If you want a strong company, you’re going to have to stress it.

Think of the way the human body grows stronger: when stress in the form of exercise or hard work damages muscles, internal systems respond to fix the damage and make the muscles stronger than they were to begin with. Or as people a lot smarter than me put it: “Micro-tears in muscle fibers are caused when those muscles are exerted. The body repairs these tears in a way that adapts those muscles for a heavier level of stimulus, a process called Muscle Hypertrophy.”

Here’s an example: say you can comfortably run 3 miles at a time. That’s awesome, but if you aspire to run a 10k, which is 6.2 miles, you’re going to have to go further. But don’t jump from 3 to 6.2 at one time. Instead, increase the length of your runs by just ¼ mile each week for 12 weeks. You can make that small increase, and as you gradually increase your mileage, your body will go through multiple stress-repair-build cycles, preparing you for a successful 10k!

The same theory holds true for your business. If you have a goal of increasing sales by 25%, and you’re going to increase sales activity (sales calls, email blasts, etc.) by 50% to get there, take a lesson from the runner and commit to a gradual increase. Set a “Rock” – a specific, measurable, 90 day effort – to increase sales activity a little each week, such that you have increased it 50% by the end of the quarter. (Note: My rule of thumb is you need to increase sales activity, on a percentage basis, by twice the desired increased in sales, but don’t worry about whether 50% is the perfect number or not; take your best shot, get started, and adjust at the end of the quarter.)

Your sales are going to grow, but it won’t come easily. Your team will feel pushed and systems will break down. As the leader of the organization, you need to be standing ready to provide tools, resources and your time and attention to make the changes necessary to sustain and manage the new level of sales. You and your team will go through a period of stress, but when you come out of it you will realize that just like the human body, you didn’t just survive, you became stronger.

Three things I want you to take from this:

  1. You must go beyond your normal limits to grow stronger;
  2. To increase performance, you need to focus on the activity that produces the result you want, not the result itself;
  3. It all starts with a commitment, like the Rock mentioned above.

One final note: the human body will only adapt and grow stronger if it is healthy, and the same is true for your business. Before you push, create an open, honest, high-trust environment. If you do, the team you are pushing will be a constant source of ideas, effort and encouragement as you strengthen your business. If you don’t, you might end up without a team to lead.

Here’s to getting stronger!