Business on a Bicycle

Jim Blasingame

The Tour de France bicycle race is arguably the world’s most grueling physical competition. Several of the 20 stages are more than 130 miles long and include assaults on the Alps and Pyrenees Mountains.

The 2004 Tour was won by the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team. It was their sixth consecutive year to win, which was a record.

What? You thought Lance Armstrong won the 2004 Tour?

It’s true; Lance certainly deserves to be recognized as the individual six-time winner. But accuracy requires that it be pointed out, as Lance is quick to do, that this accomplishment was a result of much more than his personal efforts.

Let’s take a look at four things we can learn from Lance and the USPS team.

Each of the 25 members of the USPS team had a role to play, including the eight other cyclists who ride more to protect and push their leader than for their own individual accomplishment.

If you have one employee you have a team, with each member having his or her own strategic role to play.

Since every day in a small business can be like a mountain stage on the Tour, your success requires the ability to motivate your team to work together effectively. And as Lance might say, it includes sharing the recognition so that the team doesn’t mind if you’re the one who gets to hold the trophy.

Competing in the Tour is like running a marathon while playing a chess match, so each USPS team member has to understand his role in the overall strategy.

Even if you have the best business strategy in the world, you must communicate it to your team. Otherwise, they won’t be effective in getting you to the winner’s circle.

All you have to do is look at one of the USPS cyclists to see preparation. These guys are like 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, your customers’ businesses and industries, plus what your competitors are up to. And while, unlike the Tour cyclists, you may not know what the road looks like around the next curve, you can hone your skills and knowledge so that you can be prepared to handle whatever challenges may lie ahead.

The USPS team certainly leveraged technology to win the Tour: the high-tech bikes, customized chase vehicles, on –course tools, etc. If you saw the Tour on television, you noticed a wireless communication mike dangling from Armstrong’s ear. He was in constant real-time contact with his team.

The key to success for small businesses in the 21st century is leveraging technology.

Today, 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 to help you take advantage of new opportunities.

Write this on a rock... Small businesses can learn a lot from the most successful Tour de France team in history, first and foremost is teamwork.

Jim Blasingame
Small Business Expert and host of The Small Business Advocate Show
©2008 All Rights Reserved

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