Stunned - Survive - Soar - Skiing???

The New Year of 2021… following the extreme year of 2020 which left us all stunned. Last year was made up of a series of stormy surprises, one after another. Many leaders in business, politics and healthcare are arising from the stunned effects of the prior year and asking questions about how to survive and go beyond, to soar toward success:

· “Is a new direction and strategy needed?”

· “Do we take bold steps to capture opportunity now?”

· “Do we have the time or resources to do anything different?”

· “Should we stay the course and survive for more rough times ahead?”


Difficult questions… Sometimes the best way to meet such a challenge is to come from an unexpected direction, such as …. Skiing…. What?


Last week, with one of our start-up companies, we were talking about a snow-skiing trip that included getting lost in a storm and trying to find our way in white-out conditions. We laughed and decided that was a good analogy for business in 2020. In the ski trip, the severe winter storm had come in much stronger and accelerated quickly catching us at the top of an 11-kilometer ski run. As we started downhill, the wind and snow took visibility to zero and the temperature drop made survivability a real concern. As a small group, we needed to decide whether to stay on the trail or cut cross-country to help protect us from wind, reduce distance, and cut time off in order to reach the safety of the lodge more quickly. First, we assessed the skill of each skier, then who knew the ski runs and area well enough to lead in terrible conditions. We skied as buddies, set “counting time” rest goals, and took off cross-country. There were some harrowing mishaps including colliding with a tree, but our team, plan, adjustments, and resilience saw us through. We felt so fortunate to walk back into the lodge!


For start-up companies, time is always important for survival as well. In the example of the company above, the team strategy discussion last week borrowed the idea of “cross-country” for survival and leveraging team skills to accelerate a product design for today’s pandemic business environment. The fresh look at strategy allowed the team to discover an opportunity to “soar” with faster growth. Here the idea of “counting time goals” was applied to set checkpoints to measure progress and success.


Many start-up companies are facing the same dilemma. Your investors have placed funding with you toward your company strategy, so should you stay the course, because “surely” things will be improving soon? Entrepreneurs are a special mix of optimism and practicality.  In fact, investors typically select your company because your team has vision (awareness), resilience and an unwavering impetus to reach success. As entrepreneurs, we also believe we can see the future, because we help to create the future.


But remember the reality, the series of stormy surprises is not over quite yet. So, what do we do?


Certainly, one correct answer is, everyone needs to set a time on your calendar to meet with…. yourself, to “just think”. Another good action is to talk to your customers first-hand, to get the most current, accurate assessment of “the storm”. A third key step is “to step back” and see if your company is following a survival direction or a strategy with a Wow! Factor.


There are still many challenges and some difficulties. But this is a time of opportunities and problem solving that can also be exhilarating!

Author of the article: Karla Callahan