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Edition 413 – The Bridge

Do you remember the Costa Concordia? It was the cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of Tuscany in January 2012 after the captain stepped away from the bridge to, how shall we say, attend to other matters.

I’ve had a number of conversations with business owners in the past couple of months where they’ve all stepped away from the bridge, some of them for extended periods of time. In almost every conversation, it has started out in one of three ways:

  1. Complaining about staff.
  2. Complaining about workflow.
  3. Complaining about cashflow.

One client, in a recent conversation, lamented that the pipeline was looking thin, in spite of the fact they’d had a busy lead in to Christmas. They’ve been pricing work, but not winning much of it, meaning that the first half of 2024 is looking a little quieter than they’d like it to be.

The beauty of the work that we do with our clients is that if we ask the right questions, we can uncover the issues very quickly. Here’s what we found out:

  1. They’re pricing work, but don’t know how much of it they’re winning.
  2. They’re doing work, but don’t know whether or not they’re making a profit on each individual job.
  3. They’ve got issues on site which (they figure) needs them to be on site to sort it out.
  4. They’re letting the little things slip, which leads to big consequences. Like, believe it or not, forgetting to bill jobs.

When the captain steps away from the bridge of any ship, there is a chain of command that cuts in. His or her deputy takes over the controls and ensures the ship stays on course, and away from the rocky shoreline.

Similarly, the captain, when they step away from the bridge, is not dealing with the problems in the galley by mucking in and helping with the washing up, or donning the white overalls to see why the number four diesel turbine is running a bit rough. They deal with their management team, who report back to them on:

  1. What the issue is.
  2. How that issue is impacting performance.
  3. What the likely rectification is.
  4. How long that will take.

If you want to command a business that is successful and creates the ideal life for you and your family, you can only take control from the bridge. If you’re down below the waterline with the mechanics, or in the kitchen with the pot scrubbers, you can’t see the course you’re on, because there’s no windows! There’s no external visibility to determine if you’re on a collision course. You’re solving one set of problems, but ignoring the bigger ones that are bearing down on you.

Of course, if you do want to be that type of business owner, then you shouldn’t be commanding a luxury liner. Instead, you should focus on something smaller, like the 42 foot cruiser that carries just a few passengers, is easy to slide into a mooring and stays in coastal waters. It’s less ambitious, perhaps. But, similarly, less likely to lead to a major catastrophe.

This Week’s Tip

When you take a moment to look up, what do you see in front of you?