Maintain good discipline. Most people are aware that eating more sugar and drinking more alcohol is not good for us. We also recognize that balance in all things is key. What holds us back often from applying these guidelines is our own self-discipline. I work to keep this habit while not being a monk. Monday through Friday is spent trying to retain good discipline in this area so at the weekend I can relax and enjoy the weekend and the treats more. Nothing wrong with a beer or a chocolate at the weekend.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewingBilly Ferguson.
Billy Ferguson is the founder & CEO of Trivelo. A triathlon and multi-sport specialist agency providing product testing and digital marketing services to a range of triathlon companies. Clients of Trivelo include HUUB, TYR, Zone3, Proviz, Salomon and Orca. As well as devoting his time to making Trivelo a success, Billy is Father to three children so maintaining a balance between work and life is a huge priority.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My story started in the idyllic surroundings of Scotland where I was born to Scottish parents. My father worked for IBM as I grew up and my mother was a teacher. When I was 2 years old we moved to the South coast of England chasing the sun and following my fathers job as he was relocated with IBM. I attended state school and College growing up very dedicated to my education and generally as focused as any kids are with the support and encouragement of both my parents. I worked extremely hard and at 18 went to Swansea University moving out of home for the first time and my first real taste of independence. I completed a Bachelors of Arts degree with honours in Management Science from Swansea finishing in the top quarter of my graduating year.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
After working in a bunch of technology roles within the financial services sector for more than two decades my ambition to do something for myself led me to set up Trivelo. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have worked for a number of blue chip companies in Senior Executive roles and this has allowed me to learn a number of transferable skills much of which is relevant now even as a small business.
The spark to pursue this came from a bad experience that was followed by thoughts of “there must be a better way”. Buying triathlon kit is expensive and complicated. I found myself lost in websites and auction sites buying kit not matching descriptions and not in condition expected. Turning that glass upside down I realized there was an opportunity for someone to do something different and give athletes of all flavors a trusted platform to use for kit. This seed of an idea grew from here and extended out into where we are now which is community of athletes all with a common goal to Go Faster.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My parents have been a real positive influence on what I have done both in very different ways. My Dad has always been very entrepreneurial and he has always been very open with me on the highs and the lows. I have learned a great deal from this and have been able to use him as an honest voice to bounce ideas off. My Mum gives a very different input to my Dad and has always been more structured and organized. With just my Dad as a North star I would certainly be less of a completer / finisher which I think is hugely important in running a business able to take ownership for things and ensure you see them through to their end outcome.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Mistakes are rarely funny. At least at the time but with the luxury of time it is more possible to see the funny side of incidents from earlier in your career. Reflecting back on my early career I made many mistakes as so many of us do. Mostly in work social events where alcohol was involved. On one such occasion I managed to break an ankle during a piggy back race with colleagues. At the time it was painful. Embarrassing certainly. Something to be forgotten but almost necessary to mature through such events ready for the rest of your career. Learning from these things is important but equally important not to lose a sense of fun in your working life. Effective working relationships do not purely evolve from dry planning meetings but from being open and sharing laughs and lives with others.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
You will need to be patient — having read hundreds of business books over the years there is a danger that you can embark on a new business venture expecting within 12 months to be running something that rivals Netflix. Of the millions of businesses that start each year it is estimated that 90% of these fail. If you are brave enough to start a new business and you can keep it going you are bucking this trend. If 5 years after start-up you are still growing and the business is alive you are succeeding. BE PATIENT. Trivelo celebrated our 5 year anniversary this year and I still very much consider us a start-up. The Ferrari is yet to be ordered and I view us on that road to success. In many ways I hope I always retain that perspective.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I love reading. There have been so many amazing books that have inspired me over the past decades. The most recent book I can gladly share if Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. A memoir from the creator of Nike. Shoe Dog traces the origins of Nike from its founder Phil Knight who set it up as a side hustle while holding down a full time 9–5. It is hugely inspirational to hear how Nike struggled and evolved into the business that it has since become. Cash flow problems dogged the company for over a decade and they faced the stark reality of going under on a number of occasions. There is a vast amount of this story that any entrepreneur can relate to. This is especially true for anyone who is working to build up a small business while paying the bills with a day job while they battle to turn a profit. The book is a very honest account of how Phil Knight built Nike through the early years hunting down Adidas and the numerous hurdles that threatened their existence on a day to day basis. Brilliant book and a must read for anyone thinking of starting their own business showcasing what it means to have a vision and the persistence needed to realize this.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
