“What people don’t realize is that professionals are sensational because of the fundamentals.” – Barry Larkin, Member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame
The best and the worst thing about running is that everyone can do it. Anyone, old or young, can toss on a pair of shorts and trainers and head out the door. The worst thing about running is that everyone thinks that they know how to do it. Running is so fundamental that we forget that, like every other sport, it has certain fundamental principles that make us efficient and keep us from injury.
Although everyone knows how to run (we’ve been doing it practically since birth), not everyone runs with the same form and efficiency. Consequently, the things that make me a good runner might be disastrous for you. Nevertheless, there are certain things that all runners should think about while they are cruising through the neighborhood.
We all need to land with our feet directly beneath us, strive for 180 foot-strikes per minute, and minimize our contact time on the ground. Simple, right? Not always, but I’m working on it.
Businesses require mastery of the fundamentals also. Every business needs a proper corporate structure and must protect that corporate existence by electing a board of directors, holding annual director and shareholder meetings, creating and maintaining board resolutions, and documenting intercompany and shareholder loans and transactions. Every company needs to pay attention to these fundamentals. From my Long Island law firm to your Cleveland shoe manufacturer. Every single company.
In running, failure to observe the fundamentals means slower times and possible injury. In business, the failure to take care of these fundamentals regularly prevents companies from growing sales, obtaining investors or financing, and worse. Recently, the inattention to simple corporate formality cost the owner of one of my clients $400,000 to resolve. And, he won!
Things as simple as recruiting and on-boarding employees, maintaining an up to date employee handbook, and buying the proper Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) are simple to do and are easily ignored. A recent employee discrimination suit for a new client who didn’t have a handbook or EPLI will now cost multiples of what it would have cost to attend to those simple fundamentals.
Somewhere in your running and in your business there are fundamentals that your are neglecting. Maybe you don’t have proper financials or a good bookkeeping department. Maybe you haven’t updated, or even thought about, a disaster recovery plan. In my experience with Long Island businesses, about 10% of small business owners recognize that they have a problem but choose to do nothing about it. Another 50% don’t realize that there is a problem and can’t be convinced otherwise. The remaining 40% know that they need help running their businesses and making them stronger. If you’re reading my ramblings, you are probably in that 40%. So, like I told you when we started – you know what you need to do. Just go do it.
If you need any help, I’m here.
It’s Time For A Threasy
“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” – Unknown
This week, I give you the Threasy. Run long enough and you will eventually come to love and adore the Threasy. What exactly is a Threasy?
Three miles + easy pace = Threasy.
It’s a real thing – look it up. A Threasy is the runner’s best friend. It’s what we do when we don’t have the time or the motivation for a serious jaunt. It gives tired legs a workout without injury. It clears the mind and comforts the soul. It allows us to indulge in the fiction that “we ran”. It’s like ice cream without guilt. Every once and a while, we all need a Threasy to fight mental or physical fatigue or simply boredom. Three miles at an easy pace is something most runners can do without even giving it any thought. And, because we don’t need to think about it, a Threasy gives us time to dream. Time to dream about crossing the tape in our target race in a personal best time. Time to reflect on life and everything that’s going well or not so well without the stress of distance or pace. Time to work @#%& out!
Business owners, like runners, need the Threasy too. Every once in a while, the folks that run a business need to do something familiar and easy and fulfilling without all of the day-to-day stress. We need to do something that makes us smile and helps us remember why we opened that Long Island law firm, but that doesn’t require too much effort to accomplish.
That’s the beauty of the Threasy, by the way. It’s productive and provides a feeling of real accomplishment. Running three easy miles is certainly better than not running at all and it leaves runners with a feeling that they accomplished “something” that day. A business Threasy (a “Breasy?”) does the exact same thing. It’s not mindless busy work. It’s something that needs be done but that we all put off until it becomes a chore, and then an emergency. Suddenly, the simple task that can be done in your sleep becomes a source of stress when it should really be a stress reliever. The training calendar is important. No one understands that more than I do. But, so are the rest or easy days. They are just important – if not more so. So, instead of pushing those little tasks to the bottom of the pile until they become a soul sucking nightmare and a black hole of despair troublesome bothers, take those days when you won’t can’t take a day off and throw in a Threasy.
No Such Thing as a Half
“There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as life in-between.” – Pat Riley, 5 time NBA Champion, 3 time NBA Coach of the Year, 9 time NBA All-Star Game head coach
Yesterday, more than 20,000 runners, including my colleagues, and fellow Long Island lawyers, Sheryl Giugliano and Dave Mahoney, ran in the United Airlines NYC Half-Marathon. That’s 13.1 miles to you and me. The half marathon is now the most popular race distance in running and is the one distance that consistently attracts more women than men participants. I can personally tell you that, regardless of whether you are a beginner or an Olympian, running 13.1 miles is no small accomplishment. The uneducated – and by that I mean people who have never actually done it – might minimize its significance by saying that it’s only half of the “real” 26.2 mile marathon distance. For that reason, there is a small movement within the running community to rename the half marathon so that the accomplishment is not diminished by describing it as “half” of something else. The push is to rename the distance “Pikermi” which is a small Greek town located half way (about 13.1 miles) between Marathon and Athens. The name hasn’t caught on. I think that I know why.
