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7 Governance skills to help run a marathon on 7 continents

7 Governance skills to help run a marathon on 7 continents

Article by
Tracy Hickman  Mergers and Acquisitions, Specialist Services, Director
Staples Rodway Auckland

Tracy Hickman, Corporate Advisory Director in our Auckland office tells us how some of the skills that she has gathered as a Director are helping her to achieve her running goals

1. Having a vision or a large long term goal helps provide direction for the board and indeed the entire company. Setting a goal of running a marathon on all seven continents has given purpose to my training and taking part in the individual events. It has definitely provided added motivation on tough days, such as at the start line in Mongolia after a night suffering the effects of food poisoning.

2. Taking a long term perspective is important when evaluating decisions as a director. For example ensuring that short-term cost reductions do not derail investment required to achieve longer term growth. For many businesses, it can take a while to achieve the return on your investment of time, energy and funds.
It has taken me eight years to run a marathon on each continent, requiring a significant commitment of time and effort in training and preparation, and sometime forgoing opportunities (e.g. not becoming a triathlete) in order to save effort and dollars for the bigger goal.

3. Eating an elephant one chunk at a time boards need to break down that big overarching goal into smaller, achievable targets and identify the strategies that need to be implemented for success. Not every short term goal may be directly related to the bigger purpose, but may add additional depth of skills, create a stronger balance sheet, develop experience or help with staff retention.
While the seven continents goal has always been in the back of my mind, I have taken it one race at a time to make it manageable on my body and finances. Also, where an opportunity has arisen to undertake longer or shorter races that have appealed, on continents already ticked off the list, I have enjoyed the chance to work on my running speed, endurance and technical skills. Despite having already run the Paris Marathon, I loved the experience of running the Midnight Sun Marathon in Norway, running at night in the Arctic Circle.

4. When the going gets tough, boards need to work together to resolve problems recognising the ideas and contributions that all directors can make. Most of my training runs and races are with a good friend, who is also working towards the shared goal of running a marathon on seven continents. When one of us is having a tough race (Mongolia!), we encourage each other (“only 35km to go….”), share ideas (“I think that’s where we missed the turnoff”) and contributions (“who’s idea was this… and why?”), even if not always helpful!

5. Taking advice is important for boards recognising that as directors we may be experts in our field but lack the requisite knowledge for some decisions. For example, cyber security is an area where many of us are upskilling ourselves but also listening to IT experts to understand how to address the issues, and understanding how other companies are tackling problems.
As an endurance athlete, I rely on support from my coach, massage therapist, physio and osteopath. I listen to running and nutrition tips from my friends, online running groups, read books and articles…. and my travel agent also plays a key role!

6. Monitoring and control are aspects of implementing a strategy where directors can ensure that execution is going to plan, be it a sales strategy, budgetary control or other areas of the business.
On a regular basis over the years I have thought about which continents remained on the list, found a race, worked out when it would suit to run it and how the training would fit in around work and family commitments. In 2016, knowing that I would be running Antarctica in 2017 and having already entered to run in Mongolia (Asia) in August 2016, I wanted to travel somewhere special to celebrate turning 50 in September. Making that destination South America, and running a marathon there, meant that I could feasibly achieve my seven continents goal in March 2017 in Antarctica.

7. Corporate social responsibility is another important facet of good governance looking after the needs of employees, the communities in which we operate and other stakeholders. It’s not just about giving money, but also sharing knowledge and donating resources no longer required (office furniture can be a helpful one for community organisations).
In my running life, I try to look after the interests of others by offering advice to those new to the sport, and using key races as fundraising opportunities (check out I also tend to discard shoes as soon as they show signs of wear, to avoid injury, so ‘old’ shoes go out on our berm to find a new home with local runners

Whether your interests are endurance running, or something a little more sedentary, the skills that you develop in your role on a board can help in all sorts of surprising areas.

Photo of Stuart Tracey Hickman with her medals

In 2015, Tracy was running in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, in August last year, it was the Mongolian mountains. She even celebrated her 50th birthday in September with a marathon in South America. And just this March, she took on the daunting 42 kilometre course through Antarctica’s King George’s Island in temperatures between minus 5 degrees and -20C. You have to ask, whats next?
See Tracys amazing pics from her recent marathon in  Antarctica. 

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