Certainly among the first things to come to a person’s mind when he or she contemplates cheetahs are the fastest land mammals on earth and possibly cheesy corn-puff snacks. The name “cheetah” comes from Hindi, and more formerly from Sanskrit and means “variegated” which seems like an understated way to differentiate this particular big cat from other cats. If you are hoping to read more about cheesy corn-puff snacks, perhaps it’s time for a trip to the grocery store.
Cheetahs are well-known across the African savannah, but are also found throughout the continent in dry, open, often grassy areas, though they might also be found in some woodland and scrub areas. They used to range into Asia and into the Mediterranean areas, but heavy sport-hunting in the early 20th century drastically reduced the cheetah population in these areas. Today, their remaining healthy ranges are limited to only a few African countries, though efforts are being made to reintroduce the cheetah into its historically native home ranges in African and India.
Cheetahs are well-known for accomplishing land speed records of up to nearly 70 miles per hour in pursuit of prey. In fact, cheetahs’ entire lifestyle revolves around producing a lot of speed very quickly. One runs out of synonyms for “fast” when considering the cheetah. Their bodies are designed for optimum speed, sacrificing brawn and size in favor of blistering speed. Cheetahs are very lean animals with deep chests and long tails that end in white tufts of fur. They have black spots, but not rosettes like leopards and jaguars. Adults can measure from 44 to 54 inches tall and weigh between 50 and 145 pounds. A distinguishing feature of the cheetah is that it is one of the few larger felids to feature only semi-retractable claws, meaning that they are not able to fully retract their claws. This allows the cheetah grip on the turf as it runs, acting like cleats. Cheetahs also feature their characteristic tear marks, intended to draw the sun from the cheetah’s eyes and allow it to see great distances.
Cheetahs mostly range through African savannah, hunting smaller ungulates like gazelle. They can run up to 65 miles per hour and use a special dewclaw on the backs of their paws to trip up their prey. Cubs are born with grey fuzzy fur along their backs that serve as protection and camouflage. The cats aren’t built for built for fighting, they are built for speed and must protect themselves by running away or knowing when to ditch a kill.
1) Focus—don’t do 15 things poorly, focus on doing one or a couple things well.
Cheetahs are the fastest land animal for a reason: their entire evolution has centered around speed and changing direction quickly. Sure, that means they maybe aren’t the best at fighting off competitors, but how does that matter when you have an idea so lightening-hot that you can outrun anything else on the planet?
2) Watch for a change in the current.
How many businesses fail simply because the owners are unable to capture a vision of what the market will do next? How many owners lose their businesses because they were unable or unwilling to move with the times? Cheetahs have large, rudder-like tails, specialized skeletons, and semi-retractable claws not just because they assist with gaining speed very quickly, but because their preferred prey is able to zig-zag and change directions extremely fast and the cheetah, if it wants its meal, has got to be able to shift with its quarry.
3) Do what you know, know what you do.
Cheetahs don’t outrun prey only to leap and attack as the gazelles try to get away—they have a straightish dewclaw, unique among cats, that they use to trip their prey before they pounce. This is a singular method among cats, and is likely due to early evolvement for speed. The cheetah doesn’t have the strength to take down even smallish prey without potentially being injured by long horns or hooves, so it does what it knows: run like hell, spike its quarry, and then take the gazelle down. Similarly, in your business, focus on what you know and do it, making sure that you stay current with it, and are even producing innovations into your preferred market. You never can go wrong if you stick to what you definitely know, and leave speculation up to risk assessors.
4) Let it be said in 30 seconds or less, or it isn’t worth saying.
Cheetah chases can take less than thirty seconds, from the beginning of the run, to the spike, to the bite, and then to the kill. Cheetahs don’t have time to parse words, or try to bring down its prey with fancy word play. They do take some time to stalk their quarry, moving quietly through the grass, but as soon as the prey suspects something, they are fast and to the point: I am going to get you and then I am going to eat you. End of story. In business, pitching a new idea begins with the creeping, careful stalking behind the scenes: doing the homework needed on a client, investor, or potential partner, and preparing yourself for the pitch. Then, when the rubber meets the road, you are quick, deadly, and to the point.
5) No one will give you money—nor should they.
Cheetahs do not scavenge, except perhaps only under the most dire of circumstances and only when they have nothing to lose, and since cheetahs are not known for being powerful fighters, they, likely as not, will lose the fight for carrion. Cheetahs are at their best chasing live prey, and they keep their sights only on animals they know they can take down, like medium-sized gazelles, impala, antelope, and wild sheep. As cheetahs’ concept of speed works for them, so let your business model work for you. Don’t plan elaborate, expensive schemes for your business. Scale back, stay realistic, stay frugal. Let the business work and speak for itself, and when it does, the investors will be there.
6) Don’t write checks with your mouth that your business can’t cash.
One of the worst things a business or an asset-owner can do is to talk a lot without delivering a lot. Not only does it cause trust to be lost with clients, customers, investors, and possibly other partners or coworkers, but it loses all of those people too, and many future people. Stay realistic. Cheetahs, though they can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3 seconds, nevertheless also have to eat their kills immediately, lest the kill be taken by larger, stronger predators. They may be impressively speedy, but they have to put their kill where their mouths are and eat fast. Cheetahs do not yowl around their kills, challenging others to best them. A pride of lions can take down even the fastest cheetah if its head gets too big. Don’t let that be you.
7) Know when to quit.
Sometimes, even the best business concepts may fail. It could be due to many reasons, but the point is that a savvy businessman or woman must know when to get out and let something go. If a hunt might be going poorly, or if there are stronger predators nearby who might capitalize on the cheetah’s kill, or any other factor that doesn’t seem to work in a cheetah’s favor, it will back out of a chase. Cheetahs are very aware of their capabilities, what is or is not going to work for them, and so they are realistic and know when to call it quits. That being said, cheetahs have a 40-50% success rate with their hunts, which far bests tigers, lions, and jaguars. Even if cheetahs don’t successfully carry out every hunt, their savvy and realistic worldview ensures them a great deal of success nonetheless.