By Daniel C. Steenerson
If you’ve been in business any length of time, chances are you’ve “bonked”—a phenomenon that happens to marathoners around mile 20 that’s otherwise known as “hitting the wall.” Succeeding in business startup is much like a marathon: The start is exciting, with the thrill of anticipation swelling as you toe the starting line. The end is equally exciting: Seeing the finishing line in the distance brings on a surge of adrenaline. But between the excitement of the startup and the rush of the finish is the toughest part of all: the middle miles.
Those requisite, unavoidable middle miles after startup can be a desolate wasteland or they can be the most productive miles of the race—it’s how you deal with them that determines if and when you cross the finish line, and in what kind of shape. Winning in business is no different.
During a business middle mile there’s a huge temptation to quit. Here are 5 tips for how to persevere beyond startup through the business middle mile:
1. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
The middle mile is where the real work gets done. It’s the time in your business journey where you burn the most energy, deal with fatigue and hopelessness, work through budgetary and employee concerns, embrace setbacks and do your best to overcome burnout. Lack of discipline, poor implementation, and failure to simplify are three primary reasons you might be tempted to quit, but beneath all of those symptoms is the underlying failure: Losing sight of the finish line. You have to keep your eye on where you ultimately want to go.
You didn’t get to the middle mile without effort. You’ve put in some hard work, but suddenly, the work you’ve done is not advancing you nearly as fast as you want it to. This critical time is when the best “athletes” trudge forward with new training methods, harder work ethics and a stretch of their imagination and willpower. Committed entrepreneurs don’t quit during the middle miles. They also don’t settle for good enough. You’ve achieved some success by making it to the middle mile, so now it’s time to move out and move on.
2. Do What Others Won’t Do
During the middle miles it’s particularly important to have the discipline to do something productive every day in working toward your goal, sacrificing things you’d like to do for those tasks you need to do. Discipline is the foundation upon which all success is built, especially during the middle mile, and is the bridge between wishing and accomplishing.
The formula is pretty simple. Have a no-nonsense attitude, work hard and improve every day. No one needs to convince a distance runner to get up early, lace up running shoes, and get those training runs in. If you want to be successful, you must have the discipline to do what others don’t want to do. Have a plan and work it every day, whatever it takes. Get up earlier. Work harder. Persevere.
3. Implement for Impact
Good intentions aren’t enough. How many times have great ideas gone nowhere? How many deadlines have been missed, promises not kept, to-dos never followed through on? It happens a lot. In fact, most entrepreneurs aim to do right; they just fail to pull the trigger and finish the job.
Barriers to implementation might include practicality, manpower, and financial or technical limitations. The act of “deciding” to implement may be a barrier in and of itself. Do you have the guts to make a decision that may affect your company financially or legally? Whatever the case may be, the key is to identify these barriers at the outset, and design a strategy that limits their impact on your achieving success. If it’s YOU that is impeding progress, do something about it. Analyze your paralysis and eliminate any barriers that you place on yourself. If a barrier is external, call on those you trust who can advise you on how to clear the obstacle. Finally, nurture and shepherd the people around you who will help make your idea a reality, and help them envision the finish line as you see it. You can’t do it alone.
4. Simplistic Synergy
It’s important to keep your business simple and streamlined. Why take two dozen steps to accomplish something if you can get it done just as effectively in only three or four? Like marathoners, entrepreneurs need to figure out how to achieve maximum results with the least amount of effort. Simplifying processes whenever possible makes it much easier to accomplish more in less time so you get you through the middle miles faster. Remember, marathoners are lean for a reason.
5. Envision the End Game
At the beginning of the race, it’s easy to remember why you’re there. However, as the weeks and months wear on, it’s easy to get lost and forget what inspired you in the first place. The key to getting through the middle miles is to look at your goals each day and remind yourself why you started your journey.
Distance runners know the best way to make it to the top of a long, steep hill is not with huge, bounding strides but with smaller, forward steps. Big strides burn up the energy you need to keep going and will likely cause you to take a misstep that sends you tumbling back to the bottom of the hill. The smaller steps are a much more efficient use of energy and help ensure you make it to the top and beyond. Smaller steps help you take the time to focus on what you need to accomplish right now to achieve your long-term goals.
Remember, marathoners don’t sprint—they know how to pace themselves. There are times when you’ll need to make an extra push and times to keep steady. Measure your progress towards your goals every day and adjust your pace as needed. It’s those who can keep focused on the finish line that make it through the middle miles.
Daniel C. Steenerson (@dansteenerson) imparts his success wisdom, principles and philosophies through his proprietary “Science of Visioneering” approach to help companies, entrepreneurs, executives and other professionals realize business greatness. He may be reached online at www.DanSteenerson.com–an online community where business owners, executives and other career achievement-minded professionals go for no-nonsense, “tell-it-like-it-is” success advice.