21 Pieces of Business Advice I've Learned From Riding My Bike 38,000 Miles
A playbook to building and growing your business.
I took up road biking back in 2010 as an alternative to running, which I didn’t think was a good thing given the three ACL surgeries I’d had over the course of my life. It’s been an amazing journey so far, taking me to places I would have never seen and learning more about my physical and mental endurance than I ever thought. I raced in 2012 to see what it was all about, and found whether at club rides or the circuit level, that it’s a chess game and it tests your mental fortitude, physical endurance and your ability to position yourself in the prime spot throughout the race to give you the best shot of winning.
My time on the bike is my break from the daily controlled chaos of what it takes to turn an idea into a product and that product into a business, aka running a business. Bike riding provides a reprieve from the daily tempo, and once you elevate your heart rate north of zone three, you get what I call “absolute focus.” It’s a clarity that reveals itself because you’ve stressed your physical body to the point where your mind has to be present to keep you alive, leaving no room for anything else. That in turn frees your subconscious to process all the things that you actually have on your mind. Decisions, responses to team-members, customers and vendors.
Recently, I was riding Rte. 1 on the northern coast of California, breathing in the energizing ocean air that the regularly scheduled NW breeze brings, and started to think about what I learned from cycling over the more than 38,000 miles I’ve logged, and realized there were a lot of similarities to what it’s like running a business. I began my career starting, and later selling, what became the largest social networking and e-commerce site for sport fishermen on the internet. I know, fishing of all things, right? Since then I’ve experienced failure, going sideways and success. I have some scars to prove the failures, a good smile and a house on the California coast, along with a few other things, to show for the success. Even if you aren’t a cyclist, I believe you’ll find something in the insights below that will help you as you forge the road of running a business.
1. You generally can always count on a head wind. The key is to keep peddling and set small goals. Take one mile at a time and get that one mile right, then focus on the next.
2. When you get a tail wind, keep peddling! The tendency will be to take a break and rest, the key is to take advantage of the tail wind and keep your peddling cadence up, this way you get further for the same amount of energy you would have exerted anyway.
3. The weatherman is wrong most of the time. The forecast will be one thing and when you walk out the door you can find weather that was not in the forecast or the weather will quickly change in the middle of your ride. Keep your eye on the radar, expect surprises and dress appropriately.
4. Draft when you can. When you draft, you use up to 30% less energy. If you can draft, do it, the lead person will wear out eventually, but make sure you have a plan of attack to bury that competitor when you see he/she/it starts to crack. People can recover; make sure they cannot catch you once you pass them.
5. You can be great, but it takes dedication and a lot of hard work. You will read articles about the winner that make it look easy. Rarely is anyone or their business an overnight success. It takes hard work to be great, so be willing to commit to greatness.
6. Learn how to change your flat tire quickly and keep a tool kit handy. You will get a flat at some point. The key is to know how to change a flat quickly, get back on the bike and quickly develop a plan on how to catch up.
7. Keep hydrated during the race. If you do not take care of yourself, and make sure your teammates are doing the same, you will be setting up a weakness that someone will see and it will leave you vulnerable to an attack.
8. Eat right. What you put in creates what you are made of and determines your performance potential. The race does not just happen when you are on the bike, it happens when you are off of it as well.
9. Learn to relax. Even when things get tough, like climbing 15% grade hills on a hot summer day, learn to relax and set a pace that is sustainable. If you are tense, you are wasting energy that could be going directly into the pedals. Gripping the handlebars tight does not make you go faster.
10. Mind games are part of the process. It’s a chess match, learn to think ahead, set traps and continually do experiments. This does not mean you should be evil, but you are in it to win.
11. Winning takes true team-work, each person knowing and accepting his/her job on the team. Make sure that is defined and all agree to the roles that have been assigned to them.
12. Be a leader, but realize that as a leader you will use more energy. Be prepared and think about that as you train each day.
13. The best bike does not always win, the rider who rides the bike they have in the best way wins.
14. It’s about winning the tour, not every single race. The tour is long. Sometimes it pays to draft and sometimes it’s okay to let someone else in front. While someone in front is basking in the glory and taking the attention of the press, etc., it gives you time to recoup and build. Use the time wisely. When you do pull away from the pack, truly commit to pulling away and to not letting the pack catch you….ever again.
15. Let members of your team be winners as well. They helped get you to the top.
16. At times you will experience extreme pain and suffering, and think you cannot go any further. You can go further, in fact, you can get through the first three signs of pain and suffering that your mind and body will alert you to in trying to slow you down. Once you hit the fourth wave of pain, be careful, it can kill you, but know you can live through the first three. Too often you are so close to success that you do not even realize how close you really are.
17. If you are behind and are going to bridge the gap to the lead group, make sure you are committed and do not stop until you grab the wheel of the group ahead. When you get to the lead group, rest and then start to quickly move up. Once they realize you are in the pack, you’re a player.
18. Always smile, even when you are hurting, it keeps everyone guessing. But, when you regroup with your team, tell the truth so you can improve.
19. No one remembers the guy who almost won, they remember who won. Trophies of past winners only list first place, but you can make a lot of money in second and third place. Anything after that, you better hope to merge with one of the top three teams.
20. Always wear your helmet, you will wreck. It’s not about whether you wreck or not, it’s about surviving and how fast you get back on the bike.
21. Pace yourself. The race is a long one, take time to be in the moment and enjoy the ride.
Let these pieces of advice guide you. Now, go ride a bike, build your business and make it a great life. Wishing you the very best of success!
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor