Archive for August, 2009

Pacing in racing and business can be the difference between a great finish or disappointing one.

August 17, 2009

I recently participated in a triathlon that I also participated in two years ago.  While the race was basically the same, there were some significant differences.  Two years ago, this race was my first triathlon.  This year, I had a total of five triathlons under my belt.  So I hoped the lessons I’d learned from the road over the past two years would pay off with a faster finishing time this year.

The goal for most racers is to set a P.R. (Personal Record).  We all, ideally, want to finish feeling strong and improve our performance every time we race.

One of the key components of racing is pacing.  If you start out too fast, you burn out early and often don’t feel strong crossing the finish line.  If you don’t pace fast enough, you feel like you could have done better and may miss setting a P.R.  Finding the ideal pace is a fine line and one that just takes time, knowledge and a lot of trial and error.

It’s not any different in business.  Businesses have to pace wisely.  How many times do we see companies get a really aggressive start off the starting line and show up on the fastest growing companies in America list.  But the following year, they realize they paced way too fast and they’re not able to sustain that momentum, so they’re not seen on that list again.  Or worse, they pace so fast, they “blow up” on the course and never make it to the finish line, closing their doors forever.

But pacing too slow can be an equally serious issue.  We often see companies trying to get it just right or their product or service so perfect that they are beaten to market or maybe never get there.  Thus their race is slow and painful, never seeing a P.R. Sometimes their inability to pace well means they fail to make it to the starting line and sometimes they start, but never make it to the finish.

Neither of these scenarios in racing or in business are what we’re striving for.  And the key to success or failure in these cases is pacing.  Finding that pace that’s fast enough to get you to the finish but not so fast you can’t maintain it for the long road ahead.  Triathlon, like business, is about pacing and endurance.  Those that pace well and can endure the bumps in the road, unexpected course changes, unpleasant weather conditions and much more will ultimately be successful. It’s about fueling and training wisely and knowing when and how hard to push.  It’s about being able to realize when you’re pushing too hard or not pushing hard enough and alter your pace accordingly.

This year, I paced the race well.  I shaved time off in every aspect: the swim, bike, run and both transitions for a total finishing time of 10 minutes faster.  Now that may not sound like a lot to you, but in racing terms it’s a significant difference.  To put it in  business terms, it would be equivalent to a company spending $110 million dollars two years ago to stay competitive in their industry and saving $10 million this year by spending more wisely and improving their competitive ranking and overall business efficiency in the process.  Now, I know you can see the significance of that.

In business the road is often bumpy and uncertain.  The course is constantly changing and you may have detours.  Pace wisely and you will feel the victory of success and set your own kind of P.R.