The DECA Ironman is a race, journey and experience similar to the daily, weekly and yearly grind of being an entrepreneur. For clarification, the DECA Ironman (my favorite endurance sporting event) is an ultra distance triathlon consisting of 10 Ironman races. The length of each of the 3 triathlon disciplines is as follows: 24 mile swim, 1120 mile bike, 262 mile run – the equivalent of 10 Ironman races.
The DECA experience has physical pain and mental suffering. More than anything else, just like a new business founder the DECA requires the ability to keep coming back when faced with horrible adversity. Physically there are the effects of severe blisters, saddle sores, sleep deprivation, sleeping in full race clothing including shoes (if taking off the shoes, almost impossible to get back on with the severe swelling) fueling the body issues, not showering for days and being in a constant sweat state, but mentally it’s the drive and grit to keep looking for the final destination that enables the athlete to finish.
This event will take anywhere from 9-13 days depending on speed and a variety of factors that can completely transform the event for a participant. The DECA is similar to the grind required being an entrepreneur.
The word entrepreneur creates many fantasies for would be founders especially when the going gets tough. Being your own boss sounds great, but it will get extremely hard and yes long, long days. Learning how to work smart vs. hard sounds great in theory, but I have never met a successful entrepreneur who did not know how to work 7 days a week, 15-17 hours a day. Interestingly, entrepreneurism is the sexy word of the day and so many individuals are unaware of what it takes to actually turn a profit.
There have been so many new ventures starting every day, especially since the great recession of 2008. Corporate layoffs, baby boomers sick of corporate world, the passion/dreamer individual (find your passion and create a business), students now studying entrepreneurism in college, and of course the millennial’s creating and innovating ideas. As I have consulted and mentored many entrepreneurs over the years, the common theme is excitement, but MOST will fail for a host of reasons:
- Run out of cash and just “outsourcing” the finances to an internal or external resource. It’s imperative to understand a P&L in detail and Statement of Cash Flows.
- No idea how to manage cash flow appropriately – Especially when outside capital is invested. Amazing, when I hear the cash burn rates of startups and looking at the financial statements our team always finds massive waste of capital time and again.
- Don’t know how to suffer – I mean really suffer. If you want to learn how to suffer, eat two food staples, as Tim Ferris often mentions – beans and rice for a week and the same pair of clothes. I add in transportation must be in the form of walking or biking.
- Don’t know how to handle rejection every day.
- Scared and fearful to ask for orders and sales every single day.
- Not physically fit and the result is a lack focus and
- The product or service is not valuable to the marketplace based on the founders unrealistic expectations with a “pray and hope scenario”. This is a key point time and again – does the product or service solve a problem or enhance a customer experience?
- Not researching and surveying a target market group to see if the product and service actually would matter to them.
- Not being branded – this is not rocket science, if your company and name does not come up on a simple Google search you need to focus on your brand.
- Lack of communication to team members, partners, customers and investors starts the vicious downward spiral of the business.
The DECA and entrepreneur journeys are important and full of learning lessons. However, like the suffering of the DECA get ready for a rollercoaster of highs and lows when running your own business. Focus on outworking everyone else and Grind your way to how you define success.