April 29, 2016 • Bookshelf

“Into Thin Air”

Anyone that listened The Second Stage, or follows our ScaleCo Bookshelf blogs, knows that I love books, and more specifically, those that focus on business best practices.  But this past quarter, our selection for the ScaleCo book club was not one I was super excited about, as I thought it would not fall under the business best practices category.  Our CFO, Marlene Tehi, selected Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by John Krakauer.  However, it turned out, I was wrong.  There were tons of great takeaways on leadership and team work!  And best of all, it created some great team synergy and discussion.  Everyone enjoyed the book, had an opinion, was willing to voice it, and the discussion was lots of fun!

Mr. Krakauer, an author and experienced mountain climber, is hired by Outside Magazine to write an article on the commercialism of Mt. Everest.  As a lifelong climber, Krakauer would normally create a plan of his own, including selecting those he would climb with, knowing and trusting their capabilities.  This wasn’t the scenario however as he embarked on the highest climb of his life.  When tackling Everest, Krakauer was guided by Rob Hall, an accomplished climber with the climbing service Adventure Consultants.  His fellow climbers were clients of Mr. Hall’s.

A true account of the 1996 Mt. Everest historic disaster, there are a lot of summaries available, much better than I could produce, so as usual, I’ll just share my own personal takeaways.

My takeaway: As a leader, have a plan, share it with everyone, and hold people accountable, including yourself!

The discussion focused on the fact that Rob Hall had detailed plans.  Plans to get used to the altitude, plans to tackle certain parts of the mountain, plans for every minute detail.  And on the day the climbers were to summit Mt. Everest, the absolute turn back time was declared 2pm.  Meaning, there was no circumstance where you wouldn’t turn back if you hadn’t reached the summit by this designated time.  The kicker — he himself did not reach the summit until after the designated 2pm turn-around time.  Think of this, if you’re the leader of an expedition and you’ve made a life or death decision that the group will run out of time if they don’t turn around by 2pm and then you don’t hold yourself accountable – disaster is inevitable.

The same holds true for your business.  If you have a plan, big/small, short-term/long-term, you need to share it with everyone and then hold yourself and the team accountable.  Working with small business owners on a daily basis, they are often under the impression that everyone knows the plan (myself included), but 95+% of the companies we see are not communicating enough. And the next level of success can only be achieved when not only are you transparent, but accountability is embedded into your culture as well. ScaleCo is no different.

As always, if recommendations for our bookshelf, please drop me a line at brendan@scalecommunity.com.


About ScaleCo

ScaleCo Capital is a Cleveland-based lower middle market private equity firm that focuses on control-oriented leveraged buyout and growth equity investments in fast-growing companies based primarily in the Great Lakes region. ScaleCo partners with companies in the verticals of business services, tech-enabled services, value added distribution and assembly, and training, compliance, and education sectors, bringing operational expertise and strategic resources to scale their growth potential and build long-term value. To learn more, visit scaleco.com.

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