Taking time out to explore the world might seem like an indulgent escape from the real world for a while, but in fact traveling might give you some essential skills and experiences needed to become a successful business owner. The independent and risk taking personality that is natural for many entrepreneurs are also the same traits that are second-nature to backpackers.
So if you’re thinking about putting off starting your business for a year to travel the world, here are five reasons why you should happily head off into the sunset:
Plan and research
Whether you are traveling around Europe for six months or the world for a year, you will want to fit in as much as possible within that time, which means planning and research are key. You’ve got to pre-book flights and hostels, while also researching visa requirements, local transport options and places worth visiting.
Being able to plan properly and research thoroughly are basic skills needed to run a business. You’re going to have to create business plans and five-year strategies, while researching the market and potential customer base is vital.
Even with planning and research you’re bound to run into some problems when traveling. Being so far from home and your normal support network of friends and family will mean that you will have to become much more self-reliant and able to solve problems on your own. More than this, you will often be in a country where you don’t speak the language and which has different culture and customs to your own, so being able to deal with difficult issues in these circumstances will become valuable experiences.
As with travel, running a business you’re bound to run into problems no matter how much you pre-plan and research. Whether it is issues with your suppliers or difficult customers, everyday problems are a natural part of being a business owner, however with experience gained from sorting out problems while traveling you will already have the skills, confidence and patience to deal with them calmly and efficiently.
Learn and adapt
In order to respect local residents, cultures, landmarks and environments when traveling you’ve got to learn quickly about different cultures and languages. Sometimes what would be perfectly normal at home could be extremely offensive in the country you are visiting. As such, you need to become more aware of those around you, as well as having an increased awareness of how you project yourself to others. In addition to this, you have to learn to adapt to fit into the culture around you, if, for example, you are in a culturally conservative country, you have to become more modest in your clothes and behavior than you would probably be normally.
Again, these are vital skills needed to be a successful business owner. No matter how many business websites you read and entrepreneur help books you study, the only way to learn how to be a business owner is once you start actually being a business owner. What works for even the most successful CEO doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you or your company. Instead the ability to learn as you go and adapt to meet new requirements and technological and social trends are essential.
Being stuck thousands of miles away from home with no money is no fun; neither is having to make an emergency call to your parents to request funds for a ticket home. To avoid this, you’re probably going to need to have a good budget in place when you travel. The more cash strapped you are the better you’re going to need to be in making sure your dollars last longer.
As a business owner you are also going to have to master the art of budgeting in order to succeed. From learning how to financially survive during quiet months to knowing how much you can afford to spend on stock and supplies, basically being able to financially plan is vital to running a successful business.
Socializing is as much a part of backpacking as seeing some of the world’s most famous sites. Often that person you meet in your hostel’s bar on the first night will be full of information about the city you are in and places you should visit. Sometimes they become friends for life, even though you live at different corners of the world. While making new friends and meeting new people, you are also learning how to network.
Back home and with your business up and running, networking is a vital way of making connections within your industry and getting new clients. After the months you spent traveling and constantly meeting new people, by now you will have enough experience to become a networking pro.
Written by Derin Clark on behalf of Direct Ferries, a company that provides a ferry booking service for destinations across Europe.
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