Posts Tagged ‘Business Lessons’

IOSDT_246 - Version 4Margaret Struble convinced me to begin the “Tri for Me” Triathlon team in 2006.  This quickly grew and the business model morphed as I added Inside-Out Sports and DELTA Triathlon as our primary sponsors in 2009.  I called this new team IOSDT.  We grew tremendously each year and in 2011 we had 320 members and 18 sponsors.  Along the way, we had many contributors.

The team size and proposition expanded to the place where I could not personally oversee all activities (selecting team kits, managing the orders, managing finances, finding sponsors, organizing training and social events, throwing parties, keeping track of contests, handling communications, running the website and so on)  When I first tried to step out, I did not feel that those offering assistance were handling the various aspects of the team as I would and didn’t really give up control.  I was looking for a few key people who would operate their portion of the team with nearly as much passion and skill as I had.

By 2012 I had found a handful of talented and passionate individuals for the Board of Directors and they really began functioning well, so I relinquished control and eventually stepped down as President.  They each worked a fraction of the time that I did, so it worked in their lives.  I also closed down DELTA Triathlon – retaining it’s years of content on a blog.  The triathlon team proudly continues as IOSTC.  We managed the pivot to the next phase.

IOSDT had been such a tremendously time and passion consuming aspect of my life that I didn’t even realize that this came with an expense elsewhere.  Thankfully, my beautiful wife Elaine has helped me restore the balance.

However, I learned a great deal from this endeavor.  This is my top ten list of major learnings:

  1. Skill without passion and vice versa bring less than ideal results – We had several folks who volunteered to help who had tremendous marketing, legal or organizational skills.  Yet, they did not operate at the same level of passion as I did.  Conversely, we also had many offer help, who were passionate about the team and the sport, who simply did not have the skills to help.
  2. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd – People will flock to what they believe to be popular.  People want to be part of something that is accepted and gives them security in their choices.
  3. Users/customers expect technology ahead of your capability – Consumers expect efficient and simple ways to be part of your community. This is ALWAYS about 30% greater than your budget/capability, unless you give this tremendous focus and partner effectively.
  4. Fear can be crippling – “If you chose not to decide you still have made a choice”  The fear of losing what you have will lead you to tremendously poor decisions.  You ALWAYS have to be looking ahead – at what is coming next – at what people will expect next year.
  5. Not everyone is gonna like you – As the decision-maker for the team I had to make hundreds of decisions.  There is simply no way to please everyone.  You cannot select the color that is universally appealing.  Your style will not universally apply and, as a result, not everyone is gonna like you.
  6. Structured plans work – Triathletes live highly structured lives.  Most days include at least two workouts.  This structure, each week building upon the next, leads to success against stated goals.
  7. Ask EVERYONE for advice and listen to it – I learned to seek feedback from everyone.  Almost everyone is willing to give it; however, a few will tell you the truth.  Over time you will learn which is which.  Hearing what you don’t want to hear is difficult, but useful.
  8. Hey, it’s your team – Marty Gaal, of One Step Beyond Coaching, gave me some profound advice during a team bike ride.  I was bitching about the constant conflict of advice and “counsel” that I had received.  He said, “Hey, it’s your team, do what you want.”  That was ridiculously freeing advice Marty.  Thanks.  It was my team.  From that point on, I did what I wanted.
  9. Think big, start small and scale fast – I always had a grand vision for the team.  Truthfully, it grew past my wildest dreams.  I started with the minimum and, as quickly as I could, adapted to the situation and focused where my time could make the biggest difference to growth.
  10. People can be predictable if you steer them where you want them to go – Two parties in a row we bought equal amounts of white and red wine.  One party we had much extra white left over and ran out of red and the second we ran out of white and had much red left over.  For the third, I hired a bartender to ensure that the first 20 drinks were distributed in equal proportion of white and red.  At the end of party we had exactly one bottle of red and white remaining.  People tend to follow those ahead of them.
  11. OK, this is a bonus.  Nothing sells better than being “Cool” – People are ridiculously fickle and will switch, with little warning, to what they perceive as the “cool” choice.  Whatever you sell or offer, it had better be cool or your days are numbered.