Now that the weather is changing, I've started picking my daughter up from school on my bike. She still isn't ready to ride on her own, so we use a trail-a-bike until she gets used to pedaling and riding on busy streets by herself. During our adventures, I've found a correlation between biking with your child and running a business.
1. It's more fun to ride together.
Going solo has its merits. Just as in business, going it alone means you don't have to answer to anyone; you set your own pace and you don't have to discuss which way is the right way go. It just happens, on your terms.
However, when Delilah is with me, the ride is more fun. I get out of my own head. I listen to her sing as she points out things I might not see otherwise. The conversation between the two of us is easy and meaningful.
The same is true for my business. When other people join me on the ride, I'm able to entertain other ideas and see opportunities where I might not have noticed them before. The camaraderie is refreshing and it helps me with perspective and makes the work of running a business more enjoyable.
2. Not everyone is going to pull their weight 100% of the time.
Delilah really doesn't have to pedal. She knows I'll keep going even if she stops for a while. The same is true for employees, vendors, customers and anyone you come across in your business life. They are going to slack off. Sometimes it's because you haven't set your expectations for them, sometimes it's for their own personal reasons, sometimes it's because you need to push them to step it up. (At MomCom we say, "MomUP!")
I find that if I tell her, "Delilah, help me out here. I need you to pedal now!" She'll do it, yelling, "Mommy, can you feel my energy? Is it helping? Can you feel it?!"
In business, people generally want to do well and they work and partner with you because they see value in what you're doing and they want to be a part of it. Delilah knows I'll let her go for a bit when she needs it but she also sees value in our rides. When I set the pedaling expectation and make clear requests, she comes back around and is genuinely happy to do so.
3. Sometimes you have to get off and walk.
There's one hill we have to tackle on the way home from Delilah's school. It kills me every time. I could always make it up this hill with Delilah in a bike trailer but for some reason, I haven't been able to ride the entire hill with her on the trail-a-bike. So, we get off our bikes and walk.
I've had to do this several times with MomCom. There have been many hills to climb. Between marketing the conferences, selling our ideas, pitching to sponsors and tackling technology issues while trying to grow a business on a bootstrapped budget, I've had to face the fact that every hill is not going to be easy.
I've realized that walking, even though slower than riding effortlessly up the hill, is still a way to get where I need to go. Like Delilah as she cheerfully gets off the bike and walks, the people with me on this ride through startup land still believe that we're going to get there and it inspires me to accept my circumstances and keep moving forward.
4. There may be distracting chatter, but keep focused on the goal.
Delilah talks and talks and talks and sings her way through our rides. While I'm huffing and puffing, she's back there chatting with her imaginary friends, asking me questions or pointing out something she knows that I don't know. It can be a bit distracting while trying to ride through city streets without getting the two of us hit by an oncoming vehicle. While I listen to her and really enjoy her, I also concentrate on what I'm doing and where I'm going. I don't get carried away in her stories or wrapped up in her whimsy.
It's the same in business. So many people have ideas they want to share with you. Many times, their ideas can take your business to a whole new level, open you up to another revenue stream or get you "unstuck" from a place where you've been floundering. However, there is a difference between listening and getting distracted by others' ideas for how you should run your business.
Listen to others, enjoy the fact that they are interested in you and your business but don't get distracted by them. Always keep moving forward toward your goal.
5. Sometimes it makes sense to retrace your steps.
Delilah and I returned home the other evening, sweating and exhausted. I handed her lunchbox to her and she went to retrieve Piglet from the cup holder where he had been riding, upon her insistence. Piglet wasn't there. Somewhere along the way, he had fallen off the bike. Delilah began to cry, I took her inside with her dad and got into the car to retrace our ride.
In business, the unexpected happens. All the time. You can choose to move forward or choose to take a few steps back and see if there is a do-over. Going back to go forward isn't always a bad thing. Often when you retrace your steps, you'll find little bits of knowledge that you had dismissed but now fit your mission. You remember ideas that you couldn't implement because of lack of resources, time or money that would be perfect for you now.
I didn't have to ride the bike again to go find Piglet. I could easily hop in the car and find him that way. Sometimes, retracing your steps isn't that difficult and can be beneficial and produce results. After all, I found Piglet, in the middle of the street, just waiting for me to pick him up. As you can imagine, the result of that decision was worth the extra effort.