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I live on the west coast of Canada and the ocean is just a fact of life. While not a sailor myself, I know a number of people who just love being out on the water. In my previous city we had an annual international yacht race that avid sailors yearned to be a part of.

A friend of mine was a fervent sailor and The Swiftsure was a race he strove to be a part of. As a single parent, he never afforded a boat of his own, but he did a lot of work around a local yacht club, helped out with all the smaller races and gained the respect of many of the boat owners. Inevitably the opportunity to crew a boat arrived. He loved it. He enjoyed his companions and as his children grew he was able to devote more time to his passion.

Several years running my friend was invited to crew a boat in The Swiftsure. He loved it no matter what the weather brought and, like all sailors in the 20+ hour race, tolerated exhaustion and sometimes pain to help get his boat around the markers and home as quickly as possible.

I’ll never forget the year I asked him about the up-coming race. He side-stepped the question at first, then admitted he would not be racing that year. Stunned, I asked for an explanation.

It turns out that the skipper of the boat my friend raced with was a competitive man. He was also a little short-tempered. His idea of winning the race was to keep his eye on his competitors, watch what they were doing and compete at that level. If someone was hugging the coast and seemed to be doing well, he would direct his boat toward the coast-line and try that for a while. Then if he saw another boat flying up the centre of the channel he would sail toward the centre of the channel and follow that boat’s course. He wasted so much time following the others he held no chance of gaining on them.

My friend loved the boat, he felt she had a win in her. He also studied sailing techniques for that class of boat and spent hours on the water trying to experience as many conditions as he could. But he could never convince the skipper to chart his own course and follow it.

This story now becomes my analogy for how NOT to run a business. Your business is an important entity and you need to look at what you want to do and what you need to do to accomplish that. You need to chart a course to get your business to the level of success you desire.

To return to my sailing analogy for a moment, this is not to say you shouldn’t adjust the sails from time; or look around at the current atmosphere and decide if a slight change in direction is necessary.

What you absolutely cannot do is look around at your competition and decide that some technique seems to be working for them so you should try it! You cannot read an article about some new gimmick and decide that might be fun to have. You can’t be buying every new accessory that comes on the market in hope that one will be the magic bullet!

The very best way to reach your goal is to find a “skipper” with a proven track record. Not one with enough money to buy a beautiful boat but no clue how to race her. A skipper who has learned what it takes to get a business up and running from nothing; a skipper who is also focussed on their own win as well as having the desire to coach you to yours!

Implement these dos and don’ts and you will have a very strong chance of winning your race. It may take a few years to win the big prizes, but you will be a contender, and a finisher. Important positions for any business!

To your success!