North America

Training for a marathon is a lot like running a business

Cross the finish line
June 6, 2014

Written by: Terence J. Shepherd

Lately I’ve been training for the Paris marathon. Random reflections about the training regimen have filtered in and out of my consciousness while going through the paces.  As I struggled up hills and added miles to each run, it dawned on me how much training to run a marathon really is a lot like running a business. 


Let’s start at the beginning; the end goal. 

Both the marathon runner and a successful business owner look ahead and set a challenging stake in the ground of where they want to be sometime in the future.  To be winners, both realize that they can’t just aimlessly move ahead and only rely on hope to reach their end goal.  

To get to the finish line, a deeply grounded commitment to do whatever it takes is paramount. Both the business owner and the marathoner need to demonstrate a determined willingness to continue moving ahead despite distractions, setbacks and adversity.  Otherwise the end desire becomes nothing more than a dream or wishful thinking. Without full unequivocal commitment, any plans will be ripe for failure from the very beginning. 

With the destination, or if you will, the vision, set, a detailed plan or road map is laid out providing direction to get from here to there. To be successful, both plans need to have an orderly process of scheduled activities with milestones set along the way leading up to the end goal. Each step in the plan should build upon the others before it, slowly strengthening the base to support the next series of action items in the plan and the higher levels of achievement. 

If the business owner or the marathoner skips over any of the steps before putting in the time to develop the required base, there is a good chance that things will falter. If that happens, both time and any momentum that had been gained will be lost by having to go back, regroup and start over to try and get things back on track. Likewise, and  as I was reminded charging up a hill recently with arms flailing, rushing through any of the activities before you’re ready because you’re anxiously wanting to just get to the next destination, usually wastes a lot of energy with little or no gain.

Keep to the plan and the schedule, and should you need assistance then call in outside help to help coach, and guide you to the end goal. 

To be a successful business owner, I think a lot can be gained by taking this page from the sports field. The individual and/or team sets a vision of what they want to accomplish, gut checks their commitment, puts together a step by step detailed plan of how to reach their goal and brings in coaches and trainers to push, motivate and keep them to the schedule. 

As I’ve advised many times before, these concepts of business success are simple and unfortunately that’s exactly why most businesses ignore implementing them. They believe the secret to success has to be more complicated and continually search for the ‘Holy Grail’.

My advice, set your end goal, work out a plan to get there, follow through with a commitment to execute, don’t think you can do it all on your own so bring in coaches from the outside to work with you and I’ll see you at the finish line. 

Terence J Shepherd, CM&AA, CPA, MST, has advised small and medium-sized, family owned/closely held businesses for over 30 years. His particular business areas of expertise are in business exit and transition planning, building business value, increasing profitability, strategic planning, business development, customer service and team development. He is a Lead Partner of ROCG~Boston, international consultants and Managing Partner of Shepherd & Goldstein Business Consultants and Certified Public Accountants. He can be reached at