I live in one of the most spectacular areas in the country for hiking. Northern California is loaded with well-maintained hiking trails but the foothills of Mt. Tam (home to Muir Woods) is truly the top of the heap. With spring fully settled here, I headed out this morning to explore some new terrain. After losing myself in thought for a while, my brain stubbornly focused on work and business planning. It was then I saw the correlation to hiking and running a business.
You have to do the hard uphill climb
No way around it, if you want your business to run smoothly and coast to profitability, you have to make constant effort to climb and gain altitude. Step-by-step up grueling terrain, the body and brain send signals to just stop, but if you want to get to the crest and see the sights, you have to keep up the march. In business, you have to do the hard work of research. What do your customers want? What does your competition do to gain THEIR customers? How can you improve your product and service so you can sway your competitors' core customers? It is so easy to just fling the doors open and do what you've always done. It feels comfortable and it is easy to rationalize that you are working hard. Continue to climb and ...
Find the true path
Often on new trails, the hiker comes to a place where the trail has washed out, or a tree falls across, blocking easy access. It takes great woodland instincts to re-find the true path. Logic does not always dictate the right answer; paths wash out because of gravity and pressure. Sometimes you have to hike downhill a few yards to pick up the scent. In business, we are conditioned to keep going forward. Fight hard, struggle onward, never let up. A careful retreat or horizontal strategy sometimes is the best way to make faster uphill progress.
Have the right fuel
Hiking requires the right combination of protein and carbohydrates to keep the body strong. In business, running a marketing campaign or launching a new service with the wrong promotional tools will not create success. To get a prospect's attention, you must use "fuel" that gets your company noticed. Great effort with the wrong tool might win awards for cleverness but will not win sales contests. Be certain to seek input from experienced fuel builders so your business fires on all cylinders.
With spring arriving around the country, get a good pair of boots, a fresh updated map that includes new trails and ask people who have hiked that path previously for directions. (Drop me a line, I recently updated my map.) The view is fantastic from the top; be certain you are on the right path so you can get there quickly.
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of The Food Connector. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.