By Matthew Guarracino, Principal & CEO, JM Electrical, Inc.

As budding athletes and veteran runners prepare for the legendary Boston Marathon, I cannot help but think about the lessons learned during my own inaugural race in 2020, a fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. All the factors that contributed to my successful completion of this grueling and exhilarating 26.2-mile road race reflect the philosophy that helps me guide our company. Over the years I’ve learned that running a marathon, like building a business in a competitive environment, requires a host of skills as well as grit, drive, and determination. 

Mental Toughness and Goals: As simple as it sounds, it’s essential to keep your head down, your spirits up, your mind open and remember that every step counts. More than the day-to-day physical grind, it takes focus to keep your “eyes on the prize,” whether it’s winning a project, staying on track, on time, and on budget or surviving the run up Heart Break Hill.  Guiding a construction sector business through the natural cycle of ups-and-downs, whether it’s supply chain issues, storms that hamper progress on job sites, or a pandemic can test your resolve. When challenges arise, take a beat, take a breath and don’t be afraid to take a chance.  

Preparation and Perseverance: As the late, great John Lennon reminds us, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Good managers expect the unexpected. When your original plan is no longer viable due to unforeseen circumstances, shifts in the market, or projects that expand or contract without warning you need the confidence to regroup, rethink, revise, and move forward. During my practice runs, I often had to remember to slow down and pace myself. Speed was not the priority. As in business, getting over the finish line is the goal.

Accountability and Teamwork: I was lucky to have a network of family, friends, coaches, and colleagues urging me on during the many months of training that preceded the race. In addition to offering words of encouragement, they regularly checked in to be sure I was sticking with my regimen. Some days I needed a cheerleader, others a taskmaster. If I was too tired or sore after a workout, too bad. If it was raining or cold, get over it. They offered gentle reminders, nutritious snacks, and tough love. No matter what, I had to lace up my sneakers and hit the road. Similarly, I’m fortunate to have advisors and sounding boards in my professional life—people I can turn to for a different perspective, a voice of reason, a pat on the back or a push in the right direction. To be successful, it’s vital to have a network of mentors who will tell you the truth and share their wisdom, and experiences, good and bad.

Like running a marathon, working in the fast-paced commercial construction industry can be challenging and rewarding in equal measure. The way I see it if you use every ounce of the real-world experience you have gained, and the momentum you’ve created to build your business, you’ll find yourself with more miles behind you than ahead of you. And remember, don’t waste your energy looking back.