The Ironman in Business: Succeeding in China

by | April 4, 2019

The Ironman in Business: Succeeding in China

April 4, 2019

Approximately 0.5% of all U.S. citizens have completed a marathon in their lives. Such an enormous effort is not taken lightly, people often need months of preparation before participating. Even less people have completed an Ironman and most are horrified by the sheer effort of a full Ironman triathlon. Before starting the marathon, they have to complete a 3.86-kilometer swim and a 180.25-kilometre bike ride. 

The effort requires much more than stamina and patience alone. Successfully completing a full Ironman triathlon requires a plan of approach, endless invested hours in preparing yourself, technical knowledge on all three disciplines, funds for quality equipment, knowledge about the race location and flexibility. In many ways it is comparable to the required aspects of succeeding in China.



For a triathlon, athletes need to prepare themselves. They need a schedule in which they take care of all three disciplines. During this preparation, they have to put in enough hours of technical and stamina training. Furthermore, they need to have trial races to  determine their goals and push their limits.

In many ways, succeeding in China requires the same level of planning. A strategic plan is crucial in order to determine what your goals will be and to determine when you have reached success. You have to prepare yourself on multiple disciplines in business. These are: acquiring knowledge about the market, determining your budgets and determining your end-goal of doing business in China.


Technical knowledge on all disciplines

The athlete requires technical knowledge on all three disciplines. Without such knowledge, the race will become nearly impossible to complete. Furthermore, such knowledge needs to be adapted to the goal of combining the three disciplines. For instance, you need technical swimming lessons. However, after completing the swim, an athlete needs his or her legs to cycle and run. Thus, in swimming it is thus wise and more efficient to spare the legs. The swimming technique is therefore adapted to the combination of different disciplines.

With the aim of succeeding in China, one must also acquire the much-needed technical knowledge on all disciplines. However, just as with combining swimming with cycling and running, you must combine the acquired knowledge. Not everyone needs a wind-tunnel to experiment in, however enough expertise and know-how is required to implement adaptations to the Chinese market. Even though your product might be perfect for the Chinese market, the Chinese regulations must still allow it. And even though your brand name is spot-on in the West, you must still adapt it to the requirements of the Chinese market.


Funds for quality equipment

Quality equipment is needed to make sure you avoid chafing during swimming, a puncture during the bike ride and blisters during running. This means that you need to buy a quality tri-suit for a comfortable swim, your bike is in optimum shape and you have proper running shoes.

When doing business in China, you need quality service as well. It is important to make sure you are serviced by quality professionals in order to get the necessary knowledge. They can make sure you have background information on your competitors, information about company setup, knowledge about the market, etc.


Knowledge about the race location

Knowing the course is crucial knowledge to establish your race plan. It helps you to prevent accidents and reach your set goals for the race. You need to know each bend of the river, each possible slippery part of the road, and the inclines of the run. This information could mean the difference between success and failure.

Knowing China is equally important when doing business in China. Not just knowledge about your industry, the cities in China and what they have to offer. Knowing the culture, habits and history is equally important. Such information could prevent costly slip ups in your own “race”. Western people tend to think doing business in China is the same as doing business in their home country. However, like each full Ironman is different, each culture is as well!



After planning your race, having worked on your techniques, acquiring the right equipment and having knowledge of the race location, the real work starts. However, no matter how meticulous your planning was, a race can still surprise you. Triathlete Roy Lagerburg knows. During his full Ironman at the world championships, he got struck by cramps. This required him to adjust his pace to make sure he could still finish the race.

When planning for success in China, one needs to be flexible. In the end, many things can and will go differently than planned. In China contract negotiations will be changed during the process and appointments might be rescheduled whilst you are on your way over. Being flexible and adapting this changes are key to succeeding in China.


Stamina & patience

Above all, you need a lot of stamina and even more patience for a full Ironman. The fastest full Ironman ever was finished in 7 hours and 35 minutes. Completing the Ironman in between 9-10 hours is considered fast. The average time of a Full Ironman is 12 hours and 35 minutes. Roy Lagerburg’s record is 09:15:11 which he completed at the Frankfurt Ironman in 2018.

When doing business in China, patience is the number one virtue needed to succeed. For many people it will feel like the business equivalent of a full Ironman. But stroke by stroke, peddle by peddle and step by step you will get closer to your end goal. Never expect to be finished in a single business trip and be willing to spend time and energy on becoming successful.

Roy Lagerburg

1421 Consulting Group supports Roy Lagerburg in completing a half Ironman in Liuzhou, China. If he is fast enough within his age group, he will be qualified for the full Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Roy’s challenge inspires us, just like the challenge of doing business in China inspires us. Follow Roy on Strava and Instagram, or keep track of our website and WeChat to see his results.

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