The Great British Entrepreneur Scale-Up Conference: why running triathlons makes me a better CEO

The Great British Entrepreneur Scale-Up Conference will attract an audience of 500 founders, entrepreneurs and business owners from ambitious businesses.

Working in association with Coutts, NatWest and RBS alongside significant partners and the media the inaugural Scale-Up Conference will take place in Central London on 20th November 2017 touching upon several areas of how to scale up your business from experienced entrepreneurs. David Williamson, CEO of EfficientIP, discusses the important values that transcend the track.

I’m the CEO of a company in a highly competitive industry – technology. In particular, network management and security (DNS-DHCP-IPAM). We’re a challenger – meaning there are bigger and fiercer competitors who play in our space that have the luxury of expending a lot more resources. Every day in our business, we are tested and are always battling to be number one. So as a CEO, how do you lead and motivate a team to always strive for better? One way is to apply what I have learned out of the office as a triathlete to my business.

Here are four principles that I have learned as an athlete that I extend to the office:

  1. Be an absolute professional and resilient. This doesn’t mean in the traditional sense of how you conduct yourself at work. It refers to setting standards that are attainable but realistic. It is this level of honesty that builds trust, respect and endurance. I expect my team to say “no” when they think that they can’t get a customer to deliver on their end of the bargain. I expect that if you set an objective, that it is within reach. If you can only meet 90 percent of the goal, then you have failed, and that is not a success. You shouldn’t sign up to participate in a marathon if you don’t think you can do it or commit to the training.
  2. Encourage peak performance at all levels. You can’t just have one person good at swimming and the next at biking or running. They need to excel at all of the tasks within their scope. Your pre-sales team needs to be as equally as strong as your sales team. As a leader, you must set this tone. If you do, then teams will be aligned and deliver at a higher success rate. Just like in a race – if you push hard, put in the energy, and at the end give it everything you have, you will reach your full potential.
  3. Disrupt and adapt. During a race, as in business, conditions change. There may be rain, you may pick up a niggling injury or you may find a stage easier than you expected. Just like in a commercial setting, on endurance races, your brain is racing. This is the time when the champions adapt and innovate, digging deeper or holding off for a sprint finish. At EfficientIP, our greatest technical differentiations, the ones which disrupt the market like Smart DDI and Hybrid DNS happen in response to live customer requests, not five-year plans. When customers share new needs, we are open to solving them on the fly. This capability is good for them and good for us.
  4. Mix passion with curiosity. I encourage employees to sell value, not product, in order to create worth within a company. Our team and our products are great, but it’s this collective approach mixed with passion that makes us excellent. It’s one of the reasons why our company has an extremely high closing rate on sales – upwards of 80 percent.

A dynamic environment prioritises empowerment over process. You can’t compete in a triathlon with just drive, or just for fun, or merely to satisfy your curiosity. You need to also understand the pain – what it feels like on your joints, what your competitor next to you feels, etc. When you blend all of these together, it allows you to be confident in your decisions and make the best choices. It is the same in business.

Companies continually fail for a multitude of reasons – sometimes it is due to the inability to lead and create an environment that fosters success in a positive and productive manner. I have learned that it’s not just about the greatness of the product; it’s about pursuing excellence at every level. Otherwise, you won’t get past the starting line. True champions battle to the end of the finish line.


For more information on the The Great British Entrepreneur Scale-Up Conference visit here.