My oldest daughter has competed in several sports over the years: gymnastics, diving and cross country. This past year, however, has seen her take up the unusual sport of pole vaulting. Pole vault is a sport where the fundamentals are essential. As in business, without a mastery of the fundamentals of pole vaulting, you’ll never attain great heights. Here are three lessons from the pole vault pit:
Small details, big results
The pole vault only consists of 7-8 components. Do them all well and you will soar over great heights. But therein lies the challenge: it’s REALLY difficult to do them all well. A small adjustment in your drive knee will be the difference between clearing or missing a height. A bend in the arms at the wrong time and you won’t be close to clearing the bar.
Business is like that. Most businesses only have 7-8 things that they need to execute well in order to succeed. Hiring, training, accounting, marketing, continuous improvement, industry-specific skills, customer service and employee retention are the basics for most businesses. Chances are, if your business isn’t where you want it to be, the problem lies in one of those areas. Improve that without losing focus on the others and you will achieve greater heights in business.
The successful pole vaulter has to run as fast as they can at a stationary object while trusting that their pole won’t snap and that they will land on the mats. I couldn’t do it. Start a business from scratch with a wife and 4 kids to feed? No problem! But put a pole in my hands, and I’d be paralyzed with fear.
If you are an entrepreneur, you have a certain amount of fear coursing through your veins. Healthy fear that motivates you to hustle is needed. Fear that keeps you from getting out of bed, however, is a problem. If you’re struggling with that type of fear, you need to find someone you can trust and talk it over with them. Maybe it’s irrational fear, maybe there’s something you can do to mitigate it or maybe you’re in the wrong line of work.
Bend the pole
The biggest difference between a beginning pole vaulter and an advanced pole vaulter is their ability to bend the pole. Olympic pole vaulters make it look easy, but there’s a lot that goes in to bending the pole and using that energy transfer to propel yourself to new heights.
The same is true in business. The difference between Papa John starting his business and your local pizza joint? Bending the pole. Another word for it might be leverage. I’m not talking about the debt kind of leverage. I’m talking about strategic partnerships, referral networks, aligning yourself with the right players and constantly improving. These are some of the ways that you can “bend the pole” in business to soar to new heights of success.
To sum up: master your fundamentals without fear and you’ll bend the pole that brings you to new levels of success.
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