Systemize to Thrive Like a Medal-Winning Athlete

What can businesses learn from athletes? Top performers in their fields and medal-winning athletes like Jenny Davis know what it takes to break barriers and grow consistently. 

Today, Jenny Davis—Certified Business Systems Professional, international sprint cyclist, and ex-judo player—unpacks the process of enhancing your business with systems she uses as a world-class athlete and businesswoman.

With a Commonwealth Games medal under her belt, Jenny is the fastest woman in Scottish sprint cycling and a sought-after keynote speaker for organizations looking to expand their horizons.

Teaching us the importance of deep strategy, Jenny explains the pitfalls of chasing quick wins at the expense of practicing consistent, positive habit formation.

By applying the systems she uses to excel in athletics, Jenny explores how “The Compound Effect” has shaped her exponential results over time, and how attention to detail makes the difference between winners and losers.

Jenny also shares her working process for helping businesses balance their operations and find new areas of growth

In this episode we discuss:

  • How to set clear business goals and reverse engineer business processes for defined, actionable steps.
  • “The Compound Effect” and its capacity for exponential results through consistency.
  • The importance of attention to detail and how to use deep strategy to avoid “Shiny Object Syndrome.”

Josh:    00:00-00:58        Welcome to the Work the System podcast where we help entrepreneurs make more and work less using systems. And I'm your host, Josh Fonger. And today we have special guest, Jenny Davis. Jenny has the quote, the quickest way to innovate is to take lessons from one world and apply them to another. She was the fastest woman and Scottish sprint cycling. As a Commonwealth Games medalist Jenny understands what it takes to envision play and train compete and thrive on and off the track. Using timeless principles she has successfully created in lead change management and continuous improvement programs for teams as small as five and up to business units. 1500 plus, and also like dimension identity is that BTS certified so she's really serious about the consulting work she does, and how to apply business principles to or sorry, sports principles to business and how to set up systems so you can scale so again, welcome Jenny to the show.


Jenny:  00:59-01:15        Thanks Josh, for having me. I'm a big fan of the show. And all I said earlier that I think I might listen to just about every single one that you've done so far over the years. So, and it's a nice change to be on the speaking side for once.


Josh:    01:16-01:19        Yeah. Well, I'm excited to have you excited to hear it. My goal today is to learn from you. So you get to be the expert. So, Jenny, why don't you give us the backstory? How did you go from the sports world to the business world and why don't you give us give us the story there?


Jenny:  01:30-04:45        Sure, a quick skim is, so I actually had two sporting careers. I had 15 years as a judo player, and fought for GB and team Scotland, kind of from youth junior and into my senior years. I took a gap year and my last year of university and inhaled psychology away from sport just to try and make sure that I finished with a good grade and 100 right priorities and ended up through kind of a bit of a talent sport through a strength conditioning coach that I was using that was working with track athletes, and that's on the velodrome and cycling for those of you who aren't familiar with the language. And yeah, they were working with track athletes and spotted some kind of potential parallels between what they were producing in the German what I could so and then had, I think ended up being a 12 videos of track athlete and raced all over the world for GB and team Scotland again, and kind of in between had science in sports a lot of the cycles that you have been in four years cycles with Olympics and Commonwealth thing, you know, equivalence, the Pan American Games, so you kind of have these ebbs and flows and ups and downs of when you need to peak and when you build, and in between or don't have downtime after one of those big competitions, I got asked to present how I improved my cycling performance and a business that was working with at the time. And so I presented some really simple principles and gave some cycling examples. And at the end of the presentation, the senior leader in the room asked if I felt those principles could be applied in the business. And I said yes, because these seem universal to me. And they pulled me out of the, the role that I had at the time and asked me to drive and find some improvements in the business. And that's what I've done ever since. And so that was seven or eight years ago. And from really, you know, I started in a really small team, and I've ended up working with much bigger business units and smaller companies and their own right through from what's their vision, strategy and goal, helping them stabilize their business and all that firefight and that you talk about, and then once their business is stabilized, and what do they want to do next in terms of their customers blowing their socks off and really position themselves in the market so that their competitors can't touch them. So it's been it's it was not a journey that I planned to go on. And I've kind of just gone with the flow and taken the best of what I could from two different sporting worlds and apply them across different industries and workplace and in business.


Josh:    04:46-05:03        Well, that's a pretty amazing story. So what with the, with what you did in sports, and then you go to business? What are some of the key principles that you think business owners or companies are missing? What are they not seen, but you can see it from the outside.


