January 17, 2012

Hang ten

I was recently lucky enough to go on a trip that included surfing, and as usual, I found myself relating it to business. When you go surfing, you paddle out and then sit on your board, enjoying the sun, hanging out with some other surfers, and maybe even see a dolphin or turtle. It"s nice and it"s relaxing. It"s similar to doing "business as usual." But it"s not exactly what you came out for. There is no real challenge, no risk, and no thrill of success.

Coming through recent times with the recession, most businesses hunkered down. This was probably smart, but it’s not smart forever. You have to be ready to catch a wave – the wave that is opportunity.
In surfing, a wave physically accelerates and propels you forward. In business, the wave that propels your business forward is the opportunity to leverage a new technology, make an acquisition, expand into a new market, or venture into a new business line. In business, you need to be ready to catch that wave.
In both situations, you have to be ready and selective of the opportunity that you take. In surfing, you have to be watching for the waves that are coming and pick the right one to ride. In business, you have to be searching out opportunities and be selective about which ones are right for you and your business. When surfing, you have to physically be in the right place at the right time to catch the wave. Similarly, you have to put yourself in the right position in business to capitalize on the opportunity. You must be ready with the appropriate depth of management, have adequate capital, and be selective with a clear understanding of which opportunities fit your strategic plan.
You also have to be willing to commit and make an all-out effort. When you see a good wave coming, you need to paddle as fast as possible to catch it or the wave speeds past you. Once you choose your wave and it is peaking around you, it’s time to get up on your board and catch the wave. There can be no hesitation – you need to fully commit and pop up on your board. It’s exciting and scary at the same time, but you have to go for it. In business, when a good opportunity comes along, you also need to make a full commitment and an all-out effort. Similarly, it’s scary and there is risk, but you have to go all in, take your shot, and commit the necessary resources and effort to create success.
So with this great plan, it always works, right? Not exactly. A fair amount of the time you fall/fail. (I still have a sore spot on my chin where my surfboard hit me on one of my many wipeouts.) But remember, most times, failure is how you learn. And every time, trying is how you succeed.
Are you ready to catch a wave?

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