Checking your business heart rate — how to know if it’s over stressed

I really enjoy biking. But when I’m biking on my own I don’t reach the same levels of fitness that I am able to achieve when I regularly attend a Spin class. My Spin coach is diligent about making sure everyone is wearing a heart rate monitor, and he calls out heart rates throughout the class. Warming up we may ride at 65% of max heart rate, but at some point in the class he gets us up to 85% of max heart rate for just a few minutes.

If you’ve ever pushed your body like that you know it’s not something that you want to do. (After just a few minutes you feel like you want to puke.) But it’s those brief intense pushes that build your capacity and strength.

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Yes, I know, my heart rate monitor is ancient.

This is also true for your business. You can make more progress in your business if you have someone who will monitor your progress and push you to reach goals you aren’t comfortable shooting for on your own. A good coach should do that for you. Your business coach (like my Spin coach) should get you into situations where you feel like you are going to puke (but just for a few minutes).

The key to doing that — whether you hire a coach to help you or not — is to know two numbers; what’s your max heart rate, and what % of that are you at right now? You need a business monitor.

For your body, the max heart rate is the point where you are flat out of gas. Where the output of energy your muscles are demanding exceeds the ability of your body to take in oxygen and replace that energy. You know you are there when you are gasping for air, you can barely think, and if you push it too far your body protests and finds a way to slow you down (hence the nausea).

What is that limit in your business? Is it you and your time? Is it your production team’s capacity? Where is the bottleneck that would start to choke if you pushed your business gas pedal to the metal, and brought in all the work you could? Many businesses I work with never get close to that choke point because of fear. Bad things might happen if we pushed our capacity. That’s right — there are some bad things that might happen. But here’s some good things that could also happen when you monitor your business more closely:

1. You might find a way to expand your capacity

If you are the bottleneck you might be a control freak, or you might not have developed your confidence in your team’s skills. Either way there is a straightforward fix (train or hire some better people, and learn to let go) and pushing your business to capacity is a sure way to make you desperate enough to do it!

2. You could raise your prices so that you were producing more from the capacity you have.

When you have a strong pipeline, and your demand is outstripping your supply, you are in a perfect situation to raise prices. How can you afford to hire better people? Raise your prices. What am I going to get out of pushing my capacity limits? If you raise your prices you’ll get more profits!

3. Your innovation engine might find another way to serve clients.

Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Well push your business to it’s limits and you’ll likely find some ways that you never thought of to deliver services to your clients. What are you doing that they might do with you, or on their own? What takes a lot of time, but doesn’t deliver the value you thought it did? What if you did more video calls instead of office visits?

I hate those few minutes when I’m huffing and puffing on the bike pushing up a hill at 85% of max heart rate. But I love the improved cardiovascular capacity and increased strength I get as a result. You might love no longer being the bottleneck in your business and having more profits to take home or share with your team.

Are you pushing your business to the limits? How are you monitoring your business? What’s holding you back?

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