Never Drive Straight For Your Goals — You Must Zig Zag

3 min read • Oct 13, 2011 • Dan Bischoff

Note: This is a guest post by Rich Christiansen, author of “The Zig Zag Principle,” which comes out tomorrow. He has founded or co-founded 32 businesses. We’re honored to have him on our blog.

Have you ever set your sights on the top of a mountain and then started climbing straight through the trees and up the sheer cliffs? Or jumped in your car and headed to the other side of town — as the crow flies?

Of course not! Because you instinctively know that, just as a mighty river has to wend its way around obstacles and obstructions, the best route from where you are to where you want to be is never actually a straight line!

Many small businesses fail because they ignore this law of nature — the law of zigzagging — by setting big, hairy goals and trying to charge straight for them. The solution to save loads of money (and sanity, too) is to zigzag your way to success.

Now, this may seem counter-intuitive, but these switchbacks will help you climb up the mountain with manageable, steady, and sure elevation gains. Let me explain the steps:

    1. Set a firm foundation. Begin at the beginning—assess your resources. Figure out what you want to do with what you have. Identify your goal and establish the values that will define your business as you drive forward.
    2. Zig 1: Drive to profitability. Your first zig to reaching your goal is to drive to profitability. This may mean bootstrapping and being very thrifty at the beginning of your journey, but it always pays off—literally.
    3. Zag 2: Add processes and resources. Once you have figured out what keeps you in the black, you must document these processes so you have a successful formula in place as your business grows. Then add the appropriate resources.
    4. Zig 3: Add a scale element. Use the processes you documented and get your product or service out to the masses. Think McDonald’s. No matter where you go, McDonald’s is the same—same food, same processes. They use these documented processes to be able to open new chains all over the world.

These are the basic, essential steps to zigzagging your business to success. In the past 20 years, I have founded and cofounded more than 30 different companies. I used to bet on every one out of three failing, the second becoming mediocre, and last becoming a great success. However, by using zig zags, four of my last five businesses are thriving and succeeding.

I have set some very ambitious goals in my life, and I used to think the only way to achieve them was to drive in a straight line to get there. Now I know that I achieve considerably more success, while maintaining my sanity and sense of life balance, by zigzagging.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. For a more detailed description of The Zig Zag Principle and how it can help your business, go to

About the Author

Rich Christiansen

Rich has founded or co-founded 32 business, each with less than $10K. Of those, 11 were complete failures, but 11 have become multimillion-dollar companies. He describes himself as “a perfectly good technology executive turned entrepreneur” from his time at Mitsubishi Electric,, and Novell. Rich is author of Zig Zag Principle and co-author of Bootstrap Business: A Step-by-Step Business Survival Guide, both of which provide an inside look into the action formula for business success.


Dan Bischoff