To succeed, run your business like an F1 team

by Trevor Cattle
UK CTO

September 19, 2018
Reading Time: 3 minutes

It is not every day that someone compares a successful business to a successful F1 racing team. However, the more I think about it the more I like the analogy.

You may think that comparing F1 success to business success is daft as F1 is a sport. It’s only visible on certain weekends and a team’s success or failure is known after a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. Besides, the best car and driver combination always wins.

​What makes an F1 team successful?

As an avid F1 fan I would say that the driver is only one component of a successful team. All the money in the world cannot guarantee a competitive car. Winning depends on hundreds of people working together to produce the very best of each of the component parts required. And, here is the important part, working together to ensure that each individual component works in harmony with each other to beat the competition.

If the aero and chassis team do a great job but the power unit produces less than your competitors then the car will only be, as proclaimed by Fernando Alonso, the fastest in the corners and you will not win races. In turn it will not win the championship and ultimately the cameras turn to another team and sponsors don’t like that.

​Your business is only as strong as the weakest link

I am not going to try and map the individual components from F1 to business. I am trying to highlight the concept of your business only being as strong as the weakest link. Now this is not a new concept but consider the F1 car. If the tangible output from the F1 team is your product or service, then things start to get a bit more interesting.

Using the sub-standard power unit analogy above, it does not matter if your marketing department sells an amazing experience to potential customers if the actual experience is not on-par. Maybe because it involves a clunky non-digital journey, you will not win and retain customers at the rate of your competitors whose whole end-to-end experience is consistently excellent.

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​How do you stack up against the competition?

The competitive pecking order is far more publicly visible in F1. Fans can see from the individual races and championship results who’s on top. They know who has the best power unit, the best aero package, the best chassis, the best pit stop crew, etc.

“If you could see how you stacked up against your competitors in a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, how do you think you’d fare?”

Your product or service must be better than your competitors in order to increase your market share. To achieve that you have to ensure that all the individual parts of your business are as good as they can be and that they are all working in harmony to give the best possible experience to your customers.

​My business is already successful!

Even if you have a successful business you cannot rest on your laurels. The world is constantly changing; customers demand more digital engagement and if your competitors keep innovating then you must too. Having the agility to adapt quickly to change is paramount.

McLaren are one of the most successful teams in F1 but have been close to the back of the grid for a good few seasons. The obvious problem is the Honda power unit, but if they could improve that overnight - would they be at the front of the grid? It is tough to say for sure as just upping the performance in one area could highlight deficiencies in other areas. As a whole package, the current in form teams may still be on top.

Embrace F1 principles to succeed

I believe that some of the principles used by F1 teams should be adopted to maintain a competitive edge:

  • ​A culture that understands that everyone and everything needs to work together to succeed.
  • ​Analyse data to identify opportunity or problems and where to focus resource.
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  • ​Embrace technology and embed it into your company’s DNA.
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    ​Constantly monitor your competitors and copy or improve the good parts.
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    Adopt a continual improvement culture. Small incremental improvements add up.

In short, if you ensure that you are outperforming your competitors in every area of your business then the only outcome is success.

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