Ditchling Beacon v Business Planning

The Ditchling Beacon, if you are not aware, is the “hill of doom” for cyclists and one of the biggest challenges for those on the London to Brighton charity bike ride. After passing through Haywards Heath, the last major town before the climb and approximately 50 miles (80 kms) from London there lies one of the last the downhill decents through the beautiful and ancient village of Ditchling. Now The Beacon introduces itself to you as the last defining obstacle before the welcome cruise down into Brighton and a well deserved drink.

Living in Sussex, I was cycling up The Beacon the other day, as I have many times with friends and with the hundreds taking part in the London to Brighton bike ride and a thought occurred…

The Beacon is very much a metaphor for starting and running a business. You have got to get from the bottom to the top, in one piece and then you need to keep fit and keep peddling to receive those deserved rewards.

Ditchling Beacon is the Business

Some cyclists prepare, train and plan their ascent to the finest detail and “just know” they will make it. Other cyclists will happily jump on a bike after not riding one for many years, just out of curiosity and with a stubborn, come-what-may attitude that says; “I will make it to the top somehow, even if I have to walk up!” How many will make it to the top without preparation?

A good level of fitness, along with the right equipment and a desire to keep going will get most cyclists to the glorious summit where they will be greeted by outstanding views of the South Downs along with a great sense of satisfaction and achievement.

A detailed business plan, prepared in advance, is your fitness and equipment check for your assault on entrepreneurism. This is the very essence of what will give you the “I know I will succeed” feeling and is the meticulous planning needed to get to the top.

At the beginning, at the very bottom, you know there is a challenge ahead and you are curious as to how you will negotiate the twists and turns. You peddle onto the first part of the climb as the trees crowd in to form a tunnel and dim the light. Now you are committed and it is time to get your head down, choose a gear and a consistent rhythm. This is where all the planning, along with your determination to succeed begins.

The Beacon has several flat levels (some less flat than others!) after every sharp climbing interval. Many years ago, horses would rest and catch a breath on these flat spots and these become your new best friend as you experience a few easier rotations of the wheels before a deep breath is required and you are peddling hard again.

This is true in business where we have been successful on part of our journey and have a short time to take a breather and reflect, knowing there’s more to be achieved. Without the “just knowing I will succeed” and the planning on how to get there, these resting points may not be the re-energising resurgence you need, but where the negative thoughts creep in as you face yet another unexpected climb. Do you turn back and throw in the towel or are you in for a penny, in for a pound?

So, you are half way up, or are you? The bends and inclines, the resting points and trees all start to look the same and you are hot and exhausted. Is there one more bend until the summit, three, or five?

In business wouldn’t it be great to know exactly where you are at every turn? Maybe you have incorporated external support into your plan to help you with marketing, advice and much more. Effectively cheering you on and keeping you motivated whilst making the end goal so much simpler to achieve.

The tunnel of trees open up from time to time to play with your mind and trick you into thinking you’ve made it, only to be faced with yet another sharp incline. However, you’ve been peddling for over ten minutes now and you are nearly there, legs burning, heart pumping and through gritted teeth and sticking to your plan the first part of your journey nears an end. The sky eventually opens up for real and your wheels start to turn more freely and you stop to take in the views as your breathing returns to normal. Mr Satisfaction pats you on the back. Your preparation and meticulous planning has guided you to the top.

Now, you have the ultimate choice…how long do you sit back and enjoy coasting along on the flat? How do you and your business aim to keep fit and keep peddling for those next stretch-goals to growth and success?

Enjoy your business.


Mike is an Accountant to owner managed businesses and is based in West Sussex. www.mcoaccountancy.co.uk