entrepreneurOur second guest post, following a conversation about leadership with Paul Carroll, shares lessons for your leadership role as an entrepreneur.

Coming once more from Paul’s talented pool of experts, writing for InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com, our latest guest blogger is Michael de Waal. He founded & leads a global software provider, so knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship. To make things more interesting, for all types on leaders, Michael is also a sailor (cue this post’s analogy).

Over to Michael to steer us through it…

Most entrepreneurs don’t just want to be entrepreneurs—they have to be entrepreneurs.  

As a driven entrepreneur in the insurance industry, you will encounter both challenges and rewards far beyond that of the average employee. Navigating these ups and downs can be as challenging as steering a ship through a storm on the high seas, but I’ve done both—and lived to tell the tale.

The lessons I learned sailing the seas have served me just as well on land. Here are five tips about entrepreneurship that sailing has taught me:

1. Know the terminology

In sailing, understanding boating terms like aft, starboard and leeward is vital to working with your crew and operating your vessel. The same is true in business. If you can`t speak the language of your clients and your competition, your next deal may get lost in translation.

Attending conferences and taking courses are both great ways to learn new terms and highlight that there`s a reason why you’re the expert.

2. Use trends like the wind

When sailing, jibing and tacking help you manipulate the winds to steer your vessel in the right direction. In business, trends are your winds, and you need to understand which direction they`re heading. Take a few minutes every day and bring yourself up to speed on the latest global and local trends.

Aggregators like Feedly or SmartNews, along with social media feeds, keep you on the cutting edge and aware of which way the wind is blowing.

3. Learn when to tighten or ease the sheet

The sheet is a line or rope used to adjust a sail against a force of wind.

In business, you need to think about when to tighten or loosen your budget and your business’s growth in line with your sales cycle and market forces.

Markets ebb and flow, and your business will, too. Tracking these fluctuations over time will help determine the ideal time to launch marketing campaigns and hire employees, or to tighten the purse strings.

4. Adjust quickly and wisely to a changing climate

The weather can change in an instant when you’re sailing, and you need to know how to use the sails to compensate, navigate under tough conditions and capitalize on whatever’s thrown at you. It`s not much different when you`re a leader in business.

Like the weather, business is always moving and changing. Whether you`re steering your ship at sea or driving your business on land, it takes experience and at times raw courage to weather a storm. See each storm as a chance to gain experience for the next one and know that sometimes you simply need to batten down the hatches – and wait it out.

5. Be a decisive captain

It can take an entire crew to run a sailboat, but they won’t work effectively without a captain calling the shots. The crew relies on your vision, tenacity and experience to guide their actions. Without this direction, no one will know which way to travel.

As the captain of a ship or a business, you spend your days adjusting your sails, guiding the crew and at times navigating dangerous waters. If you’re on the verge of starting a business or taking it in a new direction, remember one thing above the rest – always keep your hand on the helm and keep in mind:

The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader trims the sails and sets a new course.

Thanks for those thoughts, Michael. I relate to many of those lessons during my experience setting up Customer Insight Leader & running Laughlin Consultancy.

Hopefully this blog too, helps Customer Insight leaders keep up to date (in line with lesson 2).

Any similar leadership lessons you’d share, especially from your experience on the open water?