My wife and I recently took a trip to Virginia to help my daughter look for an apartment as she
is moving from New Jersey for her first post-college job. We were lucky enough to find a nice place in a good neighborhood where she and a friend from college will live in their first “grown-up” apartment. This made all of us very happy and certainly helped relieve some parental anxiety. Our task finished, we headed back to NJ at around 1pm on Sunday, and that’s when it happened.
Our pleasant weekend was hijacked by one of the worst road trips I’ve ever taken, as no matter which way we went, we ran into traffic tie-ups and delays. We finally pulled up the driveway around 9 pm both aggravated and exhausted. Once I had a chance to relax and catch my breath, I got to thinking of ways to equate the ride to lessons I can use in my business life and work with growth-oriented midmarket companies.
6 Business Lessons From The Ride From Hell
- Know where you are going – The most important step to start any journey is to know where you were going. For us it was easy, we had a clear destination in mind – Home -- and everyone in the car knew where we were headed. A clear destination is just as important for your business. But as fundamental as that seems, not all companies can confidently say that they have one. Fewer can claim to have one that everyone in the organization understands and can articulate. As a result, they often find that many people in the company are headed off in opposing directions, rather than working towards a common goal.
- Watch for the open lane – As we were driving, I was able to make adjustments along the way to keep us moving when one lane of traffic unexpectedly started moving more quickly than the others. There are open lanes in business as well, that can allow you to move more quickly and get past bottlenecks. These may be unexpected customer segments that are attracted to your product/service or a competitor’s misstep which opens up a space in the market. The key is to be aware of the change in market traffic so you can make the adjustment and move to the open lane. Just watch out for additional changes and don’t get caught in the lane that moves for a while only to fall behind the other lanes of traffic when they start to move ahead.
- Know how to read the signs – As we were driving in the suburban Philadelphia area on our way back to Northwest NJ, I saw a sign on the highway that said “Road closed after street road ahead.” I pondered that for a while trying to figure out what roads and street they were talking about when I passed the exit for Route 132/Street Road. I had a bad feeling when I saw the sign and hoped they didn’t mean that I-95 was closed ahead after this exit. Unfortunately it was, as there was an accident ahead that had all lanes blocked. I had seen the sign, but didn’t know how to read it and was not able to make an adjustment in time to avoid another 40 minute delay as we waited for the accident to clear (but seriously, who names a highway “Street Road”?). In business, knowing how to read the signs means not only having the systems in place to monitor what your customers and competitors are doing, but having the expertise in your organization to know how to interpret the warnings and act accordingly.
- Shortcuts are not always shorter – One of the things I hate most is sitting in traffic, so I took the several opportunities to ignore my GPS in favor of a shortcut which I was convinced would help me get home more quickly. Sometimes these worked, but more than once they just traded one slow-moving road for another. Business shortcuts can hold the same false promise. Rushing a product or service to market before it’s ready, moving forward without a well-constructed plan or skimping on marketing can seem like a good shortcut at the time, but they may just lead you to a roadblock which is worse than the one you’re trying to leave behind.
- Use all available tools – I was lucky to have multiple tools at my disposal, including Google Maps, Waze’s social mapping application and old-fashioned radio to help me navigate my way through the ride. Each served a different purpose from general route guidance to up-to-the minute traffic conditions to social-sharing of what was up ahead. Having the right tool set for your business is just as important. The right tools include a robust CRM, a marketing automation platform, customer feedback and competitive intelligence. Each has its role to play in helping you navigate your business journey.
- Have patience to see it through – We had no choice but to head north and keep driving, as we had to get home no matter what. Too often businesses give up heading for a critical destination when expected results are not present, the journey takes longer than anticipated or unexpected roadblocks are encountered. Have the patience to see the journey through on your own business journey. The destination is worth it.
We’re headed back to Virginia soon to help our daughter move in. I hope our trip home goes a lot more smoothly this time. At least I’ll know not to make the same mistakes again. I hope your business journey goes smoothly as well.