The Entrepreneurial Marathon
by Eugene Thompson
Planning, commitment, perseverance and endurance are just a few words that often are used to describe individuals that run a marathon. Those adjectives are also often used to portray entrepreneurial leaders that successfully run a corporation. I don't believe there is any question of the similarities in both endeavors. Being a successful business leader is about engaging your journey like a marathon, not a sprint. If you’ve actually run a marathon, you know the high at the starting line and the low of mile 20 when you just can’t take one more step.
The real question we should ask ourselves is, “Do marathon runners make better leaders?”
I didn’t consider myself a runner when I started in 2013 at 47 years old. Runners are naturals who stride through the miles with the greatest of ease and speed. It was something that was vital for me to learn. How many people think the same thing of successful leaders? …that it must be natural and easy for them? Maybe for some, but not for most of us. Anything less than a marathon might be accomplished by sheer determination. However for consistent success, proper training is required.
Here are some similarities that I have found along my personal journey.
What level of commitment has been given to this new endeavor? For myself, I announced on social media of my intentions of running a marathon in January of 2014. This was in response to my mother passing away from the ill effects brought on by diabetes. My father passed away from the same twenty-five years earlier. I too have diabetes.
How about your determination to succeed in your business? For myself, I resigned from my job with no other options but to push ahead and force myself to succeed. My family expected me to provide for them. Sheer desire and will power were the determining factors for success.
Failure wasn’t an option.
Less than 1% of the country's population will run and complete a full marathon. Similarly about that many entrepreneurs achieve businesses with revenue over $1M. In the case of a marathon, not many can just decide to run a marathon without training. It takes countless hours of training short and long distances to finally achieve that 26.2 mile reward. A strategic plan is created outlining the number of miles each week with increasing goals as the imminent date approaches. Food plans and diets are an important factor in maintaining your energy and fuel. Other foods like greasy burgers or alcohol might need to be eliminated from your diet.
Likewise with a business you cannot expect to open the office doors and have the “they will come” attitude. Probably not the best business plan. An idea requires a well thought out plan and proper preparation. Maybe smaller steps are required at first with modest increases as the business develops and grows. Don't think about making more revenue as your only objective. Hiring employees, developing marketing strategies, customer service and accounting procedures should be carefully considered for the business to grow successfully.
Consider all the requirements necessary to succeed.
On the day of your first marathon the excitement is high. There are thousands of individuals packed into the corral awaiting the start. Feeling insignificant for the moment and very much alone. Butterflies in your stomach exist but you tell yourself you got this, after all you have trained and prepared for this day. A few friendly strangers share words of encouragement on your new adventure. Waiting for the start of the race is the most difficult part.
Beginning a business venture can feel like the start of a race. Exciting but lonely. Scary and not necessarily secure in oneself. Sure a few people congratulate you and share encouraging words but honestly when times get tough they will not be there to help you. You'll need to run it on your own. At the start everything takes so long until you can actually RUN. Waiting for your opportunity to do what you have prepared for.
And then you hear the bullhorn……it's time to begin!
The race begins and the first thing you do……start off way too fast. Your training and game plan reminds you of the intended pace, however the excitement of the moment and the adrenaline has you nearly sprinting during the first few miles. Slow down and stick to your agenda. This is an endurance race not a sprint. Consistency will be required if you intend on making it to the finish line. By mile 5 or 6 you begin to pass those that started too fast as well. At mile 12 or 13, the half way point, you see others struggling. You wonder if they will finish. You wonder if you will finish.
So many times there are those that get caught up in the beginning of a business and do not focus on their business plan. To run a business for a few years is not your goal, it is a long term investment and it will take endurance to achieve success. 50% of businesses never make it past the fifth year. Only 25% will see their fifteenth anniversary.
Endurance is the ultimate driving factor in completing the entrepreneurial marathon.
It was never explained how difficult it would be when you “hit the wall”. That invisible barrier somewhere after mile 18 hits hard. Knees are hurting, legs aching, stomach empty and by now your soaked in sweat. Inside your mind you ask yourself why you ever wanted to run a marathon. Your self confidence wavers as doubt begins to grab a foothold inside your head.
Every business has it’s own struggles and every leader needs to respond to the hurdles it faces. There will be some, possibly even many, over the course of the business life. That wall presents itself as a slowed economy, difficult clients, competitors, finding responsible employees and more overwhelming problems. The only way to navigate through is to remember your initial motivation and dreams, grit your teeth and push through the pain.
Defy the doubt!
THE FINISH LINE
A successful leader takes responsiblity for action and reaction, decision and indecision. Likewise for every success and every failure. The same holds true for a marathon runner. Failing to develop proper plans in the beginning can guarantee failure before the starting gun fires. The inability to maintain your endurance or persevere through the difficult times can cause you to collapse before gaining sight of the finish line. The successful leader knows how to run the race and balance all aspects of the challenges of a marathon. They understand the skills which are required to position themselves with just enough reserves to sprint that last half mile and cross the finish line victoriously!
These are the remarkable parallels between the qualities required to be a marathon runner and that of a successful leader in any organization. Victory is now yours.…..now try repeating that over and over. Have a FUN RUN!
After completing six marathons Eugene’s first year, he signed up for fourteen full marathons for 2015. All in the hopes of encouraging more awareness about diabetes for those suffering. Follow his exploits on Facebook. RunEugeneRun