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Published November 22, 2016
A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Mike Lambert, WSBDC Network Market Research Center manager
“Do you have any tips about how I can think about strategy for my business?” Sarah, Lusk
I was just reading an article by Chris Bradley of McKinsey and Company and, in it, he talks about riding his motorcycle across Australia, and how this epic trip helped him think about how to do his job as a strategic consultant better.
As a longtime bike rider (1983 Yamaha Venture right now), and a lover of the 1974 book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig, I really found these insights easy to grasp and usable in planning. His seven principles:
-- Slow down and make sure you are solving the right problem. Don’t lock onto the first imaginable solution to your problem. “Going fast is for sure the slowest way to fix a motorcycle” -- or a company.
-- Work back from the source of the problem. Don’t jump to the end of the problem. On a bike, you may have a low tire. Don’t assume that you need to change the tire when all you need to do is make sure that your pump is working and at hand. In business, don’t assume you need help marketing when, in reality, you need to focus on cash flow or you won’t be open next week.
-- Be empirical. If your bike’s engine won’t start, there can be lots of issues. The best way to “get’r done” is not to waste time theorizing, but to jump in and gather data on the problem. The same goes for business.
-- Keep doubt alive. Don’t get tunnel vision on the fix. There may be better solutions available. If someone tells you “I know what that is, it’s the oil pump,” don’t discount that you might just be low on oil. Examine multiple opinions and options.
-- Gain some distance from the problem. Don’t panic and don’t rush into a solution when you’re stuck in a rut. Keep calm and think it through -- in bikes and in business.
-- Be organized. Anyone who’s seen my home office would wonder how I could possibly understand this. A good mechanic keeps his shop clean. Otherwise, he spends as much time looking for tools as working the problem. In business, this means “don’t cut corners on a process that should be disciplined.”
-- Plan for the best, but be prepared for the worst. You never plan to break down, but it is a lot better to be prepared with tools, common spare or even duct tape, if you do. Too many business plans try to appear confident but, in doing so, don’t leave room for a “spare tire.”
Motorcycles and business strategy really do fit together. Keep these principles in mind. Strategic planning will be easier to execute.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at www.wyomingsbdc.org/blog1/.
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email email@example.com, or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.