We have to have some sporting analogies with the Olympics kicking off this Summer, don’t we?

As a big cycling fan (the touring, tea and cake type), I’m very taken with the success of Team GB and how Sir Dave Brailsford, the Performance Director of GB Cycling, catapulted the success of the British cycling team with his concepts of ‘marginal gains’ and ‘secret squirrels’…!

Focus, Planning & Execution

Watching Sir Dave on an interview, he almost shrugged as if his concepts of the above were very simple and obvious. And they pretty much are, he just executed it beautifully.

Firstly, he said they looked at and decided which cycle events they really wanted to win. They realised they then had to prioritise as they knew you can’t win everything. How refreshing! Once it was decided what they wanted to win, they then worked backwards from where they wanted to be compared to where they were now, to identify the gap. And finally, they created – and executed – a plan.

What a great lesson for businesses regarding the power of focus, planning and execution! Be crystal clear on what you want to ‘win’ in your business. Know exactly what it is you will be focusing on. Get your plan in place with all the steps needed to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Go out there and win!

The Concept of Marginal Gains

Sir Dave stated, they broke down every single part of the process that can impact on cycling performance. They looked at the obvious elements, such as fitness, nutrition and biomechanics – and the less obvious, such as how to get more restful sleep,how to improve hygiene and be less prone to illness, etc.

The team then set about improving every single one of those components by 1%. 1% by itself might not make much difference, but 1% + 1% + 1% all together in a big clump, well….we know the outcome of that. A worldclass winning cycling team.

How can you take this into your business? A starting point would be your profit and loss account. Review your P&L line by line. Improve each revenue stream by 1%, every cost line by 1% – your finance specialist will be able to tell you exactly what difference that would make to your bottom line profits. Can you imagine?

How about improving the customer experience by 1% in every single area? A very happy by-product of exceptional customer service is increased profits: more loyal customers and therefore less sales  costs; easier marketing, as customers help spread the word for you; less refunds due to less customer complaints; happier staff, so less costly staff turnover and recruitment. The list goes on!

Secret Squirrels

Well, this one was new on me, but I love it! Sir Dave has, as part of his team, his ‘secret squirrels’. These are people who look outside their own industry of cycling to other industries, be that other sports, the military, anywhere and everywhere, to see what is new and innovative in these areas and what they might be able to use themselves to stay ahead of the game. We probably know it better as ‘scanning the external environment’.

That’s the main issue when all of your competitors discover your concept of marginal gains. And it then doesn’t take them long to copy you and catch up. So you need to stay ahead of the game with innovative ideas, techniques, processes, goods and services, etc. You will then remain the trailblazer of the sporting / business world and enjoy the sales and profits that accompany this status.

Olympic Success

We are all hopeful of lots of British success in the Olympics this Summer. I am especially rooting for local girl and Olympic gold hopeful, Lizzie Armitstead, patron of our cycling club (I live in Yorkshire but work nationally). Go Lizzie! She, and others like her, has inspired a whole new generation of female cyclists.

I hope this article in turn has inspired you to achieve your own Olympic success in your organisation. Remember, it’s the little things that make the big difference!

by Andi Lonnen