I am a Scotsman as I have said, although my accent would suggest otherwise having lived in England most of my life. Coming from Scottish parents and a strong Scottish name we are a clan. The Ferguson clan has its own tartan and I own a number of my own kilts as a result. We have our own clan motto that I use as a motto for me daily and a life lesson to help me through life. Our motto is “Dulcius Ex Asperis” that translates roughly as “Sweeter after difficulties”. My belief is this means life is hard. You face difficulties. But you can and will overcome them. By overcoming the rocks and stones of life you become stronger and the person that comes out the other side is happier and inherently “sweeter”.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Something that we are developing at the moment is a new social media trusted advocacy programme. Using our niche of endurance athletes we have been building a global panel of influencers to connect with people. The model would allow sports brands to extend their social reach easily with a far higher impact than advert placement. With social advocacy from real athletes the marketing message can resonate in a far deeper fashion than ever before. It is something that social media can bring to life like never before and goes beyond the celebrity endorsement model. Real Athletes you can trust. I’m super excited about where we could take it.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
With the current global pandemic it has never been more challenging to establish and develop new positive habits. It is all too simple to succumb to negativity from media, workplace , family and friends. For all of this and more now is the time to establish habits that improve mental wellbeing and performance.
As a leader with constant demands on my time coupled with family life I strive to keep and create new habits continually to have a purpose and positivity. It is also hugely important to help achieve any form of work / life balance. Keeping this perspective is why creating and maintaining good habits are so important.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
A significant proportion of my habits contribute to having energy to perform. Habits that foster high energy levels help me in my professional, personal and sporting life. Low energy resulting in tiredness never sees me performing at my best that I have learned over the years. Many of the habits I would endorse are those I use myself that means I can juggle a busy day while still retaining enthusiasm for my kids come 5 o’clock. That always feels like a real success.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
Any habit can be established in as short a period as 30 days. Identify one habit that resonates with you and start from there. Reward your achievements and celebrate each day, week, month you maintain your habits. Before you know it you will have established a habit.
Like much of life it is also OK to miss the odd day as life gets in the way. Some habits can’t fit every day and that is OK. Don’t use that as a reason not to start a habit.
Be honest with yourself and the reality of bad habits though, we all have bad or negative habits. If a habit is detracting from your positive habits then use the positive outcomes from your new habits to motivate you to eliminate negative ones.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.
- Clear your mind between each phase of your day. As I step through each doorway I clear my mind from whatever I have left and enter the new space able to focus and enjoy whatever that next phase delivers.
- Sleep well every night. Before bed I decouple from tech allowing my mind to drift off without the distractions of technology. Creating the right environment for sleep is hugely important, if you can keep your bedroom for sleep. Not work. Not exercise. Not entertaining but for rest and recharging your body.
- Read. Expand your mind and make time for reading. From a book. A real one. Made of paper. Connect with reading and keep learning. Physical connection with a book is a healthy way to generate wellness.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Maintain a book list as an example of a way to keep reading alive in your life and share this with friends and colleagues. Keep building this and seeking gems from others so your backlog of fantastic reading options never stagnates. Never be left seeking a reading opportunity and use it as another method for connecting with others. What you are reading now, have read or plan to read is a wonderful way to connect with new people.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
- Exercise every day. It doesn’t need to be a marathon but I ensure I take time every day to exercise. First thing before my first cup of tea I will complete a small set of exercises. Then throughout the day as gaps in the day emerge I grab hold of each of these and take a break from technology and exercise.
