THE BUSINESS BENEFITS OF BIKING - North East Times Article September 2019
Having completed many of the planet’s most gruelling cycling challenges, including Le Loop and Cape Epic, Michael Leather has juggled the enormous commitment required for life in the saddle with leading the rapid growth of Leathers. Here, he shares his experiences of how time spent on his bike has delivered significant business benefits
My journey into cycling has been unusual to say the least. Some would describe my voyage as life-changing, others as lifesaving. Indeed, when I feel overweight, it is nowhere near the weight of ten years ago. Cycling has brought so many things to me in business and in life. Having for many years been often completely consumed by work, cycling has been a huge release. I have been able to re-discover something of the elusive ‘me time’, while also simultaneously allowing me the head space to process many of the thoughts or consider client matters that being confined to the office simply doesn’t allow for. The health benefits have been inestimable. Cycling has truly changed my life and re-educated me on the need to put my own wellbeing much higher up the priority list when the tendency is to put family, clients, your business, your team and many other things well before giving yourself so much as a second thought. Cycling has also become warmly embraced by the Leathers team, and the brand has become intrinsically linked with our love of the sport. I have completed Le Loop three times since 2015, for which I know many people think I must be slightly mad. Le Loop is the amateur cyclist version of the Tour de France, which follows the exact 2200-mile route taken by the professionals, only one week ahead of them. To be joined by my colleagues at various stages was truly something special. The team-building and bonding effect cycling has had on our team has been huge. There are lessons that can be learned from applying the commitment cycling requires into your work life, which I think can be explained in five main points.
Clarity of thought
Advisors should provide advice. It might seem obvious, but to do so in an effective manner requires mental clarity. My top tip is to get on a bike – or a similar form of exercise – and go out and ride. I have been asked before what I think about when I am cycling, and I will unfailingly say one of three things: nothing; left/right (as I concentrate on turning the pedals); and everything from work to cooking and the weather. Cycling clears the mind and allows space and time to get to the root of a problem. It has allowed me to re-discover the benefit of having time to think.
When I am training for an event, I need to make a plan to get the training in, the work done, and a life lived. Discipline and planning aren’t really ‘cool words’ in the current ethos, but to run a successful business these have to be strong elements. I often bring to mind the saying about the golfer Gary Player, which goes: “the more I practice, the luckier I get.” I think that in terms of both sport and business, if we know what we are doing and why, it is far easier to move the business forward, to push at doors, and to create opportunities.
Watch the diet
The obvious thing to talk about here is food and nutritional balance. But being in business, whichever field you are in, is about diet too. It’s very important to watch and understand the information you are taking in, to process that information and to make sure it is properly digested.
One of the most exciting things for me has been the ripple effect on the Leathers team, and how warmly they have embraced the benefits. I completed Le Loop in 2015, 2017 and 2018. In 2015, eight of the team rode stages with me, and in 2017 two of the team rode stages with me. Two other people were inspired by my 2015 exploits to ride the whole route. In 2018, one of the team rode stages with me, but far more of the team were inspired to ride the London to Paris challenge. As well as helping to create a team dynamic few other businesses could possibly rival, we have also collectively raised well over £50,000 for local charities as a direct result of our cycling. In a development that does make me feel truly humbled, I have also been told that a number of people who were so inspired by my story went on to complete Le Loop themselves earlier this year.
Paying it forward
We are also hugely proud to be a sponsor of Storey Racing, the cycling team established by Dame Sarah Storey, who is globally known as Team GB’s most successful female Paralympian. The ambition and determination of a decorated athlete like Dame Sarah – and her husband Barney, himself a multi-gold medal winning Paralympian who also runs the family business – is something you cannot fail to be inspired by. The team and I certainly have been. But it isn’t just Sarah. As a team, we are also excited to support Katie Toft, a five-time world champion, and Hannah Dines. I will be on the roadside on September 21 supporting them at the Para-Cycling International event. We are also really excited about the impact of the upcoming World Championships in Harrogate and the waterfall effect for our office. We do not always know what a personal achievement will lead to, but this shows how our achievements can benefit the ambitions of others. We need to carry on and inspire people to push themselves and discover their own potential.