Your Online Business is a Ship at Sea

A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.  
John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic, 1928

Wanted: hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Ernest Shackleton, 1909

I am a fan of Arctic and Antarctic Exploration. Studying successful polar expeditions reveals obvious attributes in common. The individuals had expert skills in their domain, and they communicated their concerns without subterfuge, building a trusting environment which enable efficient teamwork and ultimately, survival.

If you must brave the elements of any venture, it make sense to become knowledgeable in skills required for the successful completion of that venture. Does the captain of a ship need to know how to set a sail, just as well as navigate? He may have in his crew, specialists in each skill, but he likely became expert in those skill before delegating them? This analogy is applicable to principals and managers attempting to dominate their online space of business.

Polar exploration was primarily perpetrated by sailors. All those we read about today were certainly experts, but those explorers soon found that they needed to be skilled at more than just sailing. The weather in those parts of the world was different than anything they had previously encountered. Navigation using compass or sextant near the poles negated the navigation skills they had learned to date – they learned new skills in order to succeed. And those that did not have a top-notch crew, the expertise, who did not plan accordingly, and who further, did not adapt to a new environment, perished.

I am not an expert sailor, but I have sailed. I consider myself an Internet Marketing Specialist. A subset of that skill is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Analogous to sailing; SEO is knowing how the ship works and having the ability to optimize it for the journey, while Internet Marketing is akin to navigating. Since I am not expert in the businesses I am delegated the responsibility of successfully promoting on the Internet, I need a captain of that business to instruct me how the marketplace (the weather and the terrain) works.

Do you think that among all your competitors, they are all equally skilled in the methods of Internet Marketing and e-Commerce? And do you think they are all equally knowledgeable about how search engines work; the ships of the Internet? Do you think that maybe the successful competitors are those that become most skilled in the ways of online business before delegating tasks?

Notice I do not say “absolute expert in the ways of online business” but rather in relative terms “most skilled”, because all business leaders need to delegate to maintain efficiency.  It is my experience that the most successful are those that have at one time or another, rolled up their sleeves and gotten their hands dirty, running a Google Adwords campaign for example. I encourage my clients to try their hand at it first.

Once you’ve done it, delegating the task to an expert results in a multiplier effect (leverage).  The expert in the business (manager or business owner) has unique knowledge that the Internet Marketing Specialist does not.  The Internet Marketing Specialist can leverage that knowledge if it is made available.  If the business owner does not know how to communicate to the Internet Marketing Specialist, the execution of an online marketing venture may be sub-optimal.

Any number of probabilities will determine the results of the venture.  However, failures often share the same attributes.

  1. Expectation that are far from reality
  2. Tasks that are foregone due to cost (which are almost always a lack of understanding/knowledge)

The take-away for a successful Internet Marketing endeavor:

  • Take the time to learn skills first hand – then delegate
  • Communicate – build a team of trusted experts
  • Plan for the unknown – do not assume business will unfold online as expected
  • Adapt – try things and discard those that don’t work