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David FullerI’ve been head over heels in love a couple of times – but in cycling and business, I’ve been head over heels many times.

Once, for example, I was on an early-morning ride on my road bike. I was doing hill repeats to get into shape to be able to keep up with the “fast crowd.” As I was about to peak the hill, putting out lots of effort, my back wheel popped out of the frame and jammed.

I knew something was wrong as my bike came to a complete stop, and I was flying through the air toward the pavement. I knew something was seriously wrong as I lay on the pavement after the accident, unable to move one of my arms. I didn’t need a doctor or X-rays to tell me that my collarbone was broken. Since no one came to my aid, I got up, fixed my bike and rode home in considerable pain.

In business, going head over heels may happen when we exert tremendous effort. We feel great, we have our sales going straight up, every member of the team is contributing to the output, we think we’re on top of the hill and then suddenly something becomes unhinged. Perhaps a key team member becomes sick. Maybe it’s a product or service hiccup. Sometimes the economy brings us to a crash.

car crash
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What do we do? We have to dust ourselves off, determine if we can fix the problem and get back on our bikes.

When the economy crashes or shifts gears, like in 2008 and 2011, many businesses could not get back on their bikes. This often results from a lack of financial fitness before the crash.

If we’re running a business in such a way that we’re in great shape, crashes can cause a setback but they don’t often finish us off.

So how do we ensure that our business can survive a crash?

Just as athletes rarely focus on developing one or two muscles, the key is to remember that we can’t just focus on one or two areas as we’re growing our business. To have a healthy, vibrant business, we must ensure that all areas – sales, marketing, finances, management team, vendors and customers – are exercised and challenged as often as needed to ensure they’re fit and ready for any competition.

We can’t become lazy or unfocused in our desire for continuous improvement.

Having a strong, well-managed business means ensuring that our team is diverse in its opinions and interests. We must be able to see challenges from various viewpoints and have systems in place that enable us to come up with strategies that allow us to stay at the forefront.

A healthy business is not stagnant – it must always look for the next opportunity (yet know its limitations) and is able to focus on opportunities long enough to see them become successes.

In a well-managed business, owners or managers don’t try to do everything themselves. They understand the dynamics of a team and put the right people in the right places to ensure that the business has brilliant achievements in good times and bad.

Is this your business?

In bike races and business, the pace is rarely constant. There are times when you might be going along at a comfortable pace, and suddenly one of your competitors spurts ahead. If our business is finely tuned and ready for the competition, you can change gears and keep up. If the fitness level of the organization is lagging, you will fall behind.

When there are crashes, the cycling teams, athletes and companies with a plan, who can think on their feet (even while lying flat on their backs), who can bandage themselves up and get back on their bikes, will enjoy success.

Life isn’t just about winning. And while there can only be one winner in a bike race, there are many winners in business. This includes the shareholders and, if we create a business that gives back, our communities, employees, customers and vendors.

We can celebrate our successes in so many ways. But it’s hard to be successful if we can’t survive the crashes.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner with Pivotleader Inc.

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