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What you and your business can learn from Strava

Success in business
Reading Time: 4 minutes

My cycling buddies have been using the phone app Strava for years to track their rides.

While this isn’t novel, the appeal of Strava is that, like Facebook, you can see what your friends are doing and comment on their activity. Unlike Facebook, there’s honesty in postings because your whole activity is measured, not just what you want the world to see.

The other great thing about Strava is that there’s a sense of positivity that you won’t always find on Facebook. On Strava, you won’t find politics, religion or medicine. Nor will you find a barrage of advertising. The comments on Strava are encouraging and the app is meant to be fun.

Strava can track up to 30 activities, including bike rides, runs, swims, skiing, paddling, wheelchair use, or even an E-bike ride or rock climbing.

Your friends can follow your routes and you can compare how you did over a segment compared to your last time or against anyone else who has used the platform. The idea is that you will be motivated by what others are doing, you will have fun commenting on their activities, and you will be challenged to put in extra effort to get on the leaderboards or win a section.

While Strava had been an idea in the minds of its founders since 1996, it wasn’t until technology caught up with the concept that the idea became a reality.

Strava was started in 2009 by Mark Gainey and Michael Horvath, two computer geeks who shared a love for physical activity and recognized the need for athletes to remain motivated beyond simply racing.

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So how much is a business worth?

It reached its first million users after three years, but it took years to be profitable. In 2020, the Strava app was signing up almost two million users a month.

Here are five lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Strava:

Be patient when starting out: Strava took over 10 years to really garner the attention it deserves.

Many athletes must try multiple times to get a top-10 finish on Strava. However, many business people think they’ll open their doors and customers will rush in, and they will experience fantastic success overnight.

That rarely happens. Success is often the result of persistence.

Make it fun: Strava is a success because it’s fun and engaging. People are attracted to positivity. They want to hear that others have noticed that they’ve put in an effort.

If you’re not noticing your work team, perhaps you need to figure out how you can give people more recognition for their work.

Be diverse: Strava isn’t focused on just one sport. In its early days, it was a cycling app that made money by signing up people who would start out for free and eventually decide there was value in paying Strava to track their efforts.

Now Strava can track over 30 activities because the operators know that many people don’t just do one type of physical activity; they often are active in multiple sports.

And Strava doesn’t just generate income from selling its tracking software. It also sells the information it gathers on the most travelled routes to planners. That helps facilitate better bike lanes and trails and healthier communities.

Often we think we need to stick to one business model or one market segment. This lack of diversity can often lead to failure.

Leader boards work: Your team wants to know how they stack up – or at least some of them do. Our brains are intrinsically wired to hit targets and reach for goals. Tracking results and having historical data gives us reasons to try harder and challenges us to reach for goals we might not have considered.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about a leader who was frustrated by his factory’s lack of ability to produce. One day, he took a piece of chalk and wrote the number 9 on the factory floor. When the night staff came in, they asked what the number was. They were told that was the number of machines the day crew built. The night shift felt inclined to beat that number. And so it went.

People feel proud when they accomplish something. However, we rarely measure what matters and make accomplishment fun.

Focus on your strengths and be strategic: You’ll never get on the leaderboard in every section you travel through. But if you focus on your strengths and act strategically, you can probably get a top-10 finish.

In life and business, we need to think similarly. When we focus on what we’re good at and act strategically under the right conditions, we can outperform our competitors.

I recently talked to a business manager who doubled her sales in just over a year. I asked her how she did that against much larger competitors. She told me that instead of worrying about price or selection – where she was at her weakest against her competition – she focused on what she was good at: talking to people and making them feel important.

Strava can make your workouts more interesting – and having a Strava-like mentality can take your business to a whole new level.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner in Pivotleader Inc. As an award-winning business coach, Dave is competitive and loves to see results. Email your results to dave@pivotleader.com. For interview requests, click here.


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