On my recent camping trip with my family I realized how the experience, in many ways, was similar to challenges we face when runnning our businesses. I wrote much of this blog from the campsite my family and I had on a lake near Ely Minnesota. Early morning writing at the picnic table or late night next to the campfire provided the perfect opportunity to jot down ideas for this writing.
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Ely is about a four hour drive (assuming no road construction!) northeast of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is roughly 20 miles from the Canadian border as the crow flies, but there are no roads directly to this part of the border. Ely is often referred to as the “end of the road” because some of the roads leading north from Ely just end.
Having a long drive and spending plenty of time fishing and kayaking the lakes provided a lot of time to reflect. The planning for and the actual trip reminded me of how even while on vacation, we can learn some things about running our businesses.
Here are a few of the thoughts and observations from the trip….
· Identify and accommodate the variety of interests and strengths of your group (team)- When deciding where to go on our vacation, the location had to have the criteria agreed upon by myself, my wife, our high-school aged daughter, and our middle-school aged son. Not an easy task to say the least! My son and I wanted to fish, we all wanted to hike and bike, and my wife and daughter enjoy seeking out unique shopping opportunities. I was able to accommodate each of these interests in the location selected.
In your business, it is important to identify the unique strengths, talents, and interests of each of your employees. This puts them in positions where they can do what they do best for your firm. People in financial advisory firms often start off in a position that really doesn’t fit their strengths or, as they gain experience, they develop an interest in a different area. They will be happier and more productive if they are in a position that is a correct fit. Take the time to identify where your team members talents and interests lie.
· A good website and marketing matters- While researching campgrounds for our stay, one of the main reasons I selected our particular campground was because of the resort’s website. It was professional, provided the needed information about the resort’s amenities including great photos that made the campground appear very inviting. I could see us staying here before I made the reservation.
This is very similar to how some prospective clients proceed when looking for an advisor. Does your website and marketing draw clients to your firm? Can potential clients envision themselves working with you?
· Disconnecting from technology for a few days, although difficult, can be a good thing- Although I did bring my cell phone, laptop, and iPad along on the trip, it felt good to step away from the constant technology connection we have (need?) in our personal and business lives. The time spent away from the constant technology connection provided time to connect with what is really important. Disconnect from your technology now and then to really “connect” with your family and friends. Nothing is more annoying than someone constantly checking their phone when you are trying to carry on a conversation!
· Having time alone for your thoughts is good for planning- The previous point is closely related to this one. Disconnecting helps lead to better quiet time. Quiet time alone gives you the needed time to solve some of the issues you often aren’t able to slow down for during your normal busy hectic week. Develop the habit of finding some quiet time alone during the day to solve some of business decisions you need to make. It may need to be before work, after work, or over the lunch hour, but carve out a small amount of time to think about the business and plan.
· Change your strategy when progress isn’t being made- If you aren’t seeing results with one strategy, maybe it is time to try something new. Because the fishing was extremely slow, my son and I had to try many variations of lures and locations to catch some fish. Many large fish had been caught recently off the dock at the campground. We should be able to catch some big ones too! After two slow days of fishing off shore, we decided to rent a boat for a day to change our strategy-how and where to catch the fish. The fishing was not great after the change, but the change did result in more fish being caught.
If your firm is not growing as expected, perhaps it is time to change your strategy. It could be a change in your marketing, outsourcing a function, shuffling or adding staff, hiring a coach, or any number of other changes. The key is recognizing the needed change and then following through on actually making the change. Too often, we know there needs to be a change, but are slow on following through with making the change.
· Perseverance pays off- We all know things often don’t go as planned and success takes time. Because the fishing was slow, it took hundreds of casts to finally reel in one fish. It took many more for another catch. If we had stopped casting due to our lack of success, we never would have landed the fish we did.
Many times in our businesses we don’t see the results as quickly as we expected. When working your 90-day goals, there will be bumps in the road. The key to success is to continue making progress each day, each week, and each month. Also continue working your marketing plan- remember, it takes time to reel in more and hopefully larger fish!
· Plan for the unexpected- The weather during our trip was spectacular, not too warm during the days and not too cool in the evenings. Most importantly, since we were outdoors each day of the trip, there was no rain. When we were out in the boat, quite a distance from the boat dock, a few ominous clouds rolled toward us. I wondered why I had not brought any rain gear in case of rain and how we had gotten so far from safety if a severe storm had blown in. I had not adequately prepared for the outing. We were lucky the storm quickly passed without incident.
Make sure you spend time not only planning for the future of your business and following through with your planning, but also incorporating contingencies if your plans go astray.
The camping trip with my family not only allowed me the needed time to connect more closely with them, it also showed me how lessons learned on the trip could be applied to my business.
Build your business wisely.