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When you are running your own business, whatever its size, it’s really easy to be so busy with your business that exercise takes a back seat. I have sometimes quoted in the battle of balance which I have never mastered if I am fat and happy with the business even the family know who I am. When alternatively I am very fit, the business is having a tough time and I still spend some time at home, I am not happy. I sense this is the paranoia of the entrepreneur and the one thing I would therefore recommend, to maintain exercise I need to get it done early.

When you’re so focused on making sure you fill that order, confirm that new client or open that new factory, that’s all you think about and going for a run or heading to the gym easily slips down the to-do list. Exercise can feel like something you do once everything is sorted, a “leisure” activity for when things aren’t quite so hectic..that will never be if you are genuinely driving your business to the best of your abilities.

I’ve got news for you: in the twenty years that I was building and running Pacific Direct, there was never a “quiet” day when I thought “oh, there’s nothing to do, I’ll pop to the gym.” There is always, always something else to do when you run a business, whatever its size.

Am I saying that you shouldn’t then take the time to exercise? Quite the opposite; I’m saying you need to schedule it in your diary like you would a board meeting, and make sure it happens regularly, even when you don’t have time. In fact, especially when you don’t have time.

Recruit staff!
You may have already heard the story about how my first employee at Pacific Direct was the loudest person on my hockey team. I say it as if it’s a joke, but really that hockey team provided me with core team members who I knew were hard workers and not afraid of a challenge. Why is that? People who play team sports already have that team spirit about them, which means they will work well in your team. If they think nothing of a winter evening spent pushing a ball around a frozen or muddy pitch, there’s probably not much you could ask of them in business that would be considered too much. Consequently, I tend to employ sports people for all sales roles, perhaps a person biased but one that has proven to work.

Networking
Getting out for exercise of an evening or weekend is not only for recruiting staff! With that said though, playing a team sport or even going to the gym is a great way to network and meet different people with the forced environment of a “networking event.” You might meet your ideal customer, someone who’s looking to invest in a business like yours, someone who has been in your shoes and knows how to get over the hurdle that’s had you stuck for a few weeks. You will often find like-minded, entrepreneur type people at the gym, and that is no coincidence. Recently one of my USA team made friends with another dog walker, we are now working on an amazing partnership we hope with www.betterlife.com

Manage stress
Running a business can be incredibly stressful, (positive stress I do also believe in) and those that don’t do some form of exercise to relieve that tension will perhaps find the value of stress relief by taking your mind off everything a missing piece of your artillery. Physical exercise lowers stress and produces endorphins to give you a natural high. This means you’re less likely to go home and take your stress out on your partner, and that you can go back to work with a clear and rational head for decision making.

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The successful ones are the people who prioritise finding at least a couple of hours per week to pound the pavements, swim or join in with a team sport. Get creative When you spend all day working in your business it can be hard to take a step back and see the full picture. You can easily get bogged down in the minutiae of the day-to-day running of your business, while the larger questions remain unanswered. Many of us will find that we’re too busy fighting fires to think about the bigger picture, or plans for growth and expansion. It’s a proven fact that exercise improves our brain power and can help us to think more creatively. Even if your exercise is a quick thirty-minute jog around the park at lunchtime, you’ll find that you go back to your desk rejuvenated and ready to tackle that big problem that’s been bothering you. Having that “down” time for your brain where you’re not focused on spreadsheets or stock levels will allow you to come up with solutions for other things and really start pushing your business forward.

Build confidence
We will all have a crisis of confidence from time to time; for some this can be worse than for others. Whether you feel that you’re lacking in confidence or not, there’s nothing like achieving a fitness goal to make you feel good about yourself – and that does then carry across to your business.

In 2011 I competed in the World Triathlon Championships in Beijing. Now while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you do that – I ached everywhere, every day for weeks during training – I do think that competing at that level brought me the clear time I needed to separate myself from the sale of my previous company Pacific Direct. Training was rigorous and tough, and I was so elated when I finished, I felt I could achieve anything. If you’re working hard on your business all day, every day, and feel like you’re just not getting anywhere, try competing in some form of a race and see how that improves your business too. Small steps and be aware time costs money – always.

Nurture your competitive nature – it will help you step outside your comfort zone. Stretch yourself and you will lead other better, understanding the emotions you are demanding of them. It’s seems not very British to be competitive and driven, but those are two things you need by the bucket load if you’re going to succeed in any business at all. I don’t necessarily mean that you have to be in competition with others; you can be competitive with your own previous best record and still use this to drive yourself and your business forward. Whether we consider ourselves as competitive or not, entering any form of a race automatically makes you want to beat the next person, and the next, and the next.

If you compete in any sport, at any level, you want to get better. You want to finish the season a little higher up the league tables; to finish the course in a shorter time; to finish this lap ahead of the person beside you. This competitive edge is something you can apply to your business, and will help you to leapfrog over your competition who are too busy burning the midnight oil at their desks to even consider going for a walk – let alone a run! Read yourself and learn when your mind works best and performs with great output, rest at other times.

Have more energy
If there’s one thing I hear a lot, it’s people asking me “how do you do it?” How do I have enough energy to be up at 5am and on the first train to London, in meetings all day, pitching to different companies, speaking at events, taking on mum duty for my daughters’ hockey tournaments or school events, travelling all over the world for events and conferences? Well, I put my steady energy levels down to the fact I always make time to exercise.

I am familiar with hotel gyms the world over, and I don’t allow myself to make an excuse to skip out of exercising. When you’re feeling tired and run down, exercising feels like the worst idea in the world but those of us who get on and do it anyway, know that regular exercise helps to combat fatigue and helps you to have more energy. More so, when I exercise and I do not feel like ti the after feeling positivity, and therefore knock on benefits are always greater.

Have I convinced you yet? Exercise is not just about “keeping fit” or “losing weight” – I believe it can also be your secret weapon for your business.

Written by Lara Morgan
Lara Morgan is best known for growing Pacific Direct, from start-up to successful exit, 23 years later. She now invests her time in fast growth companies and represents UKTI as an Export Ambassador, having previously exported to 110 countries. Her vast experience and business knowledge includes specialisms in licensing luxury brands, manufacturing toiletries and selling to the hospitality environment through complex global distribution chains. She's also an expert in leadership and developing talent having learnt through her own experiences of employing 500 employees in an open fast growth sales culture.

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