One day, as I was floating around in my little white sailboat on the blue ocean (this is why my company is called Sailorgirl Jewelry), a thought occurred to me.
Running a business is quite like sailing.
When we go sailing we make a plan. We have a starting point and we have a destination. We study charts and we listen to weather forecasts. We plan a route.
When we begin a business we have a starting point. (Gee, I think I should sell some of my work to cover my costs.) We have a destination. (Goal, I would like to cover the costs of all the work I’ve been making so that I can take more classes and learn more skills. Or, I would like to quit my job and make my art full-time.) We do market research, we check out other people and we learn about the different ways of selling work. We create a “business plan”.
Once we have our sailing plan, we point the boat and raise the sails. A plan is fine and good and is a great beginning. However Mother Nature sometimes has some other ideas about where you should go. Just because we have a plan doesn’t mean that we can put on the autopilot, go below and take a nap. Sometimes the wind will change and you will have to tack (change direction) a few times to get to your destination. Sometimes big waves and gusts of wind that weren’t in the forecast will mean that you have to change your destination.
The first few years of sailing this would drive me crazy! When I had a destination, dammit, I was going there AND on the day I planned to! I have ranted and raved and tacked into giant waves against the tide because I had a plan. Until one day I figured out that in the big scheme of things this wasn’t getting me anywhere except bruised and battered. Much as I have a plan, ultimately there are forces bigger than my wee boat and that sometimes you just have to yield.
Business is the same. We can plan all that we want, and plans are definitely very very very important. After all, you need to know where you are starting from and where you are going. No matter how much you plan, sometimes things will come out of the blue, things you didn’t expect because maybe you didn’t even know they existed when you created your plan. Rather than fight against them because they weren’t in your plan, maybe you need to adjust your plan to incorporate them. The key word here is adjust, it’s important not to lose sight of the key goals and steps in your plan, you just need to take new wind direction and gusts into account.
In the past few years we’ve been faced with an economy that’s on a roller coaster. I don’t think that was in anyone’s plan yet if as a business you are to survive you have to roll with it. When I began selling back in 2004 Facebook didn’t even exist. Instagram began in 2010. I couldn’t possibly have planned for just how much those platforms would transform the world of selling.
The most important thing you can do is to keep your eye on the destination and to keep your hand on the rudder (wheel, whatever you use to steer your boat/business). Think about what you can do to adjust to whatever new conditions the world throws your way.
If you stubbornly insist on doing exactly what you had planned on and don’t adjust to the new environment you won’t be in business long. If you can adjust your sails, although the ride might be bumpy along the way, one day you will find yourself at your destination with a great feeling of satisfaction for weathering the journey.