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January 11, 2008

How Mountain Bike Riding At Night Taught Me About Business Planning – Part 3

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , — Greg Larkin @ 7:14 pm

Hello again everyone,

I hope you all had a nice holiday break, and I’m back with the final installment of my “bicycling for business planning” posting arc.

To refresh your memory, in the last post I broke down how I spend my time while I’m riding my mountain bike at night:

  • 85% of the time – focused on a spot 3 to 6 feet in front of my wheel
  • 10% of the time – last-minute steering corrections
  • 5% of the time – looking further up the trail, but can’t see more than 30 feet ahead

I plan to apply similar ratios to business planning to help answer the perennial question “What should be worked on next?”

These ratios map to the following tasks:

  • Spend 85% of time on Important tasks (business planning, market research, adding technical features, CRM tasks, etc.)
  • Spend 10% of time on Urgent tasks (reactive support issues, special customer requests and the like)
  • Spend 5% of time thinking about everything that could be done, but don’t get too wrapped around the axle trying to predict the future!

I don’t want to minimize the importance of the last bullet point with its small percentage of mindshare, because any business still needs folks holding brainstorming sessions and thinking about new possibilities. However, once the primary direction of the business is set, it’s extremely important to review those ideas in that context. Otherwise, expect to be going sideways more than forward!

Comments and feedback are welcome, and if you have any methods that have worked well for your business, let me know.

Call me - Greg Larkin: error

December 18, 2007

How Mountain Bike Riding At Night Taught Me About Business Planning – Part 2

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , — Greg Larkin @ 8:00 am

Fast forward to 2007. I’ve upgraded to a much more reliable, commercially available lighting system. Using a light that I’m not worried about breaking during the ride frees up my mind quite a bit (even while riding in the dark), and I found myself drawing comparisons between riding at night and building my business on a recent sojourn.

One of the trails in the local town forest has an extremely steep hill with some loose rock and lots of slippery oak leaves in the fall. I generally have to use my granny gear (24×32 for you gear ratio freaks) to get up this monster.

I’ve now ridden up this hill a few times during the day and a couple of times at night. Strangely, I’ve been more successful at getting to the top without dabbing during the night rides, and I rode it clean once at night. I let out some whoops after that one!

I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon and have decided that it has something to do with the restricted amount of visual input that’s available at night. My light is mounted on my helmet, and it tracks where my head goes. 85% of the time, I’m focused on a spot 3 to 6 feet in front of my wheel. Ten percent of the time is devoted to last-minute steering corrections necessitated by a submerged rock or root unearthing itself in front of my tire. The final 5% of the time, I’m looking further up the trail out of habit, then suddenly realizing that I can’t see much more than 30 feet ahead anyway.

While riding during the day, there are many other distractions: a log across the trail 200 feet ahead, a rut to avoid, the odd Sasquatch crashing through the underbrush (yep, they’re on the rebound in New Hampshire). Invariably, while I’m riding up the steep trail during the day, I see something else other than the immediate maneuvering problem to solve and that changes my pedal stroke, braking or steering just enough to cause a stall, a spin-out, or one of those Benny-Hill-falling-over-on-a-tricycle accidents.

I believe that this “riding at night” phenomenon applies very well to my business operations and perhaps to those of other businesses. One of my constant challenges while building and operating is resolving the nearly daily decision of “What should I work on next?” In a 24x7x365 SaaS operation like this, there’s always a tricky balancing act between important and urgent tasks.

To be continued…

Call me - Greg Larkin: error

December 14, 2007

How Mountain Bike Riding At Night Taught Me About Business Planning – Part 1

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , — Greg Larkin @ 8:00 am

Hello everyone and welcome to the first posting! I plan to use this forum to dive into various topics of interest to folks who are involved in entrepreneurship, software development and methodology and/or release engineering. I hope you like it, and please feel free to post comments and suggestions.

And so we begin…

Some of you may have noticed that it is getting dark very early these days, especially here in the frozen wilds of New Hampshire. I believe that it’s pitch black around 4:40pm. For a dedicated endurance athlete like me, this does not leave a lot of time to go outside for a nice workout during the day, so as a resourceful sort, I’ve been using the after-dark hours as an acceptable time for recreation.

To give you some context, in the mid-90s several of my friends and I stumbled across the idea of combining mountain biking with darkness. One problem with that idea turned out to be that none of the lighting systems we had at the time (flashlights, laser pointers, matches, jar of fireflies, etc.) were very good at illuminating a narrow dirt track in the woods that was rife with roots, rocks and various eye-poking branches. As dedicated geeks and unable to find affordable illumination options in the market, we each created our own homebrew lighting system, typically consisting of the following:

  • PVC plumbing tubes of various sizes and shapes
  • 12V halogen bulbs, typically 20W each
  • Silicone caulk to hold bulbs in place
  • Lots of wire and solder
  • 12V lead acid motorcycle battery (4+ Ah preferable)
  • Bicycle seat bag with reinforcements to hold a 5lb+ battery in place while bouncing over aforementioned roots and rocks

It was generally difficult to get through a ride without laughing our heads off due to the novelty of riding in the woods at night. It was also difficult to get through a ride without one or more systems breaking down, forcing the unlucky cyclist to ride at the front of a group of folks with enough light to make up for the loss.

To be continued…

Call me - Greg Larkin: error

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