What can SMEs learn from Wimbledon? 

SME Wimbledon

It’s that time of year when everyone’s for tennis.

The iconic Wimbledon Championships exports traditional British values to a mass modern global audience – values which have survived the fall of empire, world wars, economic turbulence, even the likes of John McEnroe, Viktor Troicki, Nick Kyrgios.

What can SMEs learn from its unfaltering appeal? Identifying and protecting values at the heart of a brand’s success – and embedding them consistently from top to bottom throughout the organisation so they are reflected in the conduct and performance of all. Wimbledon is emblematic of a brand in which the values are lived and breathed.

On court at Wimbledon, the umpires’ and players’ conduct broadcasts the brand’s key values worldwide. Players are addressed appropriately, bad language or behaviour is censured or fined, and there’s a strict dress code – determining even the colour of pants (white).

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, beneath which sits a complex structure of non-permanent and permanent staff and volunteers, as well as everyone from broadcasters to debenture holders and fans camping overnight for tickets, expected to participate in requisite conduct.

Wimbledon started life as the All England Croquet Club before lawn tennis was invented in 1875; and found its way past tennis’s original name of Sphairistikè. Clearly it was open to change and willing to evolve. More lately however, it has been accused of promoting 1950s standards of behaviour; of being remote from the real character of modern Britain.

The championships are considered the most prestigious in the world, they’re attended by royalty, and tickets can change hands for thousands of pounds. How could its values possibly be translated as modern and relevant?

Because fair play, good conduct, and striving to make a positive impact in the community are powerful and timeless. “Brand Britain” is respected for these values the world over, and no UK business should shy away from embracing them.

Wimbledon funds tennis’s governing body, The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), tasked with making tennis relevant and accessible throughout the UK. The LTA underpins Wimbledon’s values, reflecting them not only in the rules, regulations, ethics and conduct for all tennis in Britain, but also in the way all 300 members of its staff perform.

Having determined its values, the LTA strives to ensure all its staff “live” and “action” them. The LTA’s director of people Vicky Williams has explained that bonuses are dependent on this, and all staff are reviewed against them.

The values are clearly visible on the organisation’s website and included in job descriptions.

Vicky Williams has said, “Our behaviours are statements that can be read and understood by everybody. So they cut through gender, they’re applicable to generation Ys, they’re also applicable to baby boomers.

“We’ve introduced a new-starter lunch for people who come into the organisation.

“We put values and behaviours at the forefront of the welcome day [for new joiners], and then we do a repeat induction day three weeks and three months later, just to make sure that people are truly living and understanding the values and the behaviours.”

The LTA also holds focus groups to gather feedback from across the business and briefs employees in small groups, to make sure team values are being communicated.

The discipline, respect and hard work required to keep these values relevant is an inspiration to us all.

Chris Berry, CEO of CIPHR