Some of you may have already heard the story about the Men’s Rowing 8+ team winning the Olympic Gold medal in 2000 and how they were only able to do that because the team worked hard to make sure that they were doing the right things and that they were constantly trying to improve how they did them.

The adage “Will it make the boat go faster” was drilled into them by their coach and it meant that effectively anything they did was pointless unless it ultimately made the boat go faster.

The tagline has been used a lot in the scope of business, and in today’s fast paced society (which is only getting faster) how do you really get your business to concentrate on the things that matter to you?

It seems as though we often spend our time doing what’s in front of us rather than doing the things that will really make a difference to our ultimate goals, whether that is growing revenue, increasing efficiency and profitability or grooming for exit.

In my non-exec director roles, I have found that trying to get business-owners to focus on their ‘end-game’ is challenging as typically they haven’t set themselves or their business any real goals.

They are consumed by client issues, cashflow, awkward suppliers and staffing issues and years can go by without them getting any closer to their desires.

I have some simple advice to all business owners who can relate to the above.


  1. Stop right now and take some time to work ON your business rather than IN your business. Your business will still be there tomorrow.


  1. Write up a simple strategic plan – this should include what goals you want to achieve in the short, medium and long term. Set a timeframe for each one.


  1. For each timeframe, outline the steps you need in an operational plan – focus on how are you actually going to achieve these goals and what do you need to be able to do it.


  1. Take time each month to review your plan and track your progress – think about all the things that you are doing that are not helping you reach your goals that you set in the strategic plan and stop doing them!


It is scary to think how much time we all waste with pointless spam emails, chasing customers who will never buy from us, and partners who will never give anything back.

In my own business career, I found that working with a mentor was a great way of having someone constructively challenge my goals and plans.

As you answer the phone or read your next email, ask yourself whether that person will ultimately help you make your boat go faster!

Back to Blog