West Points

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Running Rivers and Businesses, Keys to Success

by Heather Gurewitz
Mendocino Women's Business Center Director

If you've worked with me, you probably know I love kayaking. After spending four and a half intensive days on the American River in a whitewater kayak I learned a lot about how to be a good paddler which also applies to being a successful business owner:

1. Scouting... From the water, a rapid may look like just fun moving water, but if you take the time to pull off the river, get out and have a look, you may find there are dangerous spots you want to avoid, and some fun spots you want to go through. Even if you don't get to get out, you want to plan your path. In the business world, we call this business planning. Take the time to step out of your work and plan where you want it to go before you get there. It can save you a lot of grief in the future.

2. The set up... When you are going into the rapids you have to set up early, get your speed, angle, and edge right, and commit to your route. If you go in right it is much easier to have a fun ride and a lot less work. When you start your business, make sure that you are positioned for a successful experience. Not having enough capital, lacking key skills, or starting at the wrong time of year can ruin the business before it even gets started. Even if you do, sometimes the river takes you somewhere you didn't intend to go. Or what you thought was the right speed, angle, and edge, turns out not to be.

3. Always be ready to correct... Sometimes you miss, and the next thing you know, the world is 180° in the wrong direction. What do you do? First off, DON'T PANIC! If you're facing upriver and you should be facing down river, one powerful stroke in the right direction can set you back on course, and if you are 180° upside down, some powerful hip action and a good torso rotation can get you back upright. If you panic, you will probably end up swimming, which leaves you in a much higher risk position. When you are off course, it doesn't matter if it was the boat, a rock, an eddy, or just exhaustion. The key is to assess your current situation and as my coach, Jeff Laxier says, "Fix the problem." When you are safely upright and cruising down stream you can go back and analyze the situation.

4. Have the skills you need before you get there... When you are upside down in a kayak, instinctually, you want to lift your head out of the water first so you can take a breath and pull on your paddle to lift your body out of the water. Unfortunately, it is pretty much  impossible to roll your boat up that way. I've spent a year and a half learning how to roll. It has taken time, commitment, and a LOT of practice and it has been a challenge. If you are in business, choosing the wrong corrective action could make a bad situation much worse. West Company offers many affordable classes to help you expand your knowledge so that you can properly assess situations and make good decisions.

5. Now, I talk to people who learned how to kayak by getting in a boat and going down river. They have some interesting stories. I chose to take classes from professionals who have taught me how to have fun and be safe on the river. The truth is, anyone can get in a boat and go down stream, BUT, not everyone makes it to the take out with their boat, paddle, and body intact. Same with business, anyone can get licenses and permits and open a business, but starting a successful business, that is a whole different story and the main reason West Company exists. Through the Small Business Development Center and the Women's Business Center programs, West Company offers classes and free one-on-one consulting to help you acquire the skills and knowledge you need to become a successful business owner. For more information, visit our website.

1 comment:

  1. Are you still going to write a follow-up regarding QR codes? I stumbled upon your site by chance and now I'm waiting in suspense.