If you want to set a world record- you need a tail wind


Today was a big day for running. At the 115th running of the Boston Marathon Geoffry Mutai of Kenya not only shattered the course record for the Boston marathon by almost 3 minutes he also set a new WR (technically due to the wind and net downhill it is with an *).

Mutai ran an unheard of 2:03:02 marathon through Boston and its notoriously tough hills, (including heartbreak hill) which is a 4:42 min mile pace.  If you are not a runner think about this like a perfect game to win the world series, a hole-in-one to win the masters or some other mind-blowing event.

How did  he do it?  Besides the obvious freaky genetic gift, he trained like hell, stayed mentally tough and he capitalized on a big tail wind.  In other words, he acted just like any entrepreneur should.  But it got me thinking- my take away is this: if you want to set a WR you need to leverage your tail wind.  To be sure, all runners today had the tail wind, but what is the tail wind for your business?

Let’s take it as a given that you are mentally tough, working as hard as you can and doing all the right things for your start up.  Great- welcome to the club.  It took a lot to get here, and you deserve some credit for that, but you are not alone; in fact there are lots and lots of folks running just as hard as you are (maybe even harder).  So- how are you going to out kick them and win it all?  You have to find your own tail wind and run with it.

A tail wind technically aids all runners the same (ignore reverse drafting).  But it is more than “chance favors the prepared mind” it is how the right team, product discipline and market segmentation can allow you to run faster with the same wind.  A tad of liberal interpretation please.

Examples of business tail winds:

1. Free or ultra low cost customer acquisition.  Think Website Grader for HubSpot, (or at my company Quibblo for SnapApp), high ranking in the iTunes store or huge organic SEO.  These “level playing fields” but some are winning a lot more than others.

2. Self-perpetuating customer models. Building your product to inherently increase customer spend and distribution so that as your grow your rate of growth accelerates too (logarithmic growth).  Think DropBox (the more you use the more you invite friends to get more space or pay to upgrade), Facebook (scale matters- at some point you “have to” join), Groupon (national deals fuel more customers fuels bigger revenue days) or Twitter.  I like the Twitter example the best, actually- when Iran (or Egypt) went into full protest mode all news site and social media networks were in the same position- but it was Twitter who was catapulted onto the world stage.

3. Culture.  This can be a big tail wind- but it can also be a huge head wind.  People drive innovation, people drive growth and most of all people drive profit.  Get your culture aligned and the right people in the right seats and you have an unfair advantage.  Everyone has a corporate culture- some just stink.

4. Bigger Moats.  The more you can build moats around your money machine, as Bill Gurley describes, the more you can lock in value.  Other moats are your data in SalesForce.com, your photos in Flickr, your connections on LinkedIn.  They lock you in and inhibit change.  Everyone has data- how are you using yours?

What is not a business tail wind:

1. Your foosball table / game room / free soda

2. A big growing market- a rising tide lifts all boats, but  your tail wind should lift your boat more/faster.

3. Lots of cash in the bank.

Nothing is forever- the winds may change but if you can find and leverage your business tail wind you might set a world record, at the very least you’ll set a personal record.

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