Wednesday, 13 January 2010

#2: You can’t half-ride a bike.

Throughout Jan I will be posting installments of the "12 entrepreneurial lessons I learnt from 2009" series

So far: Introduction , Lesson #1

While it may be official that you’ll never forget how to ride a bike, the chances are good you'll forget the mindset which allowed you to learn to ride it in the first place.

On a bike, there are two points of safety. Just two.
The first involves having both feet on the ground, your hands on the handlebars and a stationary bike. The second is ... well, riding the bike. As any kid knows, you can’t half-ride a bike. You can’t keep one foot skirting the ground just-in-case (you’re going to need both feet to pedal), you can’t very well run along the road Fred Flintstone style, and as for riding a bike very, very, slowly … well, you just try that.
No? Well trust me, it doesn’t work either.

It’s a momentum issue.
When you’re 7 or 8 you get this, there’s no middle ground. You have to commit to the act of riding the bike and accept that you may fall, or bail on the activity completely. Thankfully most 8 year olds think they’re Evel Knievel and don’t know the meaning of ‘caution’... Sadly, most Entrepreneurs aren’t 8 years old.

This time last year I was splitting my energy between freelancing as a marketing consultant, a PT sales role, speaking at business events and careers fairs, acting as a course-mentor to three entrepreneurs and participating in a couple of Enterprise UK focus groups, amongst other ephemeral opportunities (!) We’d just returned from The Earth Awards in New York and James was entering the final 6 months of a full time Masters Degree with curricular split between two Universities..

We clearly hadn’t fully committed to our business. Despite believing I was giving it my all, Red Button Design was at best a side project for the first few months of 2009. Yet, we hadn’t bailed on it either and at the time I truly thought I was making progress. As it turns out, I was standing over a stationary bike making ‘vrooom’ noises.

If you’re working to start a scalable business, you’re attempting to do something extraordinary. You’re doing something new, something better, more efficient or more attractive. How many of us, if we're honest with ourselves, can say we'll be better than established competitors in our spare time?

Of course, there are excuses. Damn good excuses for the most part. I'm not even going to start on the things I either haven't had, or have had to do, since I shunned paid employment to work full time on Red Button Design. It shouldn't be possible to survive indefinitely without a wage, yet making the impossible, possible, is only the first in the set of daredevil skills an entrepreneur needs. No matter how much effort and focus you devote to your enterprise, you're still putting yourself at risk of bumps, scrapes and that word that scares us Brits so deeply, 'failure'. I don't know how many times you skinned your knees learning to cycle.. I recall a fair few topples myself, but just take a quick look at your knees today, to see that the scars of failure heal.

So take a step back and if it's clear you haven't already decided, decide today. Commit or Bail?
...and if you're not going to give up that easily, then take a deep breath and pedal as fast as you can because it's my second lesson for 2010:

Commit or Bail. You can’t half ride a bike.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Still, in reality there are always bills and a life to be had (Ok that's a terrible excuse!) and unless you have parents with wallets or some student loan left over (thankfully I do) a bit of work on the side is a reality for most people starting out.

Lets us both be thankful we don't have a marriage/kids/house to support.

Anyway doing a little something on the side is not always a bad thing so long as while earning you some money it contributes to your business. In my case while we develop our new software platform I do consulting work for private clients so that when my new business is ready I have clients waiting to go.

Like anything you need to plan and schedule to fit everything in and give everything the time it needs. If you are a serious entrepreneur then you'll always find a way.

See you Tuesday.

Andrew @moveaheaddesign