What can the Tour de France teach us about business?

David Scheitlin
NTEA Board Chair
Director of Operations
Holman Manufacturing & Distribution
(Roanoke, Indiana)

This article was published in the August 2023 edition of NTEA News.

Every summer, the world’s best cyclists converge in France to compete in the Tour de France, one of the toughest and most prestigious bicycle races in the world. Over the course of three grueling weeks, these athletes brave steep mountain climbs, scorching heat and intense competition to come out on top. But what can this world-famous race teach us about success in business?

First and foremost, the Tour de France is a testament to the power of preparation. As soon as the race ends, cyclists begin preparing for the next year’s competition, focusing on improving their performance, building endurance and mastering technical skills. Similarly, businesses that want to succeed must invest in strategic planning, research and development to stay ahead of the competition. By strategically anticipating challenges and opportunities, companies can prepare their teams and resources to navigate any obstacle that may arise.

In addition to preparation, the Tour de France is the ultimate team sport. While individual cyclists may get the attention, the success of a team is essential to achieving victory. Similarly, business success is all about effective teamwork, collaboration and communication. No company or department can function in isolation, as everyone plays a vital role in creating value and achieving business goals. By working together toward a clear and shared vision, teams have the power to overcome obstacles, outperform competitors and achieve outstanding results.

Another lesson companies can learn from the Tour de France is the importance of creativity and innovation. Just as a cyclist must know when to break away from the pack or change tactics mid-race, businesses that embrace creativity and innovation can gain a competitive advantage and remain ahead of the curve. Staying on the cutting edge often means pushing boundaries and taking risks, but it can pay off with breakthrough products, services or processes that can transform a company’s offerings.

Moreover, just as a cyclist must adapt to changing terrain and weather conditions during the race, businesses must be agile and flexible to successfully navigate a constantly changing business environment. Whether a company is faced with a new competitor, technological shift or industry disruption, the ability to pivot quickly and adapt to new circumstances is essential. The Tour de France teaches us that success is not just about raw strength, but also about agility, resilience and adaptability.

Finally, the Tour de France is a reminder that success is not just measured by winning, but also by ethical behavior and sportsmanship. Business has the power to create positive change in the world, generating social, environmental and economic value. Companies
that foster a culture of ethical business practices, social responsibility and environmental stewardship can create long-term value not only for themselves, but also for society at large.

The Tour de France is a valuable reminder for us in business, showing us that a winning strategy comes down to preparation, effective teamwork, creativity, adaptability and ethical behavior. Ultimately, the business world, like the world of competitive cycling, is a complex and ever-changing landscape, where only those who are willing to learn from both success and failure can stay ahead of the curve over the long haul. Whether you are a start-up entrepreneur or a seasoned executive, you can benefit from the insights and wisdom offered by this iconic sporting event as you strive for success and excellence in your field.