Building a Business that’s Iron- Strong!
Ironman Training for Business Owners and CEO’s
By Chuck Graziano

In July 2010, I competed in my 12th Ironman® Triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike race, 26.2 mile run). In training for each event, it’s become more obvious to me how much those who succeed in business share with those who cross the finish line at Ironman®. Here’s what I mean:

Goal and Commitment:

  • The first time Ironman® goal might be to finish the race. More experienced athletes might have a personal best time in mind for their finish.
  • Effective business owners are able to clearly state what their vision is. For some it might to create an organization where the company runs without the involvement of the owner in operations. For some it might be to sell the company for a price they have in mind.
  • In both cases, a total commitment to the vision is required for success. Not many people finish an Ironman® who start out by saying they’re going to “try” to finish. In both cases, the vision must light you up.

Planning for Success:

  • To complete an Ironman®, one first needs to know their strengths and weaknesses so that they can focus their training. They also need to know what opportunities there will be (e.g. to train with a local group of athletes) and what threats might exist that need to be mitigated (e.g. history of knee problems).
  • A business vision can only be achieved when all circumstances are recognized and addressed (i.e., SWOT- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the businesses? What opportunities exist to further the goal? What threats might get in the way?).
  • What are the factors that must exist in order to achieve success? For an athlete contemplating Ironman®, one such factor relates to having the proper equipment (e.g. lightweight, quality bike). A business critical success factor will relate to the specific vision to be achieved.

Measuring Progress and Adjusting:

  • An athlete doesn’t just wake up one morning to start their Ironman® race. There are months spent executing a detailed training plan that builds a substantial endurance base, like building the foundation to a house, block by block. And when the plan is set in place, it includes milestones that must be hit in order to measure progress. In my personal experience as an athlete and coach, I’ve never seen a plan go exactly as planned, so as circumstances change, so must the plan.
  • “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road you take will get you there.” Ever heard that expression? A detailed plan of action (your roadmap) needs to be created around your vision, with the recognition that the plan must have a system of measurement. Bending and flexing to adjust for changes is also necessary to keep moving forward.

Having the Right Support Structure in Place:

  • Taking on an Ironman® requires support from family, friends and business associates. It’s important for an athlete to communicate clearly what their plans will entail, how it might impact them and what support will be important to the accomplishment of the vision.
  • Business owners need to have a similar support structure in place, with a clear understanding of what role each team member will play. Any significant vision or goal will only be accomplished if the role of others is recognized, communicated and supported.

Completing an Ironman® race is an extraordinary accomplishment. What is the “Ironman® Vision” that you have for your business? It should be similarly extraordinary and be empowering enough that the thought of accomplishing it gets you out of bed in the morning. As with an Ironman® Triathlon, you will not get to the finish line without a planning structure that drives you there. Trust me on this. I’m no world class athlete. My 12th Ironman® was completed in July 2010. I was 60 years old. My Children, Adrianna and Anthony (twins) were 3 years old. I operate two businesses. I volunteer substantial time for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and for USA Triathlon. Too many balls in the air? Only if there’s no plan in place to keep them from falling!


Chuck Graziano is President of Thundering Brook Associates which operates The Alternative Board of the Bergen and Essex County Area, a firm that provides peer advisory board and coaching solutions for business owners. He is also owner of Inspired Performance Coaching, which provides coaching services for endurance athletes. For further information, please contact

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