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Relentless Forward Motion: What It Means to Your Start-Up

Why an ultramarathon mentality will help you conquer any start-up obstacle

Blistering heat, 135 miles of running, and nothing but a pair of running shoes and the occasional refueling to get you through. To some, this sounds like a description of a trip to hell. For Pam Reed, it was all in a day's--or, in this case, 27 hours and 56 minutes'--work.

Winner of the recent Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, California, Reed--and others like her--participate in these extreme events not because they're fun, not because there aren't less taxing ways to compete in a road race, but because they're challenging. They are the ultimate tests of endurance--pass the test, and you earn the right to be counted among those who practice RFM, or Relentless Forward Motion (an acronym of extreme racing).

As you start your business or prepare to do so, it would help to think of yourself as setting off on an ultramarathon. You've got miles and miles of ground to cover, and even if you've planned your business down to the hour of when you will officially open your doors, you'll have to cover that ground all the same. You will find sustenance along the way, and you will find people who will support you, but at the same time you will battle unbearable heat (skeptics, investors, well-meaning friends), painful blisters (a dip in sales, a lawsuit, a fight with a partner), and even your own psyche (am I really cut out to be an entrepreneur?). And in the end, it all comes down to you and your ability to put one foot in front of the other in search of the finish line: start-up success.

Indeed, starting a business is a test of endurance like no other. In fact, even if and when you reach that finish line, your work is not done. As an entrepreneur, you've got to greet every day as a new challenge and a new opportunity for growth, even if you've attained comfortable success. Get too complacent--too relaxed in your current pace--and a competitor will fly past you quicker than you can say "Water, please."

Think of it this way. The day after Pam Reed won the Badwater Ultramarathon, she got up and went out for a morning jog. No matter what kind of monumental task you've conquered, and no matter how tired you might be, you've got to let RFM guide you to your next victory. It's the only way to sustain your start-up and ensure that it keeps growing.

Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.

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