Flush with hitchhiking success, I often encouraged friends to thumb lifts and wherever possible join me on my travels. I genuinely wanted to share the road freedom I had discovered. However, only a few ever followed in my footsteps and on the odd occasion I hitched in company things rarely worked out as planned.
Pain across the Pennines
Easter 1984 was a scorcher. Three of us spent a week walking the Lake District mountains. Such thirsty work led us to the pub each night and on the last evening I persuaded the others to hitch home the following day. Train ticket money saved, the beer kitty overflowed.
The next morning (and with a collective hangover and hazy sense of discovery and adventure) we stood with our humungous rucksacks by the roadside.
Unfortunately, this trio of fluffy half-beards did little for passing motorists and it didn’t take long before I was getting abuse from the others. “You said we’d get picked up within 30 minutes Harrington…” and other similar but unrepeatable accusations were fired my way. It quickly dawned on me just how much easier it was to travel alone.
Eventually, a slightly battered motor-home did stop. Perfect! I felt vindicated. Rick and I scrambled in the back door and Adi arched his hulking frame on the passenger seat next to the driver.
For the first few minutes all seemed fine as we made headway along the A66. But the romantic rosy picture of hitchhiking I had painted the night before was about to be completely torn up.
Our Leeds-bound driver rarely broke 40 mph and chain smoked all the way. Between puffs she ranted continuously about ‘hating sport and competitive activities’ and we’d regularly hear a loud horn sound off as another angry driver risked life and vehicle to pass our chug-along.
Trying to maintain a degree of harmony in front, Adi never disagreed or questioned any of the driver’s opinions. She never asked him a question. He felt it was better not to mention he was off to the Seoul Olympics with the canoeing team that summer.
That nightmare 90 mile journey to Leeds took 5 long hours and included two stops. Delighted to escape we tried to hitch south to Nottingham but without success. With daylight hours running out and patience long gone we eventually gave up and walked to the Leeds railway station. Adi and Rick never hitched again and I decided not to encourage others to travel with me.
Lessons for the entrepreneur
When you think about starting a new business for the first time, it can be a scary experience if you’re going it alone. As a result, there is a natural tendency to want to reduce the sense of exposure and financial risk. One way of doing this is to involve others in the new venture.
Unfortunately, your own perceptions of how you want to run a business are unlikely to be the same as other people. Whilst every individual will have the best of intentions at the outset, it’s very easy for things to fall apart later – with potentially disastrous effects.
So if you do want to create a business with others, you need to dig deep so that all involved really understand and appreciate each others’ motives, values and goals. Taking time with this process pays real dividends and don’t be concerned if people choose to back out – much better that they do this at the outset.
I loved hitchhiking because I enjoyed the freedom to make my own decisions and deal with the uncertainty. If things went wrong I got a sense of achievement by overcoming the challenges that presented themselves. However, after the motor-home fiasco I realised that I didn’t want to hitch with other people unless it was absolutely necessary (I’ll write about a round trip to Lands End with another friend later).
Working solo is completely different to working in a team and if you are making career decisions it’s important you know the kind of environment where you work best. Teams can do amazing things but they can also stagnate as well as halt meaningful activity.
Whilst entrepreneurs do not always succeed, it is their single-minded determination and ability to act quickly and without time-consuming consultation that often makes them successful. And their working environment gives them plenty of freedom to make choices, something that is often much less easy when working in a team.
Key Learning Points: Entrepreneurs enjoy making things happen and can be very single-minded. Such behaviour is typically not as effective within a team. When starting a new business think carefully before committing to working with other people.