Monday, July 29, 2013

Inspiring with Fulcrum Partners


I'm glad that I don't add (or subtract) sponsor logos very often from this site. I'm proud that the companies I work with, I get to work with year after year. The opportunity to work with someone new is always somewhat of a challenge. The first question for me is always, "what can I do for them?" And then, of course, there is the sometimes-obvious-and-sometimes-not question of, "what can they do for me." The further I get from my comfortable niche - technically-oriented triathlon companies, the more difficult that question is to answer. But the further I get from that niche, the more opportunity there is to reach a wider audience of people. And that's a wonderful opportunity, even if it's not one that I am always comfortable with. 

It's a very awkward - for me anyway - thing to think that I get paid to do what I do. How do I stay true to who I am and not just become a "shill"? In some ways, it would be nice if I could subsist exclusively on prize money, because then that part of my life would be simpler. But that would add an enormous amount of complexity off of the race course, especially at home. As a father and husband, I'm not prepared to say, "sorry, Quentin, you don't get to eat well this month because daddy had a bad race." And beyond wanting to provide a secure life for my family, I also think that a key part of growing the sport of triathlon is appealing to both would-be triathletes (including those who maybe didn't even know they were would-be triathletes) as well as never-gonna-be-triathletes who nevertheless are drawn - as the annual Kona NBC broadcast demonstrates - to the stories within our sport. There's the obviously selfish part of this - it's good for me to grow beyond the strict confines of the endemic world of triathlon. But I also hope and believe that it's good for the sport as a whole as well. That if I can have some success doing it, maybe I can show other pros how to do it as well. 

One of the oft-debated topics I'm passionate about discussing on twitter and Slowtwitch and most anywhere else is what the future is for the sport of triathlon. Some folks want it to follow the road of spectator sports, like baseball or football. This seems to be - to some extent anyway - the way that the ITU is pushing things, it seems with great success. But Ironman doesn't have that future, to me anyway, because I think it's length is prohibitive. The Kona broadcast takes months to put together. That's fine for one race, but it wouldn't work for every Ironman. Personally, the "sport" that I see long-distance triathlon being the most like is poker. And also contract bridge. Both of these are participant-driven (as opposed to spectator-driven). People like it because everyone competes together. And they share an experience together. And, of course, because sometimes they can win a lot of money. But the money aspect is where I think triathlon pros could learn more from contract bridge, where there is no prize money but instead the focus is on the experience, than from poker. The bridge model is one where the best bridge players are paid by tournament organizers to show up to "set the bar," as it were, for the standard of play. People want to see how the best do what they do. And they want to experience it with them. And the best professional contract bridge players earn fees that would make many (if not most) triathletes envious. This is because contract bridge appeals to a broad demographic, but a big and especially influential part of that demographic is affluent, much like triathlon.

The minimum barrier of entry for triathlon is another topic worthy of debate, but not one I'm prepared to tackle here. Do I think triathlon would benefit from being made more accessible? Yes I do. But in the short term, I think it's probably better to focus on the fact that the kind of person who can afford to swim, bike, and run in training and then go do a swimming, biking, and running race is - in general - someone necessarily falls into a relatively privileged group. Now, this isn't to say that everyone who does triathlon is "rich." But triathlon is not - and may never be - like soccer, where a single ball and a patch of ground is all that is needed to have a game. 

Now this may seem like a rather rambling introduction to a new partnership, but the nature of the company I'm allying with requires - I thought - a bit of explanation. Fulcrum Partners is an executive benefits company, which is admittedly a bit of an odd thing for a professional triathlete. Though I suppose as is often the case, there's a somewhat simple explanation, at least for how the discussion got started. One of the partners is a triathlete and has a passion for the sport. But the fact that a triathlete works at a company doesn't answer the two questions that I feel must be answered for something to work long term and to set an example that other athletes might follow. What can I do for them. And what can they do for me. And, of course, the third implied question, "do those things make sense together?"

I think that my experience working with Ironman on their XC (Executive Challenge) program gave me some insights into what triathlon - as a whole - offers to a lot of the folks that a company like Fulcrum works with. But where do I fit into that? I think my role within something like XC is more clearly defined, but I struggled to figure out where I might fit into that puzzle as a lone athlete. Ultimately, I wasn't the one with the vision, though. That was Tom Chisholm of Fulcrum. But as I read more about Fulcrum, trying to understand a bit more about the company and Tom's vision for what we might do together, I started to see the sort of value that I hope that I - and other pro triathletes, many of whom have very different but at least as inspiring stories as I do - might add to non-endemic companies without even an tangential relationship to the sport.

Tom's vision was that businesses (and, more specifically, business leaders) would be inspired by what it takes to be consistently successful as an endurance athlete. And that sharing that with their clients - and potential clients - would reflect the sort of business approach that Fulcrum takes to what they do. That's the reason I linked to that specific page on the Fuclrum site, because I think that's what speaks to me about them as a business. And they created a special section of the site to reflect what I speak about to them as an athlete. You can find that under the "INSPIRE" tab on their site if you followed the prior link or by clicking HERE. I'd hoped to be able to add something to that page, but due to regulatory issues, I was not allowed to. But thankfully, I can add my $0.02 here.
I'm honored to partner with Fulcrum Partners. We share a focus on long-term goals and a commitment to thoughtful planning and execution to reach those objectives made this an obvious choice for me. The core values that lead to excellence in an endurance sport like triathlon have a lot of parallels in the business world, and I'm hoping that I can learn just as much as I can share. 
And I'm hoping that we can inspire other businesses to find value in our sport and in the pro athletes who set the bar that I and others keep trying to reach...

1 comment:

Vishwas Iyengar said...

At first I too was like ... where is the fit between Fulcrum & Jordan - but then as I read the piece more it became more clear. Nice! It is good to see your network expand beyond the tri world - good luck.