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How to win in business

Investing for World Class performance

Team GB 2016Just twenty years ago in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the British team won fifteen medals, including one gold, in the men’s rowing. We finished 36th that year, just twelve places behind Kazakhstan.

Five games later and the team has finished second in the world with our highest haul of medals since painting and poetry were taken out of Olympic competition. It’s an extraordinary turnaround in performance, and it’s been achieved through a combination of five very specific things, all of which are absolutely relevant to your business.

These are the five things that made the difference for team GB, which together, have the potential to transform your performance:

  1. A willingness to invest. For team GB, the money came from lottery funding; for your business it might come from cash-flow, invoice credit, a loan, or a share or bond issue. But the key thing is the willingness to raise that money, and to invest it in future performance gains. Do you have the courage to invest?
  2. A laser-like focus on ROI. UK Sport doesn’t prioritise Basketball because the starting point is low, the facilities are bespoke to one sport, it’s a big squad to find, keep together and train, and there are only two medals at stake. Cycling, swimming and gymnastics have the potential for a far greater ROI, so that’s where the money goes. How rigorous are your investment decisions?
  3. Facilities fit for purpose. In the 1990s our facilities were terrible, but once key sports were prioritised, investment flowed into facilities so players could train in environments fit for purpose. If you want world class performance, start by removing the biggest barriers. How does their working environment help your people perform at their best?
  4. Continually seeking new talent. Team GB didn’t wait for Chris Hoy to retire before looking for a replacement – his retirement was hastened by younger cyclists knocking on the door. UK Sport are constantly searching for and recruiting new talent, using sophisticated techniques to identify the physical and mental characteristics of tomorrow’s star performers. Is your pipeline of talent pushing the performance of your top people?
  5. World class coaching. Of all the factors, this is the biggest. Other countries have bigger budgets, better facilities, more talent to draw from, but the British coaching programmes are quite literally the envy of the world, designed specifically to deliver peak performance in that two week window, once every four years. The idea that an athlete can deliver a world class performance without a coach is unthinkable. Why would it be any different for your team?

Bottom line: to take your organisation to world class levels of performance, you need the courage to invest. Specifically to invest in big visions with a focus on ROI and an eye on the working environment; in new talent as a constant programme; and in the very best coaching for all your stars, from the executive team on down.

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