I have completed 4 marathons in my life and when I stopped to think about the effort required to train for one, it occurred to me there are many parallels to the effort expended in starting and running a business.
Deciding To Do It Whether you want to run a marathon or start a business, at some point in time you make the decision to do it. Each person’s motivation may be different but the end result is making the commitment to proceed.
Making a Plan
Planning is probably the most important part of the entire process because it provides the roadmap to success. For a marathon runner it includes picking a race, putting together a training schedule, deciding if you want a coach or not and seeking one out if you want one, getting the right shoes and clothes, and finding running routes where you can train. It’s not so different for a business. The business plan includes setting goals and objectives, finding a mentor or advisor if you want one, buying the equipment you’ll need to run the business, setting out a marketing plan, and getting the funding needed for the business. Without a plan, you’re just running without purpose!
Adjusting to Setbacks
The best laid plans can go awry and setbacks are inevitable. Sometimes the setbacks can be minor — a training run that doesn’t happen because of lightning or an ad campaign that doesn’t quite create the excitement you were hoping for. These can be overcome with some tweaks to the plan. But sometimes the setbacks are major — an injury that makes running impossible or a necessary bank loan that doesn’t come to fruition. These setbacks require hard decisions like whether to continue. Just like a marathon runner who continues to train
when they are injured and ends up doing more damage, possibly ending any chance of ever doing a marathon, a business that reaches an impasse too difficult to surmount can do more damage by plowing forward (like bankruptcy court). It is possible for time to correct the setback — waiting until the injury is healed and picking a race later in the calendar, or waiting until the credit markets open up to get that loan. You just need to decide if you want to wait.
Provided you haven’t hit a major setback that puts a complete end to your plan, to be successful you must be committed to the process. A training schedule that you don’t adhere to will lead to disaster on race day. A business plan not followed will result in half-hearted attempts to be successful.
The Big Day
For the marathoner, race day is the culmination of all of the hard work and training that has consumed their life for the past 16 – 24 weeks. It’s the big day and they savor every moment. Every business has a big day as well (or several) — the pitch to a retailer that results in a purchasing contract for your product or landing a big consulting job. Businesses should savor these moments as well.
On to the Next Challenge
Once the marathon is done, many people feel a let down. The thing they have been working so hard to achieve is now done. This usually leads to signing up for another race so the whole process can start again. Yes, the marathoner is a strange breed who finds pleasure in the pain they put themselves through. So, too, is the business person. They work hard to get that contract and instead of resting on their laurels, they move on to the next challenge because that is what defines success for them.
Whether your race is 26.2 miles or the quest to be the best in your industry, run well, run often and never look back!