is a Breeze . . . Through a Sailor's Eyes
Written by B. R. Govan
Published December, 2002, Chamber Chatter
Chamber of Commerce of Greater West Chester Newsletter
Sailing, putting natural forces
of wind and water to a planned purpose, can be viewed in parallel with
business to provide greater insight into our business life. It is not
a forced action, but one of ingenuity, flexibility, and determination.
Sailing can be used as a metaphor to gain a new perspective.
Someone once described sailing
as made up of one-third ecstasy, one-third boredom, and one-third abject
terror. While the degree of terror, or perhaps
better stated as fear of uncertainty, can vary between sailing and business,
I believe we can improve upon those statistics by setting a course and
Sailing, as in business, is full of little details that can bog you down
if the big picture is not kept foremost in mind. Many boats remain in
endless preparation and never leave the dock. In business, obsessive attention
to detail forestalls true progress. Sailboats come in all sizes and are
designed for many different purposes. Those design differences are made
up of a multitude of choices and compromises, just as are businesses.
It is a vehicle used to reach a destination, just as a business is to
its owner. It has to be maintained to retain its functionality and value,
and can be improved to extend its reach.
In sailing, a float plan is created to plan and direct a voyage. In business,
it is the business plan. They both convey a planned direction of action.
In both sailing and business, having a crew (team) with the right skills
and experience is critical to a successful voyage.
Setting sail can be likened to breaking new ground, as even sailing in
familiar waters can bring new adventures. Wind is fluid, variable, and
only slightly predictable - very much like the economy in which we live.
Tides are cyclical, predicable changes that we must recognize and plan
for to be successful. Consider aspects of your business that are reoccurring
events. Currents equate to trends - in industry, the marketplace, and
job markets for example. They are always there, under the surface, and
difficult to run against for any length of time.
Depth equates to confidence
- everyone is comfortable when it runs deep, and you get nowhere when
there is not enough. There are always obstacles in the path - low visibility,
rocks, reefs, and the like. Some are natural, some man-made. There are
also many obstacles in the path of business success. Success comes from
planning to avoid the obstacles we can predict and having the flexibility
and confidence to handle those we can't. On the water, it is critical
to think, then act, to avoid having small problems become major crises.
That philosophy works equally well in both business and our personal lives.
We sail with many others on the water by respecting the "rules of
the road" to avoid collisions. In business, we avoid collisions by
building positive relationships and respecting others through our ethical
behavior. Navigation basically consists of charting a safe course to a
destination. It includes the ability to assess where you are along the
route at any point in time. In business, we need to set goals and measure
progress to them. The concept of taking fixes (identifying location on
the water) and setting waypoints works equally as well both on and off
the water to assess progress and alert us to needed adjustments for deviations
from our goals.
We all have the power to cruise, race, or drift. In cruising and racing,
we set a course and take actions to arrive at a destination varying only
the speed and intensity of the voyage. If we lack planning and let external
factors set our course and speed, we drift without direction or purpose.
As for improving those statistics,
we can reduce fear of terror and uncertainty through planning and taking
purposeful actions. We can reduce boredom through focusing on and doing
those things that capture our attention and imagination, even if it means
making changes to get there. That leaves the ecstasy component. We will
leave that be, for as much as not messing with a good thing as recognition
that it will automatically increase as we reduce the other two components.
Easy? The devil is in the details, but don't worry about them, that's
just the small stuff.
Bruce R. Govan, an avid sailor
and consultant, helps businesses navigate rough waters of change through
planning and purposeful action. For more information, visit www.govanconsulting.com,
or contact him at 610-429-4490.