I recently moved to Denver, Colorado, for work, and for those who know me, you know that was a blessing. I love the outdoors. Hiking, kayaking, biking, you name it. I particularly love the mountains; they have some big ones in Colorado.
The tallest mountains in Colorado are called 14ers, meaning their summit is over 14,000 feet above sea level. There are 58 of them in the state, and I set a goal to get to the top of 5 of them before the summer ends. I recently completed three of the five: Mt. Evans, 14,265; Mt. Elbert; 14,439 (the highest peak in Colorado); and Mt. Bierstadt, 14,065.
With my glorious view from the top, I couldn't help but see some similarities between mountain climbing and business. I know this is a well-explored analogy, but let’s go further than the cheesy posters in corporate office break rooms.
When hiking at lower elevations, you can see the trail plainly winding amongst the trees.
When you climb a 14er, the trail isn’t always apparent. Because trees can’t at elevations greater than 12,000 feet above sea level, there is just rocky terrain up there. This can cause you to get off course – and I certainly have.
I use a GPS app on my cell phone to help me navigate, and it lets me know when I am getting off course. When hiking Mt. Evans, I still couldn’t find the trail.
The good news is sometimes you can see the summit, and that is where you need to head. Just keep moving in that direction until you edge your way back to the trail.
It’s the same in business. There will be distractions and setbacks that kick you off course. But if you have clearly defined goals, you can just keep putting one foot in front of the other until you get back on course.
It helps to know where you are headed and to have clear objectives to keep you on track. We use EOS to run BlueByrd, and quarterly, yearly, and even 10-year goal setting has been beneficial to keeping us on track (especially considering that I tend to like to chase shiny objects). With those goals, we can keep our eyes on the prize and keep heading in the right direction.
One cool thing about hiking is that you run across other hikers and get to walk alongside them for awhile. I’ve met some fantastic people on the trail. Hikers are amiable people who like sharing tips and advice about hiking, gear, and other trails they have been on. The first question I ask when I meet a fellow hiker is, “Have you done this trail before?”
If they answer yes, I listen carefully to the next thing they say because they will usually tell you about their last experience. They will tell you in great detail about the view from the summit, wildlife encounters, obstacles to look out for, and the best time of the year to hike it. Their advice is constructive, and I like to fall in with them if I can keep up.
I’ve noticed the same in business. It helps to hear from other entrepreneurs that have been through the same things you are going through. Organizations like Vistage and EOS have been invaluable. We share our experiences and learn from each other. That support has kept my boots on the trail many, many times.
There are always obstacles in business, and listening to people that have “been there, done that” is helpful. Oh, don’t get me wrong. There are a ton of people that will give you advice, but many of them have never “climbed the mountain.” Their advice may be useful; you just need to be a skeptic and know they might not know what they are talking about. But the ones who have done it and want to help are worth listening to every time.
I am only attempting the “easy” 14ers, but they are still challenging for me. They all require significant elevation gains, and some can push you outside your comfort zone. This is especially true for me, considering I’m in my fifties and have diabetes. I have to listen to my body and stop for breaks to refuel, or things can get scary. When I climbed Mt. Evans, I got off the trail, and wound up on a long class three section. According to 14ers.com, class threes “include sections of scrambling, or the use of hands to help you up and down sections of the trail. This class also includes some exposure (large drop-offs or cliffs), which means that there are sections where a fall could cause severe injury or death.” Here are some pictures of what this section of the trail looked like.
I just focused on looking for the next marker, a small pile of stacked loose rocks called “cairns” and tried not to look down, and trust me when I say it was a long way down.
I’ve had some scary and challenging times at BlueByrd as well. When launching the business, I had to do everything. Client work, sales, bookkeeping, you name it. It was another 14er – 14 hours a day, seven days a week. There were many times I thought I would run out of gas, but I just kept grinding until I was smart enough to hire my incredible team to help with the workload. It turns out they are better than me at most of the jobs I was doing. Like hiking a mountain, it helps to look back at how far you have come and remember other obstacles you have overcome. There’s no better inspiration than progress to give you confidence that you can overcome a rough patch.
When I hike, I bring a small backpack filled with all kinds of useful gadgets, trail snacks, and water. You never know what could happen on the trail, but you can plan for the worst. One time I wound up on the trail much longer than expected, and I needed two flashlights so my buddy and I could complete the trail and find our way back down to the trailhead. But more important than the gear is your mindset. It’s easy to panic when things aren’t going as expected, but if you keep your head, you can push through most obstacles. Likewise, if you panic, it doesn't matter how much gear you have – things aren't going to work out in your favor.
Well, there are no shortages of surprises in business for sure, from people quitting to clients not paying their bills to getting unexpected tax bills. There are precautions you can take to mitigate these risks, and you should. But surprises are inevitable, so you better be ready to expect the unexpected. When things go wrong, you just have to pick yourself back up and keep focused on handling the issues you can control. Most importantly, don’t panic and keep going. Look for the next carin, and keep moving forward.
Reaching the summit on a 14er is a great experience. The view is always amazing. I love to hang out and take in the view when I reach the top. I notice other interesting peaks in the distance.
Well, the next challenge to tackle is never far away in business, either. As soon as you complete one significant initiative, you see many others that must be addressed. However, taking time out to celebrate your wins and enjoy the view at each subsequent level of growth and change in your business is essential. Seeing how far you have come will refuel and recharge your entrepreneurial muscles. Without it, you will get burned out. This topic is explored in “The Gap and the Gain” by Dan Sullivan and Ben Hardy. It’s an excellent read when you’re between the peaks.
The similarities between business and hiking mountains fascinate me. Both are incredibly rewarding and a struggle at times, but the journey is worth it. And you will be stronger from taking the journey. If you want help taking your business to the next summit, reach out. We would be happy to be your marketing sherpa.
The #1 reason salespeople can’t close deals, according to buyers, is because the salesperson is not trusted or respected. In many interactions, buyers can easily sense a predetermined agenda from salespeople, leading to increased pressure and distance from the finish line. Finding a balance between the sales agenda and the buyer’s needs is crucial to foster authentic connections and bring that sale to closed won.
Reflection time is our favorite! This year has brought a whole host of new learnings for BlueByrd, as you can imagine for a business in year 4. Our team has expanded, been moved around, pushed the limits, said “no” to the things that don’t make sense, and has had tremendous growth. We’re so proud of our team for embracing change and learning new skills to support our clients in the best way possible.
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