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The Long Race: Business Lessons Triathlons Taught Me

Persistence, resilience and high-performance, triathlons have more in common with enterprise than you think.

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Persistence, resilience and high-performance, triathlons have more in common with enterprise than you think.

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The Long Race: Business Lessons Triathlons Taught Me

Persistence, resilience and high-performance, triathlons have more in common with enterprise than you think.

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Competing in triathlons require 100% energy and dedication. All those who enter triathlons, plan to pass the finish line, nothing less. They enter the race with adrenaline, curiosity, the drive to train and the expectation of a certain sort of fun. The same is true when setting up a business. But can the same spirit translate off the field?

My philosophy has always been "It’s in the last meter that you see the great champion. It’s only at the finish line you see who has won”. However, winners start the journey to the finishing line months and years earlier.

This, has led me to identify five keys to success that I want to share and might help those of you building a business right now:

1.     Be a consummate professional.

This may seem obvious, but I do not mean it in the traditional sense. I expect my teams to be high quality but also to not over promise to our customers just to make a sale, or, more importantly, to make the customer successful.

This means I want teams to be able to say NO when they think they can’t get a customer to deliver on their end of the bargain. Short terms gains are like sprints in a marathon, they will not guarantee success in the long run.

2.     Be realistically resilient.

If it feels you have set an objective, but can only meet 90% of those goals, you have still failed. Any goal you set for yourself should be attainable. Don’t sign up for a triathlon if you don’t think you can do it or can’t commit to the weekly training.

Same with business. If you give yourself one year to make it successful but know you will only have a certain time to dedicate to it, why bother? Take your time to sit down, think it through and come up with a realistic plan and set of goals.

3.     Be a high-performing individual.

Another seemingly straightforward idea, but too often, unlike in individual athletic events, teams consist of a range of abilities. You need to make sure your efforts make the team stronger.

At the individual level, focus on your own game and lead by example. If you accomplish this and you have the right talents around you, your teams will be aligned and deliver at a much higher success rate. Push hard at the end, put in the energy – give everything you have.

4.     Disrupt and adapt.

During a race, as in business, conditions change. There may be rain, you may pick up a niggling injury or you may find a stage easier than you expected. Just like in a commercial setting, on endurance races, your brain is racing.

This is the time when the champions adapt and innovate, digging deeper or holding off for a sprint finish. At EfficientIP, our greatest technical differentiations, the ones which disrupt the market like Smart DDI and Hybrid DNS happen in response to live customer requests, not five year plans.

When customers share new needs, we are open to solving them on the fly. This capability is good for them and good for us.

5.     Make curiosity fun.

It is only when you push beyond what you know that you learn something new. This is why we amateur athletes strangely enjoy pushing through the pain and exploring our capabilities.

Training our minds for months or years to have a higher pain tolerance helps us cross the finish line with a smile, a great sense of achievement and the desire to do it again.

In business, if you empower your sales teams to explore the new possible benefits of a solution, rather than just the product features, which they likely already know, you will fire up their creative juices, which is fun.

This is like running beyond your expected limits, in that it seems like not fun, but strangely it is. Sales teams can only achieve 'Personal Bests' (PBs) when they are having 'fun' in this way with clients, pushing them to see future benefits which they can achieve, even if they did not expect them.

As executive or entrepreneur, you must be professional, committed, set achievable goals, approach all tasks with energy and create a dynamic environment.

While all of these relate to endurance athletics, in business, teams are made up of individuals and it is this blend of individual motivation and a sense of the wider team which brings out the best.

As you reach the finish line, everyone can see the final champion, but the race is won only partly on the course, the preparation begins months or years before.

David Williamson, CEO of EfficientIP.

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The Long Race: Business Lessons Triathlons Taught Me

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