The startup marathon: how to go the whole distance
Building a startup is marathon, not a sprint. A marathon that doesn’t have a definitive route, and no roadmap for what you’ll encounter on your way. In many ways, founding a startup requires the same training strategies as running a marathon.
1. Take long runs on the weekends
Marathon runners take long runs on the weekends, in addition to their training throughout the week, just like many startups begin as part-time weekend projects while the founders are still working full-time. There’s a passion burning that’s driving them to pursue it, but making the exit from corporate without a well thought-out plan is scary, unsustainable, and perhaps even foolish.
You want to shape your project enough so that you don’t to end up with buyer’s remorse. Quitting your job and then feeling that you’ve made a huge mistake will not result in good things for you, and especially for your startup. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it, and you wouldn’t buy a house without making sure the foundation is stable. You want to find out if your idea has traction, and what better way than to pretend you’re running the marathon on the weekends.
2. Go slow
When training for a marathon, runners usually go slower than their marathon pace. This is because consistent training at a slower pace results in better running. Even during the race, runners start slow so that they don’t tire out too quickly. In building a startup, it’s important to keep this pace to avoid burnout. Burnout has negative effects on everything from your health to your job performance. While building a startup, you want to be focused and clear headed, not running on fumes. And going slow also allows you to notice opportunities that come up on the way that you might otherwise miss if you only had the finish line in mind. Go slow and refine your ideas because you have a long way to go.
3. Train on hills
Marathon runners train on hills because the incline helps them prepare better. They intentionally create resistance just so that running the actual marathon will feel easier. In a startup, you simply need to embrace hills because there will be a lot of them along the way. Each challenge is an opportunity for learning, and the learning never stops. Of course, the learning curve will be steeper in the beginning, but just when you think you’ve solved one problem, there will be another one that comes up. Instead of becoming frustrated, take the resistance as a training opportunity that will give you an advantage in the race.
4. Rest and hydrate
This one you is quite literal, although there is more to it than sleeping and drinking water. When you’re working 18 hours a day for at least your first year, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. Getting the work done becomes more important than yourself, yet you are the one who is fuelling the work.
Long distance running requires rest and hydration. Building a startup requires stamina, a clear mind and creativity. To fuel these things, you need good sleep and water, but you also need to ‘hydrate’ your mind with knowledge and take care of your health so that you can maintain high energy levels.
5. It gets easier with time
Training for a marathon and building a startup are both very hard at first, but get easier with time. Even though you will constantly be learning, your startup ‘muscles’ will adjust and it will become easier to respond to the challenges that come up as you’re perfecting your technique. But exactly because it gets easier with time, it’s important to constantly work harder, push the boundaries and not become complacent.
6. The race will start with a sea of runners, but few will make it to the finish line
You start the marathon together with many runners – some of them your friends, some of them just other runners, but you will find a feeling of camaraderie like in few other places. Here at Sandglaz, we learned this during our time in TechStars. And because you’re around people who are going through the same things as you, knowing your limitations and knowing when it’s time to ask for help will become skills vital to your survival.
Finally, while it’s important to stay flexible, don’t undermine the need for a good action plan. Training for a marathon requires a hydration plan, a nutrition plan, a pace plan. It requires you to have enough energy to go the whole distance. If you have a plan on how to use the scarce resources that you have, you will be more likely to cross the finish line.
How are you training for the startup marathon? Share your tips with us in the comment section below.