Last week, I wrote an email to a friend who is visiting Costa Rica and is going to try surfing. As I crafted the email, I noticed some key similarities between surfing and starting a new business.
Conditions are critical
Even excellent surfers can’t surf when the water is flat. On a day with perfect waves, even amateur surfers catch a few good rides. (On rough days, you can spend 80% of your effort just paddling to get into position.)
When market conditions are perfect, even average businesses can succeed. When conditions get worse, only the very best can thrive.
Experience trumps tools
Experienced surfers can make do with average equipment, whereas rookies aren’t helped by a brand new surfboard.
A spreadsheet does not make someone a financial analyst. Keynote does not make someone a good speaker. A twitter account does not make someone a social media expert. Good tools reward experience.
Timing is everything
Paddle too early and you’ll burn out when the wave comes. Paddle too late and the wave will pass you by.
Burn through your cash too early and you won’t be around to sustain the tough periods. Wait to long to change your business due to an industry paradigm shift (like the end of traditional publishing) and you’ll be left underwater.