How to pivot your business like a pro rider
Updated: Sep 17
Principles for entrepreneurial success learned from riding a bike.
The thrill of riding a bike comes from knowing how to take a corner well. The thrill of running a successful business comes from knowing how to handle the challenges that arise. We might be facing a crisis circumstance (hello COVID!), adjusting to a change in the sector or implementing a new process. How your business handles these hairpin bends and corners will determine its success on the journey and help you avoid a painful crash.
Four aspects of riding a corner well also apply directly to business:
1. Pick the Line
On a bike, the best line through a corner starts wide, takes the apex close and finishes wide with enough room for adjustments. In business, this translates to: navigating the constraints (internal and external) in a way that carries momentum but still allows enough margin for unexpected shifts in capacity and capability. You must plan ahead to have time for strategic reimagining; always know your financial reserves; and continuously allow time for your team to adapt and adjust with you.
2. Set the Entry Speed
The laws of physics don’t bend, so you must slow down BEFORE the corner, not in the corner, because braking can make the front wheel lose grip (and your balance). The bonus is that the bike will be more stable under gentle acceleration THROUGH the corner. In business, this is about having prepared for relevant scenarios before they play out and knowing the indicators of each scenario. Instead of having to stop everything suddenly to work out a new plan when one of them arises, you already have a plan for that scenario and push through the relevant initiatives for change, in the midst of crisis. We’ve seen many organisations take strategic initiatives through the COVID period, because they already had plans they could safely accelerate.
3. Look Beyond the Apex
Looking further ahead around the corner gives the rider more time to adjust and adapt as road conditions change, even while still approaching the apex of the corner. In business, this is about having the awareness DURING the crisis to look ahead to how the business will operate AFTER the crisis. This requires a dual focus: one eye on the immediate action to get through the crisis; the other eye on the after-effects and the opportunities beyond the crisis. This is much easier if you have previously ‘set the entry speed’ by preparing for scenarios like this crisis.
4. Lean In for Balance
An unfamiliar rider (or passenger) will try to stay vertical during a corner because they don’t understand the intrinsic balance of cornering on two wheels. The deeper the lean, the sharper the change in direction. We’ve all seen (or been) the kid that “fights the lean” and crashes off the corner! In business, a crisis demands a change in direction for some or all of its operation – we must lean in to face the challenge. We can also lean in to gather support from those around us. The further we lean in, the sooner we will be on our new trajectory of change and transformation.
On life’s journey, COVID has thrown us all the hairiest, scariest hairpin bend many of us will ever see. How we come out the other side may depend on how well we picked our line and set our speed before the crisis hit. While we are in the hairpin bend, our business future also depends on keeping our focus on the curve ahead and leaning in. Each step builds on the previous steps, and we can learn from others’ mistakes too.
Blue Bike is the Community Sector’s specialist transformation consultancy, so if you’re looking for help to navigate your organisational hairpin bends, get in touch and we’d be delighted to explore the path ahead with you.