The year 2020 has taught us a lot of things. First, nothing truly lasts forever; second, we must always be ready to adapt. Adaptability should be a part of our personalities and one of our core strengths if we are to survive in this unpredictable world. For this post, we decided to do something that would help you build a system that allows sustainability and adaptability for your business, health, and almost any aspect of life. However, for the most part, it will teach you to build and sustain a business even in difficult times. We call this system the bicycle theory of business management.
Bicycles are an amazing piece of technology that requires no fossil fuels and offers a cost-effective alternative for other modes of travel. Bicycles were easily one of the most important inventions in the world.
When used right, bicycles can be a long-term companion. For this post, we’ll get to know a bicycle a little better. This will later help us understand how to use a bicycle as a model to create a system for consistent business progress. So let’s get into it.
How exactly does a bicycle work?
A bicycle is designed to carry a human body (that may weigh anywhere between 50 to 80 KG) from one place to another. At a glance, a bicycle seems like a fragile mode of transportation, but it is not.
The bicycle’s frame is designed to evenly distribute the bodyweight so that there’s balance. The metallic pipes used in the construction of the frame are designed to be in a certain diamond shape specifically to distribute the body weight. Spokes are tiny wires that you see inside the wheel. These aren’t thin wires but sturdy metallic structures that aid in weight distribution.
The pedals are the propellers of a bicycle. When a rider applies force to the pedals, the pedals accelerate the bicycle in a certain direction. The more force on the pedals, the fast the bike goes. Gears are linked by a chain to the pedals to increase the pedaling force. They aid in speed and acceleration.
Handlebar levers allow the rider to maneuver the bike in a certain direction.
Friction brakes convert energy into heat aiding in halt.
Remember the parts of a bicycle because we are going to use them shortly.
The function of a bicycle
Have you ever wondered how bicycles always stay upright? Even if you take a strong turn around the corner, your bicycle will manage to adapt and then stay upright regardless of the significant change in direction?
That’s because bicycles use forward-moving momentum to balance. For example, take a tennis ball, put it in a bucket, and then swirl the bucket around. Notice that the ball will cling to the sides of the bucket during this motion. Similarly, a bicycle stays upright when in motion because of momentum.
The bicycle theory for business management
There are a couple of things that you always need to remember when it comes to business management.
1) Initiating a change takes time. When you start a vehicle or get on the bike, it will take time for you to gain momentum. So do not rush in the earlier stages of business development, because when you rush you tend to miss important details that could make a heaven’s difference in the long run.
2) Remember that adaptability is key, so when you set out to establish a business (regardless of its type) make sure that there’s enough room for adaptability.
3) Make sure to have enough buffer for inevitable circumstances. So even if you lose money, you can still get back on your feet without much hassle.
These are some of the things that you need to think about before you even get into developing your business. The bicycle theory will allow you to do the essential preparation so you don’t have to face downtime when uncertain times strike.
The frame (This part will take the most time.)
This is the first and the fundamental step in the bicycle theory. The frame is the underlying structure of the bicycle. Remember we mentioned earlier that the frame is responsible for distributing the body weight on both wheels so that the bicycle and its rider can stay balanced as they embark on the journey. So, the frame represents the basics and the underlying scaffolding over which you will build your business.
Remember one more thing: the bicycle without its rider is nothing: there’s a mutually exclusive relationship that produces a certain result.
Two foundations need to be built: your personality and the basic structure of your business.
On a personal level, you need to have intuition, patience, humility, and a positive mindset. On a business level, you need to have management skills, management, organization, and people skills.
If you are lacking any of the above-mentioned skill sets, you need to put some work into that first before getting into setting up a business. If the pipes aren’t the right design, the bicycle won’t carry the weight and hence won’t balance the rider or the bicycle. Do not take your foundation for granted.
Let’s take an example of Tory. She is a mother of two who lost her job as a duty manager at a restaurant due to the pandemic. She feels like she has to start all over again because the restaurants are closed for regular service.
Now Tory has enough experience in the hospitality industry. She has the necessary skills but she can’t find a job. So she decides to start her home-cooked food delivery service.
