There is something about training for and running 100 miles with over 20,000 feet of vertical climbing that captures the essence of all of those things I wonder about, fear, and aspire to in business. For me it is the ultimate endurance test that has taught me patience, humility, self-care, strategy, persistence, vulnerability and resolve. When I can’t go on. When it’s 3am, pouring and I simply don’t have the energy to take in more nutrition. When I’m alone and no one is around for miles and miles. There is only one thing to do….Keep Moving.
I’m Russell Benaroya and as a business owner and entrepreneur these are things I thought about all the time:
1. I need to stop doing certain things but can’t let go.
2. I want to be able to leave the office and know that things will be okay.
3. Why do I feel like I need to work crazy hours or I won’t succeed?
4. I want my team to be aligned but they just aren’t.
5. I’m feeling out of control by the need to be in control.
6. Am I hiring the right people for a specific role or just hiring people because there is work to do?
7. My entire identity is tied to the outcome of the business and that feels scary.
I have spent the last ten years working through these thoughts and feelings with coaches, the Entrepreneur Organization (EO), my family, and…ultra running.
I didn’t plan to become an entrepreneur, however, I was bright-eyed enough to believe I could make a mark. In 2004, I left a seemingly stable (and parent pleasing) path of investment banking, business school, and venture capital to take a leap. I felt alive and powerful and confident. Reflecting back on the last 11 years has been a personal journey that I could never have imagined.
Entrepreneurship has brought me face to face with my greatest hopes and my greatest struggles. It is in the most uncertain moments when one asks themselves if they are really made to “finish the game”. It is the test—when the chips are down—to see if one can separate their worth from their circumstance and forge on. The what you do is much less important than the why or the how.
I have built and sold two healthcare businesses. I have raised venture financing, had strategic owners as shareholders, entered into complex joint ventures, had a co-founder and then didn’t, hired some amazing people, and in some cases, had to lay off individuals to stay alive. I have had the honor of being part of Techstars, one of the world’s leading technology accelerators, as both a participating founder and as a mentor. I have also been recognized in Seattle as one of 40 under 40 by the Puget Sound Business Journal and honored as one of the Seattle 10 startups looking to change the world. I recently instructed an entrepreneurship innovation class at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington.
Through it all I have learned that my genius zone is helping leaders succeed. I have built enterprise. I understand what it takes. I want to help other high performing leaders crush it!