What whitewater rafting can teach us about running a small business

Twenty years ago, Connie Martinez decided she and her friends needed to have more fun. Martinez was a smart, ambitious woman living in Silicon Valley. Most of her friends were also accomplished women who put their energy into their careers and their families. Like many businesswomen and entrepreneurs, they didn’t spend a lot of time taking care of themselves. 

“One day Martha Kanter and I were together,” said Martinez, and we said, “We need to have more fun. My family and I had been white water rafting, so I got the idea of getting together with friends to go rafting.”

Thus, Martinez created the “Wild Water Women” – a group of about 25 women who, once a year, travel from the Bay Area to Ashland, Oregon, where they see plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, shop, hit the spa and hang out.

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The Wild Water Women reunite yearly for a weekend of entertainment, shopping, dining – and serious whitewater rafting.

But the activity that cements the group’s bond is a full-day, white-knuckle whitewater rafting trip on the Upper Klamath River.

This is no snooze cruise. It’s a continual series of 47 named rapids, with many classified as IV and IV+. Rapids are rated on a Class I-VI scale with Class IV “characterized by intense, powerful, turbulent water…risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high.”) 

“We had only one reason for getting together,” said Martinez, “to have fun and enjoy one another. There’s no networking, no job hunting. No one is here to use one another.”

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How to create a long-lasting organization

“We had only one reason for getting together,” says Connie Martinez of the annual Wild Water Women trip: “To have fun and enjoy one another. There’s no networking, no job hunting. No one is here to use one another.”

I’m fortunate that Martinez, a friend, invited me to be a Wild Water Woman. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about business, myself, and friendship from the Wild Water Women.

You, too, can learn a lot about running a small business from the people who’ve made the Wild Water Women succeed for two decades.

Martinez, in particular, is an example of how to create a long-lasting organization. She did all of the following:

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