Planning for success the British & Irish Lions way

Planning for success the British & Irish Lions way

There’s a lot to be learned from the military and the world of sport when it comes to good marketing strategy and planning. The ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu’s The Art of War should probably be textbook reading for all marketers. I remember wondering why my boss at Sony gave me a book about the masterminding of the logistics for the Gulf War by General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the Allied Forces, to read when I was preparing business plans for new sales companies in Eastern Europe and Russia in the 1990s. However, it really helped to structure my thinking and take a more strategic, integrated approach.

I was less familiar with the business of professional sport until I worked with Guy Richardson, former Operations Director of the British & Irish Lions, when he was establishing EIGER Sport and Business Performance. A former British army major and previously Scotland’s rugby team manager, his military-style planning and execution of the logistics for the Lions’ 2013 tour of Australia had helped the team to their first series victory in 16 years. Now he was embarking on a new venture, the establishment of his own consultancy to provide both Leadership and High Performance Team Development and Sports Event Management Services.

Guy already understood well the importance of proper planning and preparation for success in the worlds of sport and the armed forces, so he took time out with me to develop and plan the marketing strategy for his new business. He was also well aware that a strategy is only as good as its execution. “We used to have an old saying in the army: ‘No plan survives contact with the enemy.’ It’s the same with the Lions,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times midway through the 2013 Tour. “If you’re rigid in everything, you won’t last very long. So you put your plan in and you know there’s a very high chance of the plan changing.” He adds: “Just as a good house can take all sorts of weather conditions, a good plan can withstand all types of challenges.”

It’s been the same with his planning for EIGER. As he began to implement the plan, he learned more about his target markets and their needs, and he responded by adapting some elements of his plan. He’s been flexible enough to re-prioritise target client segments and sought to take advantage of the early success of his Independent Performance Assessment service by promoting it more to prospective clients. A couple of years on and EIGER is going from strength to strength, including a presence in Singapore.

Guy said: “In developing a marketing plan for my business, I met with David over a number of weeks. I found his style and approach particularly engaging as it was not a question of him giving me all the answers. In fact he engaged me to think long and hard about what it is I want to achieve, where and how. I had all the answers to the questions that he was to pose but he provided me with the right structure which I subsequently put in place for the business. To companies starting up or perhaps looking for a change of direction, I strongly recommend David as someone who is able to get you to provide all the answers to the potential challenges you have and get you on the right direction for success”.