Back in 2013, I competed in, and finished, my first full IRONMAN™ race in Panama City Beach, FL. I’m very proud of this personal accomplishment, but I also found myself contemplating how the preparation for, and execution of, my race plan relates to business strategy. The parallels were surprising.
In the year prior to IRONMAN™, I broke my leg during an obstacle course/mud run. This was my first major injury since I was a child. It knocked me for a loop. All of us in business have felt the same way from time to time. Maybe a product/service didn’t launch as expected. Or maybe the competition blind-sided you. Regardless of what happened, your business wasn’t where you wanted it. So what do you do to change things? Set a goal.
I decided I wanted to do something I’ve never done, so I set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). I’ve done triathlons. I’ve run marathons. I had never done both in the same race. I picked the biggest challenge I could think of, a 140.6 mile race – the IRONMAN™. That’s 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and a 26.2 marathon to finish it out.
In business, you need to set BHAGs type goals as well. They’ll be based on a period of time (1 year, 5 years, etc.) with key milestones ($X in revenue, X% of profit, x% market share, etc.). The point is to pick a BHAG that will drive REAL GROWTH (however you define it) to your business.
Then you need to commit to it. When I chose the IRONMAN™, I paid the registration fee (not cheap) and told my friends I was doing this. It wasn’t a hidden goal. I had those –race times I wanted to achieve, how I wanted to feel in each leg of the race, etc. But the overall goal was to complete the race. By voicing this goal, I was accountable for reaching it.
The same is true in business. Unless you document your goals and communicate them to your team, they will most likely not be met.
Mapping out a Plan
Okay, I signed up for an IRONMAN™. Now what? I wasn’t going to write up a training schedule or write a nutrition plan at the outset. Those were details. I needed an overall plan from which to start. And I needed help.
Establishing a goal in business is only the first step. You then need to identify how to get there. To reach any go
al, there are multiple paths. Some have a higher likelihood of success. Some are less likely to hit the target. And there are paths you may not realize are available to you. So what do you do?
I purchased a few books on IRONMAN™ races. I spoke to people I know who have competed in the races. And I joined a team that trains together for triathlons, including IRONMAN™ races. These were the sources which would help me identify my path.
In business, when I set a goal, I reach out to my resources. I have a resource group which includes my management team, employees, colleagues, and other business owners who have been successful in achieving their objectives. Each group gives me information and perspectives from which to draw options. I review the pros/cons of each and ultimately decide on the path most likely to lead to success. And I write it down, just like I did with my race plan.
Rely on Experts
I utilized the same people who helped me map out my race plan to get me through the race plan. I had coaches from my triathlon club, training partners who went out with me on the long runs and rides, and I regularly asked questions of others athletes who successfully completed the IRONMAN™. Using these resources, I kept on track. The coaches gave me the detailed plan and checked in on me to make sure I was following it. My teammates were there with me in the trenches getting it done, sharing the experience together. And my IRONMAN™ colleagues were there to validate what I was doing and provide a context for what it would mean on race day.
In business you have to rely on others to succeed. Period. I have coaches (business advisors, external professionals), teammates (managers, employees), and fellow athletes (peers, colleagues). All of these people help me achieve my goals. I could not do it without them. The coaches identify the options. My teammates implement the plan. And my fellow athletes are my independent sounding board throughout the process.
Measure Progress/Adjust as Necessary
I had a defined training schedule for my race. Every day I knew what I was supposed to do. At the end of each day, I documented what I had done. I knew what exercises I completed (checklist), what my results were in time and/or distance (metrics), and what lessons I had learned related to my nutrition, gear, and approach (adjustments to be made). By documenting all of this, I could see where I was against both the plan to date and whether I was on target for my race goals.
If you don’t measure it in business, you aren’t managing it. If you want to achieve your goals, you have to identify the tasks at hand, measure your progress against them, and regularly re-assess throughout the process. Again, this helps you know where you are, what you have left to do, and what adjustments you have to make. In addition, by documenting, you can always go back a reassess an earlier point. Bottom line – you don’t lose the knowledge.
Then it’s time to see if you’re going to meet that goal. This is one place where the analogy diverges a bit. My race was a one day, measured event. The achievement of a business goal is measured over time to a target date. Business is a continuous competition that never really lets up. On the flip side, you will likely know if you are going to achieve your goal in business in advance of the objective date. For my race, I didn’t know if would succeed until I crossed the finish line.
But the key is that the race ended up being easy (relatively) for me. I did all of the hard work leading up to it during
my planning and training stages. So the race became fundamentally a result. In business it’s much the same. When you do all of the work according to plan, and adjust where necessary, the goals become the result. And what a feeling it is to achieve those BHAGs you set for your business! And it’s not just for you, but also for your coaches, teammates, and fellow athletes!
Well, as soon as you hit this goal, you need to be thinking about your next one! I’ve already got my race goals in place for 2014! And I’m working on the plan right now. Can you guess what has helped the most with these next objectives? When I finished my IRONMAN™, I wrote everything down about that day. What worked, what didn’t, what I failed to predict, what didn’t materialize – all of these I wrote down. It’s my race report.
Do the same for your business. Whether you meet your goals or fall short – that post-mortem is the only way to reinforce what you did right and help identify where you can improve. Brutal honesty isn’t only ideal, it’s a requirement. Write it down. Then, when you start planning for your next goal, pull out that report (and all of the other documentation you kept) and take the next step forward. And I’m betting you’ll cross that next finish line too.
|Actions||IRONMAN™ Training||Business Goals|
|Set Goals High to Drive Real Growth||Distance; Times||Revenue; Profit; Market Share; Timing|
|Commit to these Goals||Register; Share with friends||Document goal; Communicate to the team|
|Develop a Plan||Educate self; Speak to the experts; Join training teams; Write out plan||Reach out to mgt. team, employees, colleagues, other successful business owner; Write out plan|
|Rely on Experts||Coaches, training partners/teammates, former IRONMAN competitors||Business advisors, external professionals, company managers and employees, peers, and colleagues|
|Evaluate and Adjust||Measure training goals against actual results and document them; Adjust plan accordingly||Identify the tasks at hand, measure your progress against them, and regularly reassess throughout the process; Document!|
|End Result||Race day gives a clear picture if goals were met – crossing the finish line!||Determine if success is met by the target date – hitting the goal!|
|Next Goal||As soon as the current goal is met, start working on new goals; Review the most recent report to reinforce what you did right and help identify where to make improvements.|
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