Calgary

Road cycling the new golf for business networking

The golf course has long been the place where deals are sealed. Companies give their preferred clients time on the greens as a perk and a way to network, but there's a new sport muscling its way into the world of corporate networking: road cycling.

Downtown Calgary choosing bikes over clubs

Kerilee Snatenchuk and Richard Dobson get ready to ride and network on the highways west of Calgary. (Judy Aldous/CBC)

The golf course has long been the place where deals are sealed. 

Companies give their preferred clients time on the greens as a perk and a way to network, but there's a new sport muscling its way into the world of corporate networking: road biking.

I recognized that the comradery that evolves when people are together doing something active.- Brian Feick

Brian Feick, the director of marketing and business development with the law firm Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer, is one of those networking cyclists.

"I recognized that the comradery that evolves when people are together doing something active is much better for our lawyers to do with clients than taking them to another Flames game. Those games are never memorable. Nobody ever phones someone a few days later and says, 'Hey, wasn't that a great Flames game.' But with this it's something different to foster and grow relationships. I thought I'd give it a shot."

BD&P now offers a cycling program to some of its lawyers and clients. ATB Financial has joined up. About 90 people — 60 of them clients of the bank and the law firm and 30 staff — meet up once a week on the western edge of Calgary decked in their tight, bright cycling clothes and awkward shoes.

They ride for 90 minutes and then meet for beer and burgers afterwards. Fitness and fun are secondary to the primary goal: networking.

Kerilee Snatenchuk, the director of people and culture with ATB, is no stranger to the bike herself.

'Bigger sharing component'

"In a golf game you're with one person in a cart for a long time and that's awesome," she said.

"But on the bike you can be with 20 or 40 people over the course of a few hours and you get to talk with everyone. So there's a bigger sharing component and much more opportunity to build real relationships."

Tag along with the group and you'll see they are always ready to head out, even with dark clouds looming to the west of the city.

Trev Williams of The Doctrine Training gets the cyclists ready for the ride ahead. (Judy Aldous/CBC)

Trev Williams, a veteran bike racer and coach, stands in the middle outlining how the night will go, his sunglasses tucked firmly into his helmet. He's divided the riders into three groups. The advanced group is being sent down a winding road.

"The whole idea is to experiment with different gear ratios. Try and keep the same distance between you and the person in front of you."

Williams sticks with the intermediate crew, noting they too get to "share the joy" of doing what are called "intervals" (ride as fast as you can, rest, repeat).

Williams, who does "most of my socializing with friends on the bike" understands why road biking is a great place to network. 

Easier on the body than golf

He also notes the sport is easier on the body than golf.

"It's way more symmetric on your body. With golf you see a hyper flexibility on one side and tight on the other side. And as you age, and if you're still working in an office scenario, being on the golf course and in the office — it's not a very good combination."

I didn't need to be asked twice.- ATB client Richard Dobson

Richard Dobson, 68, is one of the cyclists.

"I'm a client of ATB investor services and I was fortunate that my financial advisor invited me to become part of the ride and I didn't need to be asked twice."

Dobson, who doesn't golf, says the networking does happen.

"It's a great way to network as a relationship manager if you're on that side of things because you get to talk with different people from different areas of the bank but as a client you get to talk to different clients. I've already met a couple of guys here — a chap that I know he's got a business looking after recreational properties, so that's kind of interesting."

Brian Feick with BD&P recognizes the physically challenging and expensive sport isn't for everyone. After a few years of steady growth, he thinks the program won't expand. 

"Unless we get more people at the firm introduced to cycling, we've reached our critical mass."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now