Small Business Lessons From A 100 Mile River Trip

| 3 min read

Small Business Lessons From A 100 Mile River Trip

Business Lessons From The RiverI was lucky enough to get invited on a seven day 100+ mile river float last week.  I've only floated the middle fork of the Salmon once before in my life.  It's one of those trips that is tough to come by so when you get the opportunity you hop on it.  If you ever float any part of the Salmon River I would recommend checking out Sawtooth Adventure Company.  I didn't use Sawtooth this time because I was on a private trip with some other people.  When you are floating over a hundred miles you have a lot of time to think.  Additionally things come up both positive and negative.  The entire trip is a great experience, but it is also full of lessons for your small business.


A trip like this takes a ton of planning.  You have to bring enough food, clothes, cooking materials etc. to last for seven days and it all needs to fit on your boat.  This is a full pack in pack out trip.  There are no bathrooms or fire rings.  Let's put this in perspective for you in case you don't get it; you have to pack out everything including human waste and ash from your fire.  There, ok, now you probably got it.  A long float trip much like a business takes a ton of planning to make it a success. 

Back To Basics

Small Business BasicsOne of the things I love about long rafting trips like this is how it forces you to go very basic.  It is simply a matter of survival.  Believe me we bring a lot of stuff that we don't need like horseshoes, chairs etc.  However, on a personal level I bring one bag that has all the clothes I need, a sleeping bag for warmth and a tent for shelter.  Sometimes when you are lost or confused in your business it helps to simplify things and go back to the basics to get your momentum back.  Some businesses get so off track trying to do too much rather than just those few basic things that they are very good at. 


Team Work

Small Business TeamworkA trip like this is all about team work.  Each day you help one another pack and unpack the boats.  You cook and clean as a team.   There is a team leader and tasks are divided out equally.  Certainly some are better at certain tasks than others and it becomes apparent where you should be focusing your efforts.  Additionally you are relying on each member of your team to work together to get down the river safely.  There is a lot of big water on the river this time of year so you can easily get hurt or die.  Working with your team to make sure you all stay safe is crucial.  Much like in your business the end result is only as good as the leader and the team that they choose.   

Things Go Wrong

Things always go wrong, very rarely do they go 100% right so you need to be ready.  For example, you may go to bed with four rafts tied to the bank and wake up to only three (yes that happened).  So after you yell about it you get your head together and assess the situation.  What will we do if we don't find the raft? Will we die? No we won't die, we can make do.  As we went through the situation and the plan the owner of the missing raft said "man am I glad my wife isn't here."  As a team we stayed pretty positive about it and worked together to fix the problem.  Negativity rarely results in anything good when something goes wrong.  I stayed positive and told the owner that we would find it.  We packed up, went down river and about a mile down river there was his raft, fully in tact no issues.  When things go wrong in your business you need to keep your cool.  Rarely are things that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.  Assess the situation and work with your team to come up with a solution. 

Experience Matters

Having well-rounded and experienced people on the team is essential.  I was lucky enough to go with someone that has 18 years of experience running his own raft company.  They were dialed in to say the least.  I can row a raft because I fish a lot, but whitewater is a whole other ball game.  I wasn't very confident in my rowing skills on this trip in many sections, but I had a good experienced team to help me through.  Just being around experienced individuals teaches you a lot about how to be successful.  When you look at your business and your team you have all sorts of different levels of experience don't you? You have to start getting experience at some point so you probably have some employees that are less experienced than others.  Then you have some heavy hitters on the crew that have more experience.  A successful business has a well-rounded team with various levels of experience that work together towards a common goal.

Sometimes an outside perspective on your business like a river trip can do wonders for you and your business.  Stepping away from the business and examining it from different perspective can really open your eyes.  If you are finding you and your business stuck maybe a fresh outlook on it will put you back on track.

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