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Our thoughts on the latest developments impacting your business.

Teamwork in business

Investing in your human assets

Investing in your human assets – Our SME clients expect success and enlist our help to overcome issues surrounding their profitability, with our work often leading to a review, or overhaul of business processes, people, their roles and responsibilities and their level of effective teamwork in business.

The depth of the problem is quite varied and can often be the result of under-investment in processes and systems. However, the area that’s our greatest concern amongst SME’s, is the lack of investment in their people and their teams. Whilst most clients accept that the issues may be somewhere other than expected, occasionally some are surprised to learn the problem is an under-investment in people. That’s often difficult for them to accept when most would claim that their staff are their greatest asset! So, what can sailing teach us about business – Teamwork!

Planning for improvements

If we look at this picture, you’ll see a large proportion of the crew are on the ‘high-side’, providing downforce on the rudder and keel and assisting the helm in steering his/her proper course. What appears to be a modest role is having a major affect helping the whole crew achieve its goals. That is to win or to arrive at their destination faster, with less tacks and gybes and less effort! But frequently SME businesses use more effort unwisely rather the using the collective spirit of people and combining their skills at precisely the right time for the greater good. In racing sailing boats, crews train together with skippers and owners committed to investing in their human assets, but this is extremely rare amongst SME businesses.

As a management consultancy we applying our knowledge and expertise for the good of the entire ‘crew’ and at the right time. Using our integrity and building trust to underpin our role from that very first client introduction, we engage with a wide range of employees, helping to develop the right team ethos from day one. It’s critical to every business that people understand their role and their responsibilities precisely. This is frequently a position we need to reinforce, ensuring our clients and their teams get to their destination faster.

Conducting an early business audit and speaking to several employees in various business units is the first step. Only once this has been concluded can we set out a ‘Plan of Works’, agreeing with the shareholders the extent of the problem, reaching a verbal agreement, and asking them to sanction the extent of our responsibilities so that everyone is aware of our purpose and that we have been appointed to ‘drive the boat faster’.

Adapt your position

By investing in your human assets, we can challenge and encourage each person to perform at their optimum within their role. This isn’t about increased spending but is rather a case of streamlining effort! Once concluded, seeing how people improve and adapt within the business is extremely satisfying, it’s like learning to sail. At first, you’re a complete novice, often isolated and not aware of your role within the team. Initially the ‘boat’ seems complex, but gradually through training, you begin to understand more about the key elements of your role. You and the rest of the crew start to work together, adjusting the outputs with ease, picking-up speed and working as one. So, what can sailing teach you about business – that teamwork has begun to yield results whatever task you perform.

Embrace the long-term aims

Most of our clients have been in operation for many years, typically 30+, but during years of increased sales, business owners tend to look at the operational requirements of the business, such as machinery or material usage rather than the manpower. Overlooking the human capital element employed by the firm is typical of many SME’s.

These human related issues can often be traced back to the day these employees joined the business. Employers will either recruit a less qualified existing employee, or they bring in an experienced person in the hope they can ‘hit the ground running’. Whichever is the case, they rarely have a long-term approach to building a team!

Another SME trait we encounter is an unnecessary overly familiar relationship. They learn about too much about ‘Paul’s children’ and ‘Christine’s sick mother’ and their employees become a part of the owners ‘extended family’; the ‘power’ in the relationship can be cause for an erosion in respect. Whilst a supportive working environment has great merit, it should not be at the expense of the job being completed professionally.

It’s not just limited to managing the employees though. We also find that the board and the management team need supporting too. It could be coaching on team development or unnecessary micro-management, re-structuring roles, identifying and eradicating distractions and helping them focus on the things that matter most…the numbers, all of which assist in the development of building a team and channelling effort. With the issues removed and the solutions found, employers gradually learn to see their business in an entirely new way and use their energy to better effect, and the crux of this article, ‘Teamwork – what sailing can teach us about business’.


If you recognise some of these aspects and your company also needs to re-establish new working patterns, changes with personnel, the development of new processes or closer working relationships between different departments we’re here to help. And, if a day’s sailing can help to underpin these key messages we can oblige with that too . The skill and talent of an individual may win a contract but only through a concerted team effort will you ever maintain them!

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