Business insights from a surfing lesson

Tania Allen, Founder, Vision Alliance

Have you ever learnt to surf?

Imagine you are learning to surf today. You arrive at the surf school and you meet your coach who will be taking you out for an hour or two.

The lesson begins with the basics on dry land, well sand actually. In the beginning the surf coach gets you familiar with the board; the vehicle you will be riding for the next couple of hours. Once you are familiar with the board, you are then instructed to lie down and you are taken through a simulated paddle. Now your first wave is soon approaching, how do you stand up? Which leg do I put forward? What if I lose my balance? How do I get back on the board? How do I catch the wave at the right time? How do I co-ordinate everything so I can be
the best I can be? These are just some of the questions that will start to rush through your thinking, even before you’ve hit the water. After some instruction, some planning and some practice on dry land we are ready to jump in and give it a go. The most exhausting element I found when I learnt to surf was paddling. It’s sometimes long and tedious and takes a lot of hard work. Sometimes you feel like quitting before you even have the opportunity to ride the wave. It’s at that moment you have a choice to either quit or keep going. You know if
you quit you’ll live with regret and you will never know what it was like to experience the ride or the end result. Some do give up before they succeed and others just pull it together find the strength, stamina, focus and sometimes sheer determination to keep going.

Now not everyone gets up on the board the first time either. I was fortunate enough I did, it wasn’t long before I lost my momentum and fell off into the water. Just because I lost momentum and fell down, didn’t mean that was the end. I understood it was just part of the process.

The next step was to get back on the board, paddle out to the waves again, wait, turn around, wait some more, identify the opportunity and then paddle as hard and as fast as I could in order to catch the next wave. Sometimes I was too slow and missed it, other times my timing was just right. It’s a mix of hard work, excitement, self-satisfaction and a lot of other emotions, actions and movements all mixed together.

Once you have done it a few times and you keep repeating the process over you start to see progress, which in time will lead to mastery.

Business is a bit the same as surfing or any sport for that matter. Many business people I know just dive into their everyday without proper instruction, guidance, thought or planning and although they are familiar with the moves they need to make they may not reach their potential in the time frame they first intended.

So what are some of the fundamentals that may be worth reviewing to help you build more momentum in your business? I could literally write a book about it, however for the purpose of this article here are my favourite principles we all need reminding about.

So What Business Are You Really In?

Most people are so busy “doing” they rarely get the opportunity to even think about this question. As much as you may be in the electrical business or the consulting business or a retail business or a service based business it’s important to know you are in the sales, marketing and innovation business. Long ago Peter Drucker, the father of business consulting, made a very profound observation that has been lost in the sands of time: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two - and only two - basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Know What You Want

Regardless of whether you are a slave working for your business rather than having a business that works for you, or you are successfully working ON your business, take the time to carefully assess where you are now and what you want to accomplish over the next three, six, nine and 12 months. Then begin to set some meaningful and specific goals to help you accomplish your objectives. If you don’t know what you want or how you are going to get there, you’ll have no idea of what you need to do along the way.

Remove the Roadblocks

How many times do you think people try to achieve their outcomes before they give up? The average is less than one time. The reason they give up is because of all the obstacles, difficulties and challenges that immediately appear so they put it in the too hard basket. Just like surfing, business takes persistence. Falling over is just temporary, unless you choose not to get back up, and is an opportunity for improvement.

Make a Plan of Action, Then Take Action

Your ability to set goals, make plans and then take consistent daily action for their accomplishment is the master skill of success. No other skill will help you more in fulfilling your potential in achieving everything that you are able to accomplish.

The purpose of planning is to enable you to turn your major definite purpose into a planned, multi-task project with specific steps – a beginning, middle and an end with clear deadlines and sub deadlines. Like any new skills this is something that you can learn and master with practice. The key is you must take action!

Manage Your Time Well

To achieve what you want you must get your time under control. No matter how disorganised you have been in the past or how much you have tended to procrastinate in the past or get caught up in low value, low impact and low income generating activities, you can change and learning to manage your time well is an achievable skill. You cannot manage what you don’t measure so keep a time log to support improvement in this area.

Bend & Flex

I’m sure you’ve heard of the children’s song that goes something like this... bend and stretch reach for the stars… Putting this into a business perspective, it is very important you learn to bend and stretch if you are going to achieve long-term holistic success. It is important to be as flexible as a rubber band and know when to move, when to stretch yourself, when to be flexible and when to bend a little.

Adopting some of these principles and also the principles I learnt whilst learning to surf and most importantly taking consistent daily action will definitely help you achieve more momentum in your business.

Tania Allen is the founder of Vision Alliance and author of Franchise Profits, Essential Telephone Skills and the soon to be released book Bounce Forward & Breakthrough.

Vision Alliance is a franchise coaching & consulting firm delivering holistic solutions to both franchisees and franchisors. If you would like some more information or support in this area contact Tania Allen at:

Phone: 1300 76 49 20