Some months ago, my best friend built a trebuchet to offer his sons a physical (and fun) demonstration of various engineering principles. We spent a sunny autumn afternoon launching golf balls and tweaking the system to maximize its performance.

Tony's Mini Trebuchet
Click here to watch the 5 second video

Recalling the event, it also demonstrated several business lessons.

Build A System
A system is more than just the combination of moving parts. It is about those moving parts working in conjunction with each other to produce something – the system exists as a tangible entity of its own. There is tremendous value in providing employment for people, in offering creative outlets, and environments for people to grow. Though one person in isolation can operate a system, that one person is not the system.

Look for opportunities to include others into your entrepreneurial projects. In this experiment, we involved people in aspects such as video, launch, research-design-build, measuring, collecting data, and dozens in the audience. While it could have been easily done with just the two of us; we made a bigger impact by involving more people.

Keep Focused on YOUR Objectives
The trebuchet took several hours to research, design, and build. It propelled a golf ball only about 10% farther than I could throw one, but came nowhere close to the distance that a sand wedge could produce (let alone a well struck driver). While we did measure and adjust to maximize the distance; this was not our objective. Our objective was to provide an exciting model of engineering principles like energy transfer.

In business, we often get sidetracked by profits, marketing, and operational efficiencies that we forget why we started in the first place. Get clear on this FIRST, and keep it a priority! If your objective is to put smiles on faces, shoes on feet, computers on desks – this alone will give focus and purpose to your relentless tweaking.

Have Fun
At the end of the day, entrepreneurship is often a thankless task. It requires endless amounts of time, energy, ideas … and money that are nearly impossible to track and calculate a return. Make sure you do something that, first and foremost, puts a smile on your face and excites you.

It helps to surround yourself with a team of people who enjoy different aspects of the project. By tapping into others’ sense of fun, you can create a well-rounded project and likely never be at a loss for ideas.

This is some of what I do for fun, and I’d like to collaborate with you on your next project.