Vision and preparation are the key to success. We discuss the importance of first class facilities, training and equipment in boosting performance, whether it be for Team GB at the Olympic Games in Rio or for the fastest growing professional services firms in the UK…

The National Cycling Centre in Manchester, built on the site of a former coal mine, was originally seen as a great white elephant marooned on the edge of the city. But the governing body of the sport have turned that coal into gold by securing top class facilities and high-tech research for those all-important marginal gains. They have invested in visual analytics and data modelling- and their high tech super athlete-tailored Cervélo T5GB bikes, streamlined helmets and new skin suits - complete with raised ribbed strips, have outperformed all competition. That technology, combined with their world class training, has meant that every single member of the British cycling team came home with a medal. Similarly, Sport England took the decision to replace the hockey surface at Bisham Abbey last October with the exact same surface as that in Rio in order to ensure that our ladies hockey team had optimal training conditions and a performance edge to prepare them for gold.

The Brits also had a secret weapon in Rio itself. Even before they had hosted their own Olympics in 2012, they visited Rio in February 2010 to determine the best venue for training and for £400,000 they secured a spot just 20 minutes from the overcrowded Olympic village which became their nerve centre for training and preparation. This base was equipped with a gym which had a lifting platform, a 25 metre swimming pool, a boxing ring with sparring partners on site, a dojo for judo and taekwondo and a physio centre for the all-important ice baths. And they then filled that training centre with our very best athletes AND world leading nutritionists, medics and coaches. Not surprisingly, Team GB returned with 129 of their 360 athletes winning a medal and 20 of the 28 sports represented securing a place on the podium.

So this all reinforces just how important securing the appropriate amount of quality training and top class support services can be. Team GB prioritized and budgeted for ‘world-class’ training facilities and exceptional equipment and support to give their team every chance of success.  What if ALL professional services firms were to do the same? Some firms already do it exceptionally well, but what about those who don’t? What would happen if they were to prioritize continuing professional development rather than just paying it lip service? What if they were to set significant budget aside to ensure that their teams were equipped to go out into the market and win? With the extreme and unpredictable business pressures and with some more short term, immediate profit driven decision making, some firms continue to prioritize budgeting individuals’ time and filling teams with ‘fee earners’ who are stretched to the edge of their capacity. This means that for them, training - which they see to be of little immediate financial benefit - is considered to be a luxury and other business functions such as business development and marketing are regarded as ‘overheads’.

But what if attitudes were to change and we started thinking more strategically for more long term gain? Surely if you want your teams to be the best they need continual training and development and exceptional support. What if a firm were to take investment seriously both now and in the future for their people and their business? Would this mean that in 1, 2 or 3 years’ time that they too could start dominating their chosen field and win their very own ‘gold medals’?