All I really need to know about entrepreneurship I learned at Ironman

Claude crosses the finish line at Ironman 2008
In July 2008, I competed in Ironman USA in Lake Placid, New York. Ironman is a triathlon comprised of a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and a 42.2 km run with 17 hours to complete the race.

It was my second Ironman race, so I went into it with the benefit of lessons learned from my first Ironman experience as well as a couple of ½ Ironman races under my belt. I nonetheless made sure I put the time and effort in to train and prepare properly, so I’d be well positioned for a positive outcome.

So you’re probably asking yourself what an Ironman race has in common with entrepreneurship. Quite a bit, actually – they both require passion, consistency and dedication.

New businesses are often concerned with managing cash flow to support operations. In an Ironman race, your “currency” consists of the fluids and calories that you take in throughout the event. Managing this currency of calories requires that you continuously monitor your nutritional status and deal effectively with change so you can continue to your goal, not unlike cash flow in a business.

Success in Ironman, as in business, requires excellent planning and ongoing risk management during execution. I can recall a number of occasions during races where I have narrowly avoided being involved in a disastrous bike crash or allowed myself to stray from my planned strategy and barely made it to the finish. In business entrepreneurship as in Ironman, detailed planning, vigilance in sticking to your plan and adapting to change are all key to optimizing your chances of success.

On the day I raced in Lake Placid, nature delivered a persistent and substantial downpour making conditions less than optimal. I nonetheless made it to the finish line in just over 12 hours, a little slower than my previous time. I attribute this successful outcome to discipline, patience and common sense, valuable traits whether you’re racing Ironman or starting a new technology business.

It’s when the greatest challenges present themselves that these traits help us push through and make it to the next leg of the race or overcome obstacles on the road to business success.