This weekend I ran the Rock N Roll Phoenix Marathon for the 2nd time, making it my 5th full marathon. With some new business opportunities on the horizon, this race got me thinking; running a startup is a lot like running a marathon.
1. There are no overnight successes
Many people like to proclaim that a company just happened or a marathon was easy, well, they are lying. No matter how quickly you become successful, there is always some practice and work that needs to go into that success. It would be really hard to get off the couch and run a marathon when you have never run before. Of course it is not impossible, but the majority of us out there would not make it. Startups are very similar, you cannot just have a great idea and wake up the next morning to a successful company. It takes planning, execution, and most times, at least a few sleepless nights.
2. It will not be cheap
Running is one of those sports that gets a lot of praise for being cheap. Anyone can pick up a pair of shoes and you are on your way. Although this is true to get started, eventually you will want to get better and this means better equipment, new nutrition, more races, and well, that can cost a bunch of money. Startups are very similar. In this day in age you can start a company doing a lot of the costly things yourself, but at a certain point you will have to spend money to make money.
Anyone can go to the store and make a great steak but if you want a truly amazing meal you need to cough up the $70 – $100 to have a professional chef cook the steak. As a startup we sometimes forget that we are not masters at everything and putting the right people in the right roles can take our companies to the next level.
3. It’s not always going to be glamorous
I always say you need to learn to smile through the pain otherwise, you will never smile during a marathon. 26 miles is a long time to feel one emotion. It will feel much more like a roller coaster. Like I said in point one, your startup won’t become successful overnight so be prepared for that very same roller coaster. There will be ups and downs, there will be small goals achieved and others missed. Don’t forget, it’s all about getting to the finish line. There will be times you will have to put on a smile and tell everyone that things are going great even though you know you have not slept in a week and probably need a shower.
4. You will doubt yourself
To build on the last point, there will be times when you feel like you can’t do it. Do not worry, we all feel this way sometimes. In fact YOU WILL DOUBT YOURSELF! In marathons when this happens, runners turn to what is commonly called runners math. This is when we start telling ourselves “Just get to the next aid station, its only 2 miles away and you can do at least 2 more miles”. Breaking the large success into many small successes is a great way to build confidence and to celebrate the small wins. The same can be said about celebrating the small success in business, it will certainly help you gain confidence and keep your sanity. And when all else fails, you will “Google it” and figure it all out!
5. Find your support team because this life will get lonely at times
When I ran my first race, I did as much research as I could. What I didn’t expect is that every blog post about tips to running your first race stated that you should read every sign and give every kid a high five. I didn’t really get it at first, shouldn’t you stay focused? The thing is that the race is just part of the journey and this journey can get really long and really lonely.
Running is not a team sport or at least it is not thought of that way. It wasn’t until I found my running group that I really started improving. They were not running the race for me but rather that I was learning from all their experience. This is something I tested in the business world and what do you know, it worked! Just because someone is not a “partner” in the company, doesn’t mean they don’t want to share some wisdom or see you succeed. Having people to brainstorm with will be more beneficial then you can even imagine. Let’s not forget, it will make the journey a lot less lonely.
6. It’s a learning experience
You will have bad races or marketing campaigns. Those are the times when I have learned the most. For example, eating new nutrition on race day didn’t work, I will not do that again. In startups a failed marketing campaign can be life or death. This makes every decision stressful and will cause you to overthink, your chances of success goes down. There will be another race and another chance. Keep your head up and don’t be blinded by the outcome and rather make sure you are learning from every experience. Even if this startup is not a success, you may be able to use something you learned in a future opportunity.
7. Have Fun
One of the biggest thing people forget is to have fun! As we drive ourselves to be better, we tend to lose the joy that got us to the start line in the first place. Remember to not take yourself too seriously and to enjoy every step forward.
8. You will be hooked!
Every runner I have ever talked to tells the same story, “I was struggling at mile 18 and questioning why I do this but then when I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t wait to find my next big race to train for”. How could putting our bodies through this amount of stress really result in a want to do more? There is something about the rush of running a race or starting a new business that we can not get anywhere else. At the end of your company’s life you will either want to get out of the startup business altogether or you won’t be able to wait for the next great idea!
9. Be Prepared
Let’s face it, there is always a chance that you can walk into a situation and run the 5k race of your life or win the big client without any extra work at all. Your chances of success with even a tiny bit of preparedness skyrockets. Being prepared will help with confidence and mental stability, and lets face it both running and business is a very mental game. If you doubt yourself at the start line, you probably won’t make it very far. Keep an open mind and remember, you have gone further than most people will ever go and that is a reason to be confident.
10. It’s All Worth It
The moral of the story is, It’s All Worth It! All the early mornings and sleepless nights, all the stressful days, all the new skills learned and new friends met, all the pain and small successes, are all worth it. Not to sound cliche, but it truly is the journey and not the destination. Please do not forget to stop every once in a while and look up because you may be amazed at what you see.