Running a business is similar to whitewater rafting. It can be fun and exciting and at the same time it can be risky and dangerous. You never know which challenge will surface next and how big a threat it may represent.

Your ability to recognize and adapt to changing conditions will determine how successfully you navigate those waters.

Starting a business is just like entering the river for the first time. You are uncertain and cautious of what lies ahead. You stay close to the river bank and are reluctant to take chances. You extend great effort to avoid the fast moving water and rapids as they appear. Eventually you get to your final destination and exit the river, completely exhausted.

As you return to the same stretch of the river in the future, you are more relaxed and less cautious. You paddle a little farther from the shore and notice more things around you. You easily recognize potential challenges and your response becomes almost instinctive. Time teaches you that the riverbank actually represents many dangers like eddies and submerged trees. In fact, deeper open water is a safer place to be. In the middle of the river the open the water runs faster. Now you reach your final destination sooner and you have more energy.

Eventually you become an expert and realize there are small sections of the river with fast moving water. You aggressively seek out the fast moving water and the rapids you once avoided. You learn that sometimes the fastest way to reach your final destination is to paddle sideways and not forward. Working smarter, not harder is the best way to run the river. It adds to the excitement of the ride and you get to your final destination way ahead of the rest.

When an expert exits the river, they have enough energy and adrenaline to take on a new river. Don’t let yourself get caught in an eddy.

Bill Nordbrock is vice president of community relations for SCORE Southern Arizona, a nonprofit group that offers free small-business counseling and mentoring by appointment. For information, go to southernarizona.score.org, send an email to mentoring@scoresouthernaz.org or call 505-3636.