Mountain Climbing 101
Mt. Olympus lords over the Salt Lake City Valley. It isn’t a particularly tall mountain, topping out at just over 9,000 feet. But it is situated in such a way that you can’t help but look at it.
It’s first in line in the range that rims the east side of the valley. Some of the priciest real estate in Salt Lake is at the foot of the mountain, with appropriate addresses like Zeus Lane and Athena Drive.
From the trailhead to the top is a vertical climb of 4,700 feet. And it’s steep. Hot Rod, Max and I decided to climb Mt. Olympus on a recent vacation to Utah. Why? Well, mountains do that to you. As we made our way to the summit and back down, I considered the allure of mountain climbing.
The Mt. Olympus trail switchbacks for the first 1,000 feet. Then it heads straight up. At that point, Hot Rod and I started to suck the air for oxygen like flatlanders from Missouri. Max is younger and fared better. We traded off, but each of us faded during our stint hauling the water-packed backpack. It was hard going. And at times, for me at least, it was scary.
You can take turns being the strong one. And someone can waffle, as long as you are not all waffling at the same time. Near the top of Mt. Olympus, the trail turns to boulders. There are a few places where you need to scramble on all fours. I considered waiting for HR and Max on the shoulder of the mountain, when HR — man of few words — said, “Let’s go.” I got going, and we all three made the summit.
That’s what being a team is all about. Along the way, we passed a group of hikers. The faster climbers had ditched the slowpokes and their group was spread out along the trail. The team had dissolved and created a potentially dangerous situation. In extreme situations, someone can get hurt or disabled.
Once you commit to the challenge, you better commit to each person on the team, at least until you get back to civilization. Then, you would be wise to select a better-suited team for the next assault.
At one point, when Max was leading, he startled a rattlesnake. Even if you have never heard a rattlesnake’s rattle, you will know it when you do. It sounds just like you imagine. HR and I took turns stepping gingerly around the snake, which was poised and coiled.
He shook his rattle at us, but thankfully he was too shy to strike. I understood that one of us could be bitten. If so, the others would become the rescuers. That’s just what you do when you are a team.
Mountain climbing hurts. It hurts your legs and your lungs. You could fall or freeze or burn. The most accomplished of mountaineers are deeply respectful of the terrain and the weather. Climb enough mountains and you’ll have scars to show off. If you are lucky.
It hurts. But pain is an interesting thing. Once you quit, once you turn around, the pain goes away. Should you decide to give up on the summit, understand that the pain that made you quit won’t seem so big when you are in the car driving home.
If you don’t quit, if you are up to the task, if the sun shines and the mountain smiles, you may make it to the top. And when you do, you will be a different person for the journey. You may have discovered strength and courage you didn’t know you had. You may have learned about your body’s limitations.
Business philosopher Jim Rohn says, “Having the goal of becoming a millionaire is a good goal. Not for the million dollars. But for what it will make of you to achieve it.” A mountain summit is a good goal for the same reason.
It is! It is wonderful. It’s best to be first to the top. We remember the first ones. Edmund Hillary. Neil Armstrong. Roger Banister. The first is best. But getting to the top is always awesome.
Relish it. And plan your next assault. There are other mountains to climb. There is always another challenge beckoning.
Mountains are simple metaphors for more complicated challenges. Jon Krakauer wrote a terrific book about the magnetic pull of Mt. Everest. He reasoned that the goal of Everest is pure and simple, and it can take over your life. Focusing on reaching the summit is a way to avoid setting more serviceable goals, like building a successful business.
SNAPping SuccessAt Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, we have adopted a mountain climber’s obsession with reaching our goal. Our intent is to take the top of the mountain, and become America’s No. 1 home service plumbing company.
Right now, the summit is unclaimed. There is no No. 1 home service plumbing company — yet. This is a super-fragmented industry. Almost 60,000 companies divide the market into transparently thin slices.
I know this because we do SNAP Surveys. SNAP is an acronym for Solo Name Awareness Percentage. When I say, “Name a cola,” what do you say? Most folks say, “Coke.” The percentage of people who name a company correlates with market share. Companies with more than 40 percent SNAP are generally the market leaders in their industry in that area.
We’ve done SNAP Surveys across the country. We asked people to name a plumber. Nearly 53 percent of them couldn’t name one. The summit is currently unclaimed.
In one survey, we asked people to name a home center. When 82 percent of respondents named Home Depot, it’s game-over for the solo hardware store owners in that town. Home Depot gets branding. Agent orange. Good logo. Simple, compelling message: low prices.
In the same town that said, “Home Depot” 82 times out of a 100, eight out of 100 named Benjamin Franklin the Punctual Plumber when asked to name a plumber. Impressive? Yes.
Loranger and Sons Plumbing became a Benjamin Franklin Plumber only seven months ago. Compare the 8 percent to the 2.5 percent that the Loranger name scored after 35 years of presence in the neighborhood.
It’s a struggle to build a brand. Most plumbing shops are using the “McDonald’s Method.” McDonald’s is THE brand when it comes to fast food. They have built that brand with a family name.
How about you? Is it your name on the truck? Your customers may love you. But do they remember you? Not according to our SNAP Surveys. Chances are, only one or two people out of 100 name your company in your SNAP Survey.
Look To The SummitOnce upon a time, a football team could win a championship with leather helmets and running backs who ran the 40-yard dash in five seconds flat. That won’t cut it anymore. When McDonald’s started, there were three channels on TV. The Internet was unheard of. It was easier to get through with an advertising message. McDonald’s was able to lay the meaning on the name. McDonald’s equals fun, fast food.
Today, you need to break through the more than 3,000 daily messages that battle for your customers’ attention. It takes a name, logo and message that helps you get through the clutter. An impossible-to-forget name; a message that means something; a logo that brands the minds of the men, women and children in your market area.
You make a promise with your brand. You have to fix the plumbing problem. You must be nice and polite. You have to deliver such value that the price becomes a bargain. Then, you have to help them remember you. Give them an identity that is impossible to forget.
What mountain do you want to climb? Pick one and plan the assault. The going will get tough. It will cost you. But the view from the top will be great.
See you on the summit!