Opinion: Team GB's Olympics success shows the power of a strategic approach

Opinion: Team GB's Olympics success shows the power of a strategic approach

Steve Dunne, executive chairman of Brighter Group

Thanks to the stunning display, at every level, by team GB in the Rio Olympics Britain is now a global superpower when it comes to sport. 

Look all around you, from offices to high streets and from stations to schools and you can see how the success of Team GB has inspired people and made everyone so proud of their country.

To reach number two in the medals table, ahead of China, Germany, Russia and Japan has been an astonishing achievement. But it has not been an overnight phenomenon. 

Beyond the initial headlines and news coverage there is, for me, a very important business lesson to be learnt from team GB’s success – one that can, and should, apply to any travel company regardless of size.

The Team GB success has come about by three things – a strategic plan, investment and ruthless focus on the long-term goal. 

The seeds of success for the Team GB performance at London 2012 and Rio 2016 goes back twenty years – to the failure of Team GB at the Atlanta games in 1996.  

Back then Team GB won just one Gold medal and were ranked 36th in the medal table behind countries like Ireland, Kazakhstan and Czech Republic. 

This disastrous performance led to a strategic decision and the setting of a long-term goal by John Major’s Government to improve the performance of Team GB. To be in the top 20 in the Beijing Olympics and even higher for the London 2012 games.

Targeting was the first port of call in the plan and individual sports were identified as offering Team GB the highest potential for medals.

One of those was cycling, one of the greatest sources of medals at Rio 2016. As a result significant funds were invested in the sport based on its potential for medals. 

Over the past eight years Team GB has become the World’s most well funded cycling discipline. That same thinking has run across many sports during the same period – return on investment being the key.

Added to investment the approach has exercised a ruthless focus – sports that don’t offer potential medals are dropped in favour of those that do. 

Women’s volleyball is an example. It had risen in the world league tables to reach the top 20 prior to the London Olympics – but on winning no medals it was dropped. 

Team GB didn’t have a women’s volleyball team at the Rio games.   

The success of Team GB shows clearly the need for business’ to think long-term – a particular challenge in today’s world of instant returns for shareholders and instant feedback from social media and rolling 24 news platforms.

But if travel companies can follow Team GB’s approach to success and think long-term, stay focussed and keep return on investment front of mind at all times then the sporting success of Team GB can be replicated across the marketplace for travel brands of all sizes.


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