5 Key Takeaways for Business Strategy, from Running a Marathon
Last Sunday, myself and 40,000 others took part in the 2017 London Marathon. It was an incredible day where I met Royalty, ran alongside celebrities, raised money for a great charity and a man dressed as a phone box beat me!
During the 4 or so hours it took me to complete the 26.2 miles, it occurred to me that some of the lessons learned along the way translated well into the business world. So here I am sharing my 5 key takeaways from the journey:
- Explore and utilise all resources
Pre Marathon, I sought advice from those I knew run, or had completed a marathon before. Their suggestions included building strategies for pace, training and nutrition. Although I embraced their advice, I didn’t always think it really applied to me, but knew it would be foolish to ignore.
In business utilising the experience of others in areas such as sector knowledge or general “been there done that” can save time, money and fast-track success. To give an example, during the marathon I made full use of the plethora of the water, gels, sports drinks and showers laid on throughout the course. These helped give me a competitive advantage against the course – very much how a business can leverage technology, playbooks and data to get and stay ahead.
- Culture is key
I’d heard about the great atmosphere at the Marathon, and I was not disappointed. The entire course was lined with people cheering and screaming out names. Motivation on a journey as arduous as a marathon is essential but enabling the culture at the event like that is organic.
When you look closer at top performing organisations, you will often see a culture where employees are supported, encouraged and inspired to perform at their peak. What type of working environment does your business cultivate?
- Different routes to the same target
My strategy was to have an overall objective, and to distill the journey to achieve my goal into smaller, manageable elements. Plan A was to finish the marathon in under 4 hours, and the race was then split into 4 sections: 6, 13, 20 and the last 6.2 miles. This helped me to think about my ‘pace, training and nutrition’ throughout each section.
However, not long after the halfway stage an old injury kicked in. I had to quickly accept Plan A wasn’t going to work and there was no time for negativity. After about a mile’s worth of debating, Plan B: finish without walking was agreed by body and mind. (Although there were parts of me that were in favour of Plan C – just finish!)
In business it is necessary (and sometimes essential), to be agile and flexible, so you can react to change in order to survive. The important piece is that you need to react and respond to changes in circumstances quickly, and have the whole team onboard with the new vision.
- Focus and finish
I completed all my training on my own, so it was a whole new experience running alongside so many others on the day. I found the people overtaking me distracting, and there was a strong desire to catch them up. However, I also had an Alec Guinness-esque voice in my head telling me to resists these urges and stick to my strategy.
It’s important in business to stay focused and not get sidetracked by what everyone else is doing. I saw a lot of people, who had overtaken me on the early stages, staggering along in the final miles. Stick to your strategy.
- Purpose, why?
Those last 6 miles are something else. You really need to dig deep, have self-belief and have your motivation or #ReasonToRun front of mind. For businesses the same rings true in terms of remembering your purpose or ‘Why’ (as Simon Sinek famously speaks of).
It can be a real struggle running a business, but by defining your ‘Why’ and sticking to your strategy might not give you a headstart, but it will take you to the finish line. Don’t forget the human factor – you might start alone, but support and resources will help you along the way! Keep in mind why you are running your business and focus. In conclusion, running a marathon and a business have plenty of similarities.
Have you run a marathon or have a similar experience in business? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Stuart Johnson | Enterprise Account Executive