I’ve always seen my job as co-founder and CEO of Peppercomm as threefold: creating thought leadership, developing new product or service offerings, and ensuring our culture remains a comedy-driven one. I’ll forgo explaining numbers one and three, but must tell you that the new product and service offerings I have developed over a 22-year span were a direct result of daydreaming while climbing the likes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, The Matterhorn, and Mt. Cotapaxi in Ecuador.
Nothing refreshes me (or frees an otherwise cluttered mind) more immediately than focusing solely on each hand and foot move knowing full well that one misstep could result in a one-way pass to that great entrepreneurial fundraiser in the sky.
It turns out I’m not alone when it comes to mountain climbing and business development. In fact, Scott MacKillop’s tales run rings around mine.
Scott is founder and CEO of First Ascent Asset Management, a next-generation investment firm.
But, here’s the cool part of the story: Scott left his high-profile (and, no doubt high-paying) gig as president of Frontier Asset Management in January of 2015 with no clear idea of what he’d do next.
Then, he and his buddies decided to attack the incredibly intense 28-mile, Four Pass Loop in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness of Colorado and had an epiphany.
His intense focus on attacking, and completing, the brutal hike over four 12,000-foot mountain passes enabled Scott to daydream and think about what he’d do next. Et voila, he came up with the business model for First Ascent.
Scott’s sojourn into terra incognito provided him with four tips he believes are critically important to any would-be entrepreneur with an idea for a new product, service, or business:
1.) Stress-Test Your Ideas: It’s critically important to get out of your comfort zone. You MUST challenge the status quo–and your own conventional thinking. That can happen in a boardroom, during a business discussion on a plane, or in the Italian Alps.
In the latter instance, you need to make swift decisions, knowing that an early afternoon thunderstorm or blizzard could easily wipe out you, your team, and your amazing idea for a new business model.
Knowing danger may lie just around the corner has a way of clarifying and crystallizing decision-making. It’s all about listening, adjusting, and always moving forward. Swiftly, I might add.
2.) Take an “outside-in” perspective: There’s nothing like the view from the mountaintop, when you get above the haze of your everyday life and your world crystallizes in one stunning moment. After 40-plus years in financial services, I’ve had a handful of those mountaintop experiences where it seemed like I could see the path forward with extraordinary vision.
3.) Question everything: In everyday life, we rely on experts to point the way through an uncertain future. Unfortunately, we end up ceding our own thoughts and ideas to the predictions of pundits and the forecasts of futurists. That’s why getting out on a trail, turning down the noise, and putting on your thinking cap is so important. It’s a great way to look at everything with new eyes and to give yourself credit for being the thoughtful, creative creature that you are.
4.) Don’t forget the technology: The Four Pass Loop is anything but a walk in the woods. It’s dangerous and requires that you have the right gear for any sort of unexpected event. Similarly, having the right technology for your business is crucial. Technology has turned the world on its head many times over, but many of us would prefer to ignore the tech revolution. That’s because we worry technology will make us obsolete. I’ve found it to be the exact opposite. It’s because of technology that we’ve been able to build a company like First Ascent. We don’t have a back-office to support. Nor do we have legacy systems we need to figure out what to do with. Instead, we can continue building a company that is leaner, more agile, and can move at the speed of digital communications.
I would be hard pressed to add anything to Scott’s takeaways from a particularly arduous climbing/hiking experience except to add this. Whoever you are, and whatever you choose as a pastime, find one that frees your mind the way climbing does for Scott and me. You’ll find it to be a whole lot more productive than baking in the sun on some beach in St. Croix.