Last week, our family took a trip to Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. The entire trip was a metaphor for life and business.
The Destination is Far
Honestly, this is the first time I’ve chosen the trail for a backpacking trip. My husband, Jeff, the expert camping and trail master, has always chosen. I picked it based on the blurb on the website that said things like “sudden transition from rocks to trees is refreshing,” “views outstanding,” and “interesting geology.” Somehow, I missed the part that said “strenuous 2000 feet of elevation gain.” My toes are still paying for this error in judgement.
We climbed back and forth, up and down switchbacks and I got to thinking how hiking is like business.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve always chosen my path. I’ve had control over what I am willing to do in exchange for money, who I will do it for and why. Frankly, sometimes it has seemed very strenuous. Switchbacks take the form of distractions, unexpected deadlines, project delays and the never-ending quest to find clients and the ebb and flow of $$.
I’m on the quest to make the trail of entrepreneurship easier, for myself and others, by getting super clear on what I’m doing, who I’m doing it for and why, as well as finding the right approach to getting clients and servicing them—and providing those insights to clients. My destination is a business I love and success in my terms.
Tools of the Trade
Before we strapped on our backpacks in the parking lot of the National Park outpost, we spent time getting organized. Each of us filled up our packs with food, water, flashlights, clothing, a sleeping bag and the essential sleeping pad needed for a night in the back country.
Jeff carried the tent— heavy — and I toted a first aid kit. Gwen lugged extra water—vital and heavy. I also brought my hiking poles to keep me steady both ascending and descending and to give me confidence when the ground is unsteady. We had a map, matches, cooking stove, pot and utensils, as well.
The prep work that went into our backpacking trip also has to go into our businesses. Because I’m service based, I don’t need a ton of tools to do what I do—a computer, my knowledge and experience, a website, a phone. More importantly, something of value to sell to clients. A transformation if you will, that they get from working with me.
I also need a map. The map (my strategy) identifies goals, objectives and how to achieve them. From branding to messaging to service offerings to business development, a map is an essential tool in defining your business. Part of my strategy work is helping others create their own personal business maps. The “here’s where I am and here’s where I want to go,” component of business.
Finally, there’s a team. While I am a solopreneur, I don’t work in a vacuum. I have assembled a group of advisors to collaborate with, get advice from and who hold me accountable for meeting my own goals.
Life and Death/ Barbs and Prickles
One of the first backpacking trips I went on was in the Grand Canyon. The Park Rangers’ lecture had me quaking in my boots. “A $3000 fine if we have to helicopter lift you out of the canyon,” they warned. This time, the warning was about mountain lions. Casually, the Ranger said “you’ve hiked in mountain lion country, right? You know what to do?” I gulped before saying “Get large, right?”
Luckily, we had no run ins with mountain lions, but the warning reminded us of the dangers our being in the wild. Preparation is essential. A healthy respect for the wild and for our own limitations is paramount.
Business feels like life and death at times. The ebbs and flows of finances, the idea that “If I don’t get that project, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
In business and in hiking, the response to life and death situations is the same:
Don’t panic. Really, it doesn’t help anything.
Act large. Be confident and know that things will work out, even if not the way you expected.
Use the map. If you don’t have one, get one!
Take it step-by-step, one thing at a time. .
Now, get out there and climb that mountain, whether figuratively or literally! The accomplishment feels great. Please let me know if I can help you create the map to help you get where you want to go.