As a four-time Canadian cycling champion and having competed with Team Canada in the World Championships in 1989, it’s fair to say I’ve spent a lot of time on a bike.

But, maybe more importantly, I’ve spent a lot of time competing with and depending on a team. This is where I was first introduced to the peloton; this is the main group or pack of riders that work together, in formation, toward their common goal, cooperating, sharing effort, and leveraging one another’s strengths for sustained performance and mutual benefit.

I’ve applied this peloton framework to the numerous small businesses I’ve operated, and I continue to use it to influence how I build and manage my teams today. But in terms of mass adoption, the workplace peloton remains an enigma to many, including the small business owners it could benefit most.

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road. The hours are long, the hats worn are many, and the pressure can seem insurmountable. According to a recent statistic from Industry Canada, 57 percent of Canadian small businesses fail within the first 10 years of operation, with many citing inexperienced management and a lack of basic internal strengths as the leading pain points.

But, just as a cycling peloton functions to serve the captain, the small business peloton serves to motivate and strengthen the business owner. When building a workplace peloton, small business owners must consider both their team of individuals and platforms and their mentor, and understand how these key components can be integrated together to propel their business forward.

Calling in Some Tech Support 

When it comes to integrating technology into one’s business, the options have never been more diverse or customizable to suit the evolving needs of a business. Similar to how the shape or formation of the peloton changes throughout the race as it adapts to various factors, so too should the technologies that support your business.

Tools like LinkedIn are used to advertise your business and function as a replacement for traditional resumes, helping small businesses find the best fit for their teams. Similarly, backend platforms like Xero serve business owners through accessible accounting and advisory, freeing up valuable time that can be redirected to running the human side of their business. As business owners, we use software as an enabler to lead to a human connection, and we’re seeing this trend continue as we rely more heavily on technology to build and manage our teams.

The Sideline Cheerleaders; Choosing the Right Mentor, Coach, and Small Business Advisor

As the captain of a team, and leader of a small business, it’s crucial to choose a coach, or a mentor, with the necessary skills and experience to help you efficiently climb the hills, speed through the flats, and truly maximize your business’ gains. As with the changing technology, there’s been a shift in who is chosen as a mentor. It’s important to keep a few things in mind when making this decision.

Just as your coach isn’t a direct teammate, your mentor shouldn’t be someone you work with, but rather, someone external who will push you outside of your comfort zone in the interest of your success. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, your mentor should be someone you are compatible with and who you trust with your business.

More often, we’re seeing that the trusted advisor is no longer a bank or a friend, but rather, the accountant or bookkeeper offering crucial financial advice and business direction to help a small business develop and thrive. The right mentor can drastically shape the course of a business by devoting substantial time to analysis and advisory while creating a genuine human connection with their mentee.

Bringing the Team Together as One Peloton

The real value in innovative technology is the human element of the coaching and advisory — essentially how we interpret the zeros and ones. In the Tour de France, for example, every team has a captain who leads, a coach to advise and train, and a whole team who are working together to support the captain to earn the best possible result through the gruelling 21-day course.

Similarly, a successful small business relies on an integrated framework — a peloton — of moving parts that offers support, direction, and maintains the speed and forward momentum of the captain. It might not seem like it at first glance, but small business is a team sport.

In order to achieve the goals of the business, the captain, or business owner, must recruit a team by selecting the right business platforms and human support to integrate as two facets of a functional peloton. This team is chosen to motivate and serve the captain to best serve the clients, and in turn, best serve each other.

Rod Drury, the founder of Xero, used to say, “We’re all about building better schools and hospitals.” The more small businesses that start up and are successful, the more taxes they pay, and the better schools and hospitals we all have. We have a mission to do everything we can to give small businesses the coaching and tools needed to be more successful, and in doing so, we’re raising the GDP of the world.

The more people integrate available technology, human support, and dedicated mentors, the more small businesses are going to not just survive, but thrive, and the better off the world will be.

Tony Ward is the President of the Americas for Xero.