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Lessons from the Big Bike

by Mike Sullivan Cubic Health | July 6 2017 | 2 Comments

Picture sitting next to people you don’t know well—or at all—and collectively riding down a quiet Edmonton street making as much noise you can, whooping and laughing so hard you end up with a stitch in your side. Just keep pedaling, that’s all we ask!

In mid-June, a team of staff from ASEBP competed in the Heart and Stroke’s Big Bike Corporate Challenge event. For those who haven’t seen the Big Bike, it resembles a transport truck in length and features up to 30 cyclists riding in-tandem to support the Heart and Stroke Foundation. We were very honoured when Cubic was invited to join the ASEBP team for the event and we want to share our experience with The Sandbox community.

We sent in our ringer—one of Cubic’s co-founders, Chris von Heymann—the first person on our team to always sign up for any fitness-related activity and, in this case, to join the Big Bike team. I asked Chris for his take on the experience, and here’s what he took away—I took a great deal away from chatting with him too!

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Mike: What was it like being the only “outsider” on the ASEBP Big Bike?

Chris: That’s the thing—from the moment I was invited to participate on behalf of Cubic, I never once felt like an outsider. In fact, it wa­­­­s exactly the opposite! I felt embraced as a partner and member of the family with the ASEBP team. The spirit and camaraderie amongst the team at ASEBP was as infectious as it was genuine and the pride was tangible when it was announced that the fundraising efforts of the group for Corporate Challenge put them in the top four in the province—ahead of corporate groups far greater in size.

M: Why the Big Bike, anyway?

C: My understanding is that ASEBP’s staff participate in Corporate Challenge in Edmonton every year. This wasn’t a one-shot deal, which makes the fundraising achievements even more impressive. It really reflects the people and culture at ASEBP. This is part of their DNA and it didn’t happen by accident. It’s clear they look for ways to align philanthropic activities with the culture of health promotion at ASEBP. It’s easy to collect money and write a cheque but it doesn’t have the same impact—of getting the team together and enjoying a physical activity. 

At the same time, it wasn’t just a physical activity either. It was as recharging mentally as it was physically. The laughing was non-stop. Our ringleader, Gail, was so great! She dressed up for the 80s theme and had the music playlist blasting to keep everyone cycling at maximum enjoyment level. There was no way you could have left the Big Bike feeling overwhelmed with your week as you may have been when you arrived. It was a huge recharge in so many ways. Laughter truly is the best medicine!

M: What did you take away from participating?

C: This is exactly what we need to be doing at Cubic! We need to look at team activities that complement our culture; activities that have an ability to give back meaningfully. I think we need to survey our team to figure out what causes matter to them and how we can integrate something that includes the team, helps positively impact physical and mental health and has a meaningful purpose. 

It may not be the Big Bike (we would only fill half the seats!), but there must be a pile of other options available. We need to find these activities because they won’t magically find us. A Big Bike won’t show up at the door without effort and planning and the team won’t be engaged unless we understand what is meaningful to them.

I also took away that while this kind of activity is clearly a great team-building exercise, it’s a remarkable cross-team integration exercise as well. I think companies should do what ASEBP did with us more often—they should invite partners to join them. It’s one thing to collaborate on a work level and build great relationships on a base of trust, dependability and adding value, but it’s terrific to be able to leave work behind and just enjoy the moment as people outside of a work context. Sure, the partnership brought us to the same physical space but the cycling brought us together.

Imagine the benefit if large employers mixed-up different teams together on Big Bikes or other events on a regular basis? What a great way to have people who may never intersect inside a workplace on a day-to-day basis collaborate on a fun initiative for charity. Think about the positive benefits internally the next time somebody has to reach out to someone else in a different department who they were sitting across from on the Big Bike a week earlier? Imagine the benefit if employers of every size had valued suppliers and partners participating directly with their team? The depth of relationship—building would expand dramatically.  

I took away that health promotion—when turned into a team sport with a larger goal than simply achieving the day’s 10,000 steps—has returns on many, many levels.

Mike Sullivan

As president and co-founder of Cubic Health—a leader in benefit plan sustainability management—Mike uses detailed analytics and his background in pharmacy to design more cost effective and robust benefit plans for his clients. Despite his crippling fear of all forms of dance, “Sully,” as he is quite originally called, is the one you want on the floor when you have a truckload of benefit plan usage data to analyze. Because you never really know when that skill will come in handy.

Heather C. ASEBP | July 6 2017 10:19 AM
  The Big Bike ride is one of my favourite ASEBP activities! Not only are we supporting a great cause, the fun and camaraderie with my colleagues is amazing!  So glad you were able to join us Chris.
Jennifer C. ASEBP | July 13 2017 11:25 AM
The ASEBP team has officially adopted you, Chris!  Thanks Cubic Health for the generous donation and the physicial support with Big Bike (except when Chris - as promised - peddled backwards when the Wham! music played).  Terrific team event, energizing activity, and lots of laughs...all while we were at work!