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The Magic of Clarity

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The Magic of Clarity

Visibility ZERO! Yup, there I was on top of Sunshine Mountain in Banff Alberta and visibility was zero. I had a friend with me from Massachusetts who had never been there before and was not a particularly good skier. What now?

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This could be a dangerous situation, there is a disease called Hausler’s Disease, where movement combined with lack of visual data causes total disorientation in your mind. So, what do you do? What did I do? First and foremost, I made sure that we always stayed together. The last thing you want to happen is that you lose somebody. This is so very important in business – YOUR business. Make sure that everyone involved with you is crystal clear on where you want to go and how you are going to get there. Take the time to make a plan and have everyone aware of what it is. They may not all buy in, but they need to know what it is.

If you are a lone wolf, a single proprietor, it is even more important that you plan, make it crystal clear, and write it down. I firmly believe that we never achieve alone, there is always a team. Yours maybe your family, lawyer, accountant, or mentor group. Yes, a mentor group! I always work with a group of individuals who I admire and respect, who have done it before who I can ask questions, bounce ideas off, and show my plans. They always provide me with different perspectives and ways of doing things or tell me what I have planned and written down is good.

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Secondly, make sure you have the right goggles. We knew going up that it wasn’t going to be a perfect day, there might be flurries, and visibility could change quickly; but Monty was only there for one day, so we decided to go. There are goggles for sunny days and ones with a rose or yellow-tinted lens that gives more definition. I’m not kidding, rose-tinted glasses might be the difference between success or failure. The bottom line is you need to have the right tools. Before you start your business, or before you take the next step make sure that you have the right tools for the job. In other words, we researched the conditions and brought everything that we needed. In business that means knowing who your target market is and having the applicable information about your prospective customers, competition, and opportunities available.

And you thought I was going to say stay positive, didn’t you?

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Third step is to head for the trees. When you are in whiteout conditions you want to have as much definition as possible. That means going to the trees, they provide you with measurements – gradient and speed. Staying in the middle means that you have no way of knowing where anything is, it all looks the same. How can I possibly tie this into business you ask? Simply, when I was just starting out in business one of the most important things that I learned was stay out of the middle. Invariably businesses who differentiate themselves early on generally will outlast the competition. For clarity, either you price yourself as a premium business or a volume business and stay away from the usual run of the mill average business. You either aspire to greatness, excellence, and uncompromised experience or low cost, low service, no-frills business. There is no right or wrong, there is only clarity as to which route you are going to take. 

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Fourth, do what snowboarders call butter, butter, and more butter. We knew that conditions weren’t great, and it was Monty’s first time in the Rockies, so we didn’t do Double black diamond or even Black diamond runs, we played on the Blue square runs. A double black diamond run is the most difficult, while the blue is intermediate. What is buttering? Buttering is a fun trick to do that looks hard. It involves applying weight to one end of the board and lifting the other end off the ground to perform a series of spins. There are a variety of spins and with practice, you make them look so easy they come off smooth as butter. Business is like that, practice, practice, and more practice. Keep coming up with ideas that set you apart from the competition and keep adding to your exceptional service. It all starts with writing everything you think of down and finessing the idea, sharing it your team, and asking your mentors their opinion. Practice, practice, and practice so more – always putting it into action.

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Fifth, what happens when there are no trees? You use the Piste markers, they are the markers that show the right side of the run. Try to keep them in sight if possible. What I mean is always have a Plan A and a Plan B. Whenever I create a marketing piece, I usually create two different ones. I run them both and see which works the best. When the best is determined I toss the loser and write a new piece and run the winner against it. Always keep innovating and improving. 

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Finally, use the Force. You are obviously a leader if you are starting your own business or a part of a leadership team that does. Leaders often must use their gut. That wonderful sixth sense that let’s you know when it is time to go left or right. As Chip Wilson of Lulu Lemon fame wrote in Forbes, “Trusting your gut is the best business tool you’ve got – If you can listen.” Listening to your intuition has saved our lives since the beginning of time. With patience and prac,tice it can become one of your best tools.

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Clarity, yes clear thinking and a picture in your minds eye of moving forward in an organised fashion is key to business success. Chris Meyer in Forbes writes, “In Business, Clarity Comes First. Many things go wrong inside a business and the culprit is usually lack of clarity.” The primary steps in clarity are:

  1. Story telling is easiest way to be simple, compelling, and to the point.
  2. Tell your team what you want, have them tell their teams the same story, and re-tell to everyone the same consistent story.

Clarity takes work from the top down. Hard work. But so worth it, even just to keep yourself on the run. That's a skiing term for the path you take down the hill.