In this post from the PlayFitness blog, New York Founder Institute grad, Pavel Asanov, compares his experience as a long-time scuba diver, to his most recent endeavor - starting a company. Pavel suggests scuba diving and startups have a lot more in common than you might initially suspect.
Below, Five Lessons From Scuba Diving on How to Survive a Startup, has been republished;
"Starting a business is much like going on a scuba diving trip.
Not only will you be challenging yourself to go beyond your normal limits, you will find yourself in an unfamiliar environment. Your success depends in large part on your skills, gear, plans, and ability to respond properly when under pressure.
With scuba diving, you immerse yourself into an environment your body was not built to survive. Your air is limited and danger is ever present. With a start-up business, you could also find yourself swimming with the sharks. Even if you can hold the sharks at bay, you'll work limitless hours for little or no pay. Why put yourself through either of these challenges? The rewards far outweigh the sacrifices, and with proper planning, you can manage the risks. Use these five lessons from scuba diving to survive your start-up.
Rule 1. Plan the dive and dive the plan.
In scuba diving, one of the cardinal rules is to "plan the dive, dive the plan." This means that long before you enter the water, you have a solid plan that describes where you are going to dive, how deep you are going to dive, who you are diving with, how long you will be underwater, how much air you will need, and when you will go back up. Understanding that a great plan that isn't followed is worthless, you must also have the discipline to follow it.
The same is true when starting a company. You need to make a solid plan on how to survive, especially if you plan to quit your job while starting your business. Your plan should include what products and services you will offer, who you will target, how much funding you need, where you will get it, how you will measure performance, how you will acquire customers, and realistic goals. It should also include a contingency plan. If you are quitting your job, you may also want to create a personal spending plan that addresses how you will pay for your mortgage, health insurance, rent, groceries, and other necessities until your business becomes profitable.
Rule 2. Check Your Gear before You Dive.
Your life depends on the integrity of your scuba gear. Because of this, it can never be stressed enough to check your gear every single time you go on a dive.
In a start-up, your business's success depends on skills and tools you bring to the company. It doesn't matter how well thought out your vision may be if you lack the skills to successfully execute it. Determine what it will take to make your vision a reality. Make a list of the skills and tools required. Next, take a complete inventory of your existing skills and tools. Is anything missing? Build a team. Tap into your network to fill the gaps or find a way to acquire the necessary resources.
Rule 3. Learn How to Navigate
Imagine diving off of a boat and into murky waters. The boat's anchor line slowly fades into the murkiness as you swim away. How will you ever find your way back to the boat when the time comes? Scuba divers use both visual cues and compass to navigate both to their destination.
Wouldn't it be great if your start-up came with a GPS navigation system so you'd always know if you were on track? It doesn't, but if you have a business plan and refer to it often, you'll know if you're where you're supposed to be or if you've wandered off on a tangent and in danger of getting lost. Use your business plan as a compass to find your true north, your anchor line so to speak. Your business plan can serve as a roadmap to help you successfully execute your vision. Use it.
Rule 4. Monitor Your Oxygen (O2) Levels
Running out of air when on a dive is deadly and not an option. With a start-up business, cash is your oxygen. Running out of cash is just as deadly to a start-up as running out of air is to a scuba diver. Just as scuba divers monitor their O2 levels, start-up business owners must monitor their cash.
Scuba divers follow a system of thirds so that they know when to start their ascent before oxygen levels become critically low. Follow the 2/3 rule for your business: Set specific milestones that you should reach based on 1/3 and 2/3 of the cash in your bank account and adjust accordingly. If you miss your target at 1/3 of oxygen (cash) used, adjust your direction to control your spending or improve your cash flow. These milestones are your early warning systems; heed those warnings.
Rule 5. Do not PANIC - S.T.O.P.
Scuba divers often find themselves in alarming situations. Perhaps it's an encounter with an unexpected. Panicking underwater can lead to death, making it crucial not to panic.
In any new venture, you must enter uncharted waters where who-knows-what may be waiting for you. Don't panic - S.T.O.P.
S - Stop and assess the situation. What is really happening?
T- Think. How can you solve the problem with minimal or no damage?
O - Observe. Is there an alternate route you can take?
P - Proceed. Move forward. Staying on one place is dangerous, especially when you have a limited amount of air in your tank.
These five lessons from scuba diving can save a scuba diver's life, and they can save your start-up from failure. Remember to: plan your dive and dive your plan, check your gear, learn how to navigate, monitor your O2, and never panic no matter what you encounter as you launch your business."
The New York Founder Institute is currently accepting applications for the upcoming Winter Semester. If you could benefit from expert training and feedback to launch a company in New York, click here to learn more and apply today. Final applications are due 2011-10-02.