11 Online Business Lessons from Jungfrau Mountain

I’m writing this after a 10+ hour hike through the Jungfrau mountain region in Switzerland.  This was a pretty grueling experience that stretched the limits of my endurance.  But it also helped me realize that there were many principles you can apply to an online business… some of them good, some of them bad.  So with that in mind, I’d like to discuss eleven lessons I learned today:

Lesson #1- Make a plan

My plan for the hike wasn’t anything crazy.  All I did was map out the spots I wanted to see with a rough estimate of how long it takes to get to each post. The plan was simple:

Lauterbrunnen (elevation 796 meters) to Wengen (1274 meters) to Wengernalp (1873 meters) to Kleine Scheidegg (2061 meters) to Eigergletscher (2320 meters).

Then a possible train ride up to Jungfraujoch (3454 meters).

Eigerglestscher to Apliglen (1615 meters) then up to Mannlichen (2227 meters) way down to Wengen (1274 meters) with a long hike back down to Interlaken (567 meters).

All told, this plan involved hiking up to two large mountains with elevations exceeding well over 7000 feet, plus a small pit stop to Jungfraujoch (which has the tagline of “The Top of Europe”).  It would be a long day, but I was sure it was completely manageable.

Lesson learned: All online businesses should start with a plan.  This could be anything from a rough mind-map on a piece of paper all the way to an elaborate business plan.  The value doesn’t come from what’s written down.  Instead it’s about taking the time to think about the process.  Planning will clarify your objectives and ensure that you’re considering every factor.

Lesson #2-Adapt along the way

I’ve never been to Switzerland before.  And I mostly certainly haven’t hiked the Jungfrau mountain region.  I had a plan.  But I knew it would change as the day went on.  My philosophy was to stick to the plan, but be adaptable if I ran out of energy or saw something cool to check out.

Lesson learned: All plans change the minute you start them.  Expect the unexpected and you won’t be surprised.  It’s important to be adaptable.  Sure it’s great to have a plan, but be prepared to change as you get feedback and results.

Many businesses fail because they’re afraid to adapt to consumer trends or changes in technology. Just look at MySpace.  This site was the “800-pound gorilla” in social networking.  But then came Facebook who thrives on innovation.  Almost overnight, MySpace faded into the background.  MySpace failed because they were slow to change how they operated.

Lesson #3- Have an exit strategy

I wrote down certain “escape spots” during the planning process.  These were trains that would take me back down to Interlaken if something went wrong.  And as I reached these spots along my trek, I did a quick evaluation.  I only continued if I felt like I was physically able to do so.

Lesson learned: One of the best lessons I’ve learned with an online business is to know when it’s time to quit.  There’s nothing glamorous to continue to work on a project that’s not getting results.   Sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and move to a different plan.

Yes, persistence is important in business.  But there’s a fine line persistence and stubbornness.  For instance, let’s say you’ve been working on an online business for a few months and you haven’t earned a penny.  Perhaps it’s time to evaluate the situation.  If you can’t think of any way to fix things, you’d better off moving on to a different business model.

Lesson #4- Bring the right tools

I didn’t bring that much during my hike:

  • A map
  • Two sandwiches, fruit, and gummy bears (Yum!)
  • A rain-jacket
  • A t-shirt
  • A thermal long-sleeve
  • A pair of gloves
  • And a cell-phone for emergencies

Compared to some, this is traveling pretty light.  The important thing is I knew from experience that these were the exact tools I needed to get through the hike in an efficient manner.

Lesson learned: There’s a huge mistake that I see many “newbie” Internet Marketers make.  They refuse to spend money on their business.  Typically they’ll look for free versions of critical tools…like autoresponders, hosting and automated software.

As they say in business, sometimes you need to spend money to make money.  This is especially true when it comes to the five critical tools for an Internet business.  I know you might be trying to save some cash.  But don’t do so at the expense of building a solid foundation for your business.

Lesson #5- Don’t wait, get started right away

There’s a reason I only took five minutes to plan my hike.  I wanted to jump on the trail and get started right away.  Like I said before, I knew my plans would change as the day went on.  So I didn’t waste time overanalyzing things.  I just put one foot in front of the other and see where the road would take me.

Lesson learned: I hear a variation of this excuse all the time, “I’m going to wait till I learn everything or make the perfect plan.” Plans are great and all.  But as we’ve learned, the greatest plan changes the moment you start it.

I’m a firm believer in the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach to life.  Definitely make a plan of action.  But don’t get stuck trying to perfect it.  In fact, I’ll let you in a little secret…NO plan is perfect.  It’s better to take action and learn things along the way.  You’ll definitely make mistakes.  But it’s through these mistakes that you learn some of the most important lessons.

Don’t procrastinate and make excuses.  Take that first step and then the next.  You’d be surprised at how far you get with a simple ‘one step at a time’ approach to your online business.

