There are countless metaphors likening entrepreneurship to sailing, but what resonates most is the impression that despite being immersed in the perpetual action that comes with running a business, you stand alone in a vast sea of complications, dilemmas and disputes, steering almost rudderless through storm after storm. Taking a step back though, it’s easy to see how the lessons we learn from sailing can easily be applied to being an entrepreneurial icon, and that there should be no difference in our behaviours be them at the helm of a ship or a start-up.
1. PLANNING & ORGANISATION
Sailing is not a whimsical hobby. Jumping on-board without proper preparation or planning will undoubtedly lead to poor performance, and more likely into land you in perilous waters. Being an entrepreneur is no different. A lack of coherent strategic planning is the most efficient way to steer your company onto the rocks. While the notion of the entrepreneurs distancing themselves from the widely-accepted bureaucracy of the more corporate world to take advantage of their flexibility certainly rings true, it is also important to remember that rules and regulations exist for a reason. A captain will take no chances when it comes to organisation and the safety of the crew, and neither should an entrepreneur.
While planning is key, it can only get you so far. At some point, you are sure to sail into a storm that will rock the boat to such an extent that it seems there’s no way back to shore. Sooner or later, improvisation will become essential be it switching out the SATNAV for an old-school map and compass or finding a creative solution to source those critical funding needs. Working out of a co-working space is a great way to surround yourself with all kinds of people that can help you out of a sticky situation at a moment’s notice.
3. RIDE THE TAILWINDS
In sailing, entrepreneurship, or life more generally, it is vital to remember that when things are going well, you need to just ride your luck. Take advantage of when you have the wind in your sails and leverage these boosts to help reach your maximum potential. As Denzel Washington once said, luck is nothing more than “when an opportunity comes along and you are prepared for it”.
4. CREWS ARE EVERYTHING, BUT THEY NEED A CAPTAIN
It’s true that teamwork is everything – but behind every good team is a strong leader, a captain that calls the shots. Leading by example isn’t about being the big personality, or the smartest person in the room, but about making those decisions that others are either unqualified or unwilling to make.
5. KEEP THE DECK CLEAN
OK, we’re talking about two different kinds of decks here, but still, the metaphor works. Leaving things lying around on deck while out at sea is a sure-fire way to see them waste away at the bottom of the ocean. For those entrepreneurs looking for funding, when putting together your pitch deck, you need to summarise your business in a clear and precise manner, removing any clutter. Keep it clean, keep it tidy, keep it simple.