If you’ve been following my blog, social media or emails, you’ll know that earlier this year I spent two crazy weeks driving a rickshaw across the Himalayas with my best mate.
If you’re thinking this sounds slightly reckless, considering we had no experience driving a rickshaw and have, you know, responsibilities back home, you’d be right.
But it ended up being an incredible and enlightening experience that I took a lot away from. Specifically, the things I learnt along the way got me thinking a lot about how my experiences mirrored lessons I’ve learnt in business.
In my last post, I talked about the importance of preparing for the long-haul and taking a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come. Today, I have two new lessons that are as just as important when it comes to running a business successfully.
Lesson Three: Ask For Directions
This might sound like a bit of a no-brainer but, when you’re travelling, it really helps to know where you’re going.
Not all of us are equipped with built-in compasses or instinctive senses of direction and sometimes the tools we rely on let us down.
For example, the sim card we went well out of our way to buy in Leh Ladakh no longer worked the moment we crossed over the border.
Or, the time the GPS on my phone directed us to a mountain and told us very confidently that we’d arrived. Sure, we’d arrived at the mountain but exactly where on that ginormous mountain remained a mystery. A mystery that took us another forty minutes to solve.
What ended up helping us, both in this instance and several others, were the locals we asked for directions. We were blown away by how willing people were to help. And when they couldn’t, they’d call their friends and ask them to help instead.
If we hadn’t asked for directions and let these people five help willingly, who knows where we’d have ended up. Likely, we’d still be on that mountain.
Similarly, when we’re running or helping to run a business, knowing where you’re going is essential.
This, of course, means having a business plan and a clear idea of where you want to end up. It doesn’t necessarily mean knowing the exact route – that’s where the business equivalent of a GPS or compass or even a good old-fashioned street directory comes in.
And because these things aren’t always enough, we need to rely on people who have travelled the roads before us.
Asking experienced businesspeople for advice on where to go or what to do next is one of the best things you can do for your business. These people have made and learnt from their own mistakes so why repeat them? Why not take the shortcut and benefit from their experience?
And – just as I discovered in the Himalayas – generally, people are more than willing to show you the way.
So, the key takeaway from my travels abroad and business experience is not to be afraid to ask for help, particularly from people who know the terrain. Otherwise, you’ll end up stuck where you are or somewhere you don’t want to be.
Lesson Four: Let Someone Else Drive
Something else my rickshaw trek reminded me of is this: sometimes it’s better to let someone else drive.
Especially when that someone has more experience, skill or know-how than you do.
On our Himalayan adventure, this meant letting my best mate and travel buddy, Aaron, take the wheel at certain points along the journey.
With a background in oil exploration and a love of travel and adventure, Aaron has driven an impressive array of vehicles in his time, everything from motor bikes to massive trucks.
As a result, driving a rickshaw in precarious situations was a lot easier for Aaron than for me. Handing over to him allowed us to get away from danger and resume our journey quickly and unharmed.
If I’d refused to give up control, things could have ended up very differently.
Likewise, in business, don’t be afraid to let someone else take the wheel.
This doesn’t mean you’re handing over the keys. You’re just letting someone with better skill guide through a sticky patch. When you’re through, you can take the wheel back, knowing the vehicle is still yours.
It’s a clever and strategic move. At the end of the day, reaching your destination is far more important than who was in the driver’s seat for how long.