In less than a month my intention is to be at the top of Mont Blanc and, in being so, to have achieved a long standing ambition. The training has been slow-going with barely enough hours in the day and the climb is expected to be arduous. It’s going to be great: after all, such challenges are rarely achieved without a degree of hardship along the way, right?
In thinking about this trip (which I am doing more and more given the rapidly approaching date of arrival in Chamonix), it’s been really interesting to note the striking similarities between the challenges of climbing a mountain and those of running and growing a successful business. It’s a bit of a cliché and normally I’m not one to pander to such metaphors but in this instance it’s the lessons I am learning about my approach to the two things which are proving to be interesting.
The kit list for the climb comes on a side of A4. Mountaineering boots – not just any old kind but stiff ones suitable for crampons; crampons with 12 points, made of steel; sunglasses which close well on the sides…and plenty more besides. I’m studying the kit list intently which the intention of heading to the Alps responsibly well-prepared. Bad kit will not only make my trip more difficult and less enjoyable but it could also endanger my life and that of my climbing partner.
On the business front, bad kit is unlikely to endanger any lives but it could endanger the livelihoods of those people that rely on Veber. It would, therefore, seem ludicrous to take that chance. In order to make our business work, Veber must be well-prepared. That means having the best kit (best of breed hardware) in the best place (top tier UK datacentres) at the best time (24/7/365 support available) with the best personnel to support the clients. Anything else would be irresponsible and that’s why we have what we call The Veber Promise. We know how important the solution Veber provides is to each of our clients.
My climbing partner and I are expected in Chamonix at 4pm – time to get to get to the accommodation, sort out our kit, get well-nourished and well-rested before the first training sortie early the next morning. We have a plan in place which incorporates a series of journeys to get both of us there for the right time. Maybe not quite meticulous planning (it is only France after all) but nonetheless a schedule which, if broken, will have implications for the ultimate goal of ascending the highest peak in Europe. So, we’ll do our best to stick to the schedule and, when faced with those inevitable public transport issues, we’ll evaluate our options to decide the best course of action.
On the business side of things this year, dates and deadlines have been really significant. The plan which has been in place for company development since the start of 2013 is up for its first major review this month: Are we on course to achieve the set financial targets? Have we employed the best personnel to support the intended growth? Do we have all the equipment and resources in the right place in the system to fulfil our orders? Do we have the required procedures and processes in place to maintain a seamless service to the customer? All these elements of a successful business must work in harmony which each other in order to achieve that ideal which I have in my head. We’re not quite there yet but the review promises to show that we are well on our way: we just need to stick to the schedule and ensure that we intelligently evaluate it along the way whilst taking into consideration the experiences of the Veber personnel and feedback from our clients.
It’s all just common sense isn’t it? I take what I need, be there when I’m supposed to be and all will be fine… Well, what if I find that the reality puts me out of my comfort zone? What if the weather turns? What if the guide is unbearable in some way? What if a bit of kit breaks? What if I have a disagreement with my climbing partner?
All those things are thankfully unlikely and they’re unlikely because the trip has been well-planned. However, all the planning in the world cannot make for a flawless execution. The traits for dealing with the elements of this trip which may be outside of my comfort zone are similar to those traits which I have to employ on a daily basis to be the successful leader of a growing business. I aim to show consistency in my approach which allows the team of people around me to trust and respect me. Empathising with my staff and clients means that we can share vision. Being honest and encouraging honest communication from the team means that obstacles are far more likely to be addressed. Flexibility and open-mindedness are key to finding the best possible solutions to barriers. Showing unrelenting direction and conviction in the mission inspires the team to succeed.
Still sounds like common sense but the execution isn’t easy. It’s not easy in the face of being the boss every day and I’m not under any illusion that it will be easy to climb Mont Blanc. But, I do have two secret weapons in both camps: a pretty damn positive attitude and a great team.
Bring on the hard work and I’ll let you know next month how it went!