What Mt. Everest can teach us about business

After watching a video about the ascent of Mount Everest, ‘Inside Story of Mount Everest’s Deadliest Climb’, a trek that ended badly, I realized there were many parallels to running a business. First, climbing Mount Everest is exciting and scary, just like having a business.

To put Mount Everest in perspective, it’s breathtaking at over 29,000 feet. It is the highest point above the world mean sea level. Reaching the top requires expert individual skills as well as teamwork. The climbers practice these skills for months to increase the chances of success.

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

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

2. Break out of your comfort zone. Remind people that they learn by feeling uncomfortable. As skilled as they are, they must continue to grow and evolve. Even the professional climbers spend thousands on 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 that if something out of the ordinary happens, they need help. Companies need to remind employees that they work for the same company and that it is important that employees help each other. Team building exercises are the best ways to build a team. Floor sellers depend on installers; conversely, warehouse workers make sure the work runs smoothly. Employees need to learn that everyone is important, and the result is a job well done and a satisfied customer.

4. Focus on the common goal. In business it is important to create goals that relate to the customer with the whole team. Each department should discuss how they help the team achieve the ultimate goal. A satisfied customer is the goal and everyone needs skills to make it happen. For example, the installer’s helper is probably the least skilled, but he or she should have the same customer training as other employees. Did you hear about President John F. Kennedy’s first visit to NASA? During his tour, he met a concierge. The president then casually asked the janitor what he was doing 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 good practice to think of new ways of doing things. In business, that may mean embracing new technologies or adopting different approaches to solve recurring problems. The past two years have accelerated technological changes already in the making. Now is the time to step up your game or you may find yourself rushing to catch up.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting shopping strategies for 20 years. Contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com to have her speak at your company or to schedule a consultation.

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