What can an F1 pit crew teach you about teamwork in business?

From the likes of Lewis Hamilton to Sebastian Vettel, it tends to be the drivers in Formula One who get the attention. But without the precision teamwork of a tightly knit and talented pit crew behind them, these stars wouldn’t get off the starting blocks, let alone over the finish line.

As a huge fan of motorsport, I’ve often noticed the parallels between the teamwork involved in this sport and in the business realm. So, here are a few things I believe an F1 pit crew can teach you about the importance of working together within a company.

F1 pit crew works on a race car
Businesses can learn from the teamwork of an F1 pit crew, says Cobra Group founder Chris Niarchos

Detailed preparation = polished performance

A lot happens within a very short space of time when a car comes in for a pit stop. In under four seconds, a team of 16 or more highly trained and skilled people becomes a focussed, well-oiled machine to rival the one they’re actually working on.

Each individual is responsible for their own specific task and is dedicated to executing to absolute perfection. From operating front or rear jacks to making wing adjustments or “simply” holding the driver in place, everyone knows exactly what they have to do and how and when to do it.

This takes a vast amount of preparation and a huge amount of physical and mental training. It’s only by putting in enough practice hours that these teams can give a polished performance and keep their drivers in contention on the track.

In many ways, the same is true in business. The timescales and tasks may be very different, but the principle of doing thorough preparation is exactly the same. Companies that are rigorous and methodical in their approach – and that appreciate the importance of the work that goes on behind the scenes, and the people who do it – stand a much better chance of achieving long-term success.

Clear communication is key

Clear communication is a must between members of a pit crew and between these teams and their drivers. Before developments in technology made car-to-pit communication possible, pit stops were often chaotic and disorganised, especially if they were unscheduled.

Now, thanks to the fact that drivers and pit crews can convey detailed information to each other during races, these stops are much slicker and lightning fast.

Effective communication is equally important within businesses. It can prevent misunderstandings, promote engagement, help drive innovation and foster stronger working relationships between colleagues.

Everyone has to play their part

Another similarity between F1 and business is the fact that, in both arenas, everyone involved has their individual role to play.

In the case of pit crews, tasks are broken down into the minutest of detail. There’s someone directing the car into the precise position, someone holding the ‘brake/in gear’ sign, one person dedicated to removing and replacing the wheel nuts on one wheel and other specialists assigned jobs like altering wing angles. It doesn’t matter how seemingly small the individual task is, every single action is essential in getting that car back on the track.

A business works – or should work – in much the same way. Of course, there are the people who have more visible roles, but depending on the size and nature of your business, you must also have personnel managers, finance and sales specialists, front-of-house people, IT experts and more all coming together to make sure the company runs smoothly.

No matter how big or small their roles may seem, every team member contributes in their own way to the overall success of an organisation. I have learned that it is worth remembering that and acknowledging those who operate behind the scenes just as much as those whose work puts them in the limelight.

As founder and chairman, Chris Niarchos at the Cobra Group of Companies sets the strategic direction for all businesses within the group and ensures that the critical objectives of these businesses are met.

What can Microsoft’s AI chatbot experiment teach young entrepreneurs?

If you didn’t hear about Microsoft’s recent artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot misfortune as the story was unfolding, you won’t have to search hard on the web to find out about it.

As an experiment, the tech giant set a chatbot loose on Twitter. Named Tay, the AI programme was designed to interact with Twitter users and to get ‘smarter’ as more people communicated with it.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, web users fed the chatbot a series of controversial remarks, which it in turn incorporated into its own comments and responses. After just 16 hours, Microsoft was forced to shut the programme down and apologise for any offence it had caused.

You might be wondering what young entrepreneurs can learn from a poorly executed experiment in AI research. But in fact this high-profile and embarrassing blunder highlights a number of important issues that I think all aspiring businesspeople should be aware of.

A solid plan is essential

The engineers behind this AI experiment might have thought they’d done all the necessary planning and preparation to ensure the success of the project, but they were quickly proven wrong. The fact is, in the business world thorough preparation is always essential. Whether you’re gearing up to launch a new company, you’re about to release a product or you’re rolling out a marketing campaign, paying attention to every last detail will help you to avoid costly and potentially humiliating mistakes. This means factoring in enough time to do all the relevant preparations properly, ensuring that this process isn’t rushed and corners are not cut.

Expect the best, prepare for the worst

Decades of business experience around the world dealing with a variety of different companies and projects have taught me to expect the unexpected – and to be ready to react quickly and effectively if and when problems arise. The engineers at Microsoft seem to have been taken by surprise by the response of Twitter users to their chatbot, and it’s all too easy to be blindsided by unforeseen complications in business. The key is to be adaptable and resilient enough to recover from these difficulties.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Try again – and again! In a statement made after Tay was removed from the internet, Peter Lee, Microsoft’s vice president of research, said: “We will remain steadfast in our efforts to learn from this and other experiences as we work toward contributing to an internet that represents the best, not the worst, of humanity.”

This comment perfectly encapsulates the never-give-up approach that entrepreneurs need if they are to fulfil their ambitions. Even the best businesspeople experience problems. One of the things that set these individuals apart is the fact that they have the courage and conviction required to keep going and to reach their goals, regardless of what happens along the way.

 

As Cobra Group of Companies founder and chairman, Chris Niarchos knows exactly what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. He started his first business in Sydney in 1988 and has since gone on to build one of the largest and most high-profile direct sales and marketing companies in the world.