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Elrefai ’20 Small Business by Bike

Waleed Elrefai ‘20 Nantucket Bike Tours – Going into the summer, I had the difficult decision of deciding between spending the summer with Jason and Courtney at Nantucket Bike Tours or spending the summer in D.C. with a political internship. Ultimately what swayed me to accept the position with NBT was the fact that I believed that I would learn skills here that would transfer to any avenue that I decided to pursue. At this point, I can safely say that I was right in that decision and I have no regrets. Since coming here, Marcus Torres and I have undergone round the clock leadership, awareness, emotional intelligence, and small business training while having had the opportunity to practice all that we’ve learned in professional and social settings. I am very thankful to Jason (’98) and Courtney Bridges, the owners of Nantucket Bike Tours, for giving us time in their already very busy lives to help develop us as well as the SBIF for making this possible.

Over the last several weeks I’ve developed a much better understanding of how awareness and emotional intelligence factor into both leadership and giving a great bike tour. From the moment people arrive it is your responsibility as the guide to set the mood. It’s important that everyone is comfortable and that you can demonstrate that you are both trustworthy and welcoming while still making it known that you are the leader of the group. Striking that balance helps you assure that people will work with you to stay safe but also have a great time. Of course, that translates very naturally to any professional setting where it’s important for a leader to be able to project both warmth and competence to get a team to trust and work with you. While you’re on the bike there are countless things to take in such as the traffic conditions, clients’ interests, heat, the skill of riders, and body language. Every day we work on observing and processing all that is going on around us so we can improve our awareness in every situation, there are countless applications of this in daily life. We’ve already used our new awareness skills at social situations town meetings and volunteering events. Being able to know what’s going on around you is such a vitally important leadership skill that I’m very fortunate to have been able to work on this summer.

Many of the things I’ve learned this summer would have been much more difficult to practice outside of a small business setting. I think that more than anything that I’ve learned the most this summer is the value of taking initiative. In school and at previous jobs growing up I had no problem being a good student or employee and doing as I was told. In a small business, there isn’t a big hierarchy above your head that sends orders down. It’s up to the small team to have good foresight and plan ahead to tackle problems before they come up. Working in a small company gives you the opportunity to wear many hats such as sales, marketing, tour guide, customer relations manager, and bike mechanic. More than anything else I’ve learned to embrace the umbrella of responsibility and look ahead at what needs to be done without having someone tell me directly.

To close, I’d like to reiterate my sincere thanks to Jason, Courtney, and all the people who make the SBIF possible. I’ve learned so much more about how to be a leader in business and life, and I couldn’t be more appreciative of everyone who has helped me along the way.