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I have a confession to make: I’d rather be sailing than building your website. When the sailing bug bites (and for me that happened as a toddler) it’s all consuming. When we’re talking on the phone I’m probably looking out of the window at how fast the clouds are moving and when I’m working on the technical requirements for your new project I’m probably also dreaming about my requirements for the 40 something footer I’ll own one day.

Ultimately though my obsession makes me better at my work. The similarities between making a safe passage and managing a successful project are many. Sailing has provided lots of lessons applicable to the industry I work in and the skills I’ve learnt as a problem solver have made me a better sailor too.

This month I bought a new sailing boat. All new boats come with problems to solve which is part of the fun. The boats rigging and deck gear are unfamiliar to me and the systems I’d developed with previous boats no longer completely applicable. The first job on getting her home was to raise the mast – with sunset only 2 hours away I set to with gusto.

Working alone, without much of a plan, I quickly had the mast teetering precariously above me as I tried to locate the bolt that holds it up. Soon it was secured and I was able to stand back with pride at a job successfully (but not elegantly) completed, only to find a rope had jammed in the top of the mast. Down it had to come and I started all over again, now desperately short of daylight. I couldn’t help thinking that if I went about a clients project in this way I’d look like a total beginner.

I sail to escape, beyond what I need to do to keep my boat and crew safe I don’t spend hours planning through systems – the many systems I do have in place have been developed by trial and error. But my business can’t work like that, if it did my team would work in chaos, my clients would be unhappy and I’d have a nervous breakdown. Instead we plan, study failure, and improve – our systems get better and our clients get happier.

These are a few of the things I’ve discovered:

  • Our projects have more similarities than differences so we systematise the similarities and the differences have become easier
  • Our clients have more similarities than differences too, again understand and be prepared for the similarities and the differences become an exciting opportunity for originality
  • My clients have more confidence and Stratoworks has become easier to run, we can focus on being more creative
  • By starting every project with the same set of processes we get to understand our clients faster and deliver better work with fewer iterations
  • Our systems have become a key selling point and set us apart from our competitors

In my business life, I don’t want the experience of a mast teetering precariously over my head whilst my team run around chaotically trying to work out where each rope and bolt goes. I want to stand back at the end of the day, the job successfully completed, clients happy and confident, whilst I get to admire the sunset and dream of my next adventure.

About the author

Ashley Lansdowne Goodman

Ashley has worked in the tech industry since the late 1990's. He's obsessed with new technology and it's implications for small and medium sized businesses.

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I have been very impressed with the final results and have found the process easy and straight forward

Sarah Seagar, Alan Mitchell Financial Recruitment

Stratoworks Ltd

Telephone. 020 3920 9032

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