Small Business is a Marathon: Advice For When You Hit the Wall

runner marathon public domainI have a friend who is training for the New York Marathon. While I’m all for running and a regimen of aerobic exercise, I’m a little baffled by the men and women who run marathons.

However, from my years of experience I know that the similarities between running a small business and running a marathon are many. I would quickly add that when you’re managing a small business there aren’t folks cheering for you along the way…or an endorphin high…or even hydration stations sometimes!

In fact, instead of encouragers along the route, small business owners often need to cope with naysayers, detractors and all forms of critics. Further, the route a small business must take to get to success is seldom – if ever – clearly marked. It’s quite easy to take a wrong turn and suddenly find yourself in a world of hurt, so let’s look at some of the most important things to keep in mind as we “run the race.”

Failure isn’t bad. In business it’s true that if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying hard enough. In today’s business climate you aren’t going to be a true success by always driving in the middle lane. A virtual requirement for success is to differentiate yourself and that means you must take risks and with risks come failures.

Every failure is a learning experience, so when you fail learn the lesson, pat yourself on the back for daring to be different and go on to the next idea.

“No” isn’t the end of the world. Your no-to-yes ratio will lean heavily toward no even if you have the best product or service since the invention of fire. I know that small business owners often find it difficult to separate themselves personally from their businesses. But remind yourself that rejecting a business arrangement is not a personal rejection. When it happens, review the failure advice above.

Observe the kitchen remodel rule. If you’ve undertaken any major home repair project you know that they always take longer and cost more than the original estimate. Ditto with a small business. You will discover many unanticipated challenges as you build your business. Give yourself more time (and money) than you think should be required and above all, be patient.

Anil Sinha, who heads up India’s version of the FBI, covered it very well when he said, “Patience is key to success. Good things come to those who wait. Success doesn’t come overnight for most people. It requires a lot of learning, hard work and experience to reach a certain life goal.”

Don’t let the whiners distract or discourage you. There’s a great saying that covers a lot of modern life, “Everyone’s a critic!” You will have plenty of detractors along the way and many of them will be well meaning. Be especially wary of those who think what you’re doing is too difficult or demanding. If it wasn’t, everyone would be doing it and the fundamental law of economics teaches us that no financial gain accompanies the easy things.

With all of this said, pursue your small business dream with your eyes open and your resolve steeled against the discouragement you are certain to experience. While I’ve never run a marathon, I understand that there is a time when almost all runners hit a “wall” and they need to dig deep inside themselves to push through it. Do the same in your small business.

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