Creating Endurance In Your Business

Photography by Jesse Orrico on

Success in business requires a sustained effort, an ability to endure many challenges. But a weakness in one part of your business can quickly undermine the efforts of many others. What does endurance look like in a business, and how do you build and sustain it?

Is your business stronger or weaker than it was last year?


Every day your business goes out to compete. To compete in delivering greater customer value than anyone else in your chosen marketplace. And to deliver that winning performance will require your entire business to step to the forefront and deliver the best of their best in unison.

Not everyone will be at the same level of performance every day, and those who are at the top of their game will naturally step in for those who may be lagging as we all hit our highs and lows at different times. This is the nature of a business that works as one, that is, works in unison. But of course, not many businesses do work as one, in many, there is a friction. And that friction wears a business down and every person in that business.

Friction does come from many sources, including lack of purpose, motive, role clarity, reward and recognition. And then, it steps into all the barriers that businesses tend to seed, including bureaucracy, paradigms, poor organisational design and self-interest.

But every day, your business must compete and push through those highs and lows that people experience and grind against the friction that will exist if it is to succeed. It must build and sustain an endurance that allows it to win on the hardest of days.


Endurance is the ability to sustain effort. Implied, of course, is that the level of effort is at the top end of the performance scale. Every single person will possess a different level of endurance every day they come to work. Endurance is a limited resource, which wears down during the course of the day, the week, the month, the year, and so it goes. Momentum is a key competitive trait but it can only be sustained when it partners with endurance.

Of course, endurance can be restored, but it does not happen by itself; you must make restoring your endurance a vital habit — a habit including practices, processes, community and beliefs.

Always keeping on the edge of endurance is where you are delivering your greatest performance on a continuing basis while being able to sustain that effort. This is the point where strain and recovery are well balanced.

High performers monitor their strain and recovery ratios to optimise their performance and compound the strength of that performance by adding load to build endurance at the right times.

Optimising Business Performance

The core competitive strength of your business is the combined talent and effort of every person in your business. The prime role of leaders is to enable every single person to contribute their best effort no matter what role they may play in the business. And to then muster that combined talent and effort in delivering the competitive performance of that business.

At this point, leaders should recognise that building and compounding endurance and mitigating those elements that wear endurance down becomes vital in leadership. Leaders, fortunately, have many tools at their disposal that they can deploy to strengthen endurance and reduce friction.

I typically break these tools into two parts with a linking element between them:

The first building block for endurance in your business is the individual. Quite simply you need people committed to your business for something more than just their weekly pay packet. If they are only there for the money, they will minimise their efforts to match what they feel is the worth of the financial reward they receive. If this reflects the common level of commitment and participation by those working within your business, then competitiveness and endurance will be low.

To muster competitiveness, people need to feel a strong connection with your business and the pride they can gain from their personal contributions. Get this right, and individuals will develop an endurance that will see them, and the people around them, through the toughest of times, because of their commitment. This commitment underpins their and the business’s mental toughness.

The elements within a business that will strengthen the participation and commitment at the individual level are:

  • Purpose: the reason you sustain as the purpose for your business’s existence and the motive that it seeds is foundational to endurance. If you define a meaningful need for a business’s existence around a community, then you will attract people committed to fulfilling that need. But if you were to simply say, we are here to make a profit for our shareholders, then you have defined money as the value statement for the business, and the overall commitment will be low and nothing near what could it could possibly be.
  • Vision: the vision you express for your business is its quest and the journey you are asking everyone to join. If your vision captures people’s hearts, then they will throw their entire energy behind it and will self-recharge every day as this is a quest they are committed to achieving.
  • Culture: the culture you seed, feed and sustain is the glue that holds the business together and supports all the interactions that are necessary to allow people to contribute their utmost and be celebrated for that effort. Ensure it is an encouraging and uplifting culture and not toxic.

While an individual may be motivated to invest themselves into a business, the business itself must provide the environment and support that will facilitate their efforts and not create friction that will wear their efforts down. Three key areas:

  • Design: The operational design of the business is critical in reducing friction. A business is designed not around an organisational chart but rather designed to seamlessly integrate all of its activities so as to deliver the value it has promised to its customers. In strategy terms, this is all about the competitive posture that the business is positioning itself around so as to outcompete all others. A business must be designed around delivering customer value and not around sustaining someone’s authority or title.
  • Focus: ‘Customer-first’ must be the mantra of the business, and all decisions should be made against the benchmark of the impact it will have on the value delivered to customers. If a ‘profit-first’ motive takes hold, you can be assured that endurance will be significantly weakened along with competitive performance and the resulting profit.
  • Capability: the competitive posture of a business, the way in which it dynamically positions itself in its chosen marketplace, will step out of its capabilities. But businesses must continually deepen and expand their capabilities to continue to compete effectively and lead the market through the value they deliver to their customers. Declining capabilities wears heavily on endurance.

I describe leadership as the linking element, as it is leaders’ role to connect individuals with the business and ensure that decisions and actions enable connection, participation, and commitment.

The success of the business will be capped by the weakest leader in your team. They will set a ceiling above which performance will be difficult, and endurance will be heavily taxed. Worthy leadership at all levels is vital to ensure endurance is sustained and compounded through the following elements:

  • Trust: the currency of leadership is trust. If the team does not trust its leaders, if self-interest is present, and the welfare of employees is not at the forefront of the leader’s priorities, then the motivation to self-renew endurance will be weakened. Working with people who you respect and trust is not a burden but rather a source of energy; working with people you do not like is a heavy drain.
  • Rewards: rewards are fuel and must be equally and freely available to everyone in recognition and reward for their contribution. A failure by leadership to ensure rewards inspire everyone will only create a sense of privilege and bias.
  • Barriers: all barriers to individual performance must be actively unearthed and removed. Barriers are frequently created internally and go unnoticed but can provide a significant drag on performance and endurance. Bureaucracy, paradigms and self-interest are common barriers to performance.

As a leader, as you step back and reflect on the performance of the people in your business, the concept of strain and recovery must be one of the lenses through which you examine. It’s the lens of endurance that will tell how your business is tracking in the tasks you are asking it to undertake. It is an individual and corporate measure and is fundamental to developing competitive performance and as an outcome, success and profit.


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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel



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