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Four ways running a business is like trail running

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Colorado Trail

As a business owner and avid trail runner I have realized lots of similarities in the two. Both are very challenging and rewarding. On a recent run after a day of hard work four ideas hit me for how running a business is like trail running. They are:

Ignore the naysayers

As soon as you start telling people you are a now a trail runner and plan on running your first 50 or 100 miler you are going to be called crazy. People will ask you why in the world would you want to do that. The same will happen when you decide to start your own business. Even family will show concern, mostly because they see it as a huge risk and don’t want to see you get hurt.

You have to ignore these people though, or you will never start. Fear wins in this situation if you give in. Yes, running an ultra marathon is crazy, but the rewards are many. The same is true with running your own business; you will have to work hard, just like you would have to train hard to run 100 miles. Neither endeavor is a walk in the park, but both have bountiful rewards.

Look up

In trail running it’s just as important, if not more important to look up (not down) while running. Looking up allows you to survey the trail ahead of you and avoid rocks, ruts, ledges, and branches. These are all obstacles that can slow you down or potentially injure you. Your feet tend to naturally adjust to the trail if you are constantly surveying the trail ahead.

When it comes to running your own business, look up – focus on what lies ahead. Survey for any potential pitfalls or dangers that could derail or slow down your business. For Bearded Brothers this means staying on top of industry standards and trends and taking care of the small but important things like paying taxes, and running payroll.

Start off slow

When running long distances, especially races, runners tend to start out too fast. I made this mistake when running my first 50 mile race, Cactus Rose. When I stopped at my first aid station 15 miles in I realized I was on pace to qualify for the coveted race Western States. It was at that point I knew I had started out too fast. It ended up catching up to me after I hit the 25 mile mark. The rest of my race was considerably painful and much slower.

When you run your business start off slow. Don’t be overly concerned with growth or the seemingly more rapid growth of your competition. If you go out too fast you risk not being able to meet demand, or meet your customer’s needs. Bearded Brothers has always grown at a sustainable speed. It’s also important to let your business grow naturally. If you have a great product, the demand will come to you.

Aid stations

Throughout the course of trail races are aid stations. They are different from aid stations you see in road races in that the tables are filled with not just water, but food for fuel, and people that will help encourage you along and help you when you are injured. If you have an awesome product or provide an excellent service you are sure to find aid stations (other people) along the way.

Aid stations in business can come in many forms. They can be investors that inject capital into your business to help it grow, or it can be somebody that is smarter than you in a certain area that helps your business grow even further, or it can be an avid customer that helps spread the word about your company. Don’t be afraid to stop at these aid stations.

About Caleb

I'm the co-owner/founder of Bearded Brothers, an organic snackfood company. I love ultra running, rock climbing and cycling. I'm also a vegetarian, passionate about health and well-being.
  • kayeherbert

    great post! i loved the comparisons to two of your loves. you are doing great– keep up the hard work! commit your plans to the Lord and you will be blessed.

  • Scott Smuin

    Awesome post Caleb! I completely agree with all of those. Good incites.