The Road Rash MBA

Road Rash MBA

My name is Mike McLinden, and I’ve spent the last 20-plus years helping companies across the U.S., Europe and Asia find ways to create value for their customers and themselves, and earn a “competitive advantage” that lets them take a little more out of the market than their average competitor.

I have the business degree and management resume that are table stakes for this type of work, but when people ask, I say that my greatest qualification is my “Road Rash MBA.”

By “Road Rash MBA” I’m talking about all of the lessons I’ve learned over the years the hard way – the business equivalent of going over the handlebars at full speed or hitting a patch of sand in a tight turn. They’re the types of lessons you don’t need a whiteboard and Post-it Notes to understand. You get a good dose of road rash and you remember it with every muscle and bone in your body, and they let you know, “We’re not doing THAT again!”

I started talking about the Road Rash MBA as a way of calling BS on all of the business books and journals I read that have no connection to my business reality or that of most of the clients I work with. Don’t get me wrong. I love reading Malcolm Gladwell and Peter Drucker, and have a ton of respect for people like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Bill Gates.

The problem is that on the typical weekend or evening when I have time to think about my business, with my tight budget and small team it can be hard to relate to stories about disrupting entire industries and transforming human experience on a global scale.

I also have a problem with the fact that most business books are written in hindsight so that every strategy makes sense and there’s always a happy ending. As one of my business school professors liked to say, “We only read about the lucky ones.”

The Road Rash MBA isn’t about luck. It’s about what really works and what doesn’t. It’s a practical way of thinking about your business challenges and opportunities in new ways and uncovering the insights and strategies that will help you zig where the rest of the crowd is zagging so that you’re able to create more value and take a little more off the table at the end of the day.

Before we start, though, I’d like to set a few simple ground rules for all aspiring Road Rash Strategists.

First, our ideas need to be coherent. The brainstorms we have while driving to work or talking over beers are interesting, but they’re useless until the Why, What and How are fully worked out.

Next they should be communicable so that you can explain to someone and they can explain to someone else who can explain it to someone else, because nothing happens if you’re the only one who understands the plan.

Finally, an effective strategy should be actionable so that others know how to apply it in their day-to-day work situations and can make the right choices and set the right priorities to bring it to life.

My next blog will start to explore the many different ways we can think about your business by learning from the mistakes of others, and I’ll continue as long as you and your fellow entrepreneurs find the advice useful. I encourage you to pass along questions or suggestions for making the blog more useful, either in the comment area below or by emailing me directly.

Michael McLinden earns his road rash as a serial entrepreneur, and consultant to health, wellness and fitness related companies in the U.S. and Europe with a focus on market analysis, branding and value creation. He has held executive management and strategic planning responsibilities in a number of regional and global advertising and marketing firms, including Mc|K Healthcare, which he co-founded and ran until 2014. He holds an MS from Purdue University and an MBA from TIAS Nimbas business school in the Netherlands. Email him at