5 ways starting and running a business is a marathon, not a sprint

Ahead of the London Marathon this weekend, Xero’s co-founder and UK MD, Gary Turner, outlines the five ways in which starting and running a business is a marathon and not a sprint.

London will be hosting the 37th London Marathon on its streets this month, the day of reckoning when thousands of first-time marathon runners put their months of training to the test to attain a life-long dream.

While not everyone chooses to run one, there are some striking similarities between the process of preparing for the race and getting a small business up and running. ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint’ is a bit of a cliché, but the premise is correct – success means careful planning, a lot of time, consistent effort and discipline, and patience when the odds feel like they are stacked against you. Although I’m not a marathon runner myself, I’ve watched others train hard for them, and the gruelling work, the exhaustion and the sheer joy of success are exactly why the two processes are so similar.

Here are five ways how entrepreneurs and marathon runners can learn from each other:

Be clear about your goal

By signing up to the Marathon, runners commit themselves to the undertaking. Visualising success is a huge part of the mental preparation, and it is exactly the same for a small business owner – have a distinct aim that will help to keep you focused.

Plan how you’re going to get there

Marathon runners have a clear training plan from the moment they start, covering everything from distances to pace times – and the rest days in between. Once you have a business goal, create a detailed plan to get there, setting benchmarks and smaller aims along the way to highlight progress and keep motivated.

Know when to give yourself a break

Days off are vital to give your muscles a break and they are equally as important when running a business. Our recent research found that successful small business owners make sure they are taking breaks to give time for their batteries to recharge – in fact, our research found that more than half of small business owners (52%) admit they want to give themselves more time of fin 2017 than they did last year to prevent burning out. Looking after yourself means you can be at the top of your game.

Prepare yourself for the route

It’s vital to know the uphills, downhills and the water stops of the marathon route and the same goes for your business. Study what others have done in order to make their business a success, and be prepared for times when your business might be busier or quieter to help with the first few months of cash flow.

Remember you are not on your own

Our research found that a third of successful entrepreneurs have turned to a mentor or support group for advice about their company, compared to just 14 per cent of respondents who ran a business that had to close. Starting the business you have always dreamed of is undoubtedly a personal challenge just as a marathon is, but support is vital. Know when to ask for help and turn to a friend or expert for advice, just like training partners and support teams can help as they cheer you on.

Gary Turner is the UK MD and co-founder of Xero.