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Running the rapids

20 Feb 2012

Over the recent long weekend I went on a kayaking adventure down the Warkworth River with two friends and one of my friends’ teenage sons.  The scenery was very peaceful and if you have watched the movie "The Castle” you will know what I mean when I say, ah, the serenity.

We had only been paddling for less than 10 minutes when we came across our first set of rapids; it’s amazing how quiet a river can be, but then off in the distance you can hear the noise and you know that a waterfall is coming. We managed to ride this waterfall through the rapids and make it cleanly out the other side.

During our trip we must have navigated at least 15 or more sets of rapids of various sizes; most we made it through, some were too big for a couple of our party to attempt, while others were too big but we still attempted them, resulting in one or more of us either being thrown out of our kayaks or getting stuck on rocks and having to get out to navigate the obstruction.

Often times in business we can be sailing along in smooth water and next thing we know we have to navigate a set of rapids that tosses our business or people around. Just like paddling the river, you can learn from each set of rapids you navigate how to do it better next time.

Firstly, to know it is coming is a big help, and there are many ways in business to hear when the next waterfall is coming. Having your business broken down to numbers and monitoring those numbers is something I do and it helps us predict what is coming.

The next challenge is how to navigate the rapids, which path to take, and the amount of time you have to make that decision. In business, having access to others who have navigated a similar business challenge is like following someone through a set of rapids: you can see if the path they took worked, or caused challenges you would prefer to avoid. Use the connections you have in business to get as much information you can about a decision you need to make, and then make the decision in a timely manner. If you don’t make the decision you may end up being thrown down a rapid rather than taking a path of your own choice.

There is often times more than one path through a set of rapids, and in business you can get through the challenges in different ways yet still get through them. Learn what to look for in challenging times, be mindful of timing, and be prepared to make decisions and stick to them.

Just like a river with a series of rapids to navigate, managing and leading a business can be just the same.  Next time you hear the waterfall coming, be prepared to ride the rapids, and the rewards coming out the other side will make you and your business stronger. Happy paddling!

Paul Bolte is CEO of Bartercard New Zealand, a tool to help you steer your business, improving cash flow through new customers and increased profits.  To discuss how Bartercard can help your business succeed, go here or phone 0508 BARTER.

Image source here.