Lesson #6- Consistent effort

The beginning part of the hike involved going from Lauterbrunnen to Wengernalp which has almost 1000 meters in vertical distance (over 3000 feet).  This meant over an hour of an uphill walking.  And if you’ve ever done something like this, then you know how tiring it can get.

Although the beginning was strenuous, I never stopped or took a break.  I figured the best way to get through it was to keep moving and not lose my momentum.

Lessons learned: Success with an online business comes from consistent, day-to-day effort.  You don’t work hard one day and then take the next off.  There is no such thing as an overnight success.  The people who do well with Internet marketing keep momentum.  They keep working hard till they achieve their goals.  But even when they reach a plateau, they’re constantly looking for the next step.

Lesson #7- Know your metrics

According to my map, the hike would take over 11 hours (not including the trip to Jungfraujoch.) I knew I could do it a lot quicker, but I also made sure I was keeping a good pace.

At every major signpost, I recorded the current time and how long it would take to get to the next point.  This helped me track the overall progress of the trip.

Lesson learned: A major part of consistent effort is to know your metrics.  With an online business this can involve a number of things… traffic stats, opt-in rates, earnings, etc. The key here is to determine which metrics are most important for your business AND consistently track your progress.  Then when you have statistical proof that something is working, you concentrate on doing more of that.

Lesson #8- Know when to use shortcuts

At the start of the hike, I was annoyed that they don’t allow hikers all the way to Jungfraujoch.  I guess it makes sense since it’s basically a huge glacier at 11,000 feet of elevation.

Fortunately they have a nice little train that brings you to the top.  My logic was I hiked to highest allowable point in the Jungfrau mountain region.  So I felt entitled to take the shortcut to the top.

Lesson learned: Normally I don’t recommend taking shortcuts.  Or at least when you’re getting started with an online business.  But once you learn the ropes, you’ll discover different techniques and hacks you can use to get massive results.

This is a major part of the learning process.  Sometimes you’ll encounter something that really works.  And once this happens, use every necessary tool you can find to exploit this technique.

For instance, let’s you’re getting great results with Twitter.  Then perhaps you could find a piece of software that helps you manage your Twitter account and automatically add followers.  That way you’ll quickly increase your results without having to do a lot more work.  This is a shortcut that saves you time, but isn’t based on some dodgy, “make millions with Twitter” advertisements you see plastered all over the Internet.

Lesson #9- Expect obstacles along the way

I hit a major obstacle toward the end of my hike.   It was around 7:00 PM and was starting to get dark when I hit the stretch from Mannlichen to Wengen.  When I originally reviewed the map all I thought was, “A downhill walk of 3000 feet…no problem.” What didn’t occur to me at the time was a 3000 feet vertical drop in an hour is very, freakin’ scary.

Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but picture walking down a thin path after trekking for 8 hours and seeing that if you made one mistake you’d fall 1000 feet to your death.  (I didn’t take a picture because I was more concerned with living at that moment)

Anyway, my point was I didn’t expect this obstacle.   But at that point all plans and time schedules went out the window.  I took as much time as I needed to get safely through the rough patches.  Mostly this involved grabbing one side for balance and manfully whimpering as I inched my way across a trail with a sheer-cliff drop on the other side.

Lesson Learned: As I said before, expect the unexpected.  It doesn’t matter what type of online business you run.  There will be days when it seems like the world in conspiring against you.  Or even worse, there will be times when you have to clean up the mistakes you’ve made (like I did today).  The important thing is to overcome the obstacle and realize the lessons you’ve learned from it.

Lesson #10- Enjoy the little things

Sometimes it’s fun to enjoy a moment when it arrives.  At Jungfraujoch, I took time to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience.

I played in the snow, slide across the Ice Palace and had a beer at the “Top of Europe.”  I knew I had more than six hours to go on my hike.  But I wasn’t going to be rushed by some self-imposed timetable.

Lesson learned: Hard work is important. But sometimes it’s equally important to enjoy those special moments.  If you’ve spent all week on your online business, take a day off.  Spend time with your family,  go to the beach, or even relax by reading a book.  As I said last week, there are a lot of benefits to taking a day off and relaxing.

Lesson #11- Achieve one goal?  Make a new one!

My goal for the day was a simple one…Get to the highest point in the Jungfrau mountain region.  Then once I got there, I decided to add the challenge of hiking up another nearby mountain.  At the end, I was very tired, but I was also satisfied at what I accomplished.

But with that said, I’m now looking at other goals.  There are a few marathons I could try in Germany/Austria during the next month.  Or there’s the Gross-Glockner mountain in Austria.  Right now, they’re just ideas in my mind.  The important thing is I accomplished one small goal and I’m now looking for the next one.

Lesson learned: At one time, my major goal for an online business was to make $100 a day.  Once that happened, I pushed for $200…then $300 a day.  Now that I’m near the $300 mark, I’m trying to find the next big goal.

