This summer, I have been really getting back into working out; in fact I’ve been trying to turn myself into a runner. My entire life I’ve had a limiting belief that I could not run. I actually have convinced myself that I am a situational asthmatic at the mere attempt to run. Let’s just say, in that way, I’m a hot mess. But after attending Lifebook this summer in Chicago, I decided that my health and fitness are so important to my ultimate life vision, that I am going to give running an honest try. As I have started power walking in my neighborhood three times per week, a few things occurred to me that I thought could help us all understand how to grow a small business.
It all starts with the hill – I always start my power walks with this monster hill around the corner from my house, a friend of mine calls it heartbreak hill. The first time or two that you go up this hill, you can’t breathe by the time you make it to the top. Starting a business is like this, too. The first few years are like a going up a monster hill. Cash flow is always tight. You are working really long hours because you think you can’t afford to hire anyone yet. You are trying figuring out your niche and your sales cycle – and it’s always six months longer than you thought. There are many days you are just not sure you’re going to able to make it to the top of the hill. But you can’t give up.
Then you hit the flat land – After you finally make it up heartbreak hill and learn all those expensive lessons in your business, you’ll be just about at breakeven. You are probably not collecting a regular salary yet. Your spouse or sweetie is growing tired of the small checks you are bringing home and how little time you are able to spend with them. This is where things can get tricky, you must keep your partner bought into the dream or they can derail you faster than a bad marketing plan. Your faith will really be tested at this phase. You must be careful not to start negative self-talk. You have a business plan; you’ve updated your plan by this point—SO WORK YOUR PLAN!
Then you need to add weight — When you are training to run, often you will add weights on your ankles and wrists, but in business your weight is employees and payroll. It’s a lot of weight to take on additional monthly expenses in your operations, but your business can only grow as far as your arm can reach. At a certain point you must hire help. You cannot spend your time doing $10 per hour work when you could be closing the next contract for $25,000.
You’ll want to test how fast you can run – Once you get a taste of what your business is like with a professional staff person, you’ll become an idea machine. You’ll be freed up to work on your business and not so much in it. You’ll start feeling so confident about your running, you might think you are ready to sign up for a marathon. Or you might feel like it’s time to expand the business into a new niche area. Beware! You need to pace yourself. Solidify some long-term contracts in your first niche to stabilize your cash flow. As you become a stronger runner, start with a half marathon first to test yourself.
Run down hill first – If you are running uphill first, you could break your spirit or your love for your small business. When you start running, try running down hill first, don’t make it too hard on yourself. One of the best ways to run down hill is by partnering with someone else already running in that direction. When you have 100% of a grape, it’s just one grape, but when you get 10% of a watermelon you can make a meal out of that. Look for strategic alliances and partners that have strengths that complement your business. You’ll be running marathons in no time with a running buddy.
I’m going to keep my readers posted on my progress to turn myself into a runner, but in the meantime pace yourself in your business. Don’t forget that you never lose in business, either you win or you learn. It’s the journey that matters. Pain is mandatory, but suffering is optional. I consider it an honor to be your resource.
(Image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1093834)