Working with small businesses and being a small business owner myself has taught me many things. Not least of which is that running a small business is a lot like preparing for Bike to Work Day. It’s this Friday, May 19!
Now I know that there are those of you who can just hop on your bike, ride effortlessly and not feel the effects of this foolhardiness for days afterward, but for those of us that haven’t really put in too many bike miles this year, some more preparation wouldn’t go amiss.
And while you can jump into a business and begin delivering products or services without much preparation, most pundits would tell you that some planning will mitigate potential risk and result in greater success.
Here’s your bike to work checklist.
It's more amusing if you haven’t ridden a bike for a while!:
1. Inspect bike and arrange tune up if necessary. At the bare minimum, pump up your tires and check your brakes.
2. Try on your bike clothes. Do they still fit? Are they comfortable? Can you be seen in all conditions? Can you get new cycling gloves for less than $15?
3. Find and test your gear carrying bag. Will it work if it rains? Can it accommodate the extra lunch items you’ll need because you biked to work and you’ll be hungry all day? Don’t forget shoes and underwear! (These are all too easy to leave behind . . . believe me.)
4. Map out your route. Don’t forget that riding a bike on the city streets is NOT the same as driving in the car. Remember to account for buses and tricky intersections where there really isn’t space for you and those vehicles that insist on getting in your way. (You can read more about bike safety in this Bike to Work post from 2016.)
5. Ride your route. It will seem farther than it actually is and take longer than you think. Especially because you’ll get lost looking for the next section of the bike path and will have to backtrack. This will leave you disheartened and disheveled, leading right into . . . Number 6.
6. Come home frustrated and exhausted and hydrate with an alcoholic beverage while you debate the merits of actually biking to work on Friday. *
7. Schedule your training rides. At least one training ride for each 2-3 miles of distance on your bike to work route.
8. Find a bike to work buddy. This will help keep you committed.
9. Enjoy your new-found fitness as the miles become easier and easier.
10. Arrive at your workplace sweaty, but triumphant!
What's so interesting is how preparing to bike to work is surprisingly similar to planning to start a small business.
Here’s your small business startup checklist:
1. Come up with a great idea for a new business. Inspect this idea and fine tune as necessary. At the bare minimum, outline your business model on the back of a napkin and make some really out there projections.
2. Try on your idea for a few days and do some research. Does it still fit? Are you still comfortable with it? Can you see it working in all scenarios? Most importantly, can you get the URL for less than $15?
3. Find and test your gear. What do you need to make this business a success? What will you do if it rains for days/weeks/months and this makes your business success that much more difficult? Can you accommodate the extra cash you’ll need when you discover that your business is hungry all the time?
4. Map out your business processes. Do you know what it will take to get your business up and running? Take each business activity (development, beta testing, launch, marketing, business development, etc.) and document the steps from start to finish says Lisa Shaughnessy, Principal at inkerB Consulting. Plan for detours and roadblocks, but don’t let them stop you.
5. Try out your idea on a few pro bono clients and actively seek paying clients. Growing your business will seem harder than it actually is and take longer than you think.
6. Come home frustrated and exhausted and hydrate with an alcoholic beverage while you debate the merits of actually being a business owner. **
7. Write down your business goals, including sales projections. Be sure to include learning and development goals too.
8. Find an accountability partner or a small business support group. This will help keep you committed and prevent isolation.
9. Enjoy your new-found success as the sales become easier and easier.
10. Arrive at your workplace sweaty, but triumphant! Ok, so probably not sweaty on a daily basis, but triumphant nevertheless as you find business success through planning, preparation and processes.
I’m not really advocating that business success is as simple as preparing to ride your bike to work. Nor should you begin your preparations on the Monday before you ride to work! But it’s surprising how the process involved in training for any big athletic event can be related to the planning and preparation needed to start a small business. Especially Number 5. It will always be much harder than you thought it would be, and it will always take longer.
Most successful business owners will tell you that you’ve got to be prepared for the wrong turns, the doubling back, and the flat tires you’ll encounter along the way. You know, the same way you learn the hard way that renovations cost twice as much as you think they will and take four times as long.
Ah. Life and business. Never an easy ride.
But if you are in fact biking to work on Friday, I’d like to hear from you. And if you’ve found that starting your small business has been like biking to work, I’d like to hear from you too! Happy Bike to Work Day!
*Please substitute water if you actually need hydrating, then break out the beverage.
**You might need this more after a bad business day than a hot ride home! Stress relief people. Whatever it takes.