As a new rider with less than 100 hours in the seat, I couldn’t help but correlate my feelings of angst, fear, anticipation and exhilaration to those associated with entrepreneurs just about to launch their own business. With a little good-natured comparison, I share nine similarities of launching a new start-up with learning to ride a motorcycle.
1. It sounds exciting. Actually, it’s scary as hell.
No explanation necessary.
2. Just because you got your endorsement doesn’t mean you’re ready for the freeway.
You completed your training and took a few extra safety classes for good measure; so, you’re ready to ride to Sturgis, right? Probably not. The same goes for start-ups who believe a certificate, earned credentials, a fancy website, and a few hours of job shadowing is all the preparation they’ll need to navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Don’t overestimate your ability.
3. Do your research.
There’s a big difference between a Moped and a Fatboy and understanding which one you’re ready for mitigates risk. Successful start-ups know to balance wants with reality before investing in additional products or services. Did you run your business idea through a validation process? You wouldn’t buy a motorcycle without riding it first and a test drive is only part of your due diligence. Be sure you’re prepared for the long haul.
4. Location is key.
Riding on poorly maintained roads, challenging terrains or in extreme weather conditions can cause even and experienced rider to crash. The same goes with starting a business before considering or understanding current market conditions. A business’s location can affect competition, traffic flow, and the ability to attract new customers. A prime location can help you avoid financial difficulties down the road.
5. Get the right gear.
A fancy leather jacket is cool, but a properly fitted helmet and protective body armor could save your life. While it’s important not to waste precious seed dollars on every after-market bell and whistle, it’s equally important to spend and invest where necessary. Don’t skimp on things your company needs to thrive.
6. Know when to shift, adjust and brake.
No one wants to believe there are going to be setbacks, but if you start your riding life with unrealistic expectations, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Setbacks will happen in business too, so it’s important to know when to assess the situation, take corrective action, and change course when necessary.
7. If they don’t hear you coming they don’t know you’re there.
It takes more than loud pipes to broadcast your message. Strategic marketing and effective promotion is essential to differentiate your business from its competition.
8. Prepare for unknown costs.
Summer gear, winter gear, rain gear, and of course, a patch from the Poker Run. Unanticipated expenses will happen, so it’s best to be prepared. Even start-ups with a solid business plan will incur unintended costs. A good rule of thumb is to add an additional 20% to your first-year budget. You’ll be able to use this money on unexpected expenses that will undoubtedly pop up throughout the year. Having a safety net won’t stall your engine.
9. A mentor will help navigate the course.
My girlfriend, Star (yes, that’s her real name), is half my size and rides like a badass. I’ve been inspired and encouraged by her ability to maneuver challenging conditions and terrains with skill and confidence. Her experience and advice is helping me improve my riding skills.
I have found that people love to share their knowledge and expertise if you ask. And down the road, with your business on solid footing, be a mentor to someone else and start the cycle over.