Before I could blink I was on the ground looking up.
My bike was laying on its side a few meters in front of me, tires still spinning, inches away from a parked car. I sped through a turn too fast and failed to notice the wet surface below me. Thankfully, the only thing bruised was my ego. It was my first fall as a rider, and the experience taught me just as much as my first few falls as a founder.
Here are three lessons both riders and founders alike should heed.
1. Be mindful of your maintenance.
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There’s a lot more to a motorcycle than just the rider, just like there’s a lot more to a business than the founder. As the visionary leader, it’s up to you to keep your eyes on the road and decide the direction of the business. But it’s just as important to keep an eye on whatever, or whoever, is helping get you there.
Having a clear vision is important, but failing to monitor the other aspects of your business - namely, your finances -- can leave you stranded and out of gas in the middle of Route 66. You may have the next big, world-changing idea and a comprehensive route in place to get there, but you won’t get far if you don’t keep a watchful eye on accounts receivables, expenses and your bank balances (this alone almost killed my gold grills business). In short: Don’t get stuck with an empty tank down the road because you failed to check your fuel before you sped off the lot.
2. Accelerate through turns and tight corners.
My motorcycle safety course instructor gave me a valuable piece of advice on my last day of class. “Speed is your friend,” he said. Hitting the breaks when entering a corner will kill your momentum, and send you flying off course. The injury could cripple you, and the same rule applies to us entrepreneurs.
When sharp turns present themselves, you have to lean into them. Whatever you've been putting off, don’t be afraid to twist the throttle toward it. The sooner you identify the red flags in your way and confront them, the quicker you’ll get back to the wide-open road.
Are your books a mess? Have outstanding invoices you have yet to collect on? A nasty customer you’re avoiding? Expecting late payments? Whatever tight spot you’re in right now, don’t slam on the breaks when it appears, accelerate through it.
3. Anticipate hazards and reflect on your falls.
There’s an old adage in the motorcycle community: There are riders, who have fallen, and riders, who are going to fall. Going down is inevitable. The same is true among entrepreneurs. There will be drops and falls. What separates founders, who recover, from founders, who don’t, is anticipation and reflection.
What made you safe? What put you in danger? Why? It’s not enough to just be good. You have to know why so you replicate it. At the end of the day, you have to articulate key lessons you learned and how they improved your circumstance.
Your falls are for naught if you don’t deliberately reflect on them. It’s not enough to get up, brush yourself off, and hop back on the saddle like nothing happened. The safest riders and savviest founders develop a habit of anticipation and reflection. Are you prepared for what’s around the corner, whether for better or worse?