Jenny:  05:04-08:15        And I think there's a couple of key things. So the first is that the top sports teams, slash sports athletes are absolutely crystal clear about what they want to achieve, and the goals that they have. And, and when I say crystal clear, I don't mean like a one liner. I mean, they can tell you in detail what it tastes and feels like and what their business is going to feel like for their customers. Well, you know, for sports athletes about what their life's going to be like. The under, they have a really clear understanding of once they have their goals. They backward engineer and figured out what they need to do to get there and understand what their current state is. So for me when I moved From Judo into tracks, cycling, I had an ambition of racing at daily Commonwealth Games back in 2010. I think at the time that was three years away, I openly said that coach true started laughing at me, because the obviously fell it wasn't achievable. And but, and I figured out what I needed to do to get to that position. And then I and then I just every single week, though on that, and you know, I had ups and downs like everybody else, but eventually ended up qualifying for that event unexpectedly. And must me and my team sprint partner both raced at that event and won a silver medal for Team Scotland. So not only did we go, but we also won and contributed to the medal tally for our country at the time. So and I think number one is being really clear with great attention to detail. On what their company is about, what they want to achieve. So in your words in Josh, it's the strategic objective. Not a one liner like a pro part in detail. What do you stand for? Clean, undersigned enough caught in state. And then, you know there's a lot of other things that the teams do, team sky did on operating principles, they have a document that hangs in their team boss. And every time they do the Tour de France which is unique equivalent of the operating principles and, you know, for athletes, it's about routine and a lot of it's about compound effect and doing the same things they do. And that's kind of our system and an a in a slightly different way. So that's some of the main things, I think the big difference between the really, really successful ones. And those that kind of set in the middle is their attention to detail on those key steps.


Josh:    08:16-08:28        Okay, so I want to explore this idea of compound effect. So you're doing something and then explain what that means you're just doing it again and again and again or,  once you expand on that a little bit.


Jenny:  08:29-11:24        Sure. So the compound effect is, we are, I think, a really good way to explain it's kind of health and fitness. So if your goal in life is to, you know, to hit a certain weight, or to be a certain level of leanness, or maybe it's about competing in a get in a certain time in an event, you're not going to hit that by just doing one session in the gym. You're probably not going to achieve it by doing two or three or four, the only way you're going to be able to achieve some of those goals that are a bit more lofty is if you put the effort in consistently every single week, and by doing that you may only be gaining a tiny amount each time you do it. But when you compound all of those together into 100 sessions at the gym and 100 times you've you know avoided crisps or whatever it is that people want to eat. And then when you compound those things all together the game can be big. So in business, and you know, it may be a big issue just know his mobile phones notifications, massive distraction and add to code conscious decision last year that the first hour of my day, I wouldn't touch this. And it was, it was really hard for a couple of weeks. Because your, is kind of an addiction, and you want it, you want to go to it. But the hour that I saved for the first couple of weeks, I had to kind of fight it. And I would use that time to focus on what I wanted to achieve for the day and plan my priorities. And I used it to get really clear about what was important and what I needed to do. And that that was powerful, you know, once or twice or three times, but doing that for 100 days. Me has had an exponential difference and, and the results that I've been able to achieve, but only because there's been consistency and that compound effect of every single day doing little things which then add up to a much bigger gain in the, in the future. And so it's applicable everywhere in your life where you where you want a result and you can't just get an instant. It's not instant, where you need to put effort and time and effort or money or energy. And the compound effect is what helps you achieve that.


Josh:    11:25-12:10        So how does this is gonna tie into your next point, which is the attention to details, because oftentimes I'll work with somebody, and we'll make a change and say, okay, now I have it. It's all set up, what is the system, but I'm letting them know that there's still about 50 things they could do to make this better. And do you think that but they don't care. They say I want to go to the next the next fire. People not people not paying attention to details because they don't know what details looking for, or because their standards are just low. And I'm assuming your standards are high because you obviously went to some the top, you know, the top in your in your arena. So are people not into details because they have low standards or just because they don't know what details look for.


