Building the car as you drive

Here at Crunchers we’ve been batting about business analogies and I am proud to coin a new one.

We are fond of saying that building a business is like building a vehicle.  It’s like putting together a lot of different moving parts so that it takes you to your destination – retiring at 45, being knighted for services to industry etc.

But actually it is more challenging than that.  It would be so much easier if that machine were sitting motionless in some garage as we worked on it, but it isn’t.  It’s travelling down the road with us at the wheel.   So it’s more like building the car as you drive it.  I’ve been trying to track down footage I have in my head of a woman riding a unicycle that she turns into a bicycle as she is riding.  Sadly I can’t find it but I am sure your imagination will do the job.

In fact there is a design phrase here that is directly related –  ‘Iterative design’.  It has become the norm for web applications.   The idea is that you come up with an application concept, prototype it and then get people to start using it in order to feed back into the next phase of design.

Business is not so different.  You have an idea, you put together some initial collateral to take it to market (product, marketing materials etc), you go to market, you learn from the experience and feed that back into your development.

And seeing as we have started down this road of metaphor we are going to give you our tips for arriving at your destination intact having turned your go-cart into a gleaming sports car.

1.  Don’t wait for it to be perfect to get moving.  The whole idea is that you learn from getting the car travelling along the road.

2.  Don’t drive too fast.  If you are constantly avoiding potholes and dealing with on-coming traffic there will be no time to do the all important job of upgrading the vehicle.  If you are in the lucky position of rapid growth or rapid investment watch out the wheels don’t fall off!

3.  Automate as much as possible.  Time is of the essence.  Get as much as possible into simple repeatable processes.  You need your hands free to do this rebuilding work.

4.  Keep building. After the effort of getting your vehicle moving, the prospect of redesigning, replacing moving parts can be paralysing.  You may end up cruising comfortably at 15mph.

5.  Observe and reflect.  Take time to see where you need to upgrade and what you can leave for the time being.  You can’t do everything at once.

6.  Don’t forget it needs to make money.  A business may have many purposes but the one common to them all is making money.  Don’t forget to check it makes money every time you evaluate.

7.  Keep in touch with the final machine you want to make.  It’s highly unlikely you can build it all in one go so it’s important to keep in touch with the vision that originally inspired you and keep working towards it.