The importance of building a strong, cohesive team structure

Franchising guru Nigel Toplis compares a challenging foreign cycle trek with running a successful business. And there are many similarities to ponder.

The importance of building a strong

I was reminiscing the other day about the time I donned some rather snug lycra and embarked on a seriously long cycle trek in the Far East. It occurred to me during this period of contemplation and reflection that some of the lessons we learned on this foreign trip could also be applied to business.

So what were they? Whether you’re cycling through monsoons for charity, or aiming for franchise success, preparation, people and processes remain vital if you have ambitions to go the distance.

This charity cycle from Ho Chi Minh City – formerly Saigon – to Angkor Wat, covering 540km, was a challenge that demanded both personal resilience and team collaboration. And these weren’t the only things it shared with running a business.

Have good systems and processes, and make sure you follow them

Upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, our first task was to become acquainted with our bikes. Our experienced ground crew explained that we needed to optimise them carefully. We needed to position the seat properly and ensure that the handlebars were at the right height.

Every night during the trek we were advised to wash our bikes down, oil them and check them over. As in business, it’s important to invest in the best tools you can afford and then make certain they remain in pristine condition.

We then had a team meeting to discuss the plan for our first ride. This was an introductory 50km cycle. Good communication is critical. The crew kept it pertinent, clear and simple, ensuring everyone listened and understood what was said.

The core message at this inaugural meeting was ‘we’ve been doing this for years so, if you want to complete the challenge, do what we say.’ This is also the crux of good business practice, as well as good franchising.

Easier to achieve your goals when the whole team pulls together

Good franchising is a marriage of franchisor and franchisee. It is most successful when both parties work together. The trek certainly wasn’t all plain sailing, so when the going got tough, the cyclists and crew joined together to make sure everyone pulled through and achieved their goal.

We had one particularly difficult moment when we were stuck, approximately 10km from the finish of our daily ride, in heavy monsoon showers. We’d already covered 90km that day and faced a dilemma: Should we take the support coach or continue the ride? It was certainly tempting but we all agreed that, in life, achievement rarely comes without effort. We decided to go for it. The weather was atrocious, but the camaraderie was inspirational. And, guess what, every single rider made it home.

Communicate and build strong relationships

When you take on a business, you should feel confident that when things get tough – and they usually do at some stage – your team and colleagues will dig deep to support you. In franchising, the franchisor’s head office support staff will provide continuous support.

A 540km bike ride doesn’t just happen overnight. Neither does business success. Preparation is vital for both. Whether its business or a long cycle ride, you have to summon up plenty of effort and train for it.

You also need a good crew who not only understands the route, and offers guidance, but will quickly get to grips with team dynamics. They will assess and analyse the individual nature of each rider. All team efforts involve individual contributions from a wide range of different people and varied talents.

You must communicate regularly. All plans need tinkering – or perhaps require major surgery – from time to time. This occurred every day during our cycle challenge. And in business, the more we see and speak with our customers, then the stronger the relationship becomes. Generally, the stronger the relationship, the longer it lasts.


I am proud to announce that we successfully completed the Ho Chi Minh City to Angkor Wat challenge. I am also proud to continue to raise money for charity. And I am proud to be a franchisor that has the opportunity to help grow and develop businesses, with franchisees and colleagues alike.

One final thought: Nothing is impossible if you put the effort in, plan seriously, surround yourself with good people and dedicate yourself to the cause. My next challenge is climbing Machu Pichu in October of this year. All donations gratefully received!

Nigel Toplis
Nigel Toplis