This past weekend I was racing in the annual Mid-Winter Regatta out of Long Beach. During the last race of five, we had just rounded the final mark with our spinnaker up and heading for the finish line. We were well ahead of the rest of the fleet when the skipper announces, “Be conservative and just finish the race.” Before he could complete his thought a wave caught the headsail that was lying un-tethered on the foredeck. One of our crew gallantly tried to grab the sail only to be washed overboard with it. Not only did the sail take out the crew member but mangled our bow pulpit, tore out the lifelines and smashed the headsail foil.
For the next 15 minutes things were very chaotic. As we were rapidly sailing away from our fallen comrade we seemed to have lost any semblance of control. Boat handling in a big blow is an orchestrated effort and folks had left their positions. When the sails finally did come down – the bad news – none were in the boat but floating all around us. Sail retrieval took at least another 5 minutes before we could actually get turned around and headed back to our downed man. We had lost someone overboard two years ago in calm waters of the harbor and had a heck of a time getting him back on board. Lesson learned; the owners invested in some equipment to solve the problem. Not knowing where it was stowed or how to use it added another five minutes of back breaking effort to get our crew safely back onboard. Finally we headed to the finish line limping in for a last place finish.
We don’t make a habit of losing people overboard but it is a known risk. How quickly things changed. We went from flying high and winning into a highly dangerous losing effort in seconds. Could this disaster and the multi-thousand dollar damage have been avoided? Yes. If it occurred again, can we retrieve our crew in half the time? Of course. We got sloppy and we were not well prepared.
How is this different than running a small business? It isn’t! When we embark on a start-up “adventure” it is very much like going to sea. There are many potential risks, some that can be avoided and others that need immediate mitigation to ensure our survival.
A call for help from YOU! Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!
Share YOUR business disaster that could have been avoided or easily mitigated.
Collectively, let’s figure out how to avoid the big ones!
Jeff Blanton, President