Do you have a ‘Crazy goal’? Something bold, extraordinary or highly significant that gets you leaping out of bed in the morning? If you haven’t, you should, say Olympic gold winning oarsman Ben Hunt-Davis and Tom Barry (himself no slouch in the boat with a winning Oxford Blue to his name) from performance consultants Will it Make the Boat Go Faster?

Having set out last year to help their clients ‘focus differently, imaginatively, adventurously, habitually on what matters for the best possible results’, the business now has nine consultants working alongside them with a track record of client success. We find out what motivates the motivators…


What have been your key milestones and how have you celebrated them?
Ben Hunt-Davis: The first milestone, after having discussed the idea for some time, was to actually set up the business in November 2012. Getting our boat on the water by successfully running our first big client event for a pharmaceutical company in January this year – a conference for 120 people – was a great start too. We celebrated afterwards by disappearing round the corner with a bottle of champagne!

New clients are critical milestones in any start up business but I’m always excited by hiring great people to join our team. Our latest hire? Another Olympic rowing medallist and double world champion Sarah Winckless who heads up our Executive Coaching Practice.

Tom Barry: As any of your readers who’ve set up businesses will know, you’ll grab any sign of progress to celebrate! New businesses only have the momentum that you give them – no-one else will do it for you unless you’re incredibly lucky – so it’s important to celebrate the effort and the performance you and others put in first. The results may take a while.

A crazy celebration for a big milestone? Taking everyone to the Vogalonga historic rowing regatta in Venice and rowing the 30 km course together.

Have you had any setbacks or disappointments along the way and what have you learnt from them?
Ben: There are always the clients that could have been. We were recently very close to signing with a big telecoms company but the deal was put on ice at the last minute. It’s disappointing to see things get postponed, but less of a setback if we are happy with how we performed during the pitch. If I come out of a meeting knowing I haven’t performed as well as I could have, then that’s also disappointing.

Have you taken any chances or risks that you feel have really paid off?
Tom: I always remember the question – “Are you the manager with 20 years’ experience or the manager with one year’s experience twenty times over?” I hope I’m the former and can use my experience to make less risky decisions! But risks you have to take and you often don’t know how they’ll pay off until you take them. A good example is our first employee; she was still a student when we offered her a key job in the business, with no experience in this area. But we had a feeling she’d be a success and we’ve been proven right.

Ben: A media company wanted us to do some work with them on their Crazy goal – one with a challenge of a sales team demotivated by the scale of the mountain to climb. We focused on using our Performance Principles to help the team make the Crazy goal less daunting by identifying what was really important to focus on. Once the key performance metrics were in place, the team could go full steam ahead without getting intimidated by the Crazy goal. We were absolutely delighted when they reported back that the sales team had successfully achieved their goal.

Tell us about your work life balance.
Ben: Ask my wife and kids – I’m sure they’d say that I don’t have a good work/life balance. But there are so many things I want to do. The business takes up a lot of time and outside it I’ve been volunteering for roles that indirectly can be a great help to the business, such as chairing the 2013 World Cup Regatta at Eton Dorney.

Tom: Unlike Ben, my children are a bit older with the last one having just gone off to University. It gives me a bit more free time but I’m a sucker for people asking me to come and help…

Where have you taken inspiration from?
Ben: I’m inspired by all types of different people but not necessarily the famous ones. It’s more those people with what we call ‘Crazy goals’ such as doubling their turnover in a year. There are so many of our clients I find inspiring.

Tom: Like Ben, from many of our clients. We’ve worked with a sports organisation in Scotland, for example, with a really inspiring goal of being world leading in their sport by 2017 (and no, it’s not tennis!) – that’s an inspiring  vision.

Not quite the answer to your question, but the person I’d most like to have met in history is Admiral Nelson. He was a wonderful, inspiring leader who had the vision to ‘go for it’ – and left a real legacy.