Last weekend, I went canoeing. Although my family owned a canoe when I was a child and I had spent a lot of time canoeing, it was something I hadn’t done in years. I was excited and thought my canoe ride was going to be a lot of fun.
Boy was I wrong! It was a disaster. When the ride was finally over, I thought about what happened and realized that the mistakes we made on the water were a lot like the mistakes business owners make when trying to build their businesses.
Lesson #1 – You need to know where you are going.
When we started paddling, I thought we were going to go to the right because that was the way we had ridden around the lake on an earlier boat trip. The other person in the canoe wanted to go to the left to show me a hidden passageway through the reeds. Did we discuss this before we started paddling? No. Guess what? Much like your business, a canoe cannot go in two directions at once. Be sure to define your organizational goals and then make sure everyone on your team knows what these goals are. A team can’t work together if they aren’t reaching for the same goal.
Lesson #2 – Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
My father and the girl scouts taught me to paddle the canoe a certain way. My partner was holding the paddle differently and using a totally different stroke. We kept trying to correct each other. But guess what? Just like there are many ways to solve business problems, there are many ways to paddle a canoe. Did my stroke move the boat forward? Of course it did. (Those Girl Scouts know what they are doing.) But so did my partner’s stroke. Duh! Henry Ford once said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.” That is very true in marketing. To succeed and be noticed, you have to be willing to try something new. That’s scary. Most people don’t like to try new things. So they settle by doing “new” but copying their competitors. To be successful, you have to be willing to try doing something completely new and nothing like your competitors. If you look like your competitors and sound like your competitors, in the minds of your prospects, you are your competitors. Be brave. Try something new. If it actually is wrong, you can always go back and fix it. There are not too many things in life that can’t be corrected.
Lesson #3 – Recognize and take advantage of other peoples’ skills.
When canoeing, it is best to have the stronger person sit in the back. We didn’t do that. Steering the canoe from the front is not very effective and we zigzagged all across the lake. We should’ve just agreed on who was going to steer and then let the other person do their job. Business owners and managers who try to do everything themselves and don’t trust others to do things correctly end up becoming overworked and making mistakes. You selected your employees, your advisors, and your marketing company for their skills. Now trust them. Your way isn’t the only way (see #2 above). Let go so they can do their jobs. The results will surprise you. (In a good way, I promise.)
And the next time I go canoeing, I’m sitting in the front.
Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Pinterest.
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