16th October 2017
What does competing in an IRONMAN teach us about seamless business?
OK, I did want to find an excuse to write about completing the Barcelona IRONMAN last weekend. I trained my butt off for it and still can’t quite believe crossing the finish line. It was physically the most challenging thing I’ve ever done and, a week on, my legs are still protesting.
This weekend it’s the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona. 3000 athletes ranging from pros to over-eighties will be on the start line, all will have qualified in one of the many official IRONMAN races that take place around the world. Although there are numerous endurance events available for the budding masochist, few match the intensity of an ironman and the range of skills required to be competitive.
The first I heard about triathlons was as a student at Loughborough University back in the late eighties, it sounded interesting but not enough to convert from track running or extend my overdraft to buy a bike with gears and without a basket. I really got a taste for the sport in my first job working for Saucony Running shoes who sponsored Scott Tinley, an IRONMAN champion and rival of the legendary Dave Scott but I just couldn’t get my head around the distances involved in an ironman.
I eventually took the plunge, bought a bike, joined a local tri-club, and started competing in local Olympic distance races. Running was naturally my strongest discipline but I lost so much time and energy on the swim, transitions and bike, that I was never competing for the podium.
A move to Asia called time on the hobby and I never imagined I’d complete an IRONMAN 25 years later as a sub-prime 50 year old.
During this time the sport has boomed, participant numbers are up, as is the cost of entry – by that I mean the ticket price and also the array of gear needed and available. The flagship triathlon brand for long distance events is IRONMAN but there are many other organisers to choose from.
There are plenty of triathlon-specific equipment brands but few have successfully spanned across the 3 disciplines – perhaps with the exception of Garmin sports watches, performance tracking tools such as Training Peaks, and an online industry for personal coaches and sports nutritionists.
From a drunken bet 11 months ago, I went on a steep learning curve to try to understand and use some of the science that could get me from zero to finishing an IRONMAN without the assistance of an ambulance. I’ve utilised Garmin, power meters, Strava, Training Peaks, FTP, TSS, Finis TicToc, Hoka’s, Wattbike, TACX, Sufferfest, On Cloud, Butt Cream (seriously), Glide, Cliff, Huub, Zoot, Felt, Castelli, Gore, and Tesco Pork Pies to name but a few. Plus lots of advice from club-mates, and coaches.
Ultimately I rationalised and simplified, trying to ignore brands and knit together kit and tools that were best suited for the job, and within the budget that I had assigned. The return on all this investment was simple – to get me to the start line and across the finish line – anything that didn’t contribute I discarded (with the exception of pork pies and beer)
What I’ve found is that the best tools and kit always come from niche brands that specialise in a specific field – the trick is to weave them together to what suited my objective, sometimes I tried something and then discarded it – that could be bike nutrition, a training aid, or racing kit – I didn’t use a brand just because it had a big name and made a big claim, because whenever I’ve tried to use the offerings from a big player they’ve come up short.
That’s a learning for business in general – don’t ignore the smaller player – look at the value they can add to your business as a specialist technology or agency, and how their offering can be integrated with others. Pork Pies got me through the bike, but I wouldn’t chose to chew one on the run. Some won’t work out, so test, trial, pilot – and discard if they aren’t getting you to your end goal – assuming you know what your end-goal is and if it’s worth the effort.
Here at ProProcure we’ve increasingly found that large enterprises are accepting that their e-procurement solutions can’t handle complex spend categories and are much more open to integrating our Geneus platform to improve category performance, spend visibility, and engagement with their supply chains – Cheers and happy days! !