From the rugby pitch to your field

With Rugby front of mind right now, it came to me that ideas from sport transfer well into business. In 2002, I was working with Jonah Lomu and the All Blacks rugby team in the role of head of rugby apparel at Adidas. Jonah’s dedication to finding any competitive edge resulted in a surprising answer to the simple question: ‘how can I score more tries?’

Now for those of you too young to remember Jonah Lomu, he was a massive fella, 6’5 tall and weighing in at 120kg, but boy was he fast – he could run 100m in 10.7 seconds. So why then this fixation on shaving even another micro-second off his time? Well, his speed on the wing, combined with his extreme power gave him 37 international tries for the All Blacks during his career – he wanted to maximise his try scoring potential – simple as that.

Analysis of his performance showed that one of the things most likely to stop the New Zealander from getting over that line was him being taken down by a grab to his jersey. So, we worked closely with him to develop a strong, single seam tight-fitting top for all the forwards (Back then it was only the forwards who would wear those tight fitting jerseys, now it has become the norm even for the biggest of players). The testing we went through to deliver this in time for the 2003 world cup was intense, and Jonah was a stickler for the detail, but it was well worth it to deliver the end result – particularly if you remember how easily the English jerseys, developed by our arch rivals Nike, ripped in those opening games. In this instance New Zealand were put out in the semi finals by Australia in front of a sell out crowd in Sydney, who then went on to lose in the dying seconds of the final thanks to ‘that drop goal’ by Jonny Wilkinson.

But the point is this – successful people, and successful businesses look for the smallest advantages, the tiniest changes which will make the biggest difference and position them at the fore of their game and ahead of their competition.

So what one thing could you do, to give your business that competitive edge? What’s the difference that will make a difference??

It’s good to look outside your own area of business for ideas and you can check out more tips in forthcoming newsletters.

Rugby ball

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