The new golf day – getting people on mountain bikes
15 April 2016
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Gerald de Kock: Welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking. All matters mountain biking we cover and we meet the people and the places, go to the places, the riders and the people who make this sport happen, thanks for downloading.
Today we’re going to focus on the corporate aspect of mountain biking and the role that this sport is playing in corporate South Africa. It used to be golf days, but today we’re on the PwC Mountain Bike Challenge at Paul Cluver and Tom Blok from PwC in the Western Cape is sitting alongside me. Tom, 160 riders here, how does it operate and where did it germinate?
Tom Blok: We’ve identified from our client involvement that, let’s call it the traditional focus on golf days, on rugby boxes, on cricket boxes. We were just not getting enough real quality time interaction. When we started engaging with our clients, we just felt that the same trend we’re seeing all over.
More people are involved, firstly, in cycling, whether it be road or mountain biking, but mountain biking seems to definitely be the preference at the moment. Together with that, the focus much more on a corporate day, but with family involvement. Really trying to bring families together and to create quality time as a family unit.
Based on the back of that we put our thinking caps together, we got some great support from Stillwater Events that has been our event’s organiser now for the three years that we’ve been running it. At the end of the day, it’s a by invitation scenario.
It’s not about doing business
We’re really trying to identify those clients, specifically at the, almost at the decision making levels, that are really able to interact with us. Those people that you don’t normally get time to spend with because of the fact that time is so constrained on your normal Monday to Friday environment and that’s been the winning recipe.
Small field, focused, great day, great events, great trails to go and ride and typically trails that people will not ride on a normal Saturday or Sunday. They’re a little bit, being Paul Cluver, we’re 75km outside of Cape Town and it’s just that little bit too far to normally do your Sunday riding exercise.
GDK: I take it not a lot of business per se, will be done here, but it’s the connections and the feel good factor are vital I suppose.
TB: No business is spoken about here. This is about mountain bike conversations. But what’s incredibly interesting, how these conversations carry on. When you really start getting into a scenario of walking into the boardroom, walking into the meeting room, it’s immediately a connection at a different level.
Having done a bit of sweating together and done a couple of falls together, is obviously things that people remember. They say, ah, I remember and that depth of relationship comes from being able to talk about things that are non-corporate.
Engaging with people is what counts
GDK: Can you quantify this, at the end of the year and say, this worked because of that?
TB: Gerald, that question gets asked even within our own environment in terms of being able to say, what is the quantification. But at the end of the day, it’s not about the rands and cents, it’s not about the hours spent. It’s really a scenario that we are starting to see at the end of the day, at a corporate level.
Business is about people interacting with people, rather than a brand interacting with another brand. The brand is really just the scenario that brings two big organisations together. Unless you can really start engaging with people around the things that matter to them, it becomes an incredibly boring. Then you could be selling washing powder or any other product for that purpose.
Especially in our scenario, which is around trying to understand what are the things that make people tick. What are the things that make them excited? What are they passionate about? At the end of the day, a lot of people are more passionate about what they do at weekends than what they are in terms of the Monday to Friday job. This is really where this kind of event comes from.
GDK: What is it about mountain biking, that it has this draw and this pull for corporate South Africa and for South Africans?
TB: It’s very difficult to try and explain that view on an interview scenario. But what do people want? They want to get out of the normal rat race. They want to get out of the normal, let’s call it ‘city bowl’ views. When you hit mountain biking, it’s about that back to nature component. It’s about the physical component. It’s about that.
We speak about work/life balance, so ad lib these days. But at the end of the day, it’s about that bit of physical connection that goes with it. To me, at a persona level, I’ve only been riding for a couple of years, but it’s been that adrenalin rush that you get.
The planning that goes into the weekend’s rides during the course of the week. Knowing that you’re going to be interacting with a whole bunch of people from a whole diverse group of backgrounds. At the end of the day, it’s not about what your profile is, or what your title is during the course of the week. It’s about, can you actually make it up the hill or not.
The more people ride the more they love it
GDK: Judging by the field here today, the level and the standard of riding is certainly on the up and increasing isn’t it?
TB: Very much so. I can just take the team that I was part of today, last year they took more than four hours to complete the 40km. This year they were doing it in 3:15 and to them, that personal win is an absolute wow factor. They’re going to be talking about it for weeks to come. Definitely, when you look at it in terms of the overall level of time that is spent, it is definitely a scenario that people are getting into it more and more.
GDK: It’s not just this event, as I say, you’ve started riding and so your goals extend. Some might be riding this, in fact we’ve met a few people who are riding for the first time. This is their first event, his eyes are glowing, glittering, he’s got other goals now and it’s the roll on effect.
TB: It’s very much that roll on effect because at the end of the day, it’s around trying to get people active and it’s trying to get people part of the community. Because once they’re part of the community, you have that group of friends. That group of colleagues. That group of client contacts that is going to be riding every Saturday or Sunday morning.
They start organising it amongst themselves and it’s wonderful, testosterone, it almost drives you to do a little bit more every time. So somebody will say, I’ve got this event coming up in three weeks’ time, come and ride it with me. All of a sudden you’re riding things that you never thought were going to be possible before. We’ve been very fortunate, within our own corporate environment.
We’ve got age spectrum running from fresh faced graduates right through to people on the brink of retirement, that ride together over weekends and again, it’s the fact that it’s become almost the equaliser in terms of that level of conversation that goes with it. Everybody stretches everybody in terms of that challenge.
GDK: What’s your next goal?
TB: I’ve got the 36One coming up next weekend. I need a certificate for insanity, I think at this point in time. But at the end of the day, it’s that coming up that’s the big one. Then we’re going to be repeating our corporate challenge.
We did a charity ride in December last year where a group of about 40 of us in total, mostly PwC staff, but also a number of friends and client contacts, got together. We did 300km for charity and managed to raise R125 000 in the process. So we’re going to see if we can repeat that this year again. That’s coming up just after the winter season, so enough to keep you going.
Combining competition with fun
GDK: Having said all this and it’s about the contacts and the networks and the good vibe and the good feeling, you guys in big business are competitive, there’s still that isn’t it?
TB: Very much so and interestingly enough, the fact that mountain biking is always competitive. Because often you’re not competing against anybody else, other than yourself. Many of the people in the corporate environment are very self-driven people, especially when you start getting into the management levels.
It’s always about, can I do more, can I do better, can I do something that somebody else hasn’t done yet and to me, that’s the piece that we harness onto. Because this now brings the work component where that competitive spirit resides, together with the sport component where it’s also coming through and manifesting itself.
GDK: Tom, it’s fantastic to have another corporate involved in this wonderful sport of mountain biking and long may it continue. It’s rolling away, people are leaving the venue here at Paul Cluver, you couldn’t have asked for a better day, absolutely spectacular. I think generally the vibe just what you were looking for.
TB: Absolutely, we couldn’t have asked for a better day, better weather, better venue, better company.
GDK: That’s been another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking. Tom Blok, our guest from PwC down in the Western Cape. They run a very special event here and are making a contribution to the business world and to the mountain biking world, which is what it’s all about. Join us again for another download on our Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking, cheers.