I am a huge fan of football and most other popular sports, but my favorite televised sport of the year is the Tour de France. It’s a grueling three-week, 2,000 mile test of skill, stamina and teamwork that often comes down to who wants it more. It’s beautiful to watch the sweeping helicopter views of the peloton careening through switchbacks on the side of a gorgeous mountain or splitting a roundabout in a quaint European village before weaving back together at high speed like a school of fish. On top of all that, it’s steeped in tradition, the fans are nuts, the crashes horrific, the announcers (Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin) are British-accented poets, there’s something for everyone really.
Another nice feature is due to the time difference you can watch it live each morning in California before you start your work day. This got me thinking about what lessons I could learn from the Tour de France and apply in my role as a CFO. Here are three:
- When climbing a mountain or a mountainous task at work, break it into manageable sections. The top of the mountain may seem insurmountable, but getting around the next turn never seems so bad. The same is often true for CFO’s in work situations such as a merger or ERP implementation.
- Know the road ahead and understand your competitive environment. Tour riders need to know the course and their competition so they can respond to an attack or take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself. CFO’s need to position their company to be able to respond in the same way. That’s why financial planning, forecasting, benchmarking and SWOT analysis are so critical.
- Work as a team and recognize the efforts of your teammates. Team members block the wind, keep each other fed and hydrated, hand over their bike in the event of a mechanical breakdown or crash, or whatever it takes to get their team leader to the finish line. The guy wearing the yellow jersey is always quick to acknowledge the contributions of his team and share the glory with them. CFO’s need to do the same and encourage that type of teamwork throughout their organization.
Remember these three tips and they’ll be kissing babies and throwing soft cheeses on the Champs-Élysées in no time.
Inspiration can come from many places. For me, each July, it comes from the Tour de France. What inspires you?