The professional marathoners who raced in NYC yesterday didn’t treat the race as “only” half of their usual distance. Although for some of them it might have been a tune-up for next month’s Boston Marathon, their commitment to winning was evident by the pain on their faces. If running 13.1 miles in about one hour and one minute doesn’t demonstrate that the top finishers were committed to their task, perhaps the one second difference between the first and second place men’s finishers will convince you.
In business, it doesn’t matter whether you are running a $100 million aerospace manufacturer here on Long Island or a dry cleaner in Duluth, Minnesota. I’ve seen it firsthand. In our practice, we represent companies that range from sole proprietor start-ups to large public companies and everything in between. At their core, all of those business owners and operators have the same problems and concerns. How do I drive sales? How do I operate efficiently? How do I protect the families that rely on me for their living? The size of these issues might vary, but the commitment to addressing them must be the same.
So, Coach Riley is right. In a world obsessed with labels, it really doesn’t matter what you call a 13.1 mile race. And, it certainly doesn’t matter whether your title is CEO of a Fortune 100 company or chief cook and bottle washer of Mel’s Diner, it’s your commitment that matters. And, in that commitment, there is no half way.
Embrace The Suck
“It hurts up to a point and then it doesn’t get any worse.” – Ann Trason, the most successful female ultra-runner of all time
For Ann Trason, an average training day might be 26 miles. It might be more. Ultra-runners race 50 or 100 miles through some of the most ridiculous conditions on Earth. Like Death Valley in July when the heat goes well above 125 degrees Fahrenheit and racers stop every mile to lie in coffins filled with ice. Ann’s point is that eventually you accept the pain and discomfort and just run. Barring catastrophic injury, the body just can’t hurt more and you just need to get your brain out of the way. One frequent blogger on The Loop hosted by Runner’s World has summed up Ann’s quote with a simple phrase – Embrace The Suck.
The point of ETS is simple. Your run might be hot, cold, wet, windy, hilly, and/or overly long. You can dwell on these things. You clearly can’t change them. So, you run through them. Runners accept a certain level of discomfort and even pain. It’s the whole point. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to be uncomfortable. It’s going to be hard. Accept it and move on.
Funny thing is, the more that you ETS, the more you can tolerate before you start to think that you can’t tolerate any more. Business is like that.
A year or so ago, a good friend decided to leave a top position at a large bank and open his own private consulting firm. After we went through his business plan and model, we spent quite some time discussing what it was like to own a small business. Although my friend spent over 25 years loaning money to small businesses, including my own Long Island law firm, he had never run a business.
As a corporate executive for his entire career, my friend certainly understood all of the issues that face small business owners. But, he had never experienced them. Sure, his bank’s revenue might have been down but that just meant a smaller bonus or a jump to another more profitable institution. For my friend, a decrease in revenue never meant that he wouldn’t be able to pay his mortgage or college tuition. For a client with $3 million in sales, a 10% revenue shortfall might mean bankruptcy or worse.
My friend certainly appreciated issues like cash flow, sales, personnel, and customer service but it wasn’t his job to manage/worry about them. Now, with his own business, they were all his problems. If he wasn’t ready to accept that, then he needed to stay where he was.
My point during our many breakfasts was that, as a small business owner, he had to be prepared to ride out the difficult or trying times because, frankly, they are always there. When business is good, small business owners worry that it won’t last. When business is bad, they worry about employees and their families.
A few months after he had left corporate America, my friend called me. Cash flow wasn’t where he projected it would be, employees in a related business were causing problems, and he was loving every minute of it. His only question? – “When does it get easier?”
You can guess my answer.
Winners Never Quit – They Adjust
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” – W.C. Fields
W.C., the world renowned hater of dogs and children, would have been roundly criticized by the countless parent “coaches” who currently haunt reality television and wander the sidelines of America’s youth sports fields screaming at seven year olds that “nobody likes a quitter”.
Runners are especially prone to the popular wisdom that “quitting is never the answer”. As a group, runners are resistant to giving up on our goals. The inability to start or finish a race, to cover a particular distance, or (God forbid) to post a PR (personal record) is seen as a sign of weakness (at best), or an abject failure (at worst). We are so focused on the negativity that surrounds quitting that we often fail to recognize that the goal that we once set might not be useful, beneficial, or even attainable. In some situations, like in mountain ultramarathons, it might be downright dangerous. But, we press on. After all, “winners never quit.”
Or do they?
Although winners might not quit, they do adjust. Just ask any sportscaster. Countless hours and brain cells are spent analyzing how the winner of a particular sporting event adjusted to his opponent quickly enough to claim victory. Just ask any losing coach in a press conference – “well we never adjusted to the safety blitz.”
Successful business people know that it takes experience and courage to rethink your goals and to adjust your strategy. Like runners, you need to accept that things don’t always go your way. You need to evaluate what happened and decide where your plans fell short.
A goal to achieve $50 million in sales is useless by itself. It’s all of the intermediate steps that are important. First, you need to ask, “what do we need to do to sell $50 million of product?” Then, you need the action steps to achieve that goal. Maybe you need to reduce customer attrition and decide to follow up with a customer satisfaction call. Maybe you can increase sales by cross-selling another product – “would you like a shake with that burger?” Maybe it’s as simple as asking existing customers for referrals. In any case, the action steps need to measurable and verifiable. If performance is not tracking, either the steps aren’t actually being taken or they aren’t sufficient to meet the goal. Either way, an adjustment is necessary.
So, W.C. was right. Try and fail. Try again and fail. Then do something different. He used the word “quit.” I prefer to use the word “adjust.”