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01 October 2020
General Business, Featured Articles, Adventure Sports

The top 4 lessons I learnt from Adventure Sports

By Phil O'Grady

Phil is the Principal Consultant, AEO at Compliance Council

I have always been a bit of an adrenalin addict. I've gravitated towards activities that are fast, thrilling and sometimes, quite dangerous. The three big activities that stick with me are: Skydiving, Water ski racing and Motorbike riding. All these activities are a mixture of individual and team sports; and just like in any business, these sports require a good mix of autonomous and team work for a successful outcome.

The 4 skills that I've learnt from these adventure sports that can be translated to business effectiveness are:


Trust your TEAM

I was part of a successful water ski racing team, racing in a particular class. We would travel around NSW, VIC, QLD and sometimes South Australia. Like most motorsports, it was expensive and we ran on a pretty slim budget. Our success came, not from having the newest hull or motor, not from having the latest race skis or newest wetsuits, but from knowing that each person in the team knew their role, played it well and did their bit. We all trusted each other. As a driver, I was fully aware of the skiers' abilities and limits in the differing water conditions, which allowed me to drive on the limit without too much input from skiers during a race. All the skiers knew that I would look after them in rough conditions and give them a rest where needed. They also knew that when the conditions changed to be more favourable, they just needed to hang on.

We would discuss the race, before and after, but when the race was on, we just did our thing as individuals, working for the team.

Our successes over a ten-year period included nine top three placings and one DNF in the Sydney Bridge to Bridge Classic, two wins and four placings at Mildura, a record time win at Euchca Southern 80, a win in a higher class at the Gold Coast Classic and a Third outright at the South Australian Titles, losing to an unlimited superclass inboard and an unlimited outboard boat.

Post the race, it was interesting to see teams balling each other out for perceived mistakes or problems they had along the way. We didn't do this, we rather trusted each other to give our best.

In business, you have to keep this philosophy of trusting your team. Have people who are smarter than you in their role, and then fully trust them, or simply don't have them.



All The Gear All The Time. Very early in my riding days I learnt that falling off a motorbike can hurt, a lot. I have had two high speed offs - one resulting in an extended hospital time, and the other in broken bones, bruises and multiple scratches and bumps. You should wear protective gear every time you get on a bike if you want to reduce the severity of any injury or pain from falling off.

In business, it is much the same. You cannot set off on a journey fraught with obstacles and the potential to fail or fall over without being properly prepared and protected. You need to ensure - your systems and processes are solid, your people are well-versed with their tasks, and you, as the “owner” have got it together, All The Time.

Just like riding a bike, a business can be travelling well but an unforeseen circumstance can cause the business to crash. The severity of the crash and the resulting injury to the business will directly relate to the protection the business has around it.


Ambitions and Capability

Don’t get them mixed up! Purely by their nature, adrenaline activities drive you to reach higher, go faster, push the limit, just a bit more. Successful sports people in this field, the ones that last the longest, understand that the ambition to go further must be coupled with a level of understanding of ability. Sure, pushing your boundaries and testing your limits is what it is all about, but going from a go-kart to a full-blown race car in one step is not a good idea. The adrenaline, like you, might be short lived and at the very least you will probably suffer a severe setback.

In business, we do need to take risks. Particularly when the business is growing. The smart way to handle it is to ensure ambitions of the people in the business never cross over the capabilities of the business itself. Sure, stretching, pushing and having a go are all great attributes to a growing business, however, if the business goes over the precipice of Ambitions over Capability, this could very well destroy the business or it can suffer a severe setback.



My “Toys” are generally the biggest and or the fastest I can buy in their categories. Also, they are practical. My two current bikes - an FE 570 Enduro and a KTM 1290 Super Adventure are fast, fun and practical. Whilst they are in good condition, they are not the best looking bikes around. Many riders buy bikes, sometimes for tens of thousands of dollars, and then proceed to add thousands more on accessories to make them look a class apart, but add little or no value performance wise. They worry more about how their bike looks, and how much of the latest riding gears they themselves have, then actually riding the bikes as intended.

I spend money on my bike to make sure they are safe, reliable and they can do what I got them for - strong performance!

Business is the same. Having the best tools in and around the business and using them appropriately is more important than having the wrapped cars, best looking office space, offices in high profile areas, sponsorship on sporting jumpers etc. at the expense of other important areas of the business. This fake image does no good to the clients' businesses, if they don't deliver an expected performance. 

Just like these sports, a successful business is about having a great team around you that can and will do their part, making sure that all the systems and procedures are relevant, in place and are followed at all times. This forms the structure of any great business. Go for the “Golden Ring”, be ambitious, but make sure the business is capable of handling any new challenge. Finally, forget the Bling! Spend your time, money and resources on areas of the business that will enhance the performance. Sure, image is important, but reputation is far more important.

At Compliance Council, the value we are able to provide to our clients goes far beyond the establishment of management systems and the frameworks on which they are established. We are able to work directly with the clients to help them utilise these powerful tools, which ensures business efficiencies and profitability!



Animal II




Phil O'Grady, on the Right, on his KTM