Monday, July 20, 2015

4 Business Ideas I Got Riding a Bike

A few weeks ago I bought a bike. That is a bike as in bicycle, not motorcycle. Now the honest truth is that I haven't ridden a bike since I was probably twenty years old, so it has been a while. I took it out on my inaugural ride and made it probably a couple of miles out and back before collapsing in a sweaty heap and then subsequently sliding into the pool to cool down. This morning, I went out on the bike again with the family, but as it is already in the 100s here in Texas, even the morning led to excess sweating and water consumption. My return to cycling has taught me a few things, though, and a few of them may even make sense in a business context. Let's see what you think.

You never forget core skills

The saying goes, "You never forget how to ride a bike." I'll vouch for that statement, but the first five minutes I spent on the bicycle made me wary that the last couple of decades had eroded my memory from lack of use. Instead, I determined that while my execution lacked grace initially, I had not lost the skill entirely. Likewise, you never lose the skills core to your being. If you can sell, code, figure out problems, communicate, crunch numbers, identify deals, or think about long term strategy, those skills become ingrained in your being. Once you make a skill part of you, the difficulty in losing that skill increases. Execution of skills, however, cannot become part of you. That execution must be continually nurtured. So, just like my first few minutes on the bicycle, while you will always know how to perform those core tasks, practice and repetitions are still required to either retain or regain any proficiency in using your skills.

Always set a good example

When I was a kid, we rode our bikes around the neighborhood fast, zooming down hills and over ramps. We did everything without a helmet. Nowadays, that would be considered extremely reckless, and it is. I was in enough bicycle accidents that could have been serious that in retrospect, I know I should have worn a helmet. So, as I should, I have my daughter wear a helmet while she is riding her bicycle. I wear a helmet as well. In fact, I bought my helmet before I even bought my bicycle. Do I need one? Statistically, maybe not, but the amount of risk that it would put me at is multiplied by the risk that my daughter would take by not wearing a helmet if I gave her the signal that it was OK. You never know whose eyes are watching you. In the office, there are opportunities to cut corners, and even things that you don't truly need to do. Ask yourself if not doing them may increase risk to the company if someone else follows your lead and cuts corners as well.

Pay attention to details

After noting a few bikes in the store not installed exactly as I would have liked, I made the decision to get my bicycle in a box and assemble myself. That assembly required a level of precision that was frustrating, even to me. I spent inordinate amounts of time aligning brake pads and making sure that the wheels were evenly spaced. I was pretty sure that I had paid attention to every detail. The problem came when I took off the front wheel to throw the bike in the back of my car and then reassembled it. Not taking the appropriate time there to precisely align the wheel caused my brake cable to rub on the tire and rip some of the plastic covering off of the cable in a short ride across the street. The lesson I learned here was that no matter how much planning and precision went into the original design, I needed to spend the same amount of attention to detail during the execution phase, when I was quickly reassembling and riding. Not doing so has left me with more work later to clean up the mess. Problems can occur at any point in a project, and it pays to prepare for anything. But most importantly, prepare yourself and be vigilant about your attention to detail.

Work hard, but have fun

My first bike ride left me pretty exhausted. The temperature was steamy, I was out of shape for a ride of that length, and I was re-learning how to change gears and operate the bike on the fly. But on the way back, I coasted down a nice hill that I had previously pedaled laboriously up. The relaxation of picking up speed without pedaling, coupled with the breeze whipping across my face, left me feeling exhilarated and enjoying the entire ride, exhausting or not. Take time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, where appropriate. Enjoy the success of a project well done. Work hard, and then enjoy what you have accomplished.

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Image credit: tpsdave on Pixabay. No, that's not me. I'm taller and less talented on a bicycle.