Let’s set the scene: a business partner knocks at your door on a bank holiday, drenched in sweat; they clearly have intentions of joining your family for lunch. Sound far-fetched? Clearly it isn’t these days. We invested some time in Frankfurt, the financial capital of Germany, to calculate how much of an impact cycling is having on the business world – and the individual.
Many see the world of finance as like swimming in a sea of sharks, where everything revolves around money – and getting as much of it as possible. Endurance and discipline are key traits for long-term success in this industry. Unsurprisingly, stress levels are soaring, and there’s palpable tension in open-plan offices. For those who have to don a suit to traipse into a daunting skyscraper each day, developing genuine, lasting friendships is no mean feat – so just how does it happen that a top lawyer becomes friends with certain clients and investment bankers? Is there, in fact, a way to bridge (or even bypass) outdated hierarchical structures and corporate detachment?
‘It’d be too easy to just go out for a beer with colleagues,’ muses Frank Scholler, an investment banker at Deutsche Bank. His colleague, Daniel Jehlin, interjects: ‘Bikes are the perfect tool; cycling is a really honest sport and easily comparable, which makes it a unique team sport. One can show off as much as one likes, but the truth comes out when you’re on a bike.’ Cycling is proving majorly popular amongst both colleagues and business partners. Jehlin nods: ‘They understand that you’re not just fit, but you can also suffer, knowing that when you’ve got a goal, you’ll see it through and you’ll continually hone your performance in order to be at the top.’
But it isn’t all about performance
As we’ve said, cycling is a team sport – best conducted with turns in the wind, rather than blithely pushing on into a headwind alone. The same applies in the office or at university; put your over-ambitious ego or social awkwardness to one side and ask for help from time to time. Trust us, it’s a faster and more efficient route to take.
‘Cycling is also a really good topic of conversation with Dutch clients,’ expands Jehlin with a broad smile. ‘Once they know that you’ve ridden Paris-Roubaix, you won’t just automatically be respected but you’ll be considered one of the team. Considering that we only chat on the phone several times a year, this is really useful.’
It’s a scenario that Florian Lechner knows well too; a recent testing situation with clients had seen tensions soar. However, as he and the partner entered the meeting room, there was a sudden leap in the mood and it transpired that Florian knew these bosses well, having ridden with them in Mallorca and developed a trusting and amicable relationship. They were able to hold a constructive chat and reach viable solutions, which testifies to our theory that once you’ve suffered together in a lycra-clad group against the wind, then you’re more likely to unite in suits.
Right now, a lot of companies and business insiders are tapping into the potential of cycling in Frankfurt, seeing many commute in company, or head out in the evenings or weekend for social loops. There’s a movement towards team-building events based on cycling from switched-on, savvy employees, and a growing consensus that the sport has a positive influence on people’s work. Florian nods in agreement, confirming that cycling has been a great way to better acquaint himself with contacts and clients, as well as deepen ties to them.
Work vs. Life?
This brings us back to that bank holiday and the ring at the door. The dresscode is remarkably lax; lycra presiding over a suit for today, and the atmosphere is relaxed. ‘Trust Jehlin to arrive when the pasta is al dente,’ the words waft out of the kitchen, accompanied by an enticing aroma. While the kids play, the parents and business partners eat and then get ready to ride. Does it count as networking or is it more of a friendship? The truth is somewhere in between, the guys reason. The concept of separating your private life and corporate socializing is becoming ever more vague, so instead of stressing about your work-life balance, you should just enjoy the time you’ve got – whether it’s work, life or somewhere in between.
From all the times spent with friends or colleague battling in the wind and mutually encouraging each other, it’s clear that cycling has an inimitable pull to draw each other into the fold as you chat about politics, life goals, bikes or components. Whatever your field of work, being in the saddle puts you on a level playing field, where shared passion is the equalizer and the glint in an eye is the evidence.