Recently I joined a group of 20 riders on a 3,800-mile bike ride across America, fulfilling a life-long dream while raising over $15,000 for Alzheimer’s research. This adventure exceeded my wildest dreams. I gained a life-time of lessons applicable to both my personal and professional life. Three of the key learnings included: 1) The strength of a team is maximized through diversity and working together; 2) the importance of keeping alert, listening to customers, and adjusting strategies; and, last but not least, 3) one must learn when to sprint, when to change gears, and when to coast.
1. DIVERSITY IS OUR STRENGTH
At the start of the ride I had a healthy sense of doubt and anxiety, not unlike the first day of a job. Could I finish the ride? How would I fit in with the team? And could I maintain my cadence over 47 days? Starting on the coast of Oregon our group sized each other up as we embarked on riding six-to-eight hours a day. Being off the grid with next to no connectivity, we became absorbed in our environment and daily riding “assignments”. While we were from different backgrounds and countries with varied political views, it was incredible was how quickly we became one. The daily tips and words of encouragement was amazing. The strength of the team and their empathy was best illustrated after I got hit by a car and crashed. As they joked it was, “just a flesh wound,” I was able to continue and achieve my goal after some adjustments and through their support and companionship.
Ideally, we receive this same level of support from our co-workers. All too often personal goals and egos take priority and overshadow the group’s overall goal. On our ride, our respective skills and life experiences made us stronger. Riding together in a paceline can be incredibly efficient, shielding each other from the wind and providing team members a chance to preserve our energy. In business, too, we need to work to protect teammates from unanticipated events, while setting a pace and preparing for the road ahead.
2. MAKE TIME TO LISTEN & FOCUS ON THE LONG-TERM GOAL
Being “Type A,” the ride reminded me of the need to slow down, take notice what of makes life worthwhile and learn from my team mates. One rider reinforced this lesson. He was fit and knowledgeable with the goal to finish first each day. He achieved his goal, but missed out on several experiences. Typically riding alone, he failed to build a rapport with the others, and he missed some of the nuances of each day. Every night he would ask what I thought was the most beautiful part of the ride. Somewhat surprised by what he had missed,he often asked if I had any photos to share. To maximize success, we must make the time to learn from each other and not let individual or shortterm goals overshadow those of the team in biking and in business. By listening and observing the market, we can optimize our strategies and tactics.
3. WHEN TO SPRING & WHEN TO COAST
As with a successful marketing campaign, cycling takes time and focus. Maintaining stamina and being prepared for the unexpected with contingency plans is essential. While I wanted to be in front of the pack and hammer up the hills, I quickly realized the necessity to pace myself. Conserving energy during the journey afforded me the opportunity to sprint at the end each day and avoid the potholes along the way. In business all too often we sprint for monthly or quarterly goals, losing sight of the big picture. We often feel compelled to do another email blast, failing to consider long-term impact. Results may generate short-term revenue but cannibalize future sales, which drives consumer fatigue, spam complaints, unsubscribes and ad blocking. These are symptoms of marketers neither respecting the user experience, nor appreciating the long-term impact on their brand.
Through teamwork, collaboration and user respect, companies can maximize results, while building trust, and enhancing their reputation. As I learned on my ride, with preparation, training and team support, one can achieve goals and realize many life long experiences that otherwise would never be possible.
Published in Marketing Quarterly December 2017