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Driving high business performance with the England Rugby Red Roses

It’s rare for small business owners to have the opportunity to look at their business from a completely different perspective. That’s why O2 was excited to introduce Enterprise Nation to the England Rugby Women to stage Accelerate 2018 at Twickenham Stadium on Wednesday, where leaders from the worlds of sport and business talked about talent and performance at the highest level.

Emma Jones, Enterprise Nation’s Founder and CEO, opened the day on a suitably upbeat note:

“Despite everything that’s going on, our members are still feeling pretty confident. This is a brilliant year for growing businesses, with potential for international trade and selling to government, as well as to bigger retailers.”

The inspiration behind the event came from Zoe Hominick, Head of Business Marketing at O2:

“Accelerate 2018 combines two of our core passions. We’ve worked with the England Rugby team for 20 years now, and not only do we love the sport, and what the teams stand for, but we know that our customers do too. We are also passionate about business, working with organisations of all sizes, from startups right through to large enterprises and public sector organisations.”

Zoe also encouraged participants to talk all things technical with Seb, the event’s resident O2 Guru, discussing the ways O2 can support them in thinking about their business plans and goals for 2018.


Attracting and retaining the best talent

First to speak was Serena Palmer, Head of Talent and Workforce Planning at O2, who shared her thoughts on how small businesses can compete effectively in the race to hire and retain talent, encouraging them to be flexible and creative about what they can offer.

“It’s not about the money. It’s about the lifestyle. We no longer strive for that ideal work life balance. There’s no such thing. It’s just life, and we fit our work into it.”

She gave our audience plenty of recruitment advice:

  • The right fit trumps experience every time. It’s not about what a candidate has done before, but about why they want to work for you.
  • Recruit for the future. Don’t just plug a gap that you’ve got right now.
  • It’s always hard to find the complete package, so find someone with the right attitude and be prepared to invest in their training and development.

Recruitment is just the start. Serena observed that every business owner, every leader, casts their shadow throughout their organisation all the time. So retaining talent demands that leaders are able to motivate, inspire and enable them once on board.


Measuring business performance with the right dashboard

Next up was Peter Czapp, founder of the Wow Company, sharing examples of how successful small businesses set goals to accelerate their growth and how they measure their performance along the way.

He began with a sobering question:

“If you knew that you had to work at your job, every day until the day you die, what would you change?”

It served as a reminder how easy it is to drift without proper business goals and targets in place for the year ahead. The mood quickly changed with Peter’s assertion that every business owner should consider what they want their business to deliver in terms of lifestyle and values, and then measure every client or project against those criteria.

“Start with WHY! That’s the only thing that matters.”

Peter gave us 30 minutes of quick fire observations and examples of critical business criteria that every organisation should measure, including profitability, pipeline, sales performance, cash flow, payment terms, staff turnover and billing capacity.

He encouraged each of us to think about the Key Performance Indicators that matter to our own business, and to create our own personal dashboard to monitor and measure them.


The England Rugby Red Roses: high performance in sport and business

Deserving though Serena and Peter were of standing ovations, it took the arrival of the England Rugby Women to get the audience to their feet.

Three members of the squad took to the stage to discuss the team’s ethos, how the players work together, and the parallels between the demands and skills required in business and sport.

We learned that most members of the team have a business or profession alongside their commitment to rugby. Rowena Burfield, for example, works on the family farm, with day to day management of a large organic dairy herd. Rachael Burford founded the Burford all female rugby academy, and Marlie Packer is an experienced plumber with Homeserve.

Each offered valuable business insights acquired from playing sport at an international level, including the focus on personal development and improvement, the value of analysis and strategy, the need for discipline to follow schedules and meet deadlines, sharing responsibility and the importance of the team around you.

With the chance to talk to all the players, a tour of Twickenham Stadium, and an hour of networking, it was hard for attendees and organisers alike to let the day go. We left equipped, though, to make 2018 a year of high performance.

Over the coming days we will focus in more detail on many of the issues discussed at Accelerate 2018. Keep an eye out at the O2 Business Blog and make sure to catch up with all the action from the day by searching #Accelerate 2018 on Twitter.

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