Parallels are often drawn between sport and business. Recently, I have had the opportunity to talk with a couple of individuals who know a lot about both – as they were leading competitors and then made the shift to lead their own organisations.
Tim Rodber had a very eventful 13-year rugby career at the very top, which included captaining Northampton Saints, 44 caps for England, and representing the British Lions, Tim hung up his boots and moved into business full-time in 2001. Joining Northampton’s academy in 1987, Rodber was a member of the British Army for the duration of his rugby union career, even once the sport turned professional in 1995. Following rugby retirement Rodber set up and sold his first business, and is currently CEO of global workspace provider Instant. With more than 15 years of business success, I spoke to Tim on how to make a successful transition from sport to business, and how data and analytics have contributed to his business’s success.
Put the hours in
Harvey Thorneycroft [former Northampton team-mate] and I set a business up in 1997 and hired some people to help run it. The latter part of my career I was juggling three things: time in the army, playing professional rugby and helping to run this business. Anyone who thinks one day you flick a switch and you move to get on with your business career is wrong. It’s all about sacrifice. I’d start my day at 6:30am with emails, go to training, head to the office after lunch then sometimes back to training and then spend my evenings in the office. I was very lucky in that having left rugby at 31 I pitched to a guy called Tim Griffiths who was CEO of [business management consultancy firm] Williams Lea, and within a year of leaving rugby we won a big contract with them; a year later they had acquired my business and I continued working for him.
Embrace unchartered territory
Data has a significant role at the heart of the business, given our role as the largest global buyer of flexible workspace. This gives us an unprecedented market view, and allows us to assess pricing levels, demand, and wider market trends. The data we capture from the visits and enquiries to our website has allowed Instant to assess not only the phenomenal growth in demand for co-working, but also the increasing interest in serviced and flexible workspace from larger, corporate occupiers. On a micro level, ongoing detailed analysis of our website and digital marketing performance data also affords us the opportunity to understand more about the business owners that are looking for flexible workspace, and ensure that they have the broadest access to the best space worldwide.
Make use of the tools at your disposal
There are a variety of tools that we use at Instant, including Google Analytics, CRM systems such as Salesforce, and our own proprietary data management system. The marketing team also use Clicktale and other online user experience software that ensures a seamless customer experience.
Understand your customers
The user experience on www.instantoffices.com, our broking platform is of paramount importance to us, of course, but our overarching goal is to ensure an absolute understanding of all of our customers, from a business start-up through to a large corporate requiring a managed space solution or one of our operator clients. Intelligent analysis of our proprietary data gives us a genuine advantage in a rapidly growing market. This insight allowed us to launch new products to the market; increase Instant’s global footprint, and firmly establish our role as the global, flexible workspace specialist.
Don’t be the guy who used to be a sports star
When I first started after rugby it was very clear that every meeting I went to people would talk about rugby. As soon as I had the opportunity we acquired a business in the U.S and I went there for six years. I did that because I needed to build credibility in the market I was in, and if I didn’t do that I’d be the guy who used to play rugby. Now that I’ve come back to the UK people will still say ‘I remember you’ but most will say ‘I’m interested in your business and what you’ve done’. That was quite an important step for me.
Have a winning attitude
There are crossover characteristics for business and rugby, for sure. You need to be driven and you need a desire within you to tackle problems and solve problems. You need to be a winner. I think that is an innate characteristic that you need. You need to have the right level of being smart, be able to think outside the box, be a problem solver, and recognise other peoples’ opinions whilst also being a good listener. Ultimately you have to make decisions, be brave, and take risks – make sure you win more than you lose.
See for yourself, how in both business and sports, IBM is changing the game.