Managing a business requires among other things, the ability to manage costs. During a recession that has never been more true. In particular, labor costs can be managed by doing what needs to be done from time to time in the sense that when you don’t need a certain number of people you send people home early. Now this has always been my weakness because I have grown attached to my crew and feel responsible for their well being, quite often at my own expense. Talk to any former business owner and they will confess the same mistake. Many of us have a tendency of being too generous with our people but in business, this can seal your fate.
A vendor asked me how things were going today and I commented on payroll management and how I was mad with my decision to not cut back right now. The discussion then shifted to a sailboat racing anecdote that applied to the subject manner which is what I will share with you here.
Many years ago in a younger and lighter body I was a sailboat racer in the great San Francisco Bay. As a midshipman at the California Maritime Academy I had the good fortune and sense to get involved with the Academy’s sailboat racing fleet. Every weekend we would raid the mess deck for free food, cast lines and set out into the San Pablo Bay for a week end of fun filled racing. We were fortunate to have access to what was at the time the fastest boat in the fleet, meaning we were not accustomed to being overtaken or passed.
During the Big Boat series( THE RACE IN SF at the time) we were well into a windward beat near THE BROTHERS and in the lead position when we noticed we were being overtaken by a lessor sailed boat which had no chance of ever being faster than we were. But there they were overtaking us ever so slowly.
Now here is the punch line, as they overtook us I remember yelling, “they are at anchor!” Now for those readers who are not familiar with sailing or boating in general, the only way a vessel at anchor can overtake a vessel underway is if the vessel underway is well, how should I put this, going backwards.
So there is my anecdote and it clearly shows prescience in business. When running a business, always keep things moving forward, not backwards. Or in a pinch, DROP YOUR ANCHOR!