Jenny:  12:11-15:22      I think it's about both to be honest. And there's a, so I can send the I can send the link across. There's a really, really good story about in 2018 Chris Froome one, there was a certain stage where he was a couple of minutes behind, which in the Tour de France being two and a half minutes behind the leader with three stages to go is an absolute mountain to claim no pun intended, and that he won that stage and Team Sky published what the what their strategy was, for him winning that stage and it was absolutely unbelievable. They want it because of the attention to detail. And, you know, I am, I'm an elite athlete, I've been an elite sport for 20 years, but, and I've worked with British cycling, who were the main team, who then went on to run Team Sky. But I had no idea how deep the when to find those small games, which when you compound them all together means much bigger. So, there's a really good story I can send the link across to put on the website and Facebook, which will help people understand from a sporting point of view, you know, how much how, how important you know for that, for that sport, the small margins is everything. So I think that's one good example I think, you know, it's down to, maybe people like me and yourself and others to try and help provide some examples and stories of, you know, the, the attention to detail and where, through a focus on it on a daily and weekly basis, actually, that's where the gains come from. So they see an overnight success. Like that's not true. You know, there's like athletes all over the shop as successful business leaders, they appears like they come from nowhere, and suddenly, you know, appeared on scene. And but the truth is, some of these people have been working behind the scenes for 15 years, just plugging away every single day. So I think it's a mix of not understanding what it takes. And, maybe people just, I'm not sure maybe it's just they're quite happy and their own little bubble and they're happy to go along late that most of us leaves too short to feel like that, you know, you only got one you got to make the most of the time that you've got. So why not strive to be better? You know yourself, for your family, for your friends and also for your customers and your colleagues in your business.


Josh:    15:23-15:51        Yeah, no, that's a great, great point. Great story. And the other thing I'm noticing is that people, it's, it's more fun to jump onto something that might be easier than to do the hard work to take, you know what, is 80% good, and make it 99% good like that. That's hard. It's hard. And most people were like, rather just jumped to something else before they put in the hard, hard work. Now I know.


Jenny:  15:52                The shiny object syndrome.


Josh:    15:53-16:14      Exactly. Well, that's what we say I Work System is just for mature business owners, people who are mature enough to know they really have to get serious about things now. The other thing is, I was your bio was this approach that you take to fixing companies, you know, stabilizing them, you know, getting things organized, and then this customer delight phase, can you share a little bit about what, what that phase looks like with the business?


Jenny:  16:15-20:08      Sure. So, it tends to be most of the time when I get called in to support a company or a business unit, it tends to be because there's this raging backlog, or there's some big commercial fee that the business is going to get hit with and they need somebody to help solve the big problem and make it go away. And, you know, it's a very reactive state, and it's, it's nice to feel I think Sam talked about in his book that is nice to feel like you're the person that's, you know, you're the lead firefighter and you're putting it out. But ultimately, I'm a big believer in driving your own destiny and being proactive and getting the fires before the even the even a car so my aim with the business and with businesses that I work with is called in to help with the fire fight. And that's maybe the senior leaders don't have any time they don't have any headspace to be able to make really smart, proactive decisions. So phase one for me is about helping fix the problems that are right in front of their face and create some time and headspace for them. And then and then once that fires out, is to help encourage them to think about what's possible within that system or within their business. And, you know, so it's a real bugbear of mine. It is just known over the over the last couple of years. It feels like company standards in terms of customer service is going down. And you know, I love it when a company lose my socks off and I'm and I'm delayed and I become a raving fan. So once a business has been stabilized and the next phase for me if they're up for it, and is to help them move to that blue there so blue their customers socks off and absolutely delight them and turn them into raving lunatic fans who don't want to go anywhere else. Because of the experience that they offer them and how it makes them feel. So that's where the juice and the excitement for me comes from, but sometimes it's a mix of that. What would the business owners need and what do they want, can be two separate things. So stabilize phases or both,  cost reduction and creating time and headspace and then the next fees is the exciting proactive energy and that's where market position and you know exponential growth and customer numbers and your marketing budget can shrink if your customers are raving about you because your recommendations go through the door. And there are ways to get free publicity and things if you do if you focus on absolutely making that experience delight delightful. So that's kind of the different phases I go through. And my ideal, my ideal what all does to help somebody go from really bad stressed, just had enough to fix and stabilize and then they see the potential of what they have. And just stoking the fire and helping them get as quickly as we can, so everybody's much happier. And a lot of their problems disappear because they're being proactive about it.


Josh:    20:09-20:39        Well, let me change gears a little bit, Jenny. So one question we like to ask all of our guests is about a system, either a system they put into place in their own life or a system they put into place into a business. And of course, the systems, as Sam would say, are always there. But most people don't see them. And therefore they don't manage them or take control of them. So can you think of any company you've worked with that you help them identify a system and you kind of got it straightened out?


