Chasing storms, chasing business: why they're more similar than you think
Storm chasing has been a hobby of mine for the past 15 years. But it’s only really recently that I’ve come to realise that the act of chasing storms is much akin to chasing new business, as well as growing a company.
Stay with me here.
Firstly, I’m sure you’re wondering: why take up such a hobby? Why not choose something a little more tame – photography, yoga, hiking?
Every storm chaser has their own reasons for participating in this hobby that so many people deem to be dangerous. For me, it’s the mystery (and excitement) of not knowing what will unfold, coupled with the journey of seeking some kind of order in natural chaos.
There are three things I’ve learned to be true after years of pursuing storms:
Once I made these assumptions, I realised something almost immediately: each point can also apply to the act of growing a business through winning business.
When you chase a storm, you closely monitor where it will develop – then comes the thrill of the chase. In new business, you’re closely monitoring developments with prospects, then comes the thrill of attempting to win them over with your pitch or bid.
If the chase pays off and you find yourself at the birth of a storm (or, having won a new client), then in both cases, you start to track how big it will become, what direction it’s going to take, the risks involved and, most importantly, how to protect yourself.
We storm chasers are equipped with clever software that predicts things like a storm’s intensity and change in size; but as we all know, predictions aren’t absolute. The same can be said for new business – there could be scope changes, decision-makers might change tact, or budgets could be cut. Nothing is set in stone.
Hurricanes and new business are living, breathing, evolving beasts that can change in size, speed or ferocity at any second – and you have to be prepared.
Thriving in chaos
There are two types of people in this world: those who thrive in chaos, and those who try to avoid it any way they possibly can. If you’re a storm chaser, you fall into the first category – chasing a storm is chasing chaos.
When you’re developing propositions, it can be chaotic; but if you’re in this line of work, you tend to thrive in it. And thriving in it involves keeping a cool head and working to the same high standard in this high-pressure environment.
Maybe you’re not totally certain about what the client actually wants, or what you’ll actually end up delivering. The deadline stage is always stressful – a dash of chaos, sprinkle of rewrites and a frantic dash over the last hurdle to finalise the proposal or pitch!
But then comes that beautiful moment of clarity. That moment in a pitch, bid or tender where you step back, take a deep breath and think to yourself: “I now totally understand what the client wants. I understand our solutions and I understand the gaps to fill or fix.” This feeling, I believe, is much like when you reach the eye of the hurricane and suddenly, can see the sky again.
This moment of clarity comes at every bid, pitch and tender – you’ve just got to chase it down. And if you don’t find it? Well, you come out with a confused project and a confused team. You’ve reached the wrong end of the storm.
There’s always an element of risk in business but, much like a storm, you can’t just run into it head on and hope for the best. You need to be certain you’ve got a strong team with a mix of emotional intelligence and job-specific skills. You need trackers, hunters and chasers, as well as people who can lay the cards on the table and decide whether a certain hurricane is worth chasing, or if you should stand back and watch it unfold from a safe distance.