The brain is an amazing machine and seems to have the ability to remember the most useless pieces of information. For example, one of the unexpected skills that regular commuters acquire on the rail network is the ability to recite the list of destinations on each line. It only takes someone to prompt them with “Waterloo East, London Bridge, Hither Green, Grove Park……” and they will probably continue the list without any difficulty. An invaluable skill for the next Pub Quiz night.
Also, if you are one of the nine and a half million people who regularly listen to BBC Radio Four, then at some point you may have developed a similar skill with a different list of entirely more exotic locations.
At obscure times of the day and night, preceded by the music track “Sailing By”, you may have heard the strange litany of locations that makes up the BBC shipping forecast. So, if we start with Shannon, Rockall, Bailey, Malin and Hebrides, how many more can you remember? Each of them represents a large patch of inhospitable sea occupied at any one time by a few fishing trawlers and an occasional oil rig.
It is easy to forget, when tucking into a meal of fish and chips, that somewhere out in Viking, Cromarty or Forth is a fishing vessel, braving the elements to bring you back your supper. Whilst we rarely give these hardworking nautical entrepreneurs any thought, they have much to teach us in the current climate.
Many people will be breathing a sigh of relief that 2010 is almost over. So much seems to have happened over the last twelve months to challenge the fundamental structures that we had taken for granted. The choppy waters of the economy seem to have been hit by a storm of uncertainty which has affected all the ships of industry trying to navigate through it into a safe harbour.
Thinking of your business as a boat can be a useful analogy because the skills you need to pilot a business and to pilot a boat through a storm are very similar. Whether your business is the size of a rowing boat, a fishing trawler or is as big as an ocean liner, the same principles apply. Nobody wants to end up on the rocks!
If you are thinking about starting a new business at the moment it may feel a bit like sitting in a boatyard about to launch a new vessel into the water. Looking at the rough sea common sense may well have suggested that this was not the moment. But you would be wrong.
A North Sea fisherman, used to navigating at sea, might not think twice about putting to sea in a gale that might scare off the less experienced. So it is not necessarily the intensity of the weather that causes vessels to end up on the rocks, but the ability of the captain to navigate through them. So it is with business in these choppy times.
When you are at sea, there are no excuses. If you miss port by a few miles an apology isn’t going to be enough. Your passengers would want to know why you didn’t make a course correction earlier. It is no use blaming the wind or the currents, when you are at the helm it is your job to allow for them and to stay on course.
Likewise when a business is experiencing challenging times, it is no use pointing to factors such as market forces, the competition, the economy, taxation and a host of other variables as being the cause. Those same factors apply to everyone in exactly the same way. It is not what happens that determines the outcome of any situation; it is what you do about it.
The Straits of Dover in the English Channel are one of the most congested shipping lanes in the world. No captain would take their eyes off their radar, or ignore the tides or their position in relation to the sandbanks for one moment. Yet in business, how easy is it to take our eye off the ball and go for months without measuring our position? You cannot manage what you do not measure. You too need to know what is on the radar so you can take appropriate action when trouble is looming ahead.
But knowing what is ahead is one thing. Knowing which way to steer is another. The way we react in any given situation is very much down to the way we think about it. There are two ways of looking at everything, as a problem or as an opportunity. Some people will assume that the worst will happen and do nothing as a result. Others will see it as an event on the journey, deal with it and move on. It is down to your personal philosophy. The way you think about things.
As Jim Rohn says “It is the philosophical set of our sails that determines the course of our lives. To change our current direction, we have to change our philosophy not our circumstances.”
Over the past turbulent year many businesses have closed, but equally many new businesses have opened. Where some just saw problems, others saw opportunities. When you are at the helm of your business what you think is as important as what you do. That is why, in addition to plotting your course and continually measuring your position, you also need to invest in your own personal development. It is never what happens that matters. Things will happen all the time, both good and bad. The only thing we have any control over is the way we think about them. And the way we think will determine what we do. And what we do will determine the outcome. So as Dale Carnegie said “Think! – and grow rich!”
© Copyright 2013 Chris Day