Business Lessons from Cycling:
Spin the Box

When I competed in triathlons more than a few years ago, I read everything I could to learn how to perform better…because the internet and YouTube hadn’t been invented yet. Since I had been riding a bike most of my life, I thought I knew everything about cycling. Wrong. It turns out there is a much better way to pedal than going in circles.

Figure 138.1 End of the trail at Little Arm, on Last Mountain Lake. That’s an old train trestle behind me. (no selfie stick was used in taking this photo)

Although the bike pedals go around in a circle, it is much more efficient to “Spin the box” and apply power in the four directions of a square.

Figure 138.2 Spin the Box

It’s not just about hammering down on the pedal and repeating. It’s about pushing down on the vertical, pulling back on the horizontal, lifting on the vertical (you need toe clips or a strap), and then pushing across the top.

When I was a triathlete, I went for 40km bike rides for fun and passed cars that were driving down Main Street in Dauphin. Spinning the box was automatic back then.

Now, I need to think about spinning the box intentionally. And, I’m still amazed at the boost in power. It’s like hitting the turbo button.

Spinning the box will easily add 10% or more to your power, speed, and efficiency. My bike computer (it even has the temperature) shows an instant increase in speed of at least 10% when I spin the box.

Spinning the box will help you go further and faster with less effort on your bike…and in your business. We can apply the “spin the box” concept to everything we do in business.

Try this. Instead of just focusing on the next transaction or task in front of us, such as calling a prospect or holding a meeting—where we simply push down on the pedal to get the task done—look at the four ways to improve your effectiveness.

  1. Top – what’s the overall purpose and ideal outcome from this interaction? Focus on results, not just routines. Results create value for your customers, your shareholders, and your employees. A completed checklist is not a result. A cashed cheque is a result.
  2. Down – this is where we normally exert the most power. How can we get this task done quickly without distraction or delay? What is the best system or process for getting this done? Is this best practice codified into your systems?
  3. Bottom – How can we keep the momentum generated from the down stroke going to improve the likelihood of success in the future? It’s about identifying obstacles and removing them, being proactive, and anticipating.
  4. Up – How can we use this event/call/meeting to create the best starting point for the next event/call/meeting? Now that we’ve got momentum, let’s set up the next event with more speed and purpose. Aim for an even better result.

By applying the “spin the box” concept to business, we’ve taken something that we do every day, and broken it down into four simpler components where we can apply less force than we did previously. Yet, we can get more power and speed. This is consistent with my—and Napoleon’s—philosophy to “divide and conquer.” With attribution, I think Napoleon thought of it first.

In business, speed wins.

  • Respond faster to your customers’ requests.
  • In fact, be proactive, and respond before they even issue the request.
  • Hold shorter meetings.
  • Send fewer useless emails.
  • Pick up the phone and call your best customers, your best employees, and your best suppliers.
  • Build the relationship.
  • Offer to help others be more successful. Give.
  • Do less busy work.
  • Turn off your email, where someone else is cranking your pedals. Take control and focus on your own pedals.
  • Don’t wait for monthly financial statements to figure out what’s going on in your business.
  • Get daily reports on the sales pipeline, production volume, and cash position. Those are the key components of my daily flash reports. They can be written on a white board or a post-it® note, it doesn’t matter.
  • The less fancy the system, the faster the information flows.
  • Don’t do “rework” where you are fixing someone else’s problems. Ever. Make them fix their problem.
  • Or, fix the system.
  • Pursue the biggest opportunities first.
  • Get your biggest opportunities across the finish line.

Spinning the box will give you more power and speed in business. There’s easily a 10% gain available to you, without any expenditure. In fact, your people will be more productive as things will take less time and energy because you’re using all your muscles and talents.

Let’s put those gains into perspective.

Let’s start with a million in revenues with the 10% gain. For every $100,000 in increased revenues, assuming a 60% gross margin and all other costs are already paid, you’re adding $60,000 to your bottom line (pre-tax). That’s also adding $300,000 or more to your valuation.

That’s just on a million in revenue. If your revenue is ten or one hundred million, you’ve got serious potential.

If you’d like help spinning the box in your business to accelerate your revenues, profit, and valuation, give me a call. I might be on my bike, but I’ll call you back.

Full speed ahead!

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