In many ways, operating a startup business is a lot like running a marathon. Both require lots of time, training, and planning, as well as self-discipline and flexibility. Like anyone training for a race there are just best practices to efficiently run your startup.

Timing is everything

During a marathon, you rarely see people take off at a flat out sprint in the very beginning. Instead, professional runners set a pace and know when to start pushing themselves. This is critical to a startup company. You must know the market and know when to start pushing your product. If the market is flooded with similar items, you may need to wait in order for your business to take off.

Another important key to the timing of your startup is to make sure you are moving quickly and decisively. Once you start making moves towards your business plan, act with a purpose! These are some of the most important steps in the life of your business. Too many startups have gotten bogged down at the very beginning because they simply dragged their feet getting off the ground.

Surround yourself with supporters

Most marathon athletes have a network of support. This support group is usually made up of friends, family, and other marathon runners who constantly strive to improve and encourage the athlete. In business, this is also important. Make sure you have people in place in your business who will be with you for the long haul. Most startups won’t get off the ground in six months, some not even in a year, so make sure you hire people who are committed and who desire to improve your business. These people will be the cornerstones of your startup.

On a more personal note; try to involve your friends and family in this process. Not only will they be there to help you through the tough times, but they will also be there to celebrate with you in your triumphs. We all need a little encouragement – or a call from a friend reminding us to get some sleep.

Stick to the plan

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of any undertaking is self-discipline. In reference to running a marathon, serious runners have the self-discipline of a monk. They adhere to rigid training regimes, nutrition plans, and practice schedules. In order to have a successful startup, you must adopt this attitude as well. That means setting forth a budget and then sticking to it – not a single penny over. Perhaps you can afford to go over your budget, but in the end, it’s the principle of the matter. If you go over your first budget, what will keep you from going over it for the rest of the life of your business?

In addition, it is recommended that you set forth a schedule for yourself concerning when you want to get certain things done. That way you can see your schedule days, weeks, and even months in advance, and know what you need to get done. It should be well known to anyone reading this article that startups require more time and nurturing than an established business. You should be prepared to spend as much time as needed on your project.

Bend but don’t break

A flexible runner is a good runner. If you run while you’re stiff, you will inevitably injure yourself. Any runner, marathon or not, knows stretching before a race is invaluable. You loosen up your muscles and give your body a chance to enjoy a wider range of motion and to recover faster after the race. Being flexible with your startup is equally important. Things can change in almost any aspect of your business and they might require tweaking. Sure, your company might be your baby and you might have everything perfectly in order.  However, what if things change and initial testing of your product shows you need to alter your course?  Given that your product has never been tested in the marketplace until your first round of testing, you do not know whether or not your idea is one that will stick. Therefore, it is vital to have the flexibility to adapt and change as new factors arise.

Don’t forget to follow through

After all the training and all the preparation, don’t chicken out. Put your feet to the pavement and just go. All the tips and helpful hints are worth nothing if you don’t have the perseverance or knowledge to just get out and do it. This goes for marathons, startup businesses and anything else that might require any great effort. At the end of the day, make sure you know how to do what you need to do rather than what needs to be done. Don’t come to the end of things and be afraid of getting your hands dirty. You’ve come too far to quit now. Follow through.