I recently rode in the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC), a two-day bicycle event that raises funds for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. It’s the most successful cycling fundraiser in the world and raises two to three times more money for charity than any other athletic event in the U.S. This year alone, the PMC will raise $35 million for cancer research at Dana Farber.

The experience never fails to be a highlight of my summer.

I am always wildly impressed with how well this mega bike-a-thon is staged. Without a doubt, the big picture is always in focus: Raising money to help fight cancer. But what truly amazes me are the logistics of this massive undertaking. Every small element is woven together into a weekend that riders and volunteers want to return to year in and year out.

Someone once told me that the key to being great is “not about doing one thing 100% better, it’s about doing 100 things 1% better.”

Nowhere is the truth of this statement more evident than at the PMC. There’s a lot to observe and admire during the weekend. And in the end, it makes me think about what we can all learn to make our own lives and businesses better. It’s truly a model to emulate.

The organization is awesome and so is the event. 5500 riders. 3000 volunteers. Throughout the ride from Wellesley to Provincetown, MA, people are cheering, holding signs, ringing bells, offering water, handing out popsicles…all saying a big “thank you” for riding. And the riders are thanking them right back for cheering and volunteering. Two days and 163 miles of this. And it never gets repetitive or tiresome. It’s one colossal community coming together in a big, feel-good weekend.

Everywhere you go there’s attention to detail. From the big things like rider registration, water, and medical attention to the little things like misting tents, 10-minute massages, and bike technicians standing by to fill your tires with air.

More than once, someone at a rest stop offers to wipe the lenses of my sunglasses. That’s right…wipe off my sunglasses. You get the idea. And it all combines to make me feel like a rock star. I’m far from it, but they make me feel that way. At least for one weekend.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could make our customers feel like that? The number one reason why customers leave is that they no longer feel the love. After five years of riding, the PMC organization never fails to show they truly appreciate my participation. They prove it not only by what they say, but by putting forth the unfailing effort to deliver each and every year. Down to the nitty gritty details…the things I really notice and think about.

And that’s why you’ll find me back in the saddle next year.

photo credits: nikonbump and Mikail Olykaynen at Flickr; JE personal