Traditionally, the golf course has always been seen as the ideal location to network and develop relationships but is that changing? Road cycling is fast growing to be the preferred networking sport for the modern professional. Real go-getters are cycling, entering triathlons and competing in Ironman competitions.
When you play golf with a Client you may need to decide if you’re going to beat them, or let them win. It’s a bizarre conundrum that, as a cyclist, doesn’t really agree with me. Group cycling, and especially long-distance riding, is a shared experience. Riders collaborate and help each other out, taking turns to be at the front so that the riders in their slipstream can save almost a third of the effort needed to travel at the same speed. A day in the saddle racing uphill and downhill creates a bonding experience that endures.
A number of companies now specialise in organising cycling and triathlon events, including challenges that take you from Land’s End to John O’Groats (950 miles), London2Paris and even novice rides in a park, even corporate events have started to spring up.
Cycling clubs also offer cyclists the chance to meet new people, which can sometimes lead to business opportunities. According to Sport England, monthly cycling participation has risen 62 per cent from 232,000 to 377,000 in eight years. During the same period, the number of golfers has almost halved.
The new age of professionals aren’t interested in walking around slowly. They want to do something physical, especially outdoors. It's not so much fitness that they are interested in, they actually want to see what they've done, which can be done through apps such as STRAVA which has perforated the popular conscience by quantifying performance. STRAVA also acts as a social or business network where you can see how clients, candidates and acquaintances are getting on.
For many top executives and golfers, there is an emphasis on having a fancy set of clubs. Cycling is no different where the showing off of “road jewellery” is just as important. Both sports are expensive! You could easily spend £10,000 on a bike and full set of kit, but that’d be easier for me to justify than spending £10,000 on a set of golf clubs I'll never use. I can commute to work, it beats going the gym and it drastically improves my fitness.
Surely a couple of executives won’t be striking a deal while wearing lycra? Think again! Chief Executives Lowell McAdam and Vittorio Colao thrashed out terms while riding exercise bikes in a hotel gym in 2013 resulting in the $130bn Verizon-Vodafone deal.
Perhaps the most compelling reason why cycling is a good way to network is that it’s a passion and a way of life. Getting outside and being active is what most of us are dreaming of doing whilst we’re sitting at our computers and a shared passion is a fantastic way to start any relationship.
From a personal perspective, I have built long lasting relationships from entering cycling and triathlon events. I follow several of my candidates on STRAVA and it has enabled us to keep in touch. If I hear of somebody completing Iron Man or cycling from London to Paris, my respect is instantly earned.
Naturally, as I have a passion for cycling, I am more inclined to think it is better than golf for networking, but what does everybody else think? Is cycling the new way for business people to meet or should we stick to tried and tested methods such as golf?