I hit the wall.
I wasn’t expecting it. Normally, the early spring weather is perfect for the New Jersey Marathon. I’d run through the coastal towns and boardwalks before. But that year, the weather had turned into a brutal, summer day with temperatures over 90 degrees and very high humidity.
It was suffocating from my first steps. Runners around me began to walk, staggering through the heat. But I tried to push through and keep to my planned pace. I was wrong. About halfway through, I hit the wall. I had no choice but to listen to my body. I walked slowly for miles. Toward the end, I summoned every ounce of my strength and was able to manage a slow jog over the finish line.
Runners hit the wall for many reasons. Sometimes it’s a lack of training or proper nutrition and hydration. And other times, it’s out of our control, like when the weather refuses to cooperate. The best we can do is train and learn from past experiences so we can prepare ourselves for future races.
Just like a runner, your business can hit the wall for many different reasons.
Have you ever seen a retail chain with hundreds of locations that disappear in bankruptcy overnight? They hit a financial wall. For many companies, these failures are not due to lack of sales. But in efforts to rapidly expand, they have buried themselves in unsustainable debt that could not be maintained. Like that runner who didn’t drink or eat enough nutrients during the race, these chains hit a financial wall that is very difficult to break through.
Sometimes, walls are out of our control. The COVID-19 pandemic appeared out of nowhere. I read that more than 200,000 businesses in the U.S. closed in 2020 because of the pandemic. Many others faced tremendous financial hardships.
My business was greatly affected by COVID-19. Our biggest market was the restaurant industry in New York City. When they shuttered, it immediately stopped a huge portion of our business. I hope to never see another pandemic that shuts everything down. Still, I made sure to prepare our company to be stronger if it ever did happen again. We needed to diversify our accounts. We are now taking the steps to expand into more suburban areas and have a more balanced mix of commercial and residential customers.
Whether we are running a marathon or running a business, walls are going to arise in front of us. The more your company is prepared for them, the easier they are to conquer. You can even avoid some walls by learning from past experiences and taking the steps to put your company on a completely different path.
If we train for the many different paths of possibilities, we’ll be able to break through the walls in our way!
Have a great run!