international event in professional cycling, and I have some thoughts on what I saw and how it relates to the world of business.  Here are my (slightly) random thoughts.


It’s about teamwork.  The cyclists cover thousands of miles across France, and at the end of the race there can only be one winner.  However, it’s impossible to imagine anyone being successful over such a long trial without the backing of their team.  Wheels need to be changed; drinks need to be brought up.  Sometimes a rider sacrifices their own bike to pass it to another member of their team whose bike has crashed and who has a better chance of winning.  If you can’t maintain the support of your team you will never win.

Respect differences.  The Tour De France is a race for all types.  Some of the racers are lean little whippets who excel at sprinting away on the flat.  Some cyclists are powerhouses of muscle who get away from the pack on the long hills.  Each team has a balance of people who are best at different things, and they had better understand and respect each other for their different contributions.

The journey is the prize.  If you don’t make one of the top three placings or win a special jersey for King of the Mountain or similar the financial rewards aren’t that great for three weeks spent pedaling around 3,500 kilometers, (or more than 2,000 miles).  I read that the prize for the fourth place winner is 70,000 Euros, (about $US100,000), and that tails down to the rider that finishes 19th earning just 1,000 Euros.  Even the winner, Alberto Contador, isn’t that well rewarded.  He gets 450,000 Euros, but that has to go toward paying for the team, (and there are nine riders in a team), the support vehicles, the team managers and cooks and buses and everything else.  I’m not saying the ones at the top don’t get enough in support and endorsements to make it worthwhile.  I do think it’s not the money that motivates the average participant.  You can bet they “get in the flow” when they get on their bike, and they get a reward from what they do that isn’t just financial.

Team results?  Team rewards.  Even if you only want to maximize the performance of the best rider, you had still better make sure you reward the whole team for their effort.  We know that there can only be one winner, and you would think the way to ensure that everyone puts in their best effort is to focus on rewarding individual achievement.  Instead, the teams and the organizers ensure there are prizes, jerseys and accolades enough to reward everyone.  Not every rider can be number one.  When you have to get the best out of more than a hundred cyclists you have to ensure that everyone has a stake in making it a great race.

Knocked over?   Get up again.  Every day someone “hits the wall” and falls behind, or literally hits a wall or something else and falls over.  Every day they get up and start over again.  When I was a kid I had tremendous resilience.  If I fell over I’d just dust myself off, get a band aid or two and carry on.  As we get older we lose that, and yet here are people riding with broken collar bones, bruises, cuts and all sorts of damage.  Most of what we think hurts us isn’t really that bad, and if we just get back on our bikes we are surprised by how far we can go.

The link to business?  I love the Tour De France.  There’s something wonderful about watching athletes of the highest caliber competing in any sport.  I think that if any of these cyclists have the inclination to participate in business they have the temperament to do pretty well.

No comments: