One of the lessons I’ve learnt over 35 years of running my own businesses – and also advising on and observing others – is that very little value is generated in a ‘fast foot race’.
Good things come from time, careful execution, trial and error, and patience.
I'm spending a few hours in the gym these days trying to tone and trim up a bit. As a tall guy who’s less than perfectly coordinated, there are some exercises that are a bit of a challenge – barbell squats for one. My form is not a picture of symmetry and grace.
I've enlisted the advice of a trainer and after shaking his head at my form, notwithstanding the positive effort, he gave me a few lead-up exercises to help – focusing on stretching and strengthening the key muscle enablers to the end squat result.
It got me thinking about the analogy above relating to running a business i.e. treating it like a fast foot race.
If you attempt to sprint – or do a squat – without laying the foundations that strengthen the ‘key muscle enablers’, there’s a good chance you won’t be successful.
Running a business is similar. Like a runner working on their form and fitness, a business has internal aspects which you can influence e.g. your offer, your people, processes, culture, financial position etc. And it also has external aspects – clients, market and competitive dynamics, regulations and unforeseen events (COVID-19 for instance!) – where you may have little control.
I believe it’s a smart risk management strategy to run your business like a well-prepared athlete, and to consider the ‘race’ a marathon, not a sprint. Why so?
Well back to my squats. I did two sets this morning – the form was really awful! And then I did the stretches and exercises on the contributing muscle groups, loosened up and improved my range of motion. Then I undertook the third set of squats – they went pretty well! Not perfect by any means, but a lot better.
If I reflect on my first 20-plus years in my career and in business, I was the guy who didn't have much patience. I was internally driven and motivated to move heaven and earth to make a difference and achieve. I wore my drive and impatience as a badge of honour. Sound familiar?
I now know that trial and error, shoring up against risks and issues, using data and improving understanding, and having patience, are the ingredients for running a better ‘race’, both at the gym (I think) and also in business (I have no doubt).
It all about building sustainable value for the future.
If you’re in business and would like some independent advice on strategy and approaches to building sustainable business value, we’d be pleased to have a chat. You can contact our team on +61 2 9893 1803 for a confidential, no-obligation initial discussion.
James Price has over 30 years' experience in providing strategic, commercial and financial advice to Australian and international business clients. James' blogs provide business advice for aspiring and current small to mid-sized business owners, operators and managers.