A Marathon Not A Sprint


A Marathon Not A Sprint

As milestones go, 2022 is an especially significant one for me. I’m celebrating 20 years in business having set up in 2002.

Prior to this, I had spent nearly 10 years working in the community which included setting up community businesses, culminating in an exchange project with my family in Brazil. On my return I decided it was time to step out again into the unknown. Time to go it alone and launch a new L&D business.

I was of course stepping into a well-populated L&D environment but I was sure I could bring something different, a belief (perhaps a naive one) that I could add value, encouragement and expertise to the leadership journeys of others.

As I enter 2022, I have been reflecting on a 20-year marathon with so many highlights, challenges, disappointments and uplifting experiences. Concluding also, that learning really is a life-long journey. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “When you’re finished changing – you’re finished.” The journey continues….

At start-up one doesn’t really factor into one’s thinking that financial crises, recessions and pandemics will need to be navigated, well I didn’t. I set off with one over-riding objective which was to provide a secure and stable environment for my family. I wanted life to be as ‘normal’ as possible for our two young sons even though I had no idea where work and the all-essential income was going to come from. I was however, comforted and encouraged to have a wife who ‘backed’ me all the way.

At the beginning of 2002 I was amazed by the generosity shown to me by one person in particular who provided an unsolicited, interest free loan with an open-ended repayment arrangement. This was to help me set up the business and have some income for the first few, uncertain months in business. I’m sure there are others, like me, who are occasionally reminded of the basic human kindness and generosity of others. People motivated by a desire to see others succeed. I certainly was, and have been reminded of this over the past two decades. I hope I have shown the same generosity along the way.

2008 signalled a major turning point for my business as the recession began to bite and the resources to fund L&D became harder to find. I turned my attention to other shores, far from this small corner of the world. A Lebanese group of companies invited me to help strengthen their leadership spine in various parts of the world, none of which I had ever visited before. I was humbled and grateful for the opportunities they gave me and for the many wonderful relationships I built.

Entering 2022 I am amazed at the breadth and reach around the world of this small company, being inspired along the way by some very talented colleagues and collaborators. If I may, I would like to highlight six key lessons learned which may be useful for other leaders, including those in small and micro businesses.

1. Don’t underestimate your capacity for success
It probably depends on your definition of success which I would suggest needs to be much broader than making money.

However, a basic belief in one’s own ability and the passion, drive and courage to make things happen will take you a long way.

2. Expect unexpected allies
My own marathon has been dotted along the way by surprising encounters, conversations and shared experiences. There are people out there whom you haven’t met yet and whom you don’t yet know who might prove to be the right person to talk to at the right time. Be willing to embrace the unexpected.

3. Grow your network
It is most unlikely that you will succeed without the input, advice and expertise of others. However, I’ve always believed that growing my network of connections is worth it for its own sake and not because I might gain some benefit from it. Just connect and see where it takes you.

4. Optimism over positive thinking
I have learned optimism and got better at it over the years. The thing about optimism is that it acknowledges current reality (which may be very difficult at times) but chooses to look beyond adversity and set-backs towards a better day. Optimists tend to have a positive impact on others in my experience, and those ‘others’ may at times be key decision makers.

5. Speak well of the competition
When one is focused on establishing and building a business, one has to expect setbacks and disappointments. Other people will on occasions, win the business you had hoped for. Sometimes of course, we win the business they had hoped for. I will always remember the response of a business owner I had worked with for around 5 years when I told him I believed our collaboration had run its course and that I needed to pursue new partnerships and opportunities. “When other companies tell me they have secured your services, I will assure them they have made a great choice.”, he said. What a generous stance to take, especially as we were about to operate in competition. I learned so much from this person’s wise and generous words.

6. Stay true – be yourself
Over the past 20 years I have increasingly understood the importance of authenticity, which has included admitting a lack of knowledge, capability and experience at times. The business environment will prove to be unpredictable and volatile at times, there will be seasons of significant success as well as inevitable challenges and disappointments. However, remaining sincere and true to yourself and your core values with a large helping of humility and generosity will carry you forward.

Here’s to a healthy and brave new year, I wish you well for 2022

Bill Roy

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