You can’t run with an umbrella, but you can avoid the rain.
I’ve done 5Ks here and there since high school, but I’ve only considered myself a serious runner for the past six or seven years, since I began running more long-distance races. My distance-running reached its peak in 2008 when I completed my first (and possibly only) marathon. Though I have not even considered another full marathon for my future, I am still running these days, religiously signing up (or being forced to sign up by my running family members) for half marathons and 10-mile events.
This past weekend, I ran the Baltimore 10-Miler, which started and ended at the Maryland Zoo. And while I am proud to say that I achieved my 10-mile personal record at this race, there were more than a few moments between 7:30 and 8:58 a.m. on Saturday when I just wanted to call it quits. Of course, I knew that stopping in the middle of an organized race wasn’t an option for me.
For starters, I’d still have to somehow make it to my car (which was at the finish line). Unless I required an ambulance, I’d have to get there on foot. So I figured the faster I ran, the sooner it would be over. Secondly, I was in a crowd of 4,000 people that included my usual race mates — my sisters and brother-in-law — and I knew I would never hear the end of it from this close-knit running group if I had no finishing time to compare to theirs.
So, instead of throwing in the towel (and boy, could I have used a cold, wet towel), I picked up the pace. To get myself out of my running funk, I reverted back to my high school days (when I would only dare enter a 5K, let alone a 10-miler!) and switched on my cheerleading persona. I began cheering for myself, my fellow runners, even for the sedentary spectators, whose unofficial but obvious job was to root for participants. I’m not talking about a mental in-my-head pep talk, either. I’m talking about “Let’s go runners!” and “One more mile!” and “Hey, you guys are supposed to be cheering for us!” All while I’m running by the Waverly Giant shopping center and some boarded up housing.
And you know what happened? My attitude grew confident, the finish line grew nearer, and my sweat grew out of control (but the race organizers provided the cold, wet towel relief I was looking for; I just had to reach the 10-mile mark to get it).
What does this have to do with business or marketing? If I may, I’d like to present a comparison: Running a race is like running your own business. You can pray for good weather and few hills (or for ideal market conditions and demand for your product). You can prepare yourself by going on training runs (or to business seminars and networking events). You can rely on bystanders to cheer you on (or on friends and loved ones to refer you business). But when it comes down to it, much of the fate of your company lies in your own control.
Instead of praying that customers want what you’re selling, why not look to your customers to see what they want, and sell that? Instead of attending workshops and taking detailed notes that only you will read, why not lead discussions and share your findings on your blog or Facebook page? Instead of depending on your family to spread the word, why not motivate current and past clients to generate leads for you?
You can hope for sunny skies all you want, but if the rain comes falling down on your business, ultimately you are the only one who can run it up the hill. I just hope your legs don’t feel like mine do when you’re done.