3 lessons from a hike in a wadi – SME10X

10x Industry
It was the last thing I expected, to be learning about my business on a hike through a wadi. But nature had other intentions.
Companies such as ours that thrived because of growing tourist numbers in the UAE were left devastated by the COVID crisis. We’ve made some mistakes along the way over the past 18 months. We have also learned a huge amount about our business and know we have the secrets to survival.
Lesson 1: The trees and adaptability
What I saw in the wadi astounded me and reminded me about the necessities of survival. To survive, there were trees that had to grow its roots and trunk in and around the rocks. Remarkably, despite the lack of rain in the region this year, it was thriving with thick green foliage, which stood out against the massive rocks.
Another tree, in particular, made me laugh. Full of mistakes, the tree just kept trying. When one root failed and died, it had already had roots ready to branch out in another direction. Although crazily messy, with clear evidence of failure all around, it had finally found a safe place for its roots and was green, bushy and healthy.
How often I wondered, do I fear trying something new because of my fear of failure. The mistakes I’d made in the past year were not failures, they were simply plans that hadn’t succeeded. Roots sent in the wrong direction. I realized that what is essential, is to keep putting those roots out there because I might not succeed the first time. Or the second. Or the third. Mistakes are ESSENTIAL on the road to success.
Lesson 2: The cliffs and focus
Contemplating my next move. It was terrifying on the cliff face. I’m not scared of heights but was acutely aware of the distance down to the wadi bed. But by keeping my eye on the next step and focusing on the cliff path, I knew I would be safe.
In the midst of all this turmoil, it is tempting to panic and try everything in a desperate attempt to keep a business alive. But especially in a crisis, having a solid path defined is essential to business survival. And keeping the company and staff clearly focused on that path is part of my job as a leader.
Lesson 3: The rocks and strategy
Looking back at lessons 1 and 2, it would seem there are some contradictions. The trees were showing me that I had to keep trying and find new paths to survival but the cliffs were telling me to find the path and stay on it. It was the rocks that showed me the solution to this conundrum. Faced with some enormous boulders that I simply didn’t have the skill to climb, I needed to figure out how to get around them.
I realised what was most important was to STOP! To take my eyes off the path and consider the terrain ahead. I had to make a decision about what would be the best way around the boulders. At certain points, I was surprised how what looked like the hardest route, was in fact the simplest. Sometimes the route we chose didn’t work and we had to retrace our steps and then rethink how to work out a way around the obstacle.
The really big lesson for me was how important is to STOP! And take note of how well something is working for us as a company. If it is not working, be prepared to pull back and start again. Be agile. Don’t commit to a course and then refuse to alter course when things don’t work out.
Having a clear strategy is the course we plot around the obstacles, it’s our guide to how we are going to exit this mess. Once we have a path plotted, staying focussed and keeping staff focussed is critical. Daily meetings to make sure each and every person is committed to working in the same direction and on the same strategy is working for us, as well as being hyper-aware and willing to change course quickly when things don’t work out.
How amazing is nature! It was a deeply humbling experience that left me feeling revitalized and ready to face the world.
About the author
Stevi Lowmass joined the EO UAE Chapter in 2018. Passionate about sustainability in the world of beauty, she is the Founder of The Camel Soap Factory. The company manufactures handcrafted and milled natural soaps as well as a range of natural creams and balms.
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