Is Running Your Business Like Running with the Bulls?

Mike Harden | | Operating with Vision, Thinking Strategically

I just got back from Pamplona where I was running with the bulls. I found the experience to be both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. My first day there, someone got killed, so I took this experience quite seriously. I actually got injured four times myself, and nearly got gored once. Trust me, you develop great respect for the power of the bulls.

I have always believed that every CEO needs to do four things to be a really great CEO:

1. You must have been fired at least once (so you know how it feels)
2. You need to be sued by a disgruntled former employee (consider it a badge of honor)
3. You need to have worried about making a payroll (teaches humility and enhances cash planning)
4. You need to run with the bulls (nothing else seems scary after that)

I was reflecting on my experience with the bulls, and began to see how much the whole episode is a metaphor for running a business. The experiences mirror each other quite closely.

Running your business is no different that avoiding the charging bulls.

As a CEO, you are often being chased by your own special “bulls” (for example, strong competitors, changing technology, oppressive government regulations, loss of a major customer, or perhaps the loss of linchpin employees). You can’t allow yourself to be run over by these circumstances. Instead, you have to react by being vigilant to the oncoming “bulls.” You have to be able to move swiftly to dodge them, reacting to where they are going, not to where they are at this moment. I learned the hard way that bulls can spin in place and charge in a completely different direction than you first thought. Then they lock their gaze on you and charge at full speed (ever see a competitor do that?). Sometimes you have to be able to switch your strategic direction quickly and move in a completely different direction to keep from getting gored by your competition or negative environmental factors. You are always running for you life — your business life.

The bottom line is that you can survive running with the bulls by not trying to overcome them, but by being alert for their coming, anticipating their moves, and then being nimble enough to outmaneuver them. And most of all, you need to respect the power of the bulls.

View the Running of the Bulls here:

Mike Harden

Mike Harden has developed exceptional depth and breadth of knowledge over his 40+ year career as an entrepreneur, executive, teacher, mentor, and coach. Today, as one of DC’s premier Executive Coaches, Mike helps good executives become great leaders. Find Mike on Google+

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