Running a Business Is Like Running a Marathon – Part One
It all began with a desire to change my current “situation”. I had developed a cortisol fueled, red wine fed, lunch-at-my-desk, muffin top. By the end of the workday, my pants that fit in the morning, felt like tight rubber bands around my waist. Every morning, as I drove to work, I would see a bunch of Nike-clad, ponytail flipping runners on the side of the road in their short shorts and tank tops. I don’t know if I envied the fact they were outside running while I was headed to work – likely on a conference call already, in my car – or I longed for the slim, toned and strong looking, yet relaxed body. And the ponytail peeking out from beneath the cap, of course. I really wanted one of those.
I would be turning 50 soon and had never done an athletic thing in my life. Hauling books to and fro from the library is not considered a sport. I had not done any sports, or dance, or track (except for the obligatory gym classes in school) and had very short hair. My brothers got all the athletic genes in the family – football and baseball stars in high school and college. But not their bookworm sister. I had managed to inherit no athletic genes; I was gawky and gangly and mostly could not balance well on my own 2 feet. I tripped a lot. Still do.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself signing up for a Learn To Run class at my local running store. Actually it wasn’t that surprising … there were a few glasses of Cabernet involved. “What have I gotten myself into?” I thought as I pecked my credit card number into the browser window. “You’re registered!!” the screen said. “I’m crazy!!” I thought. I picked up my glass of wine and toasted my newest stupidity.
Many entrepreneurs start a business the same way I began my running “career”. They have a desire for something in their lives – whether it is a paycheck with no boss attached to it, or a burning desire to bring a passion into the world or sheer desperation (like me). They often have no background in starting or operating a business and find their hands poised over a keyboard applying for an EIN number, snazzy URL or LLC name. That is one of the greatest gifts of living in a first world country: it doesn’t take a lot to start a business. Usually some room on a credit card for some fees and voila! You have a business!
There really should be a warning label or something. There is nothing to warn you of the long days and longer nights coming your way. Nothing to warn you that more money was going to go OUT than COME IN for the foreseeable future. Nothing to warn you that you would hear “no” more times than you had ever heard in your Cheerio-crazed toddler years. No one warns you that will network, network, network, and network. And that after driving all over the place to meet with people who often want you to buy THEIR stuff and have no desire to buy YOUR STUFF, you have to go back to your office, garage, back-room, or store and put in a full day to get this business off the ground. Every fear you had in high school of being the one not chosen for the sport in gym class, or not being asked to the prom, or looking like an idiot in Chemistry class comes flying to the front of your head.
No one warned me about the miles I was about to put in for the running course I signed up for either.
At least I had the good sense to sign up for a running class and luckily the store was across the street from my favorite Starbucks. I gathered my courage, bought a latte and attended my first class. I was winded just from having to trot across the street due to traffic. That breathlessness should have made me stop and take pause. But now I was on a mission: Get toned! Get fit!! Get skinny!! Get a ponytail!! Buy some short shorts -ok maybe those will come a bit later after I got toned.
A skinny, toned, fit person taught the class. I sat in the back, surveyed the room while sipping my mocha latte and realized I was the oldest person in the class. Most were younger people with a metabolism. Some were heavier than others but all were younger. I was older, out of breath, and did I mention I had short hair?
Entrepreneurs should begin their journey by attending seminars and workshops. There are amazing courses taught by the division of the Small Business Administration (SBA) called SCORE. These classes are often free or minimal cost. Retired executives that wish to donate their time and expertise to business owners lead the courses. This is INVALUABLE education and every small business owner should make the time to take these courses. Other sources for low cost education can be found in local colleges. Some coaches (like me) offer low cost training as well. Use GOOGLE to find these courses and people and learn, learn, learn.
But in business as in running, there is always someone (likely a coach) that asks you to come up with a goal – a target – something to shoot for. A goal? Isn’t it enough that I am here and willing to go out there and run? Now I have to set a goal?
And in business … a revenue goal? A profit goal? Isn’t it enough that I am upright and doing my best? Apparently not.
Things were about to get interesting after my first few runs. In business, the same thing happens: you hang your shingle, print up business cards and set out to conquer the world. You quickly come up against the reality: it’s a treadmill out there.
Stay tuned for the next episode of how Running a Business is Like Running A Marathon – Part Two.