This article originally appeared in The Tennessean.
It must have been something about the start of spring that inspired me to do something outside of my comfort zone.
With some apprehension, I slowly made my way into the lobby. The very kind woman behind the front desk seemed to sense my trepidation. “Namaste,” she said.
At first, I thought she had just sneezed. And then she said, “Hello! Welcome to hot yoga class.”
My mom and my kid, who are both yoga enthusiasts, had been urging me to give it a try. Being “flexibility-challenged” and lacking basic coordination, I had always figured yoga was something that I was better off avoiding out of fear of failure (and embarrassment.)
But here I was, in the lobby of a hot yoga studio with my mat in hand.
We started with some of the basic moves, and I quickly realized that this would be even harder than I thought. Flexibility was only half the battle. Balance, core strength, breathing, and posture immediately came into play.
My “downward dog” pose looked more like an injured giraffe. My “tree” pose looked a bit like a wilting flower. And my “cobra” pose bore a closer resemblance to a sleeping turtle. At 105 degrees in the room, I was covered in sweat in the first 30 seconds of class.
The instructor, seeing that I was struggling, encouraged me not to give up. She explained that the first step of yoga is to build a foundation. The idea is to focus first on your feet, legs and core and work from there. She told me not to worry about flexibility for now, but just to concentrate on balancing with my feet, building endurance in my legs, and strengthening my core. This foundation, she said, had to be in place before you could do any of the poses correctly.
Because I was starting from scratch, I could see that building a foundation would not be easy. But I knew that if I wanted to make it to the next level, I would need to follow her advice.
In business, having a strong foundation is also not so easy. But, without a strong foundation a company can’t get to the next level. And ultimately, it will collapse (like I did when I tried the “warrior one” pose.)
So, what does it take to build a good foundation for a company?
Just like in yoga, great companies have balance, endurance, and a strong core.
In a company, balance comes in the form of finding a healthy equilibrium between risk and reward. Take on too much risk and a business will fall over but taking on too little risk can keep you from growing.
A foundation of endurance in a company is critical to strive for from day one. All businesses have ups and downs, some of which may be out of their control. The key is being able to ride out the downs so that you can live to fight another day. This means watching expenses and having the capital on hand to get through any rainy days,
And a strong core, just like in yoga, is what sets the stage for everything else in a company. A strong core in business means having strong leadership to help ensure growth. Without a foundation of strong leaders, it’s difficult for companies to scale.
As I finished up the class, the teacher told me I did a great job, that I should drink plenty of water and that I should expect to be sore. We exchanged a final “Namaste” with one another, and I limped out the door.
Although I have a long way to go to build a foundation, I plan to go back. Hopefully my downward dog pose will eventually look more like a dog than a giraffe.
JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba. A Nashville custom software development and IT support company. Visit www.atiba.com or www.atibanetworkservices.com for more info.