It’s important to set goals for your online business.  After achieving your goals take time to enjoy them.  But don’t rest on your laurels… Set a new goal!  Keep pushing the boundaries of what you think’s possible in your life.  You’d be surprised at what you can achieve by setting a series of challenging, but doable goals.

Final Thoughts…

It’s been a long day.  Frankly…I’m pretty tired.  But, I hope that you got something my little adventure and the related lessons.  As I do with many of my posts, I’m asking for your comments.  What are some lessons that you’ve learned from your online business?  Obviously it doesn’t have to relate to hiking or anything.  Just some take-aways your fellow readers can use to improve their own success.

Leave a comment below…

Take Action. Get Results.

13 thoughts on “11 Online Business Lessons from Jungfrau Mountain”

  1. Hi Steve, I must say your thoughts are lucid for someone who wrote this after a 10-hr hike. Then again, hikes have a way of making one feel energized (if it were me, I’d have headed straight for a nap).

    I don’t have an online business at the moment (just here for the conversation) but I enjoyed reading your lessons. For me, I really value #10. The road to anything (online business, activism, making an impact, changing the world, etc.) can be long and meandering and often, for long stretches, it’s the little things that may at times be almost indiscernible that will sustain us.

    And I’m glad you didn’t take a 300-ft plunge so you could live to tell us about this exhilarating experience of yours. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful adventure with us.

  2. Belinda, Yeah, I am kinda glad I didn’t take a 300 foot plunge too. 🙂

    You are right, I called them “lessons for business” but really they are lessons for “life” that can be applied to business.

    You are also certainly correct that the road of life is often meandering and long (hopefully). I think a lot of “wisdom” is common sense that most people have heard before, but sometimes it is nice to hear someone else say it and remind you of the path ahead.

  3. These are some valuable lesson learnt here and after that epic journey you still decide to write this post i gues you just prove lesson number 6 consistent effort this is exactly what you did but lesson number 1 is my favourite have a plan as the old saying goes if you fail to plan then you plan to fail.

  4. Fail to plan/Plan to Fail is a great one

    Like the saying goes a ‘plan’ only survives the first contact with the enemy, so you have to be ready to adapt, but no plan at all and you can ensure confusion and mistakes. Many of my plans are not complex, just jotting ideas down in a notepad really, but it is surprising how often even something simple like that can help to direct you.

  5. Hi Steve,

    Thank you for sharing you wonderful experiences here. I was truly captivated – and now I want to do the same thing, so I will be asking for your advice in the future.

    But above all, I loved the way you related the growth of your business to your holiday experience. Having a plan of attack or a marked map is definitely something important at the beginning, but being fluid and adapting to the unknown is just a great part of enjoying the journey.

    I also liked point number 10 – taking time out and celebrating a little. We can easily become sterile in the process of building online businesses. Need to recharge from time to time.

    Great post,

  6. Thanks Wayne

    I will be glad to give you whatever advice or tips you need as any plans of your solidify. I am a big one for “plans” but I always make them very simple for that exact reason they are a guide not firm law. Things ‘happen’ and you can (and should) deviate from your plan accordingly. It is great to always have a good idea what your goals and steps are even if it only means that you understand the ramifications of deviating from it.

    Point 10 is a big one, if you never take time out to enjoy for a little bit, what is really the point of all the hard work and effort. Not only is it a form of “payment” for you efforts, but, like you said, it is important to “recharging” and coming back strong.

    Thanks for the comment Wayne

  7. Hey Steve, what a really great article (and what an amazing hike).

    I really love how you’ve drawn comparisons between a hike and running a business. I guess another lesson is that you have to do things one step at a time.

    Two things that struck me, once you’ve achieved one goal, make another. Too often people just do the goal then sit back on their laurels. Secondly Ready, Fire, Aim. I’m slightly disappointed in you Steve! I thought you’d be FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!!!


    • LOL,

      You absolutely have to go for a new goal once you reach your previous goal. In business even more than in life (as I am sure you know) . If you are not growing your business somehow it will peak and begin to decline. This is even true with online business based on passive income. At some point it will all begin to decrease, unless you keep it fresh and set new goals.

  8. Loved this! We went there snowboarding one year and it’s a beautiful region. And it was hard work compared to snowboarding on 1500 ft mountains in the Catskills. I loved your analogies! Persistence and escape routes. I would drop down a line of deep fresh snow that went through the glades of the most beautiful untouched forests and thinking, “I’ll never find my way out!” but when I broke though to sun and a groomed trail, it was well worth it. Taking a risk and hoping to get out alive. It brought me back to both the beautiful week I had at Interlaken and getting through the hardships of business will hopefully reward me for another trip there real soon. Thank you!

  9. Good morning Steve:

    You are a very developed person. I could never write a post just after such an experience.
    As I will be emotionally charged and excited and will be enjoying that feeling.

    You followed a plan and then you added to it. After that you explained the reasons with analogies.

    Did you like Switzerland a lot more than other places?

    Great adventures to experience and write about, you have

    fran A

Comments are closed.