Successfully Summiting the Mountain of Business

Successfully Summiting the Mountain of Business

Anyone living in the Pacific Northwest is familiar with majestic Mt. Rainier, a snow-capped peak that beckons hikers from near and far. Having had the opportunity to climb Mt. Rainier, I have learned that many of the lessons and principles of climbing a big mountain can apply to my work in helping business owners.

Staring up at a large mountain you’d like to ascend can be overwhelming. The unknowns that play out in your mind can create fear. However, courage comes from having a plan.

If you are a business owner, here are some lessons from mountaineering that apply to you:

Climbing a mountain requires a significant amount of physical and mental preparation and training. Most people need months of training to be prepared to climb a mountain.

For business owners, planning and preparing well for a transition usually takes several years to do it successfully. Even if your timeline is farther in the future, being ready and prepared is one of the smartest things you can do.

Map a route to the summit
With any goal, it is important to start with the end in mind and then break that down into smaller, achievable steps.

Many business owners work so hard to grow the profits and value of their business, with no context around what is actually needed for them to achieve their goals (retirement or the next adventure).

Working with a financial advisor to understand a target future business value and your ideal timeline allows you to define the summit, break down the stages of the expedition, and pace yourself appropriately for the climb ahead.

Have the right gear
Once you have defined the summit, it is important to pack correctly. You want to have the equipment, clothing, food, and water you will need for the climb, without overpacking and weighing you down.

Can you imagine climbing the upper icy glaciers of Mt. Rainier in boots, but without crampons? Yet, many business owners I meet do not have estate plans, the right level of insurance, organized and reviewed financials, or contingency plans for their business. Being on the right route, but without the right equipment can mean one slip ends in disaster.

Have the right team
You can’t climb a mountain safely alone. You need a rope team. The same is true in building your business. Building a leadership team that you trust to care for your staff and your customers is similar to a rope team on a mountain. You are literally tied in together, protecting each other if someone slips and looking to each other for encouragement.

Each person on your rope team brings a different value, and it is important to know the team’s strengths and weaknesses. You can only climb as fast as your slowest climber…trying to go too fast may burn someone on your rope team out, jeopardizing the success of the entire climb.

Additionally, a business owner is wise to surround themselves with advisors who act as climbing guides for their journey up and down the mountains. A guide offers the experience of having helped other teams successfully climb and knows the terrain, the routes, the conditions to watch for, and the weather patterns better than anyone. They are there to coach and help you face fears.

Guides may tell you “this section looks scary, but it is easier than you think.” Or, they may look you in the eye and say, “this stretch is going to be hard, you will need to focus and dig deep here.” Ultimately, a guide helps you get safely up and down the mountain.

Plan for the roundtrip
There is a tendency to give all you have in climbing to a summit. Once there, you have achieved success and it’s tempting to let your guard down. That’s when fatigue sets in. Statistically, the majority of climbing accidents happen on the descent.

World-renowned mountaineer, Ed Viesturs, has a famous motto: “Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.” For business owners, building your business to a certain point is the pinnacle of the climb, but you must also plan your own descent (exit) from the business. The fact is, you WILL exit your business, but will you do it on your terms? Make sure you have a financial plan that gives you confidence for the second half of your journey.

Know your turnaround point. Seasoned climbers have a set turnaround time on summit day – the point where it’s crucial to be descending the mountain before the heat of day can increase the risk of rockfall, snowbridge collapse, and crevasse crossings. Similarly, for business owners, this is where knowing your “number” is important. It will remind you that the incremental reward may not be worth the extra risk.

Leave energy for the descent. Many business owners wait until they are at the burnout point before beginning to prepare for a transition. This is too late. Leave enough physical and emotional energy to continue running your business through a proactive transition process, not to mention leaving enough energy for enjoying the next adventure and season of life.

Prepare for the unexpected
No matter how well prepared you are, unexpected weather, snow conditions, and health can impact the success of your climb. For business owners, economy and competition can be those changing conditions, or they might experience the Five Ds (death, disability, divorce, departure, or disagreement).

For a successful climb, you have contingency plans. Make sure you have those plans for your business as well.

As with climbing mountains, a successful roundtrip for business owners takes preparation, a team of advisors, and most of all perseverance. Climbing a mountain is achieved by taking one step at a time.

We’re there for you

At Highland Private Wealth Management, we have a passion for guiding clients safely up and down the mountains of business and life. Are you ready to climb?

Ben Wicks
  • Callie Maertz
    Posted at 14:36h, 13 May

    Perfect analogy!

    • Ben Wicks
      Posted at 18:46h, 14 May

      Thanks, Callie! Hopefully a few nuggets you and Melissa can use as you build your coffee empire!