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Running through the finish line

I spent one season in track. I was an eighth-grader at North Whidbey Junior High in Oak Harbor. I had just finished basketball season and I couldn’t play golf until my freshman year, and I needed something to do. Track and being bored were my only options. I chose track.

I was capable of running, but when compared to others in a straight-out 100-yard dash, I was slow. The coaches put me on the 880-yard race, which was the equivalent of being sent of to Siberia on the track team. The 880 (yes we were still “yards” in the late 1970s) as it was called, was an agonizing eight laps around the track. We ran our endurance race while all the other cool stuff was being done in the field. This race was obviously not a sprint; it was more of a grind. It was akin to shoveling sand because the strides are fairly short, yet if you keep with it, the laps add up.

The one thing I was keenly aware of was the sprint at the end. No matter what happened the 780 yards previously, the race was won or lost in the last 100 yards. The guy who had the most left and who ran hard through the finish line was always the winner. I never won a race myself, but I always felt like I could compete with myself and run hard through the “tape” and finish the race strong.

Funny how a year in business is much like my old 880-yard races.

The year starts out with great promise and hope just like the start of the race. As you work through the strides (days) they eventually turn into seasons of the year (laps). Before you know it, you’re nearing that last turn for the sprint to the finish line (November). What do you have left in your tank?

Just like in any race, we may not always finish first. Situations both outside and within our control may cause us to stumble. As I write this column, the government shutdown is still going strong; crises have befallen communities in West Texas and Moore, Okla.; and all of you have had to deal with some unforeseen adversity. On the other hand, we live in a country where we have more control of our futures than most. As business leaders we are nimble and resilient. And that’s how we find that intestinal fortitude to have overcome the past 780 yards and sprint hard to the finish line.

A sprint isn’t simply running as fast as you can (although for me that was about as much thought as I put into it). There is strategy, smarts and technique. So it is for our 2013 sprint. And for us, how we finish dictates how we start the 2014 race. So let’s get it right. Here are my five tactics in strategy, smarts and technique that you can use for your scamper:

Don’t stop marketing. In fact, market more assertively than before. Too many businesses outside of retail think that everyone takes the holiday season off. That is a crucial mistake. They don’t and you shouldn’t either.

Finish what you started. Many projects with great intentions were initiated in the spring, only to be thrust to the back burner. Now is the time to revive those projects.

Work smarter. Stop doing things that aren’t productive (you know what they are) and start doing things that move you forward faster. The latter may not be as much fun, yet the results are.

Manage your time better. Ferociously guard your time. You will be pushed and pulled from all directions over the next two months. Be prepared to say no. Nothing is more valuable than your time, both professionally and personally.

Keep your eye on the ball. Yes, I’ve moved briefly away from track to any sport that has a ball. Even the most skilled professional in a ball sport knows the simple rule that becoming distracted will cause you to lose focus and drop the ball. Many distractions are headed your way. Keep your eye on the ball.

Bottom line — regardless of whether your business year has been good, bad, or somewhere in the middle, you still have two months left to make it great. When you do that, the ripple effect will touch your employees, your clients, your family, and your attitude. The sprint portion of the race is in front of you. How you finish will be determined by if you run through the finish line or not. That choice is all yours.

Okay now… Sprint!

Dan Weedin is a Poulsbo-based strategist, speaker, and mentor. He coaches business leaders and executives to become stronger leaders, grow their businesses, and enrich their lives. He was inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant™ Hall of Fame in 2012. You can reach Dan at 360-697-1058; e-mail at dan [at] danweedin [dot] com or visit his web site at www.DanWeedin.com.

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