What has sailing got to do with entrepreneurship?

I’ve just returned from the launch of Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight — one of the UK’s longest, most successful annual sporting events. I was shocked to learn the sailing regatta started back in 1826, during the Victorian Era. That kind of longevity is seriously impressive.   

My love of sailing started when I moved to Perth, Western Australia eight years ago and spent time sailing to Rottnest, Carnac and Garden Islands. I have to thank Neville and Penny Macpherson-Price, as well as ELEANOR CHAPPELL too, as we had great fun times sailing on Eventide catamaran in Perth.

While in Cowes, enjoying the racing on the water and the events on land, I couldn’t help drawing comparisons from sailing to entrepreneurship and running businesses. Whether it’s a sailing voyage, or running a business, to be successful you need to be prepared.

Eight things entrepreneurs can learn from sailing:

1.   Mindset – Sailing takes courage, bravery and the ability to be decisive. You have to be able to take calculated risks, make tough decisions, and build resilience to achieve success in business.

2.   Strategy – Before you set sail, you have to plan where you’re going. It sounds obvious, but beginning with the end in mind and having a strategic plan can help steer you in the right direction towards the destination. Not having a strategic plan would be like attempting to cross the Atlantic blindfolded. 

3.   The right boat – ensure you have the right boat and understand the anatomy of it. In business, doing research on a product or service, and using a business model canvas to understand how it all works, is crucial for success. As an entrepreneur, get curious about how it all works and leave no rock unturned around the business basics, value proposition, financials, marketing, sales, channels, and everything else that can have an impact on your success.   

4.   Training & Coaching – Ensure you have the basic sailing skills before you get on the water and seek support from those who have been there before. Training, coaching, and mentoring is just as important when growing a business.

5.   Culture & Team Work – Sailing requires team work and recruiting competent crew with the right level of experience to help get you to where you want to be. If you get this right, high-performing teams can be formed and the right culture can be created. Alternatively, imagine being miles away from land with a team who are at each other’s throats. I couldn’t think of anything worse: It would be carnage! 

6.   Trends & Timing– The timing has to be right to get the most favorable conditions to sail. Likewise, the timing has to be right to launch and scale your business. The tide and weather can turn quickly and unexpectedly, and there will be times you may have to navigate through turbulent waters. Be prepared to change course and adapt in accordance with the changing climate, trends and external environment.

7.   Terminology – Learning the difference between terminology and jargon in both sailing and business contexts will make it easier for you to contribute towards the team. In sailing you must know the difference between port and starboard as one day it could save your life. In business learning how to navigate around finance and legal terminology is important. Have you got tacit knowledge of basic accounting, i.e P&L reports and Balance sheets? Do you understand the basics around Commercial law, i.e Intellectual Property and trademarks? A small hole can sink a big ship, so ensure all the legal and financial obligations are covered.

8.   Health, Safety and Wellbeing– In sailing you have to pay attention to many potential hazards, of which the boom is one of the most significant.The boom is the big, heavy bar at the foot of the mainsail that swings across the boat — typically at head height! If this hits you it can knock you overboard, and cause serious injury. You have to pay attention and adapt a common sense approach to safely and good sail-handling to avoid danger. In business if you don’t look after yourself and your wellbeing mistakes can occur. Of course, as a business owner you are legally obligated to know the basics of health and safety in the workplace, too.

In business or in sailing, getting a few key fundamentals right is so important. If you take on board the lessons above, you can let your dreams set sail and imagine the future possibilities.

I know there are lots of sailing fans in the world of business, and I’m intrigued to know about how your sailing benefits your professional life, and the other way around. Please jump in with your comments below.

If you are interested how we VLM – Training and Coaching Specialists can help you to develop your team through training and coaching to support your business growth drop me an email at vickilouisemain@gmail.com.

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