I’d like to introduce you to Janet Simpson. She is a nutrition coach and registered dietitian. However, she’s also an entrepreneur, a professor, a mentor, a grandmother and tri-athlete. She could have cut time from her first triathlon if she hadn’t stopped to hug and kiss her grandchildren who were there to cheer her on.
In other words, Janet is “Wonder Woman” in the flesh.
Janet had previously shared with me that she was planning to run in a 5 mile “fun run”. If running five miles doesn’t sound like “fun” to you – you ain’t heard nothing yet. When she finished with her fun run, she planned on helping race organizers tend to the needs of those running the 100 mile course. That’s not a typo – in addition to the “mini” 5 mile run, there were half and full marathons in addition to the one hundred mile competition!!!
Eighty people signed up to run the 100 mile course, and Janet later told me that the winner finished in a mere 18 hours. She reported that he looked as fresh and energized as if he’d just completed a jog around the block. Of the 80 who signed up for the 100 mile run – 60 completed the course in well under the 30 hour time limit. Of those who didn’t finish – all completed at least 60 of the 100 mile run – before succumbing to such injuries as their toenails falling off. One competitor ran the entire 100 miles barefoot. Did I mention the race was held in October in Michigan? BRRRR!!!!
If you think running 100 miles in the course of a single day barefoot in the cold sounds like an entry in the DSM-IV for some form of mental illness – you’re not alone.
While the runner who won the 100 mile run finished the race looking and feeling great – the same couldn’t be said for Janet. The course she ran followed a trail which lead through a forest. The leaves from the trees had fallen, covering the exposed roots and other hidden dangers. As Janet began her descent down a steep hill, she found herself flying through the air. She had inadvertently hooked her toe under an exposed tree root- hidden from view by the leaves. She landed face down with enough force to not only scrape her face, hands and knees but also to knock the wind out of her and crack a rib or two in the process.
Here’s the amazing part – the part that anyone who aspires to build a business of any size needs to know –
Janet still finished the race.
Even though she was battered and bruised, she sill finished running the race -and came in 2nd in her age category to boot. Initially she justified finishing the race by saying that she fell at the 2.5 mile mark and it only made sense to keep moving forward. However, she later admitted that she could have chosen to ride to the finish line – but she was determined to finish the race under her own power.
What this story has to do with building your business
Building a business is hard. I’ve worked with literally hundreds of new business owners and few are prepared for how difficult the process can be. It’s taxing physically, mentally and emotionally. As a general rule, everything will cost more than you think it will and take longer to complete than you think it should. It’s just how business launches go.
New business owners are rarely prepared for the many obstacles they will have to overcome as they launch their new business. While some hazards are common enough to be experienced by almost all business owners, others are like the tree roots in the forest through which Janet ran which laid hidden beneath the leaves.
According to Patricia Schaefer at Business Know How, one of the key attributes needed to start a business is the ability to recover after encountering such hidden obstacles. She writes:
You learn from your mistakes, and use these lessons to succeed the next time around. Brian Head, Economist with the SBA Office of Advocacy, noted that studies of successful business owners showed they attributed much of their success to “building on earlier failures;” on using failures as a “learning process”.
Some hazards you’ll encounter as you launch your business are predictable. That’s why you choose carefully the team members you’ll use to support you as you build your business. A good accountant, attorney or business consultant can help a new business owner see many potential hazards which lie ahead. Their advice is often worth it’s weight in gold – but if you’ve never tripped on a hidden root and broken a rib – you might not realize how valuable your trusted adviser’s advice is.
No matter how good your counsel – chances are that as you build your business – you’re going to have to navigate a steep path covered with newly fallen leaves. You too may stumble upon a hidden exposed tree root and you may find yourself lying face down on the ground, battered and bruised with the wind knocked out of you.
At that moment – you’ll have a decision to make. Will you use the fall as your excuse to leave the race? Will you climb upon the courtesy cart and be ferried back to the finish line? Or – will you pick yourself up and start running again – heading towards the finish line?
The answer ultimately determines whether or not you’ll succeed in your business – because it’s not a question of WHETHER you’ll fall. You will fall. It’s just a matter of when, where and why.
No- the question is whether you decide to get up and try, try again after the fall. Will you view your fall as a learning experience – or will you view it as the end of the race?