Thought
Leadership

Helping Start-Ups Pedal to Success

February 28, 2020
Borderless Leadership - article

When you’re a start-up, speed and teamwork is everything – that’s the premise for Linda Stone’s article inspired by a recent Forbes piece. The parallels to the Tour de France are clear for Linda, a US-based Borderless consultant and cycling enthusiast.

As an international executive recruiter and an avid cyclist, this insightful piece on the analogy between the teamwork and competition of the Tour de France and building successful start-ups by Rob Reed in Forbes, resonates!

 “The Tour de France is won by minutes and even seconds, yet it takes place across 21 stages and some 70 hours of racing. So many things can go wrong that are outside the team’s control. Which means that individual efforts from every team member have to be exceptional.”

Among our sweet spots at Borderless is the work we do to help our pre-commercial clients create their teams. I read the article prior to studying up for a call with an exciting start-up. As I prepped and then listened to the team on the call, the following began coursing in my mind like an earworm: the demands of moving innovative technologies and therapies to patients with unmet medical needs requires the daily relentless drive and an every-second-counts mentality of a Tour de France rider. Exceptional effort, among each individual comprising exceptional teams.

And yes, so much can go wrong that is outside the team’s control in a start-up’s early history. This requires certain shared leadership attributes, key among them, I believe, is adaptability; an ability to remain focused on what can be controlled and having an open, curious and innovative mind for what cannot, while enduring and successfully navigating varying amounts of ambiguity, fluid dynamics and pressure.

Then there’s the composition of the team. We work closely with clients to determine which combination of exceptional individuals will make for the best team. Each start-up client sets its unique strategy and targets, (there are multiple ways of winning) and entrusts us to understand and translate it to identify, and tap into the talents of a diverse group (simplifying, if the team is going for the green jersey – best sprinter), it doesn’t make sense to have a team comprised mainly of exceptional climbers.

Once the team composition is set, the magic is unleashed. Each ride is a (sometimes epic) journey with those who share the same passion – and each pedal stroke of relentless drive and exceptional effort toward a shared vision brings the joy and rewards of podium wins.