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  • John McLean Dix

The Sailboat Story- a lesson in navigating your business Chapter Five


The Sailboat Story- a lesson in navigating your business

Using the analogy of a sailboat for creating insights into how businesses operate and how to plan your journey.

As we continue our journey, we will take a closer look at the resources on a sailboat as well as the crew members and consider the role each plays in a successful journey. And when we translate those resources and crew roles into your business, countless opportunities will appear for a more successful business.

And these people, the best word to use for them is ballast, the ballast people. Just sitting there, not doing anything. In truth, they provide stability to the boat. They’ll switch sides quickly and awkwardly as the boat turns . . and then resume their seats. Not a really tough job . . but a really important one. Without them, the boat could potentially capsize and most definitely without them the boat can not achieve maximum speed.

Who’s keeping your business stable? Who is keeping it from capsizing? Your customers probably come to mind . . but also think of this analogy in terms of support function teams . . .who appear to not be contributing anything to the mission of the business and yet, when you stop to consider life without them, you quickly realize your business would suffer.

Coming About

So you are sailing along … smooth sailing … and then for some reason you throw a wrench into the scheme. When I was sailing alone on Huron, suddenly I would decide it was time to change course, turn around and head to shore, or tack to a distant point on the horizon. For whatever reason, I decided to inject chaos into a relatively normal situation. Things were going along just fine and I decided that it was time to “come about”. I would imagine this whole situation is magnified ten thousand fold when one of those big monsters decides to change course. An entire community of sailors jumping from side to side, cranking the ropes, sails furling and unfurling.

And suddenly we are going in a different direction. See that’s the whole picture, changing the direction of the boats required brief moment of uncertainty. Chaos and featuring lots of things that need to happen all at the same time … and moments later we are settled again and headed in the right direction.

Likewise in business. A company is operating just fine and then chaos, either as a result of a market change or a leadership initiative that causes everyone to start doing things differently. Movement, it’s a new strategy and everyone is wondering where they will land, a leader’s new vision of the company, unlike anything that came before and suddenly everyone loses sight of the end goal. Lots of adjustments, changing positions and the crew is wondering when and if things will get back to solid ground. It’s not a great feeling.

Encouragement and reassurance that things are going to be heading in the right direction very soon are key at this point.

Navigation Points

At the end of each installment of this ongoing blog, I will present key points that you should consider, contemplate and act on. Create a list of things you can take from the blog and put to work in your work

  • Who are the support teams in your business?

  • How do you motivate and encourage them?

  • Do they appreciate the critical role they play in achieving goals?

  • Are they in the loop when there are changes to the business?

  • Do they know when you are about to come about?


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