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Edition 372 – Barnacles

During our recent New Zealand cruise, we took the opportunity on one of the sea days to listen to a talk by the staff captain on the Celebrity Eclipse about life working on cruise ships.

As he told us the story of his 20 year career, and how he was living his boyhood dream, he told us about the dynamics of the ship. With a maximum cruise speed of 24 knots, it tends to operate mostly in the 19 knot range, depending on weather, seas and the nautical rules of the waters in which it is cruising.

During the COVID lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, the ship was anchored off the Bahamas. The problem with anchoring any vessel in warm waters for a long period of time is the hull quickly attracts barnacles. Once the ships raised anchor and proceedings commenced to ready the ships for cruising again, the maximum speed at which the Eclipse could operate was 16 knots, well below the maximum of 24 and less than the optimum of 19. The barnacles created so much drag on the hull that a higher speed wasn’t possible and, as you can imagine, fuel economy dropped through the (ocean) floor. However, that wasn’t the major issue!

The ship was due to be deployed to Vancouver to operate the Alaskan run through the Northern Hemisphere summer. To manoeuvre underneath the Lions Gate Bridge and head out to sea, the ship needs to be operating at least at 19 knots. As a ship gathers speed, it sits lower in the water and in this situation, with a maximum operating speed of only 16 knots, the Eclipse would not sit low enough in the water to pass safely under the bridge.

Over the years, I’ve seen plenty of small and family businesses that are hamstrung by the barnacles on their hulls. They’re many and varied but include:

  1. Outdated IT.
  2. Inefficient systems and processes.
  3. A lack of staff training and development.
  4. Minimal investment in product development.
  5. Poor or non existent performance management of your team.
  6. Inappropriate financing models for the stage of life your business is at.
  7. Inability of management to focus on key priorities.
  8. Lousy financial reporting – both in terms of preparation and review.

For the most part, most business owners continue to operate, day in and day out, with this level of inefficiency to the point where it can just about bring a business to a standstill.

Instead, what business owners should be doing is “dry-docking” their business. Business owners should bring in someone from outside to review how they do business and make recommendations as to how to improve their efficiency. Any business owner cannot objectively do it themselves, however, it requires someone from outside who is prepared to:

  1. Question the status quo.
  2. Facilitate the opportunity to consider “how can we do it better around here”
  3. Assist with the implementation of any recommended changes.

There’s an old saying “if you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got”. Funny how most people know that saying, but don’t necessarily subscribe to it.

This Week’s Tip

*If barnacles on the hull of a ship slow down it’s performance by one-third over two years,
what would that be like in your business?”