Stand Up Paddle photo from ShutterstockSummer is winding down… at least in the Northern Hemisphere. Did you get to try Stand Up Paddle boarding this summer? Or as it’s also known SUP. Did you see anyone out SUP’ing on any of the local waterways near you? If you did perhaps you thought about a few ways that Stand Up Paddle boarding aligns and overlaps with business. There are some things that Stand Up Paddle boarding can teach us about business. For starters it’s a great way to bond and to get to know yourself as well as your fellow paddlers.

SUP has more than a few parallels to business. Some of the more obvious are that anyone can do it and you can do it for your whole life. In the same sense that some kids will start lemonade stands and others will start lawn mowing services or paper delivery routes. On the other end of the spectrum there are baby boomers and seniors launching businesses every day too. This is just one of the benefits of both Stand Up Paddle boarding and business in that anyone can start a business. However, just because a Stand Up Paddle board or a business is launched doesn’t mean it’s going to stay upright or go in the right direction without some skills and expertise.

Both SUP and business have another parallel in that similar minds will often flock together to talk about what works well and what doesn’t. Some of that advice can only be found in the boardroom or on the water. In fact, some of the best “Board Meetings” I’ve ever had have been on my SUP.

Just Add Water

One of the great things about SUP is that you can do it almost anywhere. All you need is a body of water. It can be fresh water or salt water. It can be small lakes or ponds. Or it can be on a great lake or out on the open ocean. The skills are similar.

This is where SUP and Business diverge a little. In SUP it’s easy to get started, easy to keep going and easy to get others to try. An often overlooked benefit of SUP is that for the most part you always see people smiling when they are SUP’ing. Whether they just paddled 15 miles or whether they are soaking wet because they just fell off for the umpteenth time… they are usually smiling and laughing.

Reality Check: To learn to SUP is a lot easier than learning how to run a business. However, there are some parallels that are worth exploring. Where SUP has a few “easy” steps there are also a few equivalent realities of business that must be dealt with on a daily basis.

  • SUP is Easy to Get Started
    • Business POV: While it’s easy to think of an idea it’s much hard to execute and make it successful.
  • SUP is Easy to Keep Going
    • Business POV: Much like the first point it’s an every day challenge to keep the business growing and adapting.
  • SUP is Easy to Get Others to Try
    • Business POV: Anyone, that has ever sought investors knows that it takes a lot of work.

However, this doesn’t mean that SUP and Business are all that different. Just because SUP has it’s easy steps, much like in business there are skills that can and will be developed as experience and interest grows. Much like in business there are beginners, pros and instructors. Everyone had to start somewhere. The smart business people and SUP’ers will seek out guidance from the pros and the truly wise ones will find at least one instructor… which in business we call mentors.

Will SUP replace Golf?

For decades, golf has been a great way for people to get together and spend several hours on the same task.

SUP will not likely replace golf anytime soon. However, there are a few things SUP can do that golf does not. As mentioned above SUP is relatively easy to do, requires minimal skills and a relatively low investment in equipment. The only thing SUP needs is a body of water, a bit of balance and a sense of adventure. Pretty soon everyone is smiling. As an aside… some of the people I’ve seen on golf courses definitely are not smiling.

SUP is a Great Equalizer

Stand Up Paddle boarding is an activity where everyone is pretty much at the same level. Sure, there will be those with incredible balance and there will be some that are natural paddlers, but for the most part everyone can go out and have fun. Even if they want to paddle from their knees instead of standing up most everyone can get out, get wet and start smiling.

One of the best things I have found with SUP that is parallel to business is that people can explore the shallows and cruise along at a casual pace. Just like in business we can explore the nuances and details of an idea at a pace that might be more casual as the idea is being fleshed out. Also, as we look towards the big picture strategies we can paddle offshore and occasionally lose sight of land.

Stand Up Paddle boarding can teach us about business and can help you Stand Out in Your Career by helping you see things from a different point of view, by getting your colleagues involved and by working together to see both the little picture and the big picture.

For your next corporate outing I suggest you think about hosting a SUP session. It may be the best “Board Meeting” you’ve ever had.