I ran the Akron Marathon a few weeks ago. It was my first marathon and it was certainly a great experience. For the record, I finished and was happy with my time as a first-time marathoner.
I was amazed by the amount of people from my hometown that supported, ran, volunteered and came out to cheer for the runners. We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful community and organizers who make this event possible each year. I also had lots of time to think during my run. I thought about how building and running a business is very similar to training for and running a marathon.
Here are some things that I learned that may be helpful to those running or thinking of starting a business.
Don’t go out too fast.
Everyone is anxious and excited at the beginning of a race. The same holds true for starting a business. You (and hopefully your customers and staff) are excited about what you do. But, if you start out too fast, don’t pace yourself and don’t stick to your own strategy, you can create errors that can set you back. It is important to take the time to develop a comprehensive plan (like a training strategy) and stick to it.
Be realistic about your goals.
I wanted to finish the race in less than five hours. But my time was a little slower than that and I was still happy. What I realized was that sometimes the goals we set may not always be realistic and we fall short. However, the diligence in setting the goal and the discipline applied in working toward it will always lead to a positive return. Ultimately, preparing the best we can to achieve the goal may be just as important as meeting the goal itself.
Finding the right people is important.
When you train for a run a marathon, it is important to find people who will support you, push you and be there before, during and after the race. The wife, Andrea, and daughter, Michaela, were there for me. The same holds true in business. It is easy to fall into the trap of hiring people because they are your family, friends or have the right experience. But it is even more important to find those who will help you get better, fit within your company culture, will grow with you and help you toward the many finish lines you will have during the lifetime of your business.
Anyone who says running a marathon is easy can’t be telling the truth. Anyone who says running a business is easy is lying too! While running a business (and a race) can be rewarding and exhilarating, it takes a great deal of hard work, perseverance, patience and humor.
Celebrate even small accomplishments.
Some business owners never celebrate reaching the small, yet important milestones. I realized as I ran the marathon that every time I hit a specific mile marker (5 miles, half marathon, 20 miles) that I was able to celebrate even a little bit. Business owners need to take time to celebrate – and include key staff – when there are even small accomplishments that will propel the business forward. It helps a great deal with staff morale. You may never reach the complete fulfillment of your vision but you must find satisfaction and joy in the journey.
Will I run again next year? Maybe, maybe not. I have yet to decide. But I will definitely take the experience and the lessons learned with me for a very long time. The one I learned the most…. Running a business, like long races, is a marathon, not a sprint.