It’s like Running a Business

Amid all the negativity this year, there have been a few inspirational moments that leave us amazed at South Africa’s great athletes. The ladies’ finish at The Comrades Marathon between Caroline Wostmann and Charne Bosman is one such moment. It may be luck, it may be natural talent. The same is often said about successful business people and the companies they take to great heights.

I read an article written by Caroline on her journey to her gold. I was struck not only by her determination but also by the similarities between life, business and sport. Caroline did not start running with the intention to win a gold medal at the Two Oceans Marathon or The Comrades. This decision came after years of training, building strength and achieving smaller goals with unrelenting focus.

Here are some key points from her story, which I think reflects a close parallel with business.

Start from somewhere

Everyone has to start at the beginning. Caroline ran her first comrades in 9 hours 17 minutes which was a far cry from a gold, but it was a start. The most important thing was that she got off the couch and started running.

If you’ve ever forced yourself to head to the gym, go cycling or put on your running shoes after weeks (or months) of inactivity, you know how hard it can be to get started. Starting your own business, or building a successful career requires the same momentous leap. You have to turn a decision into action.

Set progressive milestones with specific targets

Caroline’s first Comrades goal was to simply finish the race. She was happy with her performance and after enjoying the feeling of accomplishment, she went on to set new more challenging goals for the next year.

Your first sale, first client, first mention in the media – celebrate each achievement and then whatever your goals are, build on them. Set your targets higher; expect greater things to come.

Mix things up a bit

As she made her way to the top, Caroline was always clear on her target and with the clarity came dedication and hours of training. She consulted with experts and changed her training to ensure she could achieve her goal. By changing her training she was able to increase her speed and her endurance.

The same applies in business – no one gets to the top resting on their laurels. Consult with experts, dedicate your energy and use time wisely to improve your skills, service or product.

Use technology

One of the two main things that Caroline attributes her increased speed to is that she invested in the best technology to help track and improve her training. Of course the latest Garmin watch on its own would not have enabled her to win a gold but the key thing is that technology is definitely an enabler and far too often this is over looked.

What technology do you have at your fingertips to help grow your business, improve processes and make your clients life easier? Identify and use it.

Accept that things don’t always go as planned

Caroline had her challenges along the way and no matter how prepared she was for a race, there was always the risk of unknown factors. She always pulled through by relying on her training and preparation and knowing her body.

When things go wrong, identify the cause, learn the lesson and move on. Don’t let setbacks hold you back. Stay focused on the goal and pull yourself through to the next level.

Leaders in business, as in sport, do not suddenly appear from nowhere. Those that are true champions get to the top after years of hard work and preparation. When they reach the start line, they are prepared for whatever might come their way.

These principles are all true for anyone wanting to be successful in business. So if you find yourself or your business stuck at a level maybe it is time you make a new start, set some specific goals, mix things up, invest in different technology and accept things may not always go as planned. It takes determination to make it to the top.