I was once asked to compare training and racing for endurance sports to running a business and the parallels are extremely similar. When you begin training for an Ironman you start from scratch, even if you have been involved in the sport for years and are in good shape. Starting a business is exactly the same in that you are starting from scratch. Lots of questions, concerns, stresses, wonder, fear, excitement are involved and you may hit every one of those emotions and more in a single day.
On October 9th I will be racing Ironman Louisville and will have gone through 16 weeks of training. 16 weeks of early alarms (4:00am) to get out of bed and swim, bike and run. 16 weeks of stretching and core exercises and going to get sports massages that sometimes hurt just as much as the training itself. There are also recovery days and days where I do nothing but sleep in and enjoy my family and friends. Running a business is exactly the same way. Lots of early alarms and late nights. Doing things that hurt but in the long run will help. Talking with family, friends, partners and vendors.
Below are the 5 things that are similar to training and racing an endurance event with running a business.
- Focus On The Here And Now Rather Than The Finish Line
I am not only an athlete but I also coach athletes in endurance sports so I see the spectrum at a full 360 degrees. One of the first questions I ask my athletes, and myself, is: What is your goal? Once I know that I tell them to forget it because for the next 16 weeks we are going day by day. When the race comes they will be in a position to accomplish their goal but first they need to do what it takes to get to the finish line.
As part of my saying this I refer to the question: How do you eat an elephant? And the answer is one bite at a time. The daunting task has to be broken down into pieces and parts. Accomplish each one before moving on to the next and success will follow. Will there be hiccups along the way? Yes, but continual forward motion will get you to your finish line or goal.
When running a business you may have a goal for revenue/profit for a quarter or year. That is the big number but what can you do to get there? You can accomplish each task along the way and putting the smaller numbers together to reach the bigger number. As the quarter progresses you may have to adjust your strategy but the end goal is still in sight and you will still have broken down the components of that goal into attainable pieces.
- Create A Schedule But Be Flexible
When I train for an Ironman I have a 16 week schedule that will help me reach my goals of crossing the finish line at a certain time. The schedule has a conceptual feel to it. Meaning that there are days with miles to run but nothing about intensity. As the week approaches and I gauge how my body and mind feel I will adjust the intensity. If I feel good then the intensity increases but if I have stress or my body is dragging then the intensity gets lessened.
With running a business having a schedule is key. There are so many components to running your own business that it can run away from you quickly. Think about how you are going to prospect and cold call. How long will that take? How about meetings from that prospecting? When do those happen? Let’s not forget that you have to control your finances and marketing.
I would setup a calendar that Monday and Wednesday are cold-call/prospecting days. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for meetings and Friday is an administration day. Of course there will be clients who cannot meet on a Tuesday or Thursday so you adjust your calendar but having a base from which to work is key.
- Take Time To Relax. You Are Running Your Own Business
Why run a business or compete at endurance events if you are not going to have fun? We need to continually remind ourselves why we are doing this. For endurance sports it may be to lose weight, prove to yourself that you can accomplish this monstrous goal. For running a business it could be for financial freedom, flexibility to work when you want or to be a bigger part of the community.
Regardless of your reasons you will have to remind yourself of the why. Why are you doing this and then stay on path but along the way do not get so wrapped up in what you are doing that you ignore your family and friends. While triathlon is an individual sport to compete in, there are a lot of people willing to help you achieve your goals. Running a business is the same way. You will want to engage the people around you. Possibly form a Board of Directors of YOU so that they can help you stay on task, remind you of your why and at the same time have fun.
- Celebrate All The Victories And Learn From The Failures
Running your own business is not a short-term concept but rather a long-term goal that many people have and yet they forget to celebrate their accomplishments along the way. Celebrate the small victories even if they might seem meaningless. For example, when you finalize your business cards or you give the final approval on a website build you should celebrate that. Do not just check it off the to-do list but truly sit back and say to yourself: I am on my way.
When a workout for an Ironman is complete I do not just go back and have breakfast or dinner but rather I say to myself: great work today in getting that done. It is the small victory that keeps me going to the next day’s workout but not every workout is a win.
Some workouts, just like a sales call, do not go well. Instead of beating myself up about the failure I chose to think about what lead to the failure. In sports it may be that I did not sleep well or I was dehydrated. In business, it could be that I did not prepare my presentation to solve the client’s problems or that I tried to sell with a tactic (discounted pricing) instead of a strategy that proved I wanted to be a partner and not a vendor. Regardless of the reason for failure I learn from them rather than beat myself up about it.
- Know Your Strengths And Weaknesses
This may seem obvious but some people forget what they are good at and what they need to work on. For me, swimming is my biggest weakness and I set a goal for 2016 to swim 125,000 yards. It is the end of September and I have swam 130,000 yards so I changed my goal to 140,000. Running is my strength but I do not ignore it but rather I work to improve it knowing that it will improve slightly where swimming will improve dramatically. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses allows me to put a focus my training during the off-season.
In business, your strength may be marketing but there is still the financial/accounting side that needs to be handled. Instead of trying to become a CPA it may make more sense for you to engage a professional to handle that side of your business for you. Think about it in terms of ROI. Are you better off trying to learn the latest accounting laws or doing what you do best and marketing your business?
Do not be embarrassed that you cannot do all things and be smart about it. Engage the right people to help you. This goes back to the Board of Directors of YOU. Ask them about your strengths and weaknesses and how they see them, then follow up and ask them who they know that can help you improve your weaknesses.
There are a lot of comparisons between being an endurance athlete and running a business. These are just 5 commonalities and I would love to hear from you what you think.
What else is common between sports and business?
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