What Driving In A Foreign Country Can Teach You About Business
Thursday morning I hopped into a friend’s car at 5:30am Central European Time for the one-hour drive from Bocholt to Duesseldorf in order to attend a BNI meeting.
Since I haven’t driven alone in a car in Germany for over 20 years, I was a bit apprehensive. The night before I carefully mapped out the directions on Google, but lacking a printer I had only a list of directions and no overview map.
The morning, armed with only a list of turn-by-turn directions, I set off into the dark unknown.
What I noticed along the way really surprised me and got me thinking about business.
As I headed down the highway, I began to realize how stressed out I was. I anxiously read each and every road sign, checking to see if it was relevant to my journey. I began to be overwhelmed by the number of signs and their potential significance to me.
It occurred to me that one reason I was stressed was that my subconscious, or my autopilot, wasn’t able to function in this new environment. The file labeled “relevant road signs” in my brain was only useful in the US. The German signs were all new and therefore required conscious thought to process.
Imagine, driving in the dark and having to look at each and every sign along the way. It’s a lot like starting a new business or working in a new market. Everything is new and you aren’t sure what is important and what you can dismiss.
The cure is research. I should have looked up the German road signs ahead of time and understood which ones were important (directions, speed limits, etc.) and which ones I could reasonably ignore (no passing for trucks, bumpy road ahead, etc.).
The second thing that stressed me out was not having a map with me. Sure I had a list of turns I was supposed to make but what if I missed a turn? Then what? With no map I’d have no idea how to get back on my original route or plan another.
That actually happened. As I approached Duesseldorf, I missed my exit. It turns out German exits aren’t numbered so it is quite easy to let one sneak by you.
After proceeding to the next exit, turning around and retracing my steps, I was now faced with the fact that the exit in this direction was called something different. Yep, I missed it again.
Now, my original directions were useless. I was in downtown Duesseldorf, in the dark at 6:30am armed only with an address of a hotel where my meeting was to take place. Sure, I knew what street I was one but without a map I had no idea how close or far I was to my destination.
You could have powered Manhattan for a week with the force of my blood pressure.
Since I’m just a really lucky person, I have a decent sense of direction, and the place I was looking for was in a very conspicuous place, I stumbled across it eventually and made it to the meeting on time.
How much easier would it have been, though, if I’d had a map so that I could trace my progress and see where I was in relation to my goal each step of the way?
It’s the same with business goals. Sure, it’s nice to have a list of steps you’ll take to reach them, but without an overall plan and a clear map of the path, it is a stressful and scary journey. Detailed plans don’t always work out so knowing where you made a misstep is crucial. Oftentimes, you’ll find that the wrong move actually puts you closer to your goal that the original would have. Without a map, though, you’d never know it.
So, do you have a map for your business? If not, you can grab one of ours below.