July 26th, 2023

Racing to France and Starting a Company – The Parallels

This is an article by Ian Schenkel, our COO. His passion is racing sailing boats so he wrote this article on the similarities of racing to France and starting Endida.

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In the world of sailing and in business, the journey is as important as the destination. The thrill of racing to France in a sailing boat is no different to the exhilaration of starting a company – take it from someone that has done both multiple times! Both require a blend of strategy, tactics, understanding of competitors and navigation – there is no point in starting unless you know where you are going, even if it is only to the first stage or first leg.

So first things first; a well-planned strategy – this applies both to sailing and starting/running a business. In both cases strategy serves as a roadmap, outlining the steps needed to reach the goal. For racing, this means studying weather patterns and tidal flow, while in business, it means conducting market research and developing a solid business plan.

What’s the difference between tactics and strategy? I really did not properly understand this until I had been racing for a while, I thought they were one in the same. Simply put, tactics are the specific actions taken to implement the strategy. Racing tactics involve choosing the right sails for the weather conditions (we carry 9 onboard), deciding to chase after the wind even though it may deviate you from course by quite some margin, ultimately wind in a racing boat is our fuel, without it you don’t go fast (not to mention how boring it is too!). Deciding when to push the boat to its limits is also a big decision, making sure safety/strategy is at the forefront of every decision is essential – business is no different. In business, tactics include marketing campaigns, pricing strategies or hiring decisions – both require quick thinking and the ability to adapt and pivot to changing conditions.

I feel understanding competitors is crucial in both scenarios too. With racing, knowing the speed of your competitors along with their strengths and weaknesses really does influence a lot of the strategy and tactics. We can see our competitors on radar or automatic identification system (AIS), they show up the same as you see other cars on Waze. Although in business it is a little harder, you can’t necessarily see every move you competitors make, especially when you are head to head in a deal – but understanding the competition can help identify gaps in the market and opportunities for differentiation.

Navigation is another key aspect, fairly obvious when you are on a boat but also just as important in business. Navigation can successfully steer a company through market changes, regulatory challenges or shifts in consumer behaviour. In both cases, good navigation requires a clear vision, attention to detail and the ability to make informed and well thought out decisions.

In the end, whether racing a boat to France or starting a company, the journey is filled with challenges and rewards. It requires strategy, tactics, an understanding of competitors and good navigation. But perhaps most importantly, it requires passion, determination, and the courage to take on the unknown. While there may not be a finish line or a definitive ‘end’ in sight, the experience gained and the lessons learned along the way are invaluable.