Ad Agency New Business is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

In a recent post I wrote about the importance of getting away from ad agency new business to get refreshed and re-energized. But there’s more to it: it’s taking a long-term view of the work you do.

As a former long distance runner, I often describe work as a marathon, not a sprint. This metaphor helps me to pace myself, set goals, train properly, set realistic deadlines, and think.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Pace: Unless you’re an elite runner, you can’t sprint a marathon. If you do, you’ll burn out. The same applies to work. If you work seven days a week as hard as you can, before too long your productivity will plummet.
  • Goals: Runners set many goals: total miles per week, time per mile, miles for long runs, short runs, etc. Goals for new business might include calls per day, conversations per day, hours spent researching; number of networking meetings, first meetings, RFPs submissions per month; wins per quarter; win rates, etc.
  • Training: Marathon runners often train 5-6 days a week. They run in the rain, snow, heat and wind. Nothing stops them. Do you train that rigorously at work? Most of us do initially, but then settle into our routines. Are you creating new challenges weekly? Monthly? Are you training for your next job, and training someone to replace you?
  • Realistic Deadlines: Runners plan to run a marathon in the future, because they know it takes time to prepare. At work, think about setting deadlines for yourself and your team that are challenging, yet realistic. Occasional sprints can be great for team building, building your culture, and overall morale. However, too many “invented crises” will wear you out.
  • Time to Think: Beside the endorphin rush, for me the best part of running was letting my mind go. I would often head out for a run when faced with a difficult problem. By the time I got back, I’d figured it out. You can’t do this when you’re sprinting. Similarly, at work, you if you’re always head-down sprinting – fighting fires, or dealing with client or employee issues – you won’t have time to think. Perhaps you can block quiet time off on your calendar, or go for a walk at lunch or schedule workouts a few times each week.

Success comes in many forms, but one thing is certain: if you burn out early any success will be short-lived. You may find that thinking about work as a marathon will build your endurance and productivity.

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