Don't Do It Yourself

Tips for Riding a Start-up Like a Mountain Bike

There’s a select group of people that have the balls to take two wheels on crazy rock-strewn hills in the middle of the woods.  You have to have a few screws loose to enjoy this type of dangerous exercise, but I’ll admit it, I do!  I don’t profess to be an expert mountain biker, but I love every minute of it and so far I haven’t injured myself (too badly).

On my last ride, while I was struggling to stay upright as I crossed a creek…I realized there are a lot of similarities between bike riders and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are also in the minority and a bit on the crazy side.  And they can learn a few things from mountain bikers.  Here’s what I thought about as I was alone in the woods jumping over tree stumps.

Tips for Riding a Startup Like a Mountain Bike

  • Ignore the speed bumps. To get across obstacles like rock piles or mud puddles, you need to build up speed and plow through them.  With your business, you can’t get hung up on little setbacks.  Don’t get demotivated by every bump or stump in your way, focus on the fun parts of the ride.  Of course, sometimes navigating the obstacles is the fun part!
  • Sometimes you need a guide. If you’re going someplace new and dangerous, it can be advantageous (or critical) to have an advisor that’s ridden that trail before.  That said, it can also be fun to explore on your own and carve your own path.
  • Go in a group so someone can help you out if you fall.  If you wipe out in the middle of the woods it could be a long time before someone else comes along to help.  In a start-up, working in a team can help share the load and keep you motivated when times get tough.
  • Not knowing where you’re going can be fun, but don’t go too far down the path before you figure it out.  It’s fun to start a business or blog with a grand concept and dream of profitability.  But make sure you figure out a monetization strategy before you spend too much time and money building out an idea.
  • Pick a line and go with it. When you climb or descend a steep hill, follow-through on the path you chose.  Trying to make too many adjustments while you’re on the hill can cause your bike to come out from under you.  Don’t second guess your decisions or change course too often or you’ll burn through all your capital.
  • Every once in a while you need to change direction to avoid falling off a cliff.  Ok, so to balance out my last statement, you can’t always wait until you’ve reached a peak or valley to change direction.  Sometimes it’s pretty clear things will get ugly if you don’t do something right away.  If your gut starts screaming at you, pay attention!
  • You’re going to get a lot of bumps and bruises, but the next time around you’ll know what obstacles to avoid.  There are invaluable lessons in every start-up failure and misstep.  Pay attention and get better and you’ll be a veteran in no time.  
  • The cruise down the hill is a lot of fun, but still a lot of work.   Non-bikers think coming down the hill is the easy part.  What they don’t realize is that your arms become shock absorbers and you have to be twice as sharp to keep your balance flying over obstacles.  In business, remember to build upon your successes and keep pushing forward even after your accomplishments.  There will always be new goals to achieve.