I love to ride my bike. It’s my primary form of exercise and a hobby/lifestyle that I didn’t embrace until my mid 30s. As I rapidly approach 50 (or “1/2 Century” in cycling terms), I find myself taking longer rides with more frequency, pushing my endurance as far as my wife will allow!
Last week, I participated in the “Battlefield to Vermont” ride (www.b2vtride.com) where I joined about 900 other cyclists as we rode from Lexington, Massachusetts (the site of the famous “Shot heard round the world” that opened the US Revolutionary war in 1775) to Ludlow, Vermont. 134 miles and 8,200 of climbing.
The day was long, starting with breakfast around 315am and we were “on the pedals” at 5:06am. After about 10.5 hours, total time, we finished in Vermont to a great finish line party and BBQ.
10.5 hours is a long time to be on a bike (or a car, or a train, or a plane for that matter!).
The time gave me plenty of opportunity to think about how endurance cycling compares to managing a global account. Both are long duration events that require extensive preparation and proper execution to be successful. Both are extremely rewarding for everyone involved and can propel you to achieve things you previously thought unattainable. Allow me to take a few lines and share my thoughts (remember – I was on a bike for 10.5 hours, riding into the wind most of the day and it was hot … please give me a little leeway here …)
Before setting out a path to growth a strategic account, you need to do your preparation. Understand the account and where they have been successful, historically. Use all available data from the internet, public financial fillings and the company themselves. Most importantly, understanding where they are going what the strategic elements are that that will make them successful. It is no different from training for a long duration cycling event. Training starts many months before the actual day of the ride with a basic understanding of what the course looks like and includes discussions with others that have done the ride in the past. All this “preparation and training” will make you successful as you start to execute with the account or take your first pedal stroke.
As you start to engage with the account, it’s critical to keep a constant flow of communication in both good times and bad. Share the successes and analyze the failures. The important thing here is to keep a “cadence of communication” and subscribe to a discipline and rigor on a set time schedule. This could be weekly, monthly and quarterly cadence calls with the appropriate levels within your account. Have an agenda, don’t leave any details out and don’t get caught in fire drills and cancel these calls. While executing an endurance ride, nutrition and hydration are critically important. On the day of one of these rides, I wake up and start eating. I eat a very specific diet on a very regular schedule during the ride. (message me if you interested in the fine details – Anthony.DeSpirito@schneider-electric.com) On these long rides, you will ultimately be defined by what you eat between mile 0 and 50 and how you maintain your eating discipline through the final mile. Hydration and nutrition to hand in hand and should be part of any balance regimen.
As with any well maintained relationship, you must pause at some interval (quarterly works very well) and examine what is working and what needs refinement. Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) are an ideal framework to conduct this review. When engaging in endurance cycling, you do need to give your muscles and body a break from time to time, analyze how you are doing and possibly make adjustments for the next leg. Well timed rest stops are the ideal place to relax, reflect, hydrate, eat and most likely answer the call of nature.
Finally, while riding the 134 miles last week, I kept thinking about crossing the finish line and how great it would feel to have accomplished this feat. I visualized crossing the line to a (small) cheering crowd, taking that hot shower and relaxing with an adult beverage. This is the one area where I think it may be a little different from managing a global account. There really is no finish line – If executed properly, you continuing to growth the relationship, branch into new areas of cooperation and become more strategically dependant on each other for success. It may be helpful to look at the relationship in terms of a fiscal year – it’s about as close to a finish line as I can come up with.
There will always be another long duration cycling event on the horizon (I’ve got another century – 100 miles – in September). If properly executed with discipline and rigor, your global account will always be looking to the next event or strategic growth opportunity. Proper planning (and training) will ensure you are prepared to execute when it comes to the day of the ride.
As I sit here at the end of the quarter, I’m thinking about 3 things: Finishing the quarter strong with my account, planning for our first half business review in August and continuing my training for the Century in September and ultimately the B2VT in June of next year. Come ride with me!