I have recently completed the challenge of cycling 1000 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats (LeJoG) with four great mates from the dental sector – Chris Barrow, Sheila Scott, Ashley Latter and Simon Tucker. We went under the banner of ‘FiveGoForth’.
It was tough…really tough, but it was also exhilarating, enjoyable and hugely rewarding. Now I’m back, I’ve been reflecting on the ride and, in particular, some of the lessons I learned along the way that could be applied to your business – and here they are, neatly packaged into bite-sized chunks…which leads me to the first lesson…
1. Break it down
A thousand miles is a long way! And the thought of covering that distance on my bicycle was a bit foreboding. However, the first lesson we learned was that things become a lot more manageable when you break them down into smaller chunks.
We did the ride over fifteen days – that’s an average of 66 miles a day.
Already, sixty-six miles in a day seems much less daunting and much more manageable than a thousand miles. But then we broke it down again. Sixty-six miles is just three rides a day of just over twenty miles – cycle twenty miles, stop and have a coffee break, cycle another twenty miles, stop and have some lunch, cycle another twenty miles and the day is done.
And so it is with business…sometimes the big things you want to achieve seem scary, almost impossible to achieve. But if you break things down and keep ticking them off, it’s amazing how far you can get in a short space of time. The key is to not get too hung up by the end goal, but to keep chipping away, and before you know it, the end is in sight.
2. Preparation is key
For us, the key to successfully completing our challenge was in anticipating what was needed and might happen along the way. There were a lot of bases to cover – our travel to Land’s End and back again from John O’Groats, promoting the event to raise funds for our three charities (Cancer Research, BrushUpUK and Bridge2Aid), food and drink, dealing with whatever the British weather threw at us, accommodation, sponsorship, training, support, kit…the list went on and on.
The ride took us fifteen days, but the training, planning and preparation took ten months! But boy, was it worth it!
There was very little that we hadn’t thought about and prepared for and that meant we could concentrate on the cycling each day without worrying about all the surrounding stuff.
Whatever objectives you’ve set for your practice, don’t skip the preparation – thinking ahead means identifying and minimising the potential pitfalls and that leads to a more seamless, more enjoyable and more productive journey.
3. A stretch goal helps you achieve more than you could ever imagine
First things first…
What is a stretch goal?
Well, for me, it’s any goal that cannot be achieved simply by doing what you currently do…a bit better.
So many businesses set future goals based on past performance plus a bit. This results in the team staying firmly within their comfort zones, and just working a little harder or smarter – fundamentally, nothing different happens.
A stretch goal changes that dynamic, completely.
It forces you to think and act differently in order to make something happen. It’s where step change replaces incremental improvement. It requires commitment and creativity, passion and planning. But when it all comes together, it can change your life and transform your business.
Stretch goals are a bit scary and that’s how I felt when Ashley Latter approached me to do LeJog – how on earth was I going to move from an occasional, fair-weather 25 miler to cycling 65-80 miles a day for fifteen days in a row? I had no idea, but that’s the beauty of a stretch goal – it excites you and you start to look for different and better ways to make it happen.
So, when you’re doing your planning for next year – be bold and set yourself and your team some stretch goals – you’ll be surprised how much you can achieve when you do.
4. Delegate and then get out of the way
The first day of the ride was through Cornwall. It was one of the toughest we were expecting…and it was a bit of a disaster.
It was the first time we’d all ridden together as a team and it was clear we were all still cycling as individuals not as a team. We had five navigators, five social media posters and five people trying to decide where we were going to stop for coffee…it didn’t work.
We got lost and frustrated and ended up cycling an additional fifteen miles.
But then something wonderful happened – we worked it out! We realised that if we were going to work together as a team, we needed to delegate responsibilities and trust each other to deliver, without interference.
And so it was…Chris took on the role of chief navigator, Simon managed our finances., Ashley was chief banter officer – keeping the conversation and laughter flowing, Sheila kept an eye on nutrition and safety and I took on the main role of managing social media.
We all had a role to play and each of the other team members was happy to provide the space and the support to help us fulfil that role effectively.
This is in contrast to what we all see in many of the dental practices that we each visit, where team members are either frustrated because they are being micro-managed or are under-performing because they have no clear direction from above.
Without a doubt, each member of your team has the latent potential to contribute more to your practice, what they need is clear direction and for you to give them the space, trust and support to excel.
5. Remember to enjoy the views
Land’s End to John O’Groats is a long way. In our efforts to get to our destination each evening it was often a case of full-on, heads down pedaling, concentrating on the next twenty yards of road ahead whilst looking out for potholes and other hazards.
The pace would be good and we’d be ticking down the miles, but at the same time, we’d be missing all the scenery that was all around us.
The more we got into the ride, the more we realised that the experience was as much, if not more, about the journey as it was about reaching our destination. We started to stop more often, take more pictures and cycle more with our heads up taking in the magnificent scenery of our beautiful country.
This is a great analogy for what happens in many dental practices. People getting sucked into the coalface of the day-to-day and losing sight of the bigger picture. Or being so driven and ambitious to keep succeeding and achieve more, and failing to stop and appreciate what you already have.
More often than not, it is the journey that delivers the greatest riches, and that was true on our cycle ride. Crossing the finish line was a great moment and one that will stay with me for ever, but the journey was laden with memories that far outweigh those final moments – the camaraderie and team spirit, the banter and the laughs, the quirky moments, the wonderful people we met along the way, the interesting towns and cities we passed through and the stunning scenery from Cornwall to the Highlands of Scotland.
“This is a great analogy for what happens in many dental practices. People getting sucked into the coalface of the day-to-day and losing sight of the bigger picture. Or being so driven and ambitious to keep succeeding and achieve more, and failing to stop and appreciate what you already have.”
The achievement is just a trophy…a statistic, but the journey is where the memories lie and the greatest satisfaction and fulfilment resides.
So, whatever journey you’re on, be it personal or business, take some time to stand back and appreciate where you’ve come from, where you are right now and what you’ve got – you’ll be surprised how much you take for granted.