Dave Brailsford, the Performance Director for UK Cycling, is clearly having an impact on the team. Not only were they hugely successful in the Beijing Olympics, they are scooping up medal, after medal in the World Cup currently being held at the Manchester Velodrome.
This morning, Brailsford was interviewed on BBC Radio Five Live and was quizzed about the stunning performance of the UK cyclists. Are they set targets, he was asked. His reply was of immense importance to anyone in business, striving to achieve greater success.
Yes, they do have targets, said Brailsford, but – this bit is important – they are not the usual kind of targets you hear about for athletes. Much has been made of the Government’s targets for a specific number of medals. But according to Brailsford aiming for a medal is a mugs game. That’s outside of a cyclists control, he explained, because it involves other people. Instead, the UK cycling team are only aiming at targets they can control, like personal timings.
Online, almost every business is doing the opposite of what the world’s top sports director is suggesting. On the Internet, businesses are chasing things like “the Number One slot” on Google (the Gold Medal). Or they want to be on the “front page” of Google (a podium finish). In other words, most businesses are aiming at targets which are out of their control because they involve other competing businesses.
Cycling performance in the UK has dramatically shifted in the space of just a few years – and that’s because they haven’t aimed for things which include the competition. It’s a similar tale for Tesco; I remember an interview with Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy where he explained the dramatic shift in fortunes of the supermarket. The store used to be an “also ran” in the High Street, but is now Britain’s leading retailer. Sir Terry said that the sudden shift happened when the company stopped worrying about the competition and focused on things it could control, like its relationship with customers.
So, take a tip from Sir Terry and Dave Brailsford; forget SEO, forget Google rankings – both require you to take into account the competition and you may well be knocked off your “medal” place by the actions of others. Instead, focus on what you can do – such as improving conversion rates on your web pages, making your newsletter sign-up more appealing so you can build your list, or adding more and more content to make your site more engaging. If you are involved in running an online business or Internet marketing in any way, aim for targets you can control, rather than those (like Google positions) which are blatantly outside your own power.
Britain’s cycling team has achieved a stunning performance by targeting things they can control – and Tesco has done the same in business. Online, everyone appears to chasing rainbows.