Tory needs two things to begin with: a strong mindset and basic business skills to get her service up and running.
She already has the management and organization skills, but she could learn more about management tools and apps that can help her with her business. So she starts with a checklist. Her checklist looks something like this:
1. Create a business mission statement
2. Define the audience
3. Define budget
4. Define the scope of business
5. Search suppliers
6. Build a website
7. Set up social media accounts
Since Tory is starting it on her own, she doesn’t need to hire staff.
Tory needs to set up her website and establish her presence online so she can start promoting her recipes. She needs to have her suppliers in place so she can contact them for quick ingredient deliveries whenever she needs.
At this early stage, Tory must answer the following questions:
Q: How much money do I need to get started?
Q: How will I deliver the food once I start getting orders? Can I work or partner with a food delivery service? If so, how can I negotiate a deal that will benefit us both in the long run?
Q: If I decide to work with a delivery service, what are the things that I need to consider?
Q: Who should I cook for; who’s my audience? How far can I deliver? What are the tastes of my audience?
Q: How will I make sure that I have a consistent supply of ingredients.? I cannot afford to go to the supermarket every day, so I must have a supplier. What are the things I need to consider before working with a supplier?
Q: Should I hire somebody to build a website for me or should I just buy a domain, a theme, and set things up myself? What are the costs associated with running and managing a website?
Q: Which social media accounts are best for targeting my audience? Should I look into social media promotion?
Q: What other tools can I use to accelerate online promotion?
After you have built the foundation (both at a personal and business level), the next step is to get started and gradually build momentum. When you start with the mindset that nothing happens overnight, you would naturally be patient, wise with your decisions, and won’t be frustrated over trivial everyday shortcomings. Starting a business is kinda like going uphill. You will need to put a lot more effort into the pedals just to get started. Remember that it is because of the momentum that the bike stays upright, so you have to keep that momentum up at all times. Here, again, your foundation will help you.
Once the framework is in place, Tory can now start developing her recipes and share them on social media and her website. This is the stage where she needs to build momentum and keep it going so she has enough samples for people to check out. Once she has enough recipes online, people will discover and eventually start ordering.
Next in the bicycle theory are handlebar levers. Once you have built enough momentum, it’s time to manoeuvre your bicycle in a direction that seems fit for your goals. Be prepared to adapt, make sudden necessary changes, and willing to accept loss. The terrain may get rough, you may have to bear sudden jerky movements, but that’s okay.
If you don’t use the handlebars right, you may not be able to maneuver the bike in a certain direction. Here again, remember to keep your momentum consistent.
Now with the momentum going, Tory can take and fulfill orders without a hitch as she already smoothed a lot of wrinkles in the planning (framework)Now she needs to make adjustments based on how her customers respond to her service.
The last step in the bicycle theory is the ‘Brakes on a bicycle’. The brakes allow you to stop when there’s a need to halt. In life, there is always a need to halt for certain reasons. Sometimes, you have to halt because of inevitable circumstances (like the pandemic) while at others you have to halt for regular maintenance. Always hit the brakes at intervals to do quality and maintenance checks. This includes both your health and your business. Do not try to be a hero thinking you can do it all, you can’t. Take care of your health because remember without you your bicycle is just a piece of metal and wires. It needs you and you need it to cover distances and complete your journey. So find time for maintenance both for yourself and your business.
A good business requires checks and balances. Now that Tory sees that her food delivery service is gaining further momentum, she hires additional delivery staff to help with deliveries. She adjusts recipes according to the season to make sure her customers get the food according to the season. She manages her website and performs another necessary check to make sure that there are no hindrances that may stop her. When necessary she takes a couple of days off to either try new recipes before sharing them with her customers or just relax for a while before starting again.
The bottom line
There is no one simple solution for starting and maintaining a business. Every successful businessman has a different approach towards success, so one size doesn’t fit all. Use the bicycle theory to start and then keep your momentum in check so you can supply the consistency your business needs to achieve a certain height. Take breaks, but never stop.