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Updated 24 Sep 2020

How Cycle Lab’s Andrew McLean cycled his way to the top

Andrew McLean is an ex-professional cyclist, TV presenter and the founder of Cycle Lab. He approaches business (and everything else in life) the same way he does a fierce race. 

Nadine Todd, Entrepreneur, 10 June 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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What drives you as an athlete drives you in business

That competitive urge is always there. I always say that, for me, the only thing harder than doing the Cape Epic is not doing the Cape Epic. As Cycle Lab grew, I knew that I didn’t want to set up just another small neighbourhood bicycle shop. I wanted to create something bigger — a recognisable brand that could exist outside of me and would be valuable on its own.

My approach has been to grow the sport of cycling

Growing your own business is great, but if you want to ensure long-term success, you need to think bigger. My aim has always been to grow cycling in general.  In some instances, the things I’ve done have directly benefitted the competition as well, but I believe it was worth it.

I would rather own 10% of a huge industry then 100% of a small one.

Also, I don’t believe that you can be too transactional in your approach, even when it comes to retail. For me, it’s not just about selling a bike. It’s about bringing someone into the cycling community. Ultimately, we want people to join the Cycle Lab Cycling Club, to keep bringing their bikes back to the store for servicing, and to convince their mates to get into cycling as well. 

Related: 10 Ways entrepreneurs think differently

I view my responsibilities as spokes on a wheel

If all the spokes aren’t tensioned carefully, things will fall apart. So, it’s about balancing everything I do. However, this doesn’t mean that my focus has to be equally spread at all times. These things ebb and flow. Right before a race like the Cape Epic, I spend a lot of time training. At other times, my focus is on Cycle Lab. It’s all about balancing responsibilities as required.

I believe that I’ve learnt something important from my mistakes

Nobody is perfect — we’re all going to make mistakes — but you need to focus on improving. Don’t make the same mistakes twice. Business is just like cycling. If you’re slightly better and more prepared than yesterday, you’re on the right track.

You need to be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. My shortcoming has always been financial management. When I started Cycle Lab, I had no knowledge or experience in financial matters, and that showed in the business. I had to depend on others to crunch the numbers, and I learnt some hard lessons there.

It’s not ideal when others need to tell you what the financial state of your business is.  My advice would be to school yourself in this field. Be able to understand where the money in your business is coming from, and where it’s going.

MoreCorp bought Cycle Lab, although I still have a stake in the business

It was an easy decision to sell. Firstly, it was clear that MoreCorp wanted to get into cycling, and I didn’t relish the thought of trying to compete with a large, expert retail operation. Secondly, I liked the idea of being able to hand off the responsibilities that I didn’t have a knack for, and focus on the things I’m good at.

Related: What is driving (and hindering) female entrepreneurship in SA

It all comes down to passion

There are two kinds of people in the world: There are “thank goodness it’s Friday” people, and there are “thank goodness it’s Monday” people. Success, I believe, comes from loving what you do. I am typically up before 4am to cycle, present on SuperSport, and am very active within Cycle Lab. So, I have a lot of things to do, and I don’t think I would be able to sustain the pace if it wasn’t for the fact that I love what I do. The passion that I have for the sport drives me to keep going.

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Nadine Todd, Entrepreneur

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