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Surviving Multiple Business Ventures is a Lot like Surviving in the Wilderness

The innate survival skills we are born with can help us keep our businesses alive.

Every bona fide adventurer has had at least one panic-stricken moment while out in the wilderness—it’s so commonplace that it’s become like a badge of honor; a story that will be remembered and retold countless times.

This experience could be something as inconsequential as losing your bearings during a hike in the middle of the woods or as dire as finding yourself stranded in a remote part of the world with insufficient resources. Both will send you into survival mode, and how you respond will determine your likelihood of making it back to familiar territory. The choice is obvious: panic, which will supersede your ability to make good decisions, or compartmentalize the steps necessary to bring yourself back to safety.

No one knows this better than famed outdoor adventurer and television celebrity Bear Grylls. On his television show Man vs. Wild, Bear puts himself in dangerous situations to show how anyone can survive in even the most perilous conditions. His one piece of advice to viewers: “Survival can be summed up in three words—never give up.”

So what does this have to do with business? A lot, actually. Despite how many entrepreneurial success stories you’ve heard in recent years, life-long entrepreneurs are a phenomenon. After one failed business attempt, 70 percent of entrepreneurs won’t try again. A serial entrepreneur not only takes a second stab at another business idea after their first one flounders, they often oversee multiple ventures at the same time.

Some think serial entrepreneurs bite off more than they can chew, but that’s just what comes naturally to us—still, that’s not to say that leading multiple businesses is easy. That panicky feeling an adventurer experiences in unfamiliar territory is the same paralyzing sensation an entrepreneur experiences when they feel lost.

In today’s complex and competitive market, surviving multiple businesses is like trying to survive in the wilderness. In four decades, founding CAbi, The Wild Adventure, and a number of other business ventures taught me one thing about serial entrepreneurship: you need a business survival guide if you want to make it out alive.

Only keep the essentials.

Adventurers must pack wisely if an extended trip will take them away from immediate access to civilization. An overstuffed backpack is harmless, but in the event of an emergency, that extra weight could be the difference between life and death. A conscientious adventurer knows they must lighten their load to increase their chances of survival, keeping only what is essential.

An entrepreneur carries extra weight when they aren’t mindful of their finances, or when they keep careless employees at the company. Bad financial decisions and poor hires weigh heavily on businesses. They prevent businesses from growing and reaching their full potential, and if not handled immediately, can be their demise. Companies wait four to six months on average before firing an employee; by this point, you’ve wasted four to six months running on limited capacity. This may sound harsh, but if your employee’s heart isn’t in it, letting them go could be the best thing you do for your company and them.

Act quickly, but not impulsively.

The first couple minutes after an emergency are the most important. Panic is a natural reaction to stress, but the longer it paralyzes you, the more your survival is at risk. Channel the innate instinct that is telling you to act quickly—but first, it’s crucial to prioritize what is the most vital for survival.

In nature, for example, seeking protection from your surroundings should precede finding a viable water source since the former is more time-sensitive. In business, a good leader will take a step back from the situation and conceptualize an action plan of what issues demand their immediate attention. Should the focus be on getting more customers, or retraining your managers? Taking action is a completely different concept than taking appropriate action—one is thoughtless decision-making; the other carefully calculated.

Prioritize time management.

How you respond within the first few minutes of an emergency is telling of your likelihood of survival, but so is how well you manage the time in your day. In the wilderness, your goal is to make as much progress during the day as possible before finding overnight shelter. Adventurers understand how precious daylight hours are to their journey, and how dangerous nighttime can be to their progress.

As an entrepreneur, your schedule is paramount to your success. Wasting time with pointless meetings and appointments will deplete your energy, draining your creativity and productivity levels. Effectively planning your weeks will lower your stress and boost your mood, opening up time for you to focus on the big picture of running multiple businesses—which is where your time is better spent anyway.

Set clear, tangible objectives.

As the leader, it is your responsibility to define the necessary objectives that will get your team from point A to point B—from unknown terrain to safety. With no clear goals, people will begin chaotically searching for refuge. Contradicting opinions in your group will not only pull people in different directions, it will cultivate a tenser environment and delay progress.

Because serial entrepreneurs have more employees to oversee, clearly defining their vision and goals for their companies early on is imperative for leading their teams in the right direction. A company is not sustainable if all its parts aren’t working in conjunction with one another. When problems arise, employees need to know what objectives should be met in order to stay on the track to success.

Survival skills are ingrained in the biological makeup of every human, but Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory tells us that some individuals won’t properly execute these tactics in the face of real danger. For serial entrepreneurs trying to survive in a variety of industries, acting on your natural instincts is even more imperative to survival. Some have what it takes, but others aren’t equipped for the long journey.

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