I was never the fastest runner. Well, compared to those I was racing against. I did, however, work hard at it and actually managed to win a few races. You know the old saying, runners can't swim and swimmers can't run. I proved that many times over but I did always believe in having the right equipment for the type of race I was in. If it was a 5K then a super light pair of racing flats or a half marathon then a heavier more stable trainer with 100 miles on them. But what does this have to do with business you ask? Having the right tools for the job is number three on my list of essential business practices right behind having the right people on the bus and paying them well.
Let me give you an example. This is certainly an odd story but bear with me. I was about to begin a 10K trail race in Florida one late Fall day. The weather was crisp, cool and dry and I felt I was in very good shape. I knew the course having raced there many times before. It was a gnarly, root filled, winding and slippery route with elevation gains and plenty of ditches to bound over. I anticipated my heart rate never falling below 175 bpm. This was going to hurt, a lot. I had never come in first overall in any running race and this day didn't seem to be any different. I looked around the start line and noticed a few gazelles and their race focused gazes. Then I saw the fastest runner I knew. She was a collegiate phenom and easily could hold six minute pace or better on this course. She was a sure win- but, as I gazed down I noticed she had a pair of K Swiss 5K racing flats on. Clearly she had never raced here before and didn't know that trail running shoes were essential. I had on a spectacular pair of Brooks Cascades and they gripped the trail tighter than a guitar string. One slip here and hello sprained ankle. Did she bring the wrong tool for the job? Now with her here a win was out of the question but I figured a top five could be in the books.
The gun went off (yes, an actual start gun which went bang) and the first K flew by! I was gagging on my heart coming out of my mouth. With the trees so close I thought we were well into the five minute pace area but I glanced at my watch and it read in the low sevens. Such is life in trail racing. I was holding on to third place as we passed the 5K mark and then I managed to pass the second place guy. Start fast finish last I thought. Now I just had Ms. Speedy in her racing flats to catch which I knew was NEVER going to happen. At this point I was thinking to myself that I hope she doesn't slip. I had been doing my best to go full gas while trying to get as much purchase on the soggy trail as possible. It was then I heard the screaming!
As I came up about 7K I heard her blood curdling scream through the dense forest. I then caught a glimpse of her up the trail. She was laying down on the rocky trail. I thought to myself that if she sprained her ankle she needs to compress it. I wanted to help somehow. I unclasped my elastic race belt and as I approached her I saw a volunteer tending to her. I threw the race belt and told her to wrap it tight. It was a simple, band aid fix for this injury. I did what I could do to hold on for dear life in the last 2K. My lungs ached and were at maximum effort to process oxygen. As I approached the finish line I almost threw up, not because of the exertion but because I was not expecting to win. I wasn't the fastest but I had the right shoes. SHE was the fastest, better trained and stronger mentally. I won, she didn't. She didn't have the right tools for the job.
Which leads me to think that even in business having the right tools for the job will ultimately help you succeed. Whether it's the best computers or market intelligence platforms like SportBusiness, having the right tools can be the deciding factor on whether you win or not. Your strategy might be great, you might have hyper smart analysts but if they aren't provided the right tools than their success will surely be, as we say in endurance sports, sub optimal.
I would have included a picture of the podium celebration but the event organizer didn't have the camera. He clearly didn't have the right tool for the job either.