- Maintain good discipline. Most people are aware that eating more sugar and drinking more alcohol is not good for us. We also recognize that balance in all things is key. What holds us back often from applying these guidelines is our own self-discipline. I work to keep this habit while not being a monk. Monday through Friday is spent trying to retain good discipline in this area so at the weekend I can relax and enjoy the weekend and the treats more. Nothing wrong with a beer or a chocolate at the weekend.
- Time Management. We all are bombarded with information from dusk to dawn. This pressure on our lives flows through everything resulting in us never being offline and forever chasing our tail. This manic existence makes it difficult to find time for our own wellness. Create habits to break out of this rat run on time and consider how you can have time without pressures to check on emails and social media shares. I do this by leaving my phone more than arms reach on a regular basis. Resist the pressure to check things and allow your mind to relax.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Generally my thoughts and practices around this area are that a healthy body helps with a healthy mind. I am no monk so if you spot me in the pub please don’t think less of me. All things in balance. A blow out is awesome but this cannot be every day or you will never achieve any level of performance. Look after yourself and you can be assured that your performance will improve and continue to be at your best.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
- Focus on the “main thing”. Create habits to establish what is important and keep aligning your focus to this main thing. Ensure you have purpose in your actions and that are moving you ever closer to achieving this. If it doesn’t help you get there, challenge why you need it.
- Maintain a positive outlook. Coming into any situation with a negative viewpoint will only make it harder for you to focus and achieve a successful outcome. Build habits to come to any activity without prejudice and saddled with previous failures. In a small business you have to ride through set backs on a frequent basis. It is important to maintain positivity and not let these reduce enthusiasm for the next chapter.
- Keep it fresh. Don’t let what you do become stale and fail to interest you. Create habits to keep moving forwards and challenging the status quo. This habit to explore new opportunities is essential to keep optimal focus and drive. During the current crisis it has been something that I have revisited frequently. No need in sitting on my hands when Plan A, B and C are no longer relevant. By staying open to new ideas and exploring new options has helped stay focused and performing.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Developing a positive is a challenge and easy to succumb to the reasons things may fail. Consciously consider how you are facing anything new. If you find your becoming negative on anything you face step back and reset your viewpoint to re-engage more positively. Don’t become consumed by the reasons things may fail.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
Firstly for me, being in a state of flow is not something mystical but a feeling of operating at your absolute best with some form of feedback loop to determine real time the effectiveness of this performance. Being in a state of flow locked away in a cupboard gives no evidence to assess if you are truly performing.
Achieving more frequent states of flow is hard to engineer but you can strive to enter opportunities with a mindset that presents you more likely to deliver this. Be positive from the first engagement opening your mind to any possibility. Be brave and have belief in yourself to generate ideas and run with ideas that surround you. Keep your energy levels high with consideration to the basics, hydration, fuel and rest.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
When I set up Trivelo I had various inspirations but a number of these corporate influences had at their core been focused on social good. This purpose for a company was something I wrote into our very first business case and charter. As a company we are still in our infancy and yet to make a fortune but my hope is we will achieve this. Not just for me and those involved in the business but for a greater good. I connected with a fantastic charity in the UK a number of years ago and I hope that we can support it significantly as we grow. The movement I would like to commence is the support of this charity and others. The charity I support is Cyclists Fighting Cancer. They have set up a charity to provide children with bikes who are recovering from cancer treatment. This follows studies that shows that cancer recovery can be accelerated through exercise. Being able to assist in children recover from something as hideous as cancer feels a worthy purpose and something to be proud of. I would like to continue the support of them and to establish a trust that supports similar small but amazing charities.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Dave Scott has consistently been a prominent figure in triathlon and continues to shape the sport now. Would love to hear his stories of how he approached training then and now. His hopes and dreams for the sport and how he has developed positive habits and been able to keep a positive mental outlook.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My Blog — https://blog.trivelo.co.uk
Twitter — @trivelo_bikes
YouTube — Trivelo Bikes
Instagram — trivelo.bikes
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.