If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you know that I love to race triathlons (swim-bike-run events) – specifically, Ironman and Half-Ironman Races. I love the competition and camaraderie that comes with racing. While it’s hard for some to relate to an endurance event like this, most of us at one time or another had to run a mile- in gym class possibly? Over a bet with a friend maybe? Or, or just for the hell of it? It’s four laps around a track and it’s not easy to do if you run it hard. Running a mile has many analogs to life. Four laps could equal the four seasons of a year, or in the business realm- 4 quarters to the annual business cycle. How you start the first lap matters and affects your time and pace for the other laps in order to finish the race strong.
When I race a triathlon, there could be 5,000 people in the race but near the end of the race, I always end up in a pack of about 5-10 people, all of us running together and at about the same pace. Within that pack, we push each other to do better. It’s not necessarily the intention of the pack, it just naturally happens. But we are competing against each other, within our pack, all at or near the same level. We have the same goals, the same strengths, and at that point in the race, the same weaknesses. It is so rewarding to compete with such great athletes that it pushes me beyond what I would naturally do if I was all by myself. Competition nearly always makes us perform better.
I’m sure you can see the business parallels here. You will see your competition as either racing or just trying to finish. Those in direct competition with you have their strengths and weaknesses, but the race itself is worth completing. The recipe for successfully completing your own race is made of four strong laps for success.
This year, our four quarters are almost a perfect parallel to a race. In Q1 (Lap 1) most businesses had a great start to the year, lots of energy, and the economy was humming along. But then came Q2 (Lap 2), which was incredibly tough. We were introduced to Covid-19 and massive changes in the global economy. We had to learn how to pace ourselves and how to compete differently (ie, work from home, flip upside down our business models, etc), and learn who our competition was all over again. In running a mile, the third lap around the track is always the hardest. Now, in this difficult third lap (Q3), we have been applying new skills to help us to finish this year strong. I can see the finish line starting to emerge as it is September now and Q3 is almost over with and that last final lap to the finish line will soon be in sight. There are four things that I think will help us to finish out this year strong, Resiliency(R), Adaptiveness(A), Competitiveness(C), and a good solid dose of Empathy(E), yes, empathy. RACE yourself to a strong finish to 2020 everybody!
RACE yourself to a strong finish to 2020 by living these four simple attributes:
Your ability to recover from challenges thrown at your business is key to being able to overcome market conditions. I’m not just talking about downturns, I mean upturns as well. When you are going strong, you still need to set yourself up for future developments.
A Forbes article I just read is right on target with establishing resiliency as a new strength of your business In it, it says “It is clear that the “new normal” won’t be the same old “normal, so businesses must now demonstrate a new strength — resiliency. Today, this means an ability to adapt in order to recover and achieve future success in a Covid-19 world. Without resiliency, the road to recovery will be long and difficult.” * Q1 was a huge blowout and I mean that in a good way and now here we are nearing the end of Q3 and we have had to recover, to restart, and to be resilient to get this far this year so keep being resilient all the way thru the last lap and end 2020 on an upswing! You got this, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. The finish line is coming closer to you by the day.
Stay flexible, no matter the challenges ahead of you. If your mind is set on the plan you made last month, and this month throws a new market condition challenge at you, shift your plans quickly. Your swift response to changes in conditions is key in this market. For instance, when the soaring demand for personal protection equipment (PPE) across the world meant literally saving lives, many businesses overnight changed their entire factories to meet the demands. The textile industry in particular played a critical role in meeting this demand. Instead of producing their basic apparel line, Hanesbrands, Inc worked around the clock resulting in the manufacture and delivery of millions of masks. In three months, they sold $752 million USD of PPE, far outselling their underwear line, and resulting in a surprising second-quarter profit. **
A quick pivot in response to market conditions has many of its own challenges, but it is worth it! Again, keep one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, and be adaptive to fluctuations in the market.
Competition is healthy and brings out the best (and sometimes worst) in people. Compete by being as good as or better than others in your comparable market space and proving that you belong there. Just being in the race, or market space is not enough. Put a smile on, lace up your shoes, and jump in there and show them what you have to offer. I for one know that this year has been a real ass-kicker to many because if you weren’t trying to make the “doors swing or phones ring” with customers than you were probably working your butt off in the distribution, mortgage, medical, gold mining or housing markets trying to satisfy the incredible demand that has been placed on your shoulders. Point is, step up and compete, don’t stay sitting down, compete!
A soft skill, but necessary for a healthy race, is being understanding of others around you who are struggling. The racer beside me that has been pushing me to be better the entire race may now be lagging me (or I may be lagging him, or her!), but his/her constant competition against and with me has most likely put me on the path for a new personal best time.
Years ago when I raced the Hawaiian Ironman (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run) in Kona, Hawaii I learned a very valuable lesson. The lesson that I learned that day was that very few racers actually “race” Kona and do well all by themselves. That race is so difficult that you need people along the racecourse and on the racecourse racing with you to help pull you along to the finish line. We need this in life as well in order to live a happy and successful life so come on people, reach out there and pull some people alongside you and help get them to the very best place that you possibly can! Empathize with them, walk a mile in their shoes, love them, help them. Together we will win, together we will succeed, and together we will all race to the finish line of 2020 as the champions that we are!
Lastly, one final point on this empathy attribute. A great Entrepreneur.com article covers several steps about why empathy in business is so necessary. It states, “Our ability to see the world from the perspective of others is one of the most crucial tools in our business toolbox.”***
Finishing the race strong will require us to run all four laps as strong as we possibly can go. If you are still racing, and I hope everybody reading this blog is still in the race, then CONGRATULATIONS to you! Keep going and don’t ever stop. Many others have already quit or unfortunately were ask to quite quit or were forced out of the race. But by finishing this third lap (Q3) strong, you will set yourself up for a very strong 4th quarter finish to this year. You may even be able to set a personal best record so get it going, everybody! Good luck to all of you.
Until Next Time,
Your Staffing Partner, Darrin Rohr- President, CEO and Chief Servant