I spend a lot of time in the office, in meetings, and online, always looking for more information and insights to help our team serve our clients’ interests. It’s important to stay ahead of the next disruption and understand the ever-changing economic and business climate.
But I also take the time to immerse myself in Colorado’s wilderness as I work toward my goal of summiting all of the state’s mountain peaks above 14,000 feet – the “Fourteeners.” With every climb I learn a little bit about myself and the mountains. And I learn a lot about life and business.
I’d like to share six lessons I’ve learned on the mountain.
1. There’s No Substitution for Planning:
Setting out to summit a 14,000 foot mountain miles away from anything or anyone is not something to do without research and preparation. With lightning storms that appear from nowhere, rock slides, washed out trails, flash floods, and a variety of potentially dangerous wildlife, it can seem that Colorado is actively trying to kill you. Before stepping on the trail, my climbing partners and I learn everything we can about the task ahead. We read climbing reports from others, reach out to experienced climbers for advice, scour available maps, and check and recheck our gear. The same goes for any business journey. Sure, you know your business inside and out. But what don’t you know? Review the business and regulatory climate, study the numbers, be prepared for surprises. What’s changed, and what changes are ahead? When it’s time to move to the next stage, take the time to plan ahead.
2. But Don’t Overthink It:
I know the saying, “you can’t put on what you didn’t bring.” But I’ve also learned not to fall for every new piece of equipment that comes along or to try to reinvent what works. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity. There are the “10” essentials we need to have, like a headlamp and a way to make fire. But you can’t carry every available piece of equipment without weighing yourself down. Stick to what works. I’ve tried being “creative” on a climb by seeking out a shortcut, only to find there’s a reason the trail goes where the trail goes. I should have kept it simple and adhered to the path I planned on. You know where you want to go, set a course and avoid distractions. On the mountain, people have been severely injured overthinking things, imagining they are the only one to spot a better route. Make a plan, be confident, and don’t overthink it.
3. Be Ready for a Long Journey
Nobody climbs all of Colorado’s Fourteeners at once, they climb the Fourteener they’re on. My son, Luke, and I set our goal of summiting them all 14 years ago. We’re still at it. We knew going in this would take time and commitment. For us, it’s not a passing fancy. There’s a rhythm to the process. We research, prepare, and roll with the unexpected. We’ve learned to be patient. If the conditions aren’t right on the day we planned to make an ascent, we back off. We don’t risk disaster by rushing it. Transferring or acquiring a business requires careful preparation, commitment, and patience. You can’t rush it.
4. Rely on Yourself. Depend on Your Partners:
From the day I set off on this quest, I’ve had the most dependable partner: my son, Luke. Together we started with some of the less technical climbs, and together we’ve built our knowledge and developed trust in our abilities and in each other. On a recent climb, we approached a potentially dangerous, and unexpected, obstacle. Our route down was blocked by a waterfall. Our group was trying to plot a safe way around when Luke stepped away for a different view. His intuition led him to examine our predicament from a new perspective, and he saw something I couldn’t see from my own location. He spotted what turned out to be the best, safest route down. I know my abilities, but I depend on trusted partners to challenge me to look at situations from different perspectives. On the mountain, it’s you and the partners you’ve chosen. In the conference room, rely on yourself to know what you know, and look to your trusted partners to help you see what you can’t.
5. Communications and Technology Evolve:
We were miles from anywhere, and I mean miles from cell phone service, when we heard cascading rocks behind us. And screams. A climber a few thousand feet above us made a misstep and had fallen 60 or 70 feet down a sheer drop. She was severely injured. Fortunately, we carry a DeLorme satellite communicator. A tremendous advance in technology, it’s a lifeline when no other means of communication are available. As soon as we assessed the situation, we contacted Flight for Life, which, in turn contacted the High Altitude Training Center for a military helicopter to extract her from the mountain and get her to a hospital. Without that piece of technology, our satellite communicator, we were more than six hours from help. The injured climber probably wouldn’t have survived. Keep up with available technology and advances in business. Don’t fear or ignore what you don’t understand, be eager to learn new things.
6. Respect the Journey (Every Step of It)
On the mountain, it’s easy to focus too much on one part of the journey: getting to the summit. But that’s not the full journey. The majority of deaths on Mt. Everest occur on the way down. I’ve seen climbers arriving too late to the summit, exposing themselves to afternoon lightning storms or risking injury through fatigue or by chancing “shortcuts.” They’re exhausted yet feeling they’ve “made it.” That’s not the time to celebrate. As the saying goes, getting to the summit is optional, getting back down is mandatory. If you’ve spent years, maybe a lifetime, building a business, when you’ve reached the top, that’s an accomplishment, but not a complete journey. Don’t risk losing what you’ve worked for by not respecting the process of transferring that business in an orderly, successful fashion that will provide for you and your family. When you’re off the mountain, back at base camp, then you can look back and celebrate.
Little Bear Peak, Colorado – Elevation: 14,037 ft.