Two years ago I decided to take part in ultra endurance bicycle races. At the time it was hard for me to articulate why I wanted to do this. After the first test rides and even the first race I wasn’t quite able to put it into one sentence. Having done two races now there is a lot I learned and I’m sure there is more to learn yet. What completely took me by surprise was that: Building a business is like ultra endurance racing.
But first things first. What is an ultra endurance bicycle race? It is a one stage race with 500 to x-thousand kilometres. The clock never stops. All stopping time is included (sleeping, eating, shopping for food, repairing the bike or clothing). It is self supported which means no external assistance is allowed.
What makes it so interesting is that it is not only about physical fitness. You need to be prepared with the right kit. You need to know how you feel without sleep. You need to be able to digest a ton of food while your body is exercising. You need to be able to find places to sleep when you need it. You need to be able to repair any mechanical problems you encounter during the race. And like in building a business: being an expert in one of the things is not enough to make it to the finish. You need to be able to handle everything well and if everything goes perfectly you might produce a superb result.
Determination, patience, gentleness, suffering - you will need all of them.
Building a business has a lot in common with this type of adventure. It takes lots of determination to build a business. It is an emotional rollercoaster. It is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. Being an expert in one thing is not enough. You learn while you go. No matter how well you plan, when you are executing you need to take decisions while you go and rely on your assessment. If you make a mistake you need to fix it. No time to hang around and be mad with yourself.
In June 2023 I participated in the BikingMan France. It is 1000 kilometres long and has 23.000 meters of elevation. It follows the most beautiful roads of Provence. It took me 79h28min to complete the course. I slept 8h45min during this effort. It is physically, mentally and emotionally one of the toughest things I have ever done.
One of the most important learnings: If it goes well and you’re feeling high - well bad news: It will be worse soon. If you feel at your lowest - good news: It’s going to be better soon.
And it was only after this race that I was finally able to put into one sentence why I love doing these ultra endurance races: I take myself apart to rebuild a better version.
In business you have to do this again and again as well, because there is constant change and what worked yesterday might be difficult today and impossible tomorrow. So as business leaders you have to be ready to: Take everything apart and rebuild your business in a better version.
Less than one week after the race my personal rebuild started. I feel calm. I feel focused. I feel self assured. I know I can handle all the highs and lows that are waiting for me. I know that I’m small, but if I focus and just carry on, something legendary can be achieved - be it in cycling or in the even longer endeavour of constantly rebuilding Tektit.