There was a good post today on the Fortune blog titled “Motorcycle Instincts and Startups” here: http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2011/03/04/motorcycle-instincts-and-start-ups/
I think the post is a good read and draws useful parallels for a few aspects of motorcycling and startups.
I’ve been riding motorcycles for over 40 years both on and off road and on six continents through most of 43 countries.
I’ve personally started about a half dozen businesses (depending on how you count them) and been part of starting dozens more.
You could say this topic resonates with me.
I’d add the following to the author’s list:
- In loose conditions, loosen your grip, let the bars wander a little and increase your speed to plane over the surface, otherwise you a) get exhausted / arm pump and b) sucked into the surface and will die duck walking at crawling speed. Biz version: You must maintain a rate of progress and advancement that keeps you above the minutia of your market and your business, otherwise you will exhaust your available resources long before you reach your goal.
- Don’t commit to a blind line until you can see the exit. When you can see the exit and are off the apex, roll on the power. (street riding survival) Biz version: Don’t blindly commit to a strategy or tactic until you think through and/or can see where it will lead. When you can see the goal is achievable via the strategy or tactic, apply available resources.
- It doesn’t take much talent to go fast in a straight line. Biz version: A rapidly expanding bubble or fast growing market makes everyone look like a business genius. Be realistic about how much of your success is due to external factors. Be ready for the inevitable downturn of the business cycle.
- Wait for the rider ahead to clear the obstacle before you make your run or they will often become part of what you must overcome. Biz version: If a competitor is creating a train wreck in the market, then you’ll need to expend resources to climb over their wreckage (this is particularly applicable to massive flame outs or failures in your market segment when you need capital to expand; you will be fighting PR comparisons to your competitors’ failures for years).
- MSF instructors crash a lot. Biz version: Overconfidence leads to failure. Stay humble.
- Watch out for the four wheelers. Biz version: Your advantage as a startup is speed and nimbleness. You win by leveraging your advantages, you lose by being a fixed, immobile target for a massive competitor.
- Commit to a line, but be ready to change it. Biz version: You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t commit to a strategy and get moving. You’ll almost never get there in the way you thought you would, so be ready to adjust along the way.
- It’s not about the bike. It’s about the experiences. Biz version: Building and polishing the perfect business plan, business model, team or collection of technical tools and equipment is all meaningless. It’s what you do with those resources that counts.
- It’s not the crash, it’s the sudden stop at the end. Biz version: Having a business fail or exiting a business before you’re ready isn’t the painful part, it’s what happens next that hurts.
- Just put me back on my bike. Biz version: You will make mistakes. You will fail. It’s not the mistakes or failures that matter, it’s picking up the bike, getting back on and going again that matters.