How Driving Across America Can Help You Be A Better Entrepreneur
December 16, 2019 | Author: Meggen Taylor
Road trips usually start with a bold and outlandish idea, which is what makes them a distinctly American tradition. We all need to travel more, whatever it takes. And it’s often the least obvious and luxurious locations that are the most beautiful.
I have driven across country several times over the past few years (usually with dogs in tow) and there are states I still haven’t seen. Some of the takeaways are obvious clichés, but things that all of us need to be reminded of more often. The unavoidable one is that America is more beautiful in more places in so many ways than most Americans will ever know.
The inescapable one is that life and business are hard everywhere. When you drive on a two lane back road through a Native American reservation in Arizona or a Nebraska farming town that’s been depopulating for decades, it puts you face-to-face with realities of globalization and the shifting demographics of the knowledge economy that you hear about on the news every night.
Most of all, every time I drive across country what I can’t stop thinking about is how many parallels there are between a successful entrepreneur and a seasoned traveler, and how traveling can unexpectedly hone the emotional, intellectual, and interpersonal skills of every aspiring and established businessperson.
For most entrepreneurs, this is a cruelly ironic analogy: Many start-up business owners barely have the time to reboot their computers let alone hit the road for a few weeks. But the biggest danger for any business at every stage is growing in a bubble, avoiding risk, ceasing to be adaptive, losing connection with customers, and forgetting what emotionally drives supply and demand.
So remember to listen to the little voice that tells you to put your work clothes in storage, change the oil, and hit the road. It might just be the best thing for the future of your business that you never planned for.
Re-Learn How To Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
Traveling is all about stepping outside of your comfort zone and into a new experience wherever your route takes you, which is called taking a risk in business. Preparation is key before you embark on any new adventure, but equally critical are having a clear vision and setting expectations for everyone who’s along for the ride. If you’re the type of person who ends up running out of gas without food or water at the end of a dead-end road without cell reception, you might want to re-consider the way in which you’re running your start-up, and gaining the confidence of your employees.
Stepping out of your bubble also gives you perspective by exposing you to people, cultures, landscapes and ways of life that you don’t experience every day. This helps a business in terms of understanding how to tap into a new customer base or expand their market into a new country with different cultural and economic expectations.
Always Be Flexible And Be Prepared To Adapt
Running a business will inevitably have you venturing into new territories where you will have to think on your feet, and travel is basically Spring Training for adaptability. Language barriers, delays, detours, breaking down, and other challenging situations when you travel will remind you how to navigate these issues of uncertainty and unpredictability gracefully and without hitting the panic button prematurely.
In travel and business, you could have the best-laid plans, but there are thousands of reasons why both travel or business plans can get derailed. Successful people in both realms always focus on the solution rather than the problem—because problems are a constant in life. The only other constant is change, so learn to adapt on the fly and your chances for success in both scenarios will increase exponentially.
Be Decisive When You Have To Be
The counter-balance to adaptability is decisiveness both in life and in business. Flat tires like slumping demand don’t just solve themselves—you need to be able to think on your toes and make decisions quickly. Trust your gut and go with your instincts in either scenario. If the worst-case scenario is that you make a mistake or fail—so what. Quickly determine what the problem is, the best way to handle it, and move on.
Since issues that arise when traveling typically only allow for a short window to respond, it is good practice to learn to trust your judgment and your instincts—traits every successful entrepreneur has finely tuned.
Effective Communication Skills
You can have all of the above skills, but if you don’t know how to effectively communicate with friends, loved ones, business colleagues, or strangers you’re pretty much doomed to be a loner. Although travel, in general, is an amazing experience, it can also present some frustrating challenges that require effective communication skills to resolve issues. How you handle yourself addressing these hiccups will determine if you achieve a positive or negative outcome. Even though you may never see these folks again, these experiences help build character.
Enjoy Your Ride Wherever It Takes You
Sometimes it is easy to get caught up focusing on the final destination rather then the journey. A good old-fashioned road trip with brief stops in each location reminds you to live in the moment and to take in as much of your surroundings before they change. The same applies to the principles of living a happy life and running successful businesses.
Your life can change in an instant for the better or the worse. Each phase of our journey to becoming successful entrepreneurs should be met with gratitude. Both good and bad experiences have value. If you had never experienced bad you would never be able to recognize good or anything else in between. Be grateful for where you are and remember it is your ride—not someone else’s. If you don’t like your course, you can change the direction.
Note: A version of this article appeared in Forbes