Paul Raggio | Muster the strength

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I was digging deep, reaching into my physical core, and praying! I was mustering the strength to finish the last 6 miles. I was at the beginning of Hains Point, the 4-mile oval, bracketed by the Potomac River, which was before the last 2 miles ending at the Iwo Jima Memorial. The geographical setting was Washington, D.C., a second home to me, and the venue was the annual Marine Corps Marathon. My Marine Corps buddy and I just finished 20 miles at our goal pace when I hit it, what runners refer to as the dreaded wall. My legs stopped working, and I turned ashen.  

My breathing was fine; hydration was good; it was just my legs didn’t want to move. They felt 10 times heavier than usual. Runners of all sorts, old, young, fit and unfit, passed me. I was gobsmacked! My buddy and I trained for months to run the 26.2-mile course. We both were students at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College in Quantico, Virginia, and in excellent physical condition. However, neither one of us had run a marathon before, and our training peaked at 15 miles. Those 4 miles around Hains Point were endless. Self-doubt crept in, and I wasn’t sure I would cross the finish line located 6.2 miles away at the memorial. 

Lisa and I have talked to several business owners this past year. Some managed well through the pandemic; however, many more suffered, and a few closed their shops. It’s been a grueling marathon, and notionally right now, we’re at Hains Point. There are 6.2 miles to go, and many of us hit the wall. Mentally, emotionally and physically, we don’t feel like moving anymore. We’re exhausted with the endless, cautionary public health announcements, face masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing: rules, rules and more rules imposed that go against our American value of self-determination. Just as fatiguing are all the virtual meetings and words and phrases like “pivot” and “survive to thrive” that ring the airwaves by others sharing their secrets on how to get through this economically stalled year.  

However, some excitement exists that normalcy may return by the beginning of summer because of the accelerated vaccine schedule and the decline in hospital stays. Economists and financial indicators all point to significant increases in economic activity in the last half of 2021. Let’s face it, we’re hell-bent on satiating our pent-up demand, and we’ll be among the masses heading to theaters, restaurants, concerts, cruise ships… anywhere we’ve been restricted from attending this past year. 

Not so fast, though. What will normalcy look like? Indeed, not like it did 14 months ago. Business dynamics have changed for good. That is a certainty. So, once we finally finish the last 6.2 miles of this COVID-19 marathon, normalcy won’t be the same. We’ve got to re-engage our minds, emotions and bodies, and position ourselves and businesses to prosper in the post-pandemic environment. We may need a course correction on our vision, a better-defined articulation of our purpose, and a rewrite of values to make them behavior-specific and action-oriented.  

Our strategic thinking and execution planning must adapt to the post-pandemic environment. There will be a new and expanding demand for many existing services and products, and new markets for services and products sown the past 14 months. Finding the opportunities and presenting our products and services in the marketplace to fill an existing gap or need with ease brings sustainability to our businesses. Strategic opportunities abound, and shame on us if we pass them by because we choose not to be engaged.  

 Our business development must accommodate a different market. From a macro perspective, the world has changed, and necking it down to a micro viewpoint, our customers have changed. Their needs are different. How they consume information is different. How we market to prospective customers must accommodate these differences. To be congruent, our strategy to convert them to customers must be different. Marketing opportunities are limited only by our imagination, and shame on us if we pass them by because we choose not to be engaged. 

I dug deep, mustered the strength, and finished the marathon, but not without the help of my Marine Corps buddy. He chose to stay with me, step by tedious step, encouraging me along the way. “Get your head right,” he called out. “You’ve got this. Daylight is around the corner,” he said encouragingly. His words were apropos then and now. We’ve got to get our heads right. Opportunity is around the corner, and we should be positioning our businesses to engage in a high-demand marketplace that will result from the projected explosive economic activity to come.  

Time to re-engage, shake away the pandemic blues, plan, plan and plan how our businesses will thrive in the new marketplace and the actions we need to take today, tomorrow, next week and next month to achieve success. This is how you lead, think, plan and act! Now let’s get after it.   

 Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions.

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