I consider myself a recreational cyclist. I like to ride for the ride—unlike many years ago, when I was obsessed with performance and distance. Most reading this know how to ride a bike, and so know how important wheels are in the matter.
A modern bike wheel is constructed with an outer metal rim that weighs less than a pound. This wheel is then strengthened with a series of 10 to 15 thin metal spokes that are attached to a center hub and when tightened to create tension and great strength. This then creates a bike wheel that can hold hundreds of pounds safely while traveling at speeds up to 30 miles per hour and with sharp turns.
For the recreational rider, who may ride 20 to 30 miles in a single trip, you need to think about your equipment so as just to make it back home. It's no fun to break down. The wheel might be the most important element in this regard.
If one spoke breaks, you need to turn around and head home, but it's not dire. You're not riding as fast, your turns shouldn't be as sharp, but you're moving. Break two spokes on that same ride—a situation I'm intimately familiar with—and you're now genuinely compromised. But you can keep riding—just very slowly, avoiding bumps and sharp turns. Break three spokes, though, and you're done. The wheel no longer does what it was designed to do. You need to walk not ride the bike.
A Business is a Bike Wheel
Your business is a bike wheel. It can hold a lot of weight but it's very dependent on the tension in its spokes. As with a bike wheel, a business can manage with one spoke being bent or broken, and can in many cases limp along with two out. But three broken spokes and your business is crippled.
The following are examples of spokes in your business that you need to make sure they are sound and tuned up.
The Client Experience — It’s tough out there but building a home is an experience not just a product. If you are seeing more client frustration with the experience, then get this fixed or run the risk of breaking down.
The Team — People are your greatest assets, a key spoke. Are these investments gung-ho, operating effectively and are A players? If not, make them a priority. This should always be a priority of your time, but when the people element of the business breaks down then it is over.
Marketing — Today more than ever you need to be a hunter with marketing efforts. The winds have shifted and this spoke might be one of the more important to keep riding. Think high touch and not just high tech in your efforts and you are more like to be ok.
Sales — Selling is 80% science and 20% art. But while the fundamentals of the art of it tend not to change—good people respond to good people—the science side is in a state of constant evolution. It's a spoke that frequently needs tightening. Not to say your selling techniques won't still work, but constant sales education, training, and adopting of new skills and approaches are required to compete for today's clients.
You — If you are overly confident with your backlogs that you have accumulated and if you believe your success is more a product of the environment and not you, then now might be a time to hit the reboot button. You are a spoke, and you need to be just as strong and just as tuned up as all the others.
Some modern wheels only have 5 spokes, however, there are several others in your business, including production, financial health, HR, and operational effectiveness, to name a few.
While the recreational rider can deal with one or two of these spokes being broken, the pro cyclist understands that while they might finish the race with a broken spoke, they will certainly not make the podium in doing so. Try to take some time to use this metaphor and identify your spokes and do some tuning up to not only get you home safely, but also with a strong performance.
Mark Richardson, CR, is an author, columnist, and business growth strategist.