What Mt. Everest can teach us about business

After watching a video on the Mt. Everest climb, “Inside Story of Mt. Everest’s Deadliest Climb,” a trek that went bad, I realized there were many parallels with running a business. For one, climbing Mt. Everest is exciting and scary—much like owning a business.

To put Mt. Everest in perspective, it is breathtaking at more than 29,000 feet. It is the highest point above global mean sea level. To reach the peak, it requires expert individual skills as well as working as a team. The climbers practice these skills for months in order to increase the odds for success.

It started me thinking about business, and how building a successful business team requires many of the same skills to reach Mt. Everest. Following are five tips that can be applied to running a business:

1. Keep training. You can’t train once and then expect people will remember what they learned three years ago. Research it takes six months of repetition suggests to learn a new skill completely. Remember, everyone learns differently and although people hate it, role playing is one of the best ways. Here’s a helping hint for teaching role playing for salespeople: The person with the highest skill level should play the customer, not the salesperson. This way, the person with the lesser skill can try to stump the expert!

2. Break out of your comfort zone. Remind people that being uncomfortable is how they learn. No matter how proficient they are, they must continue to grow and evolve. Even the professional climbers spend thousands of training for the Everest trek.

3. Work on team building. Building an effective team requires the same learning as climbing a mountain. The Everest trekkers realize if something out of the ordinary happens, they will need help. Businesses must remind employees that they work for the same company, and that it’s important for workers to help each other. Team-building exercises are the best ways to build a team. Flooring sales people depend on installers; conversely, warehouse people make jobs go smoothly. Employees need to learn that everyone is important, and the result is a successfully completed job and a satisfied customer.

4. Focus on the common goal. In business, it’s important to create goals with the entire team that relate to the customer. Each department should discuss how they help the team reach the ultimate objective. A satisfied customer is the goal, and everyone needs skills to make it happen. For instance, the installer’s helper is probably the least skilled, but he or she needs to have the same customer training as other employees. Have you heard about President John F. Kennedy’s first visit to NASA? During his tour, he met a janitor. The President then casually asked the janitor what he did for NASA, and the janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

5. Think outside the box. When tackling projects, it’s a good practice to entertain new ways of doing things. In business, that might mean embracing new technologies or adopting different approaches to solving recurring problems. The past two years have accelerated technology changes that were already in the works. This is the time to step up your game or you will find yourself rushing to catch up.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at [email protected]

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