The occasion for our visit was celebratory—43 years of marriage. It was also a chance to get away from phones, computers, and the constant barrage of negative news.
Our Vermont travels included stops in Bennington, Wilmingon, Marlboro, Brattleboro, Weston, Plymouth, Quechee, Rutland, Granville, Cabot, Waterbury, Burlington, Shelburne, Ferrisburgh, and Middlebury. We crisscrossed the state, enjoying spectacular scenery, beautiful architecture, fine food, and wonderful people.
Vermont’s many mountains meant traversing roads that meandered up, down, and around to reach each destination. As I navigated each new scene, it was easy to draw parallels to the uneven path that business and leadership often takes.
We passed many small businesses, some still thriving and others abandoned, victims of economic downturns, bad decisions, and likely poor leadership. The success stories included Cabot Creamery and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, both brands that are known by millions of consumers.
The leaders of these companies have been able to weather the peaks and valleys of life and business. What sets them apart? Was it luck, hard work, or something else? Here are a few things I think made a difference.
- Great products. Both these companies produce high-quality products. Only the best ingredients are used. They pay attention to every link in the supply chain. This uncompromising approach sets them apart.
- Great people. A visit to either of these companies showcases the excellent workforce they have assembled. Friendly, knowledgeable tour guides. Personable customer service staff. Dedicated production teams. Committed, hardworking farm families. Success always includes paying attention to those who support the company mission.
- Great atmospheres. Fun is another ingredient that stands out for these two companies. At times it almost seems like the products are secondary to everyone having a wonderful experience. Entertaining videos, engaging tours, free samples, and opportunities to interact with staff make every visit memorable.
Of course there is more to leadership and business success than these items. It helps to have a great business idea, sound financial practices, strong branding, the latest technology, and innovative thinking.
Yet, sometimes it is the simple things that help us navigate the peaks and valleys of careers, business cycles, and leadership. Our trip to Vermont was a great reminder that the peaks and valleys I struggle with at times are there to teach me valuable life lessons.