Book Review: Pacing for Growth

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If you’re going to have a successful small business over the long term, you should grow at a sustainable pace. If all you do is concentrate on the things you have to do to maximize performance today, you and your company will burn out. The same is true if you want a successful life and career. If you only work to maximize today and don’t build the capacity to do better tomorrow, you will never achieve your potential.

That’s why the lessons in Pacing for Growth, Succeeding for Today and Building Capacity for The Future are critical.

I’ve seen colleagues who knew they needed to write a book to boost their career but who wouldn’t carve out the time from their frenzied efforts to make money today. Their careers never achieved what was possible I’ve watched businesses with growth spurts that sputtered and stalled because they only concentrated on current results. Clearly, we need to do something about building for the future.

Stephen Covey called it “sharpening the saw.” Peter Drucker said this in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices.

“In setting objectives, management always has to balance the immediate future against the long range. If it does not provide for the immediate future, there will be no long-range future. But if it sacrifices the long-range needs of “what our business will be” and “what our business should be” to immediate results, there will also be no business fairly soon.”

But it’s not a simple choice to build capacity for the future. There are always trade-offs. Jack Welch summed up the challenge this way.

“Look, anyone can manage for the short term—just keep squeezing the lemon. And anyone can manage for the long—just keep dreaming. You were made a leader because someone believed you could squeeze and dream at the same time. They saw in you a person with enough insight, experience, and rigor to balance the conflicting demands of short-and long-term results. Performing balancing acts every day is leadership.”

If you want to be successful today and build capacity for the future, too, you must understand pace. And yet, in almost 50 years of reading business books, this is the first book I have ever seen about pace. That’s reason enough to read it.

Dr. Alison Eyring is an endurance athlete. She uses her experience training for and competing in endurance events as the inspiration for what she calls “Intelligent Restraint.” She defines that term this way.

“When you lead with Intelligent Restraint, you aren’t just pacing yourself to win a race; you’re training yourself, your team, and your organization to become endurance athletes of business growth.”

Here are her three principles of Intelligent Restraint.

  1. Capacity determines how far and fast you can go.
  2. The right capabilities increase capacity.
  3. The right pace wins the race.

There’s enough there for most business owners to profit from reading the book. If you understand that your business’s growth and long-term success is tied to your ability to increase capacity, then you’re already ahead of the pack.

In addition to the principles, the book includes three rules of Intelligent Restraint that can be applied to “any performance situation.” Here they are.

  1. Focus overrules vision.
  2. Routines beat strengths.
  3. Exert, then recover.

Who Should Read This Book

If you’re a business owner, a professional, or a solopreneur, you should read this book and put what you learn to work. That may mean that you’ll have to read more slowly or go back from time to time to absorb an important lesson. So, here’s a suggestion for getting the most from the book.

Scan the table of contents, then instead of starting at the beginning, read chapter nine, “Lead with Intelligent Restraint,” first. That will give you a good overview of the book and how the principles and rules interact. Once you’ve done that, go back and start at the beginning. Make sure you have something to highlight important points, and a pad or digital recorder that will help you take notes and capture the insights you are sure to get.

If your business or your professional practice are in it for the long haul, Pacing for Growth, Succeeding for Today and Building Capacity for The Future is a book you should buy, read, digest, and apply.


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