Jenny:  20:40-24:30        Sure. There's probably two, one, from a personal point of view is really getting control of your morning routine system. And for me, you know, as it's been, you got to test it and tweak it and see what works for you. Because what works for me might be different for you, I know you've got a big family and kids that like to mess around on your computer and cause noise and stuff. So I think it's important for everybody that you start the day right and you have a really you get into a rhythm and some nice habits that will help set you up for success during the day. So that's one from a personal point of view. And you know, I have my, my water in the morning, I usually don't touch this phone for at least an hour I got my pen and paper and a couple of key questions that I asked and I've got my to do list with some of my goals and stuff that sets me up for the day. So I'm really I'm really clear there might be 50 things that I want to achieve over a longer period of time but you know, you can you can do work on all of them at the same time. I might have to focuses for today, so that's the personal one. And I guess from a business point of view, and I think the latest one that I've been working on, we had a big business unit that had a really, really big backlog. And when we looked at how much volume they had coming in and how much that they had going out, it meant the backlog was going to continue to grow. And quite significantly, I think it was like 25%. It was growing by every single month. So the system that we implemented there was all to do with measures. So they didn't have any concept of the new when stock was being delivered, that there was a hell of a lot of stuff coming in. And they knew that there was a big mountain because it was physically they are they could see it grow in. But they didn't have any concept of the actual volumes. And this problem is actually developed over 15 months. But it was just like a little is that compound effect. So it was like 3000 of these things every month was growing. No, they've got 50,000 of these big bulky inventory just sitting in this warehouse that they're supposed to be getting rid of. And so the system that I helped them implement, first of all was about understanding what's coming in so they could clearly understand what their stock position is, and what's going out. And now and then when we understood that the note didn't match. We started looking at the system and making tweaks and changes and making some improvements. And you know, as that's progressed we've been able to increase and bring them into balance much better. And so that's been it's kind of been like metrics. I think it's been the main one, which I think is really important. And is another thing that lots of athletes need to use, you can't get better if you don't know, what your starting position is, and what your what your end position needs to be. So that's a matrix one. That was the most important one they needed in their business that they didn't have.


Josh:    24:31-24:43        That's a great story. Inventory controls on stuff. All right, so what's one question that I didn't ask you, Jenny, but I should have asked you I know there's a lot of places we could have gone. So anything that I missed in the question,


Jenny:  24:44-26:19        It's, I'd say it's probably less of a question more of something for those less than to think about so. As kind of alluded to earlier, and I'm a big believer that life is short, it's precious, you've only got so much time here, you never know how much time you're actually going to have. And it's too short to be stressed out. To not be spending time with your family and friends and doing the things that you enjoy. Life's too short for that being reactive all the time. So I'd ask people to just have a think about you know, that is another way and Work the System is one of the ways that you can take to help you move from that reactive, busy but not maybe achieving the results that you want to achieve and with a little bit of time and effort. You know, the promise lunders is they are it just takes the courage to take that decision in the first place and do it so my mind to end on it I'd say, life is too short, don't waste anymore time. You know, it's possible to move from where you are just know to where you want to be. And there's people here like Josh, myself and others out there that can support you in that journey. So, and yeah, go just go for them. Nothing, nothing holding you back.


Josh:    26:20-26:29      That's great advice and inspiring and spoken from somebody who's reached the top. Jenny, where can people find more about you or find out ways to work with you?


Jenny:  26:30-27:05        Sure. So I've got a special page on my website. For the listeners. It's WWW.STRIVECHANGE.ORG forward slash work VIP. And I've got a checklist on there to help people understand kind of the really some nice steps of moving away from stress and dizziness to first control. And then what oh, class customer service. So the checklist is on there for people if they're interested in finding out a bit more.


Josh:    27:06-27:10      Why don't you say that again? STRIVE CHANGE dot ORG slash what was the end, Jenny?


Jenny:  27:11-27:12      Work VIP.


Josh:    27:13-28:03      Work VIP. All right. Well go ahead and check that everybody. Jenny, I want to say thanks again for being here. I know this is your Friday night, so are Thursday nights, and thanks for being here late. Appreciate it learned a lot and hopefully the audience did as well. Next week, stay tuned, we'll have another expert like Jenny on or one of my certified consultants, which Jenny is also one of those are maybe an author speaker, who knows but somebody's going to help you improve your business so you can make more and work less. And if you want a copy of that book right there behind me Work the System. Feel free to download it for free at WORK THE SYSTEM DOT COM or if you want a copy mailed to you for free. And we mail out one a week just give us a review. Give us a screenshot, email it to [email protected] and we will be mailing out one book a week to lucky winner. Otherwise,  thanks again, everybody for joining us, and we'll see you next week.

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