Running 100 Miles: Lessons for Scaling Your Startup

Running 100 Miles: Lessons for Scaling Your Startup

By Scott Sambucci | May 14, 2018

Last month, I ran the Zion 100 – a 100-mile ultra marathon in the Southwest Desert near Zion National Park.

I’m asked all the time – “How the heck do you run 100 miles?”

It comes down to three core elements – the same three elements that you need to grow and scale your startup:

  1. Do the RIGHT Work.
  2. Know the course.
  3. Keep. Moving. Forward.

#1. Do the RIGHT Work.

You hear all the time from most runners and coaches – “You gotta get in the miles every week!” That could mean 50, 75 or even 100 miles of training every week.

Wrong. Besides, who has time for that?

I don’t run 100 miles to train for a 100-mile race. I don’t need to because everything I do it laser-focused on the RIGHT training for the outcome that I want.

My training philosophy is simple – No Wasted Miles.

I know that I don’t have to just “get in the miles,” because it’s not about how many miles I run. I run as few as 25 miles in a WEEK to get ready for a 100-mile ultra-marathon because I know EXACTLY what I need to do in training every day and in every mile to be ready on race morning.

Now… those 25 or 30 or 40 miles are tough – long, painful intervals that most people won’t do. Then I couple those miles with focused Cross-Fit workouts – deadlifts, box jumps, Kettle bell swings, pull-ups, burpees, wall balls, jumping squats – that leave me lying on the mat in a heap of sweat and complete exhaustion.

The same philosophy applies to growing and scaling a startup.

Startups are [wrongly] told – “You just gotta hustle!”

Bullshit.

Hustle and hard work gets you out of your day job. They help you launch v1 of your product. They can get you the first few customers.

Hustle and hard work are only pre-requisites for building your startup. If hustle and hard work were all you needed, nearly every startup would survive. If a startup founder isn’t willing to “hustle,” they’re dead on arrival.

But HUSTLE & HARD WORK DOESN’T SCALE.

SCALING your startup isn’t about spending countless hours beeping badges at some industry conference in some nameless hotel. Scaling your startup doesn’t happen by cancelling the family trip you planned to grind out proposals all weekend that never get read. (How are those working out for you BTW…?)

If you really want to grow and scale your company, you need to do the RIGHT WORK with the RIGHT STRUCTURE in your sales day. You need to have the RIGHT SYSTEMS for prospecting, for managing your active pipeline, for converting and supporting your customers.

Building the right sales systems gives your startup REPEATABILITY, and once you have repeatability, you’ll have your path to SCALABILITY.

Make every minute count. Make every action count.

No wasted miles. Do the RIGHT work.

#2: Know the course.

A friend asked me this weekend – “How do you even think about running 100 miles? It’s just so freaking far.”

It’s simple: Know the course, then take it one step at a time.

Over a 100-mile ultra-marathon, the course steers you to steep mountains to climb, rapid descents to negotiate and sketchy single-tracks to traverse.

You have to know exactly what is ahead for each next section of the course – What’s the elevation gain and loss? What are the obstacles ahead? Is the trail ahead rocky single-track or an exposed fire trail? How long should the next section take? Do I have enough water and fuel to carry me to the next station?

Once you know the course ahead, then it’s just a matter of putting on foot in front of the other – step-by-step, mile by mile.

In sales, this means knowing your SALES MAP from lead to happy customer, then building a plan for every meeting with every prospect along the way. It means knowing the exact problem you’re solving for each customer and which stakeholders and buyers you need to reach for that sale. It means knowing exactly where you need to go from every conversation, call and interaction with your prospects. It means knowing exactly how you’ll go from that first conversation in the conference booth to a paid pilot with that prospect three months later.

Sales isn’t about blasting out spammy emails hoping someone will reply… or sending one-pagers to low-level managers hoping they share it with their boss… or working all weekend on that proposal hoping the prospect will read it… or hiring Mr. Rolodex hoping that that will lead to a few customers.

Hoping that a step you take today will end up a sale later will only leave your startup lost and stranded in the wild.

Sales is about knowing YOUR sales process – your SALES MAP – then guiding the prospect on their buying journey in your sales process.

Know the course – know YOUR course.

#3: Keep. Moving. Forward.

Sure, it gets really freaking hard out there on the course.

It gets hard at mile 8 when an early morning downpour turns the dirt trail into a slick, mucky, muddy mess.

It gets hard at mile 22 after running for three miles on ankle-tearing boulders, knowing there are four more miles of the same before the next aid station.

It gets hard at mile 38 at the start of a 1500’ vertical climb over the next mile.

It gets hard at mile 47 running three feet from a 2000’ drop with 40mph wind gusts blowing you sideways.

It gets hard at mile 76 drinking bad coffee in sanitized water at 1am to stay awake for the last 24 miles.

But regardless of how hard it gets, there is always, always, always one choice that you can make – Keep. Moving. Forward.

For startups, that means: Always. Be. Selling.

Selling is more than a verb. It’s more than an action.

Selling is a mindset. It’s something you do EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Selling teaches you about your customers. Selling informs you about your product – what you’ve built and how to improve it. Selling demonstrates what value you’re bringing to your customer. Selling shows your engineering team why they pull all-nighters. Selling gives your investors confidence that you’re taking action to make the impact you want to make.

Thinking that one next product feature will make all the difference… Automating your sales funnel before you’ve make the first sale… Hiring that salesperson to “figure out the sales thing” for you. Those are all excuses that stop your progress.

When you sell every single day, you’re taking control of your future. You’re taking responsibility for what happens to you.

Keep Moving Forward = Always Be Selling.