I have observed several parallels between running a business and running for fitness. When I run in the morning, I enjoy seeing different types of people at the track. Obviously experienced runners breeze around, passing me two and three times before they're done. Other runners (especially newer ones like me) are slower and more measured in their stride. I also see people walking quite slowly, as if they are recovering from injury or surgery. My inclination when I first arrive is to see if I can run like the experienced runners. I think, “Maybe today will be the day …”
As I complete my pre-run stretch, I see them breeze by me. Then, I re-think my options. I can't run with the experienced runners (yet), but the runners that are slightly faster than me are a different story. When I start out behind them, and maintain a pace slightly behind them throughout my run, I challenge myself, stretch my limits a bit and slowly increase my endurance. It's the same in business. Here are three ways you can use this analogy to pace yourself for success in your small business:
Pick the right pace setters. Choose people who are running slightly ahead of you, and are in constant motion. If they're too far ahead, you won't be able to follow their pace efficiently. Make sure they maintain a blog, a Twitter account and an email newsletter so you can see what they do and how they do it. Watch, and put your own spin on it for your business.
Success leaves footprints, and what works for others is likely to work for you if you pace yourself.
Watch for unexpected clues. From time to time, your pace setters will speed up or slow down. You don't have to follow suit, but look for clues as to why they may be changing their approach, especially if they seem to be doing it in unison. (Big clue!) They may have noticed a new opportunity that you may be able to pick up on.
Set the pace for others. As you build your business by picking up on the pace set by those ahead of you, don't forget to set the pace for those behind you. You are a role model. You are a leader. You are being watched, and the things you do each day will either help or hinder those coming along behind you.
During your first five or so years in business, you'll see lots of experienced people in your industry running like the wind. They make it look easy, but when you look closely, you can see that a lot goes into it. You want to be like them in some ways, but if you try to keep their pace at the start of your business, you will burn out quickly, eventually accomplishing nothing.
Remember, in the long run, consistency is better than intensity.
Oh sure, keep your eye on the more experienced business leaders and their companies. But if you're pacing yourself slightly behind the right people, and those people are pacing themselves slightly behind even more of the right people, you will eventually join in.
Question: What are your tips and experiences for pacing yourself in business?