Blunt talking from the marathon finish line

At the end of April, I ran the 2019 London Marathon.

I’d set myself a target of finishing in under four hours—and just managed it.

My time: 3 hours, 58 minutes. Not bad for a 53-year-old lawyer, even though I say so myself. Although, to be fair, it’s not as good as the 3 hours, 16 minutes that I achieved when I last ran the London Marathon, some 26 years ago.

But this isn’t just about sharing a personal moment with The Legal Director’s clients, contacts, and friends. It’s about sharing a thought that occurred to me—not for the first time—as I pounded London’s streets.

Which is this: running a marathon is a lot like running a business.

Without a goal, you won’t succeed

Why run the marathon? It’s going to be painful, it’s going to be difficult, it will take you away from your family as you train, and if you put in the hours of training that you really need, it will probably create friction with your partner and family.

And I can tell you, running London’s streets on a wet November evening, training for the third time that week, is bleak and soul-destroying work.

Why run a business? Again, at times it’s painful, at times it’s difficult, it can take you away from your friends and family, and the hours that put in can create friction with your partner and family.

In both cases, there has to be some overarching goal or objective that makes it all worthwhile—something that you’re going to get out of it. Otherwise, you either won’t do it at all, or you won’t do it very well.

In the marathon world, we would call it a ‘goal’, certainly. In the business world, we might call it an ‘exit plan’ or perhaps a ‘retirement plan’. Either way, you have to have one.

How do you deal with adversity? What’s the Plan B?

Training for a marathon calls for resilience. Running a business calls for resilience.

In the world of marathon training, you might get a minor injury, or illness. The weather could simply be too awful. Business trips might take you away from your usual training regime.

As it happened, I encountered all of those—including the illness. For what it’s worth, I was originally scheduled to run in the 2018 Marathon, until illness intervened.

It’s the same in business. Economic downturns. The loss of a significant customer. Difficult employees. Difficult co-directors. Difficult sales campaigns.

What do you do? How do overcome such things? The starting point is resilience, and determination to overcome or get around such difficulties.

For marathon runners, when training in the streets or the park aren’t an option, you go to the gym. Or cycle. Or take Pilates classes. Again, I did all three. What you don’t do is sit at home, feeling sorry for yourself. And of course sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t work in business, either.

A support team makes all the difference

Finally, in both business and marathon-running, you can’t do it alone. I’ve already alluded to friends and family: these individuals play an important role in your support team, providing encouragement, practical help—such as when the kids need picking up from gym class or judo—and a friendly face when adversity strikes.

More than that, though, the worlds of business and marathon-running call for professional help and advice if the goal is to excel, rather than simply stagger to the finish line.

In other words, someone to provide motivation and support, but also provide technical skills and professional advice. In my case, I looked back on the marathon that I’d run 26 years ago, and knew that I wanted to perform better this time around.

Not necessarily faster—I’m 26 years older, after all—but better. Run more evenly. Pace myself better. Train better. Do the right training, and the right amount of training. And to avoid hitting ‘the wall’ that I’d hit 26 years ago, which made the final two miles so difficult.

So, I sought professional advice, and engaged a coach. And in business, we at The Legal Director are coaches, and sources of professional advice.

The finish line

Here at The Legal Director, my fellow co-founders and directors are immensely proud of the business that we’ve built up—and which we continue to build up.

Just as you, doubtless, are immensely proud of your business

It’s yours. It’s an achievement. And—irrefutably—it helps to define you as a person.

Our role is to help you.

Will I, personally, run the London Marathon again? As of today, the answer is probably ‘no’. And yet success, and achievement, are strangely addictive. The compulsion to do more—to do better—is always present.

But you’re in business. You knew that, anyway.

Posted Monday, May 13th, 2019 by Warren Ryland



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