The early mornings, countless late nights, intense financial strains, emotional sacrifices, adrenalin surges of winning new clients, near tears for disappointing a loved one, too much month at the end of the money – the list goes on. These would typically describe an entrepreneur’s life: a journey filled with many rewards coupled with the enormity of its challenges
As a serial founder/co-founder of start-up enterprises and an active social runner, I have been blessed to have learned my fair share of lessons from my journeys in life. My running continues to afford me the opportunity to reflect on life and challenge myself in new and different ways. For those runners in you, the chase of the PB (personal best) drives you to pound those roads and treadmills – week in and week out. And hopefully those rewards do come.
Through my social (sometimes competitive) running, I have had the opportunity to learn and reflect on the life of being an entrepreneur and founder/co-founder. Here are some of my key takeaways:
- Every journey has its ups and downs − Every run, no matter the distance, has its share of uphills and downhills. And so, too, is a typical day in the life of an entrepreneur. Thrive and capitalise on the good times and use them as building blocks to grow your business. Don’t miss those ‘downhill’ moments to grow your business and strengthen your standing with your clients. As they say ‘make merry while the sun shines’ and use those ‘downhill’ moments to do just that. In bad ‘uphill’ times, knuckle down and take stock. Use those down moments to reflect on what can be improved and what learnings you can take.
- It is an opportunity to have a very important conversation – With yourself. And who better to chat to! Whether on the road or in your office, make time to converse with yourself. It takes you away from the hustle and bustle and gives you the reflective time that is invaluable. Make this a part of your daily routine.
- The power of working with a team – The benefits of running in a group are immense. You have the benefit of leaning on your running partner(s) through a bad patch and also learning from them when you are not in your comfort zone. An entrepreneur’s life is no different. The team aspect allows you to work with your team to help you deliver on your vision, and to utilise the individual core strengths of everyone that is in your team.
- You are competing just with yourself – In business, there is always competition. Whilst there are many other ‘runners’ out there, you are being the best that you can be and becoming as successful an entrepreneur as you are capable of being. Focus on how to improve, learn more, and strive to greater heights rather than how you stack up against the competition.
- Plan your race – For me, a typical half marathon (21,1 km for the runners of tomorrow) is broken down into ‘bite-size’ chunks of 5 km. I work out a gettable and stretch time challenge for each 5 km and that is my focus on each run. For an entrepreneur, having a vision of where you want to go, and how you will get there is more than half your battle won. Have a long-term goal and work out time-based and/or activity-based milestones. Anticipate speed bumps along the way, which will require you to speed up or slow down.
- Keep your eye on the prize – And for a runner, it’s often completing that race in a PB. The prize for every entrepreneur is different – from being the fastest growing business to having a dominant market position to being the employer of choice. This list goes on. Stay focused on your goals and aspirations, and let every action and decision take you one step closer to these.
- It’s a lonely road ahead – Every runner will tell you how lonely those long runs are, especially those training runs where there is no roadside support and ‘fans cheering you on’. As an entrepreneur, accept that you are on this lonely journey and find support mechanisms along the way. Engage a mentor/coach, bring on board a partner/co-founder, meet with other entrepreneurs, ratchet up your learning, set up your advisory board – all of these can provide different support for you every step of the way. The prize is worth it, so knuckle down and get comfortable with this lonely journey.
The entrepreneurial journey is indeed a demanding one – the depths of challenge coupled with the heights of success. But in the end, it is worth it – you control your outcomes and destiny, and you have the ability to create significant economic and societal impact.
Sanjay Soni CA(SA), Executive Director at Blacklite