Small business and white water rafting

Metaphors are a really useful way to convey complex ideas and offer your clients  a visceral understanding of the important points you are trying to make. I’ve been on a couple of rafting trips on two radically different rivers. One day the parallels between white water rafting and running a business began to bubble up (so to speak):

  • Every river is different. And most are in out of the way places. Some rivers are great for beginners. Others are for experts only. It’s important to know the difference before you get in the raft; even better to know the difference before you incur the expense of traveling to the river.
  • The ability to swim is a real asset. A life vest and helmet are essential equipment if you want to survive the trip.
  • Rafting involves brief periods of fast paced activity and white knuckle excitement interspersed with long periods of calm that require a lot of paddling to get you to the next rapid.
  • The rapids are always more dangerous after a storm, or after the floodgates upriver have been opened. These variations are both seasonal and “man made” and can be predicted (most of the time) with a little research.
  • The person who is seated in front gets soaked even though they can see what’s coming. There is a good chance someone who has been rafting before will suggest that you take the front seat so “you will have the better view.” This person is not your friend.
  • The person in the back is in the best position to control the raft and therefore is usually the guide. It’s always a good idea to let the guide steer and follow her instructions.
  • Whitewater rafting without a guide is stupid and dangerous if you are inexperienced, unfamiliar with the river, and haven’t mastered the critical techniques required to survive. Guides not only have the skill to steer the boat, they are familiar with the river and have been through these same rapids before in a variety of different conditions.
  • The trip is more successful if people seated in the middle help with the paddling instead of just going along for the ride. It’s especially helpful if everyone paddles in the right direction and at the right time.

  • The probability of falling out of the raft increases if you aren’t paying attention. When you fall out and find yourself in the middle of the raging cold water it’s almost impossible to remember the instructions you were given hours before while standing on dry land about what to do “if” you fall out.
  • Pausing in the middle of the trip for some rest, nourishment and a chance to reflect on your shared experience with your fellow passengers is a really good idea.

and finally,

No one can fully describe for you what it is like to go white water rafting. You just have to go on the journey and experience it for yourself.

(Thanks to Class VI Mountain River for a great experience)