3 Reasons Every Entrepreneur Should Take A Road Trip This Year (Forbes)

I’m a frequent traveler, but more often than not that means hustling from one major airport to the next. My longest travel time usually clocks in at less than five hours. Recently, however, decided to shake things up and make the 14-hour drive from Denver to Phoenix.

I haven’t taken a road trip like that since I was a kid, and the experience was fascinating. The process of driving through America for two days led to a lot of realizations about the nature of entrepreneurship and the market I serve. The process was so valuable, in fact, that I think every entrepreneur who finds themselves operating in a bubble, especially those on the coasts, should take a road trip and reconnect with the rest of America.

Humanize your understanding of the market

When you’re an entrepreneur, it is natural to think of your addressable market in terms of statistics. At BodeTree, I’ve always thought about our market as being comprised of 30 million small businesses, 90% of which don’t have organized accounting. It’s deceptively easy to do back-of-the-napkin calculations and back into slide-deck ideas of market penetration.

The reality, however, is far more complicated. I stopped at a number of small businesses on my trip and observed their owners as they worked. It became abundantly clear that each and every small business owner is unique, with different motivations, goals, and expectations. While I had an intrinsic understanding of this after working in the industry for years, the process of witnessing small business owners in action drove the point home with newfound clarity.

This fundamentally human observation of the market my company tries to serve resonated with me on a personal level. I walked away from the experience with a more holistic understanding of the market and my company’s ability to serve it.

Gain a fresh perspective

When you’re building any kind of innovative product, you tend to focus a disproportionate amount of time catering to early adopters. More often than not, these early advocates are young, urban, and relatively sophisticated. When you couple this with the fact that many entrepreneurs base their operations in urban environments where these types congregate, it becomes easy to see how a perception bubble can develop.

I sometimes forget just how big and diverse the United States really is. While driving through small towns and vast stretches of open land, I realized just how insulated my life is from the reality of the individuals I’m trying to serve.

That realization made me think back to a story about the legendary movie producer Jerry Weintraub. Weintraub was fond of telling the story of how he kept a flock of pink plastic flamingoes in the grass near the entrance of his Hollywood office. When asked about the unique design choice, he responded that he kept them there to remind everyone that it’s the mainstream public that determines if a movie is a hit, not the Hollywood elite.

Driving through rural America made me realize just how right Weintraub was, and gave me a fresh understanding and appreciation for our diverse domestic cultures. Any entrepreneur looking to serve the broad market would be wise to cultivate the same appreciation inside of their own business.

Better understand the challenges of scaling your business

Perhaps the most significant feeling I experienced on my journey was a feeling of dread regarding the challenge of scaling BodeTree in rural areas. Much of the infrastructure that we take for granted, from high-speed internet to ubiquitous cell coverage, doesn’t exist in the same capacity throughout much of the country.

In essence, the experience helped me to broaden my understanding of the market and my company’s place in it. Many of the assumptions, such as the general level of technological savvy or quality of infrastructure, were turned on their head once I reached some of the more rural communities along the way.

My understanding of the small business market evolved and became more nuanced, and I better recognized the dangers of an insulated urban perspective. Entrepreneurs of all walks can benefit from this type of wake up call. So, if you’re looking to reconnect and expand your understanding of the U.S. market, take a road trip this year. You’ll definitely learn a thing or two along the way.

by Chris Myers – Cofounder and CEO of BodeTree, a web application designed to help small businesses manage their finances.

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