Cycling beats golf in the new world of networking
Liam Fox, the British international trade secretary, has described many of the country’s exporters as “fat and lazy”, more interested in “playing golf on a Friday afternoon” than striking deals.
It is not just this attack on the companies he is meant to be championing which has upset business leaders — it is also appears that he is ill-informed: real movers and shakers are swapping their golf clubs for two wheels.
The number of golf players in the US has dropped by 20 per cent in the past decade while in England numbers have fallen 29 per cent since 2008. But if the green no longer cuts it, where should business people swap business cards?
Real go-getters are cycling, entering triathlons and competing in Ironman competitions. If you are sceptical about whether Lycra is the new Pringle, look no further than the $130bn Verizon-Vodafone deal in which chief executives Lowell McAdam and Vittorio Colao thrashed out terms while riding exercise bikes in a hotel gym in 2013.
真正富有进取心的能人都骑起了自行车，参加铁人三项比赛。如果你疑心骑行运动是否取代了高尔夫，只需想想Verizon与沃达丰(Vodafone)那笔1300亿美元的交易。2013年，两家公司的首席执行官洛厄尔•麦克亚当(Lowell McAdam)和维托里奥•科劳(Vittorio Colao)在酒店健身房里边骑健身车，边讨论出了这笔交易的协议条款。
A number of companies specialise in organising cycling and triathlon events, including challenges that take you the 950 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats (the length of Great Britain, south to north), jaunts to the picturesque Mediterranean island of Mallorca or novice rides in a park that last just a couple of hours. According to Sport England, monthly cycling participation has risen 62 per cent from 232,000 to 377,000 in eight years.
有些公司专门组织骑行和铁人三项赛事，包括从Land’s End到John O’Groats（英国从南到北的距离）950英里的骑行，或者到地中海风景如画的马略卡岛游玩，或在一座公园里短短几个小时的新手骑行。据Sport England的数据，每月参与骑行的人数8年间从23.2万人升至37.7万人，增幅62%。
Dr Josephine Perry, a sport psychology consultant who advises sport professionals and business people, says: “People network in a much freer way on a six-hour bike ride than if it’s something that is forced upon you like a drinks reception. It’s much less awkward.”
Can you really strike a deal, or even chat, while huffing and puffing up a steep hill? “It is great for relationship building,” says Jonathan Harrison, managing director of investment banking at Robert W Baird, who organises an annual London to Somerset ride for colleagues and clients. “It is an incredibly social thing. You natter as you go along,” he says, pointing out that the serious talking happens during the frequent breaks for coffee and lunch.
但是当你气喘吁吁地骑过一段陡峭山坡时，真能敲定一笔交易，甚至是聊天吗？贝雅(Robert W Baird)投资银行业务总经理乔纳森•哈里森(Jonathan Harrison)每年都要为同事和客户组织一场伦敦到萨默塞特的骑行活动，他说：“这是一项特别棒的社交活动，你可以一路闲聊过去。”他补充说，严肃谈话是在喝咖啡或午餐等频繁的休息时段进行的。
For many people, a day-long cycle ride is their idea of hell but Dr Perry says that training for an event in the work gym is the new going-to-the-pub. “It’s a great place to make connections with people in other departments. It takes away the formal hierarchies,” she says.
In any case, there are plenty of entry-level events for people who do not know a pannier from a peloton. HSBC, for instance, sponsored an event last weekend, with triathlons where participants had to cycle for only 5km.
Many experts, though, are sceptical that sport provides a good environment to network. Julia Hobsbawm, visiting professor of networking at Cass Business School, says sport is too often “a protective layer” that distracts people from building meaningful relationships.
不过也有许多专家怀疑运动能否提供良好社交环境。卡斯商学院(Cass Business School)社交网络的客座教授朱莉娅•郝博斯鲍姆(Julia Hobsbawm)表示，运动更像是“一个保护层”，干扰人们建立有意义的关系。
She worries that cycling is no different from golf in that it can perpetuate cliques. “Hanging out with people just like you is no good,” says Ms Hobsbawm. Successful networking is about making connections with an eclectic selection of people.
She adds: “Groupthink in business is always a risk factor” — either in the boardroom or on two wheels.