My daughter Haley and her college friends entered an event called the “Tough Mudder”. The event is an obstacle course held at a large outdoor venue where contestants crawl through mud pits with barbed wire, scale walls, run long distances and swim through giant mud holes. It is an event that tests your mental and physical toughness and where teamwork is crucial to getting to the finish line. Even the best athletes struggle without the help of others.
While observing the ensuing mayhem, I started relating the course to managing or owning my truck repair business. It didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that you really do need to be a tough mudder to survive the pitfalls and challenges of running a business!
Each one of the obstacles on the course reminded me of something that you have to battle through in order to continue moving forward – knowing full well that the next challenge is right around the bend. The short breaks in between, which still involve running while exhausted, represent the times when you have handled a situation successfully and things are going smoothly.
If you survive the event and make it to the end, other participants hold you in high esteem. In real life, you hope that someone recognizes your devotion and tireless effort, but most times it’s like wetting your pants while wearing a dark suit – you get a warm feeling but nobody notices.
This all relates to everyday life, but especially in business. There is very little downtime before you put out one fire until the next one is already raging.
I know I might not be in complete agreement with managers on this subject. Managers do a lot of heavy lifting, but they can stop and walk off the course when things get too intense. The owners don’t necessarily have that option. They might die on the course or even get pulled off against their will.
– Recruiting quality people
– Retaining quality people
– Compensating quality people
– Putting together attractive benefit packages.
– How many employees do we need?
– What will their roles entail?
– Dealing with workers comp, unemployment, or HR situations.
– Fostering chemistry and a positive culture to make everything work in unison.
– Will the Baby Boomers play nice with the Millennials?
– Keeping the cash flowing and bills paid.
– How do we find balance in what we need to charge and what the market is willing to pay?
– Dealing with expansion in good times and downsizing in bad.
– Staying calm and in control when things feel like they are falling apart.
– And then finally when you think you are cruising, how the heck are we going to pay the taxes on our wins???
When you first start off, all you see is glory. You think “I got this, I have trained and I am very confident”. Then the finish line might start looking hazy as you cramp up and have trouble catching your breath. There are times when you are wet, full of mud, and your feet feel like they are heavy as cinder blocks. The finish line is in another world and you doubt that there even is a finish line. These are the times when you have to drag your weary ass out of bed, take a deep breath, put a fake smile on your face, tell everyone around you that things are ok, come up with a plan and tough it out!
Then I got things going, but hit a massive obstacle in the IRS that escalated into a visit from a lady armed with padlocks in her handbag from the NYS Sales Tax office. I wasn’t a criminal but uneducated on how to be a well rounded entrepreneur.
But I had teammates to encourage me – especially my hard working wife Cindy and children Janae and Haley. They cheered me on and were my inspiration to keep going.
Just like the obstacles at the event, life’s obstacles are easier to overcome if you train and have great teammates. In business, that training is education and the teammates are the people you surround yourself with.
The finish line is the goal that you set. You should know where the finish line is so that you can stay focused and get there. You may take your own personal tough mudder event in stages and have several finish lines, but make sure you stop at them and be proud of the fact that you made it there. Hopefully others will recognize you, but if not, you still have that dark suit as a backup.
I have overcome many obstacles in my 30+ years in business and have built a team that makes me confident that there is no course too tough for us.
Of course I don’t get too comfortable. I know there is someone digging a mud pit for me as you read this! I have many stories of defeat, resurrection, intestinal fortitude and victory – but they will cost you a beer.
Keep training, establish goals, build a great team and don’t give up!
You got this, You are a Tough Mudder!