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  • Five Things I’ve Learned About Business from Boating

    If you have ever gone boating you know there are a lot of things that need to be checked and double checked. From the obvious things like making sure everyone has a life jacket to the not so obvious, but equally important, things like making sure the safety kit is on-board and easily accessible. Too many people take these things for granted and sometimes pay the ultimate price. There are a lot of parallels to captaining a boat and running a business. I have picked out five that I think relate quite well whether it’s someone just starting out in business or even if they are a grizzled old sea dog.

    The following are Five Things I’ve learned about Business from Boating. I think each point relates to business and when each is practiced and perfected they can help you grow your career and reputation. After each point you’ll see this “At Work:” where I see the connection to business. I hope you enjoy these points and if you have a few of your own please add them in the comments.

    Trust the captain

    This might be kind of obvious, but the captain is responsible for everything that happens on that vessel. They are literally your lifeline. While they don’t make you walk the plank anymore they are still responsible for the safety of each passenger.

    At Work:

    • The captain of the business is typically the CEO.
    • When the business is just starting… YOU might be the CEO and you need to set the course.
    • Of course, not everyone starts at the top and as the business grows everyone cannot report directly to the CEO. In which case the CEO delegates work to other team members.
    • The CEO is ultimately responsible for the safety of the vessel… the business.
    • They need to be trusted to make the right decisions that steers the organization through rough waters.

    Check the lines – twice

    Whether you are sailing or on a motor boat there are things that need to be tied down and there are things that need to be left untied. Either way it is important that they are the proper state (of being lashed down or purposely left untied). If it’s an important thing for the safely of everyone onboard it’s worth checking, then re-checking. Perhaps in conjunction with someone else.

    At Work:

    • When you have a task to do. Check the results. Check them… twice
    • If it is important,  it’s worth checking and double checking
    • Ask a peer to check your work

    If in doubt or if it’s really critical, ask for help. Ask someone to check your work. This is true no matter what level you are in the organization

    Leave it pretty

    When you leave the docks spiral your tie down lines. When you leave the area where you were boating leave it nicer than when you arrived. This should be obvious, but it is amazing and sometimes a bit sad when you see what some people do.

    Just like when you go hiking. Take only Pictures and Leave only Footprints (or splashes)

    At Work:

    • When you are leaving on a business trip leave your desk looking presentable.
    • People do notice and they will make assumptions about the kind of person that sits at that desk.
    • Your desk is a reflection of you. And a reflection of the company. Leave it pretty.


    Stuff happens. Be ready. Every contingency cannot be envisioned beforehand. One of the best things I like about boating is that we get to improvise. We get to (or actually we have to) come up with a plan to solve a particular problem. Some are big and some are small, but they always seem to require some common sense and ingenuity to fix. Sometimes they are just “band aid” fixes to get you back to the docks. And that’s OK. Getting back safely is important. See Point #1 — Trust the Captain.

    At Work:

    • Every day at work cannot be predicted.
    • If you are doing things right and setting your One Big Thing then you are likely getting that OBT started and completed.
    • However, every day and from every angle things pop up and get re-prioritized. Be Ready.

    Have fun

    There really is no reason not to have fun. It’s a rare day when someone wakes up and thinks… “Oh man, I have to go boating today.”  As mentioned in the previous points there are things to be checked (twice), you should leave the docks looking nice and there will likely be something that requires a bit of improvisation. Whether you are the captain or not you should be looking forward to it and be ready to have fun. If not… you are doing it wrong.

    At Work:

    • Just like with boating work should be fun.
    • If it’s not… find something that is.
    • Sure, there are days when it’s not fun. However, that should not be the norm.

    There you have it. My Five Things I’ve learned about Business from Boating. I think each point can be related to success factors in the way we think about things and the way we get things done. People that can improvise consistently and successfully are hard to find. People that check their work and deliver their work consistently in a presentable manner are noticed in the work place. I think it’s also very easy to spot when people are having fun. Because it shows in the way they treat others, in their smile and in their ability to shine even when challenges pop up.

    What have you learned about business from boating? Drop a comment below and let everyone know. Thanks for reading. See you on the water.


    Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.

    Jeff is an expert in the Enterprise Content Management industry. He brings over 20 years of Channel Sales, Partner Marketing and Alliance expertise to audiences around the world in speaking engagements and via his writing. He has worked for Microsoft, Kodak, and K2. He is currently consulting with Microsoft and partners to drive Community Engagement and Alliances. Follow him on Twitter @jshuey or on LinkedIn: in/JeffShuey

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