One of my favorite hobbies is long-distance motorcycle touring. I’ve been doing it for thirty-five years and during that time much of it has been spent in long hours of thinking on open roads. One conclusion I’ve come to is that there’s a lot in common between planning a successful cycle trip and operating a successful business. While each trip and business is different, there are a few important lessons I need to observe if it’s going to be a good trip.
Set realistic goals. The keyword here is “goals”, not “realistic”. While realistic goals are important, it’s the absence of any destination or goal that concerns me. I’ve never left home without some idea about what part of the country I was heading to, maybe even a specific location. I’ve seen people in business put on a lot of miles and never leave their cul-de-sac because they’ve never determined a destination other than to stay in business. The scenery on that trip is not very attractive and tomorrow usually looks like today.
Have a general route in mind. I always leave with a route plugged into my GPS, but that can be short lived. I’ve often chosen my day’s route based on the morning’s weather report. Where I can, I re-map to head in the general direction of where the sun will be shining. I also leave the door open to road detours and other direction changes that look interesting. You may have had a plan for your business but the market sunshine is in another direction. Consider how a route change could benefit your journey without compromising the destination. In business today, an annual plan that’s six months old is already in need of some revisions. Don’t throw out the destination, just re-route to get there. A strategic plan should be a work in progress that evolves in accordance with long-term goals.
Set some benchmarks to measure progress. I seldom make hotel reservations preferring instead to find my night’s stay wherever I may be when I feel the need to get off the road. While my trip may not be scheduled I still need to pace myself to ensure I get to my destination and back in the allowed time. In business and travel, strategies and plans can’t be successfully achieved without feedback that comes from reporting systems and milestones that communicate progress. A daily review helps to measure and clarify where we need to be to accomplish the mission. My loosely held milestones enable me to hold myself accountable for the day’s performance.
Travel light but take enough of the right supplies. The size of a motorcycle places some hard constraints on what I can pack. Through experience I’ve learned how to travel well within the limited space available to me. It’s much less than I would take if I were in the car but I always seem to have enough. The lesson I’ve learned from this is not how to pack more on the motorcycle, but how to pack less in the car. In business, past success or the mistaken belief that we can’t operate without something can load us down and burn precious cash; the fuel of business. When that happens we lose our nimbleness, the ability to respond quickly to new opportunities and threats. Pack light. If you run out you can always get more. It’s a better condition than overtaxing the vehicle by carrying more than you need.
Anticipate the conditions and prepare for it. If I’m going to be on the road for a while, it’s not a question of if I’ll hit rain; it’s only a question of when. To make the best of my journey it’s important that I plan for a rainy day. In anticipation of that I have my rain gear ready and accessible. In business rain gear is liquidity. Every business, if it’s around long enough, is going to experience rain, sometimes even a downpour. It might be the loss of a large customer, an economic downturn or the presence of a new competitor. It happens at different times and places for everyone, but the rain is coming and you probably can’t avoid it. Therefore, when the sun’s shining build a balance sheet that can handle a little rain. Pay down liabilities and build a cash reserve for the rainy day.
If you’d like to talk about how to prepare your business to weather the next journey, call or reach me through the “contact us” tab on this page. Happy trails.