As a runner, sometimes the most challenging part of a marathon is getting to the start in a healthy mental and physical state. In business, having the proper funding and capitalization structure along with a most viable product (MVP) is critical to launching successfully. Whether that is bootstrapping, securing debt or venture capital it’s important to start in the right direction. Along with that, as a runner it takes a plan and laser like focus to be ready to run the race. My running plan from my coach has daily and weekly goals to prepare me to race. It also takes incredible focus and dedication to get up early in the morning (4:15am) to execute the plan and adjust as necessary. As in business, a well thought out business plan and focus and dedication by the business owners ensures the business is heading in the right direction.
In a marathon, one often hears the saying about hitting the wall. This can happen anytime in the race and can come un-expectedly. When this happens, the important point is to keep moving forward and re-group to finish the race. Businesses hit obstacles or challenges all the time. You lose a key customer, a new competitor enters the market, a key employee leaves the company. It’s important to have a process or methodology to address those challenges and keep moving forward. In anticipation of hitting obstacles, KPI’s (key performance indicators), can help anticipate where trouble might be coming ahead. In running, we have our running watches and running applications, which provide lots of key indicators on how our training or race is going. In business, setting up a performance dashboard with the KPI’s that are most relevant to your business (financial and non-financial), can provide the early warning signal that adjustments are required. It’s also about the team. Running can feel solitary but is truly is a team sport. Your team is made up of a diverse group of individuals all with differing capabilities and the willingness to support each other during training and racing. Likewise, in business, it’s important to hire the right people for the right role. The owners or founders cannot do everything by themselves and require capable people to embrace the journey and work as a team to deliver the business.
A dedicated marathoner, does not focus on one race. It’s about the long-term plan or goals of what they want to achieve. That could be qualifying for the Boston Marathon or achieving a particular time. It’s important to have a long-term roadmap of how to get there. I believe businesses should have a strategic plan normally 3 years out, that lays out the strategic objectives of where they want to go. Having the team on the same page on this journey which might include objectives around target markets and customer, geographical location, and people development will enable a path to future growth. In addition, to make the next leap of capability or ability, the runner might need to make some changes to get faster and stronger. One common area for runners is to work on their core strength. This provides a stronger foundation to run more efficiently and prevent injury. As businesses go through rapid growth, they need to scale so often the people, processes, and technology need to be re-visited to make the next leap. This could mean, re-engineering the supply chain process, looking at the roles needed in the organization to move forward, or innovation. Finally, I believe that forming long lasting relationships and giving back to your team or community helps at all stages of the journey. Runners, often get hurt and feel alone when they can’t run. When other team members reach out and provide encouragement, I find the runner comes back stronger and is ready to move to the next level. People in the business need to build relationships with their employees, suppliers, customers, competitors, and the community. Ultimately by giving back, the entire eco-system will be stronger, and the overall business and community will grow.
David Goodstein – Not Your Typical Finance Guy, has run 18 marathons including qualifying for the Boston Marathon 4 times. David has been in the accounting, finance, and IT industry for over 30 years and most recently has become an entrepreneur as an OnDemand CFO. David can be reached at:
Dedication: To my coach Jennifer Harney who made me a better runner, to my former manager Connie Bentley who made me a better business person and to my wife Monica who was my marathon pit crew and provided me the space to start my entrepreneurial journey.