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Reflecting on the Ironman World Championships, I’m struck by how erratically many of the competitors rode the 112-mile bike leg of the race. Let’s put this in perspective: an Ironman is a 2.4 mi swim, 112 mi bike, followed by a 26.2 mi run, that takes anywhere from 8 hours (pro winner) to 17 hours (for an “official finish”) and about 5,000 calories to complete. Maintaining a steady power output on the bike – the longest duration – leg is critically important to a successful race. And yet, time and again, I encountered racers that seemed to surge and settle, riding on “perceived effort”, or worse, ego (when overtaken, surging ahead to retake me only to then settle back (block) just in front of me).

I race with a power meter – a device that’s in the hub of the rear wheel that tells me my immediate and average output of watts. I ride to a prescription of wattage based on training data compiled over months and months. I know that this wattage, combined with a set amount of caloric, electrolyte and water intake will get me through the bike with legs to run the marathon. Without that data, it’s far too easy for my effort level to spike or drop without knowing it as I encounter hills, winds, and fatigue. Steady power output translates to efficient use of calories, and far better overall performance.

My observations were validated: first by all the people I passed on the run who I saw surging earlier in the day on the bike, and later by the official components stats compiled by the race administrators…less than 35% of the competitors used power meters! Shocking for a field of elite triathletes…

As a transactional business attorney, I often find parallels to the business world. Completing a purchase and sale of a business is no less of test of planning, execution and endurance than an Ironman. If you think otherwise, you are in for a rude awakening. The lesson here is a simple one, but one that take tremendous discipline to apply. If you are contemplating a purchase or sale of a business, your success is dependent upon how you obtain and use objective data. If you rely on subjective data (your perceptions) or allow ego to influence you, a “bonk” is most likely what you’ll encounter on your way to the finish line, if you reach it at all. What does that mean for business people? It means surrounding yourself with thought leadership in the form of an experienced business advisor such as John, transactional attorneys, and accountants and tax practitioners. And it means carefully crafting a plan well in advance of the contemplated transaction, disciplined execution against that plan, and minimizing reactive decision-making.

Winners don’t just work hard, they work smart.

David Cook is the owner of Sovereign Legal Group, a transactional business law firm based in Seattle. He is also a competitive age-group triathlete.

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