How To Make Your Company Go The Distance, One Mile at a Time

If you want to whip your business into fighting shape, take a cue from seasoned athletes. Here’s how to make sure your company doesn’t get passed by its competitors.


Yesterday, I rode my new bicycle 21 miles on Martha’s Vineyard. Now for some of you, that may not be a big deal, but for me this was an event. I’ll admit, there were times that I watched the local bus go by (with bike racks) and thought to myself, “I should be on that bus.” But instead, I kept peddling while telling myself, “You can do this. All you have to do is take it one mile at a time.”


I know a lot of businesses that have decided to “take the bus,” with the hopes that they will ultimately reach their destination faster and in better condition than if they had slowed down a bit and gotten into fighting shape. They may have arrived at their destination first, but most won’t be able to remain there because they are still carrying excess weight. In business, the finish line is always moving. Economic conditions change, competitors come and go, and the needs of your business vary, depending on where you are in the business life cycle.

Here are some best practices from my most successful clients, who are in tip top shape.

Always be in training mode. A day doesn’t go by when they aren’t thinking of what they can do to be stronger and more agile. They know that if they keep doing the right things, eventually they will achieve the results they desire.

Build on strengths. A 5’8″ athlete recognizes his limitations. He may enjoy the game of basketball, but recognizes early on that his career as a professional player is over before it begins (unless he’s Nate Robinson, that is). Instead, he focuses his attention on a sport like baseball, where he can excel. Stop trying to turn your best sales person into a manager. She is destined for much bigger things. Instead, give her the tools and coaching she needs to be the best there is in the business.

Break goals down so they are achievable. If I had started my day yesterday thinking I was going to pedal for 21 miles, I would have never gotten on my bike. Instead, I used the lessons that I learned in business to get me to the finish line. I broke up my ride into manageable distances and gave myself rewards along the way. Telling those in your organization that you expect them to double revenues this year creates the feeling of doom and gloom all around. But what if you were to tell them that your expectation is a 25 percent increase by mid-year and that you will re-evaluate what can be accomplished when you are halfway through your ride? Breaking up long-term goals into achievable milestones allows people to shift their thinking from, “You can’t be serious” to “Hey, let’s get going!”


Celebrate successes. Every so often, my husband would tell me that I was doing a great job. At each milestone, we would celebrate my success with either a few quiet moments taking in the view or with an actual reward, like my new biking gloves. Taking the time to acknowledge small accomplishments can make a huge difference to those who are giving it their all. The moment of acknowledgment is what counts most. That’s what keeps people going.

Invest in new equipment when needed. The last time I bought a bike was when hybrids were all the rage. That was more than 20 years ago. Technology has changed and so has my body. Expecting to keep up with those around me while riding a three speed is next to impossible when everyone else has 21 gears to play with. When’s the last time you replaced the PCs on people’s desks? Are you asking them to process work at lighting speed, while they are waiting for their computers to catch up with their minds?

Get rid of the excess weight. There is nothing that slows you down more than excess weight. This hold true in life and in business. Yesterday, I was being passed  by women who were ten years older than me, as well as ten pounds lighter. Is your organization carrying people who are dragging you down?

Take action. I could have been pretty happy sitting on the beach at the end of our street yesterday and telling my spouse that I would ride with him another day. Yet I knew that another day would turn into yet another year. Are you doing the same? Are you delaying the inevitable? If you want to be successful, you have to take action today. Waiting another day may make tomorrow the last day you are in business.

Get a coach. The best athletes in the world have coaches. Why? Because they strive to be better and they know this can only occur if there is someone riding along side them to push them into greatness. The people who use coaches are usually the ones who are most successful. You see this at the gym and you see this in business. Don’t you deserve to be part of this elite group?


Today is a day of rest for me as I take time to ponder my next move. I know that it’s important to take time out of my day to think about my next move before reaching for my next goal.

[Image: Flickr user TouringCyclist]

© 2011 Human Resource Solutions. All rights reserved.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions ( and author of the highly acclaimed book Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-5 Leadership pick. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta’s monthly newsletter, HR Matters.

About the author

For more than 25 years, Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, has helped leaders in Fortune 500 companies, including Best Buy, New Balance, The Boston Beer Company and small to medium-size businesses, achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. She is known world-wide as “The Talent Maximizer®.” Roberta, a leading authority on leadership and the skills and strategies required to earn employee commitment and client loyalty, is the author of the top-selling book, Suddenly In Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey, 2011), a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book For Leaders