Last Updated Aug 15, 2011 2:55 PM EDT
This year I lost 40 lbs, and at 45 years old I'm in the best shape I've been in since college (photo to the right is an "after" picture... of someone else). The kicker is, it really wasn't that difficult. And though you might find it a stretch -- pun intended -- there are direct corollaries between getting/keeping your body in shape and getting/keeping your business in shape.
My physical transformation hasn't been that difficult because it only took two things: common sense and sticking to fundamentals. I didn't read a single book, buy a DVD, hire a trainer, or follow the weight loss fad du jour. Finding your way to personal or business fitness shouldn't require you to buy anything; that just makes someone else's business healthier.
Here are a few basic rules that will strengthen your core or your corporation:
- There's no secret formula: Does anyone really need to tell you that eating less, eating better foods, and exercising are all most people need to do to lose weight? Of course not. And your business runs, and will succeed or fail, on a set of similarly basic fundamentals and rules that never, ever change. Don't fall into the "diet book trap" of thinking there is any road to true, permanent, fiscal fitness that isn't paved with these building blocks.
- Simplest is best: If you follow my blog you know I am a huge proponent of a simplicity theory called Occam's Razor. If there are 100 ingredients you can't pronounce or identify on the side of a food box, odds are it's something that won't be good for you. Seek out foods with the fewest ingredients, and business practices and decisions with the fewest "moving parts." If it's too complicated (in context, of course), chances are it's a bad choice.
- Be disciplined and execute consistently: If you want to get and stay fit, you have to make commitments and stick to them. You may not want to wake up at 5:30 am and exercise, but if you want results, you can't hit the snooze button. In business, you can never stop executing on the plan you've put in place. Progress comes with relentless persistence and consistency.
- Cut fat, not muscle: All weight loss is not created equal. The key is to build lean muscle, and this applies to your business in a very real way. Spend money and other resources on the things that are most productive and it will yield optimal results. If you want to shape up your bottom line, target fat (like travel and entertainment) and not muscle (like advertising and promotion).
- Measure yourself: As the saying goes, "anything you measure will improve." You measure your personal fitness by what the scale says, your clothing size, the distance you can run, or the weight you can lift. Without those things you know little to nothing about your progress or what changes you need to make. In business, you have a wealth of data at your disposal. Use the most important information to guide you, but don't suffer analysis paralysis... that's as counterproductive as weighing yourself five times a day.
- Don't forego enjoyment: Any diet that forces you to stop eating things you love is guaranteed to fail in the long run. Any job or business you don't enjoy at some level will wear you down. Work isn't always fun -- that's why they call it work -- but it shouldn't be as miserable as, say, never having pizza again.
Just as there are no get-fit-quick shortcuts, there are no get-rich-quick shortcuts. Long-term fitness -- for your body or your business -- is a permanent lifestyle, not a short-term program or periodic "tune-up."
If you think all of this is a silly analogy, or "duh, business 101" advice, think of all of the companies that have floundered, failed, or flamed out in spectacular fashion because they thought the rules didn't apply to them. The ones who shot steroids and wound up sterile, with asterisks next to their names in the history books (for you sports fans).
Please share your thoughts about philosophies and practices that have helped your business get and/or stay in shape.
Other articles of interest:
- 6 Ways to Make Your Small Business Look Bigger
- Surviving Tough Times: 100 Entrepreneurs Share Their Tips
- How Do You Handle the Worst BOSS of All?