Running Without A Plan
Over the last six months, I have been training to run in a marathon. Now, I’m probably not actually going to run in a marathon this year – I’m not going to be ready – but the training experience itself has taught me a lot. Especially as I’ve gotten into the longer distances – 10, 12, 13 miles – I’ve learned that if you don’t have a general plan as to how you’re going to approach your run, you can end up with some lousy problems. For example, if you start out of the gate trying to run really fast, you’ll be too burnt out to finish the full distance. If you go to slow, you can get burnt out because you have to remain on your feet for so long.
All of this can come in handy as you think about setting out on a “run” for your business, whether you’re an entrepreneur, the product developer, or the one marketing everything. Let’s look at some parallels.
What kind of run do you want to do?
As a runner (or a walker) you learn pretty quickly that there are different kinds of experiences you can create for yourself. You can train on endurance by going long distances or going up and down a lot of hills or you can work on your speed by maybe shortening your distance but running with all of your might.
As a business person, you can also decide what kind of experience you want to create. Do you want to get out of the gate fast or are you more worried about lasting for the long haul? Whatever approach you use, a plan needs to be in place so you can pace yourself and your team accordingly.
What is your goal?
Just like you can plan for what kind of run you want to do, you can also decide what kinds of goals you’re aiming for. Normally when I run I have a general time I want to beat (usually what I did the run before). Some people are aiming for that 4 minute Olympic-style mile. Other people just want to be able to complete a set distance.
As a business person, and especially if you’re at the head of a company, it’s extremely important to set goals, but it’s also a delicate dance. You don’t want to set goals that are so easily accomplished that no one ever feels challenged. By the same token, if you set impossible goals, it’s easy for everyone to start feeling down and discouraged. Again, this is where having a plan can be a huge help.
How will you celebrate?
Few things in running are more rewarding than beating a goal. But celebrating a success can have negative repercussions. It can mean that your expectations next time are set too high (we all go through highs and lows). It can mean that you get cocky and end up pushing yourself too hard.
The same holds true in business. If you have a great month that exceeds expectations, that’s awesome news. But how will you use that momentum to your advantage? If you are the leader of your team, how will you use that to inspire them to work harder for the next month? How will you use that success to make sure your next product is even better?
Having a plan in place can answer all of those questions.
There is a lot of talk in the online world about how planning is “lame.” You should just try everything. Fear of failure is a failure in and of itself. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of that if you are navigating the social media waters. Like running, however, business done most effectively involves a planning stage.
Do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Marjorie Clayman is the director of client development at Clayman Advertising, Inc., her family’s full service marketing firm. Margie has recently published an e-book called The ABCs of Marketing Myths, which you can read about here.