Guest Post

Business, nerve and a down economy? It’s like extreme downhill mountain biking!

by Thomas Groh
10/30/2009

When you are flying down a hill strewn with a myriad of dangers, visible or otherwise, if you worry too much about crashing, you will crash! And if you just keep holding on with your eyes closed, well…we have seen the outcome of that as well. Navigating a business through this economy over the past two years has definitely required some nerve, and the mountain biking analogy is actually not that far fetched. In fact, some of the techniques that have kept me from biting the dust while barreling down a gnarly trail somewhere in the Sierras translate quite well into advice for business leaders faced with surviving and thriving despite economic downturns.

The first piece of advice: Look Ahead.

Look ahead at where you want to go and where your exit point is going to be instead of only focusing on all the obstacles on the trail, especially those that aren't clearly in view. Choose a path to reach your exit point but stay flexible and alert to allow for course corrections.

As a business leader, I used the same strategy. Instead of just keeping our heads down and continuing to do what has worked for us in the past; we looked ahead and thought about how we wanted Bi3 Solutions to be positioned in the market place by the time the economy recovers.

So instead of continuing down the path of planning, designing, and delivering custom, one-of-a-kind Business Intelligence (BI) solutions for our clients as a consulting business, we started to transform the business model of Bi3 Solutions into a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

By putting our collective experience from many years in the BI consulting business into the development of a next-generation SaaS BI software platform, and investing in the key areas needed to make the transition from a consultancy to SaaS BI company, Bi3 Solutions will emerge from the recession as a much stronger company with a more predictable and scalable, recurring revenue stream.

How could we afford to invest when business was down due to the economic climate, you ask? Let me answer this question with another mountain biking analogy: Watch your weight distribution and don't lock up your wheels.

Translated into business terms…

The second piece of advice: Watch where you spend and don't paralyze your business by cutting costs equally across the board.

In our case, we started checking our key business metrics, particularly cash flow, more frequently and shortened our adjustment cycles to make the business more nimble. We curbed spending in areas that did not directly support our business objective transitioning from consulting to SaaS. Instead of throwing good money after bad by chasing after new business that wasn't there due to the economy, we focused on supporting our existing customers even better. This led to extensions of existing contracts and more follow-on business, which in turn helped us to fund a good portion of our R&D activities. It also allowed us to start introducing our plans and SaaS offering into our existing and happy customer base.

So like a mountain biker who sharpens his senses, tenses his muscles and confidently takes on the challenge of negotiating and clearing a gnarly, obstacle-strewn trail, it is a critical time for us business leaders to assess our capabilities. We need to keep a clear picture of our target, focus on our strengths and push our companies through the trough so that we will emerge from the recession in better shape, and be well positioned to cope with the expansion that is sure to follow.

Thomas Groh is Co-Founder of Bi3 Solutions, the company behind next-generation SaaS BI software platform: Bi3 Virtual BI Center™, and recently voted by Forbes as one of "America's Most Promising Companies."

  1. Thomas –

    Great post! As a mountain biker and a business leader I can certainly appreciate the analogy. It’s very true that where your head looks, your body will follow. Also very important to note that the people riding in your pack will be watching your eyes to see where you look, as well.

    Keep your eye on the prize, but be flexible and nimble and shift your weight constantly as the terrain dictates. If you do that, you’ll make it to the bottom of the trail without going over the bars, and you’ll also be a better leader/rider for the experience!!

    best,

    @JeffreyJDavis
    President & COO, AGY
    http://www.jeffreyjdavs.com

    Comment by Jeffrey J Davis — 10/30/2009 @ 9:36 AM

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