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5 things rowing can teach you about running a better business

When you see a crew rowing gracefully down the river, all eight men or women in matching Lycra moving in perfect harmony, it’s easy to miss how much work it takes to make it appear so effortless.

In this blog, find out what rowing can teach you about improving your business.

1. Racing hard vs racing smart

The Concept 2 ergometer rowing machine is the bread and butter of any rower’s land training and, based on people’s faces during 2000m time trials, an effective instrument of torture. But even though you may spend hours on the “ergo” across the winter season, working on your fitness and technique, coaches will often remind their squad that “ergos don’t float”.

What this means is that someone’s brute strength or hard work on the rowing machine doesn’t always carry over to a fast-moving, race-winning boat. This is because rowing requires precision, balance, cooperation, good timing and a cool head under pressure.

The same applies to running your business. While spending lots of time, energy and money on building your own website, or designing elaborate social media campaigns can feel exhilarating and productive, by delegating skilled work to others, you and your staff can all play to your strengths. Also, by speaking to an expert, you may find there are smarter ways to pinpoint your exact audience and get better returns with less work, stress and worry for you.

2. It’s all about balance

When coaches are selecting crews, it is important to have a balance of skills and power in the boat. The more technical and rhythmic rowers are sat in the bow (rear) of the boat to set a solid rhythm for the rest of the crew, while the bigger, stronger rowers ­– known as the “engine room” – tend to be sat in the middle, to provide the power and to avoid upsetting the balance and run of the boat with their extra bodyweight.

You also need to balance the bowside (left) and strokeside (right) rowers; if the bowside rowers are all hulking monsters, strong enough to snap an oar, while the strokesiders are not… you may find your boat rows in circles!

Likewise, running your business needs the right balance of people and skills to build your success going forward. Working out people’s strengths and weaknesses, and your own, can help ensure everyone is pulling in the right direction.

3. Beware of giant crabs…

A rower’s worst nightmare is “catching a crab” in the middle of a high-pressured race. This is when the rower momentarily loses control of the oar, the blade-end dives deep into the water as you take the stroke, and the wooden handle rushes up to meet you on the chin. These unfortunate rowers were caught on camera, catching some spectacular ones mid-race.

Which is say that unexpected hiccups are a normal part of business, and you may face major unexpected challenges – the Covid 19 pandemic is a perfect example. This is why it is so important to seek expert advice, so if something does go awry, you’ve got a crew around you to keep the boat moving while you regain control of the situation.

4. …but if the worst happens, stick to your race plan

Take a look at this young crew at the popular Henley Regatta. Despite getting hit in the face by the handle, the rower quickly regains his composure, the coxswain calls the rowers to restart, and they overcome the challenge to ultimately win the race.

Whether it’s running a business or investing in the stock market, there are inevitably going to be ups and downs that rattle your confidence and make you wonder whether all is lost. But by taking a pause, and taking a long-term view of your situation, you might realise that you still have control over your actions and can still succeed.

5. It’s hard to row and steer at the same time

It goes without saying that rowing demands your full attention and close to maximum physical effort, which is complicated by the fact that you can’t see where you’re going (i.e., you are travelling backwards). If you don’t twist your head to look where you’re heading, you might go off course, losing valuable seconds, or crash into another crew. Alternatively, if you keep turning around, you’re effectively slamming the brakes on a running boat.

This is why crews employ a coxswain, who sits in the bow of the boat. They are the crew’s eyes and ears on the river, steering the boat, giving updates and encouragement and reminding them of the race plan.

You may be too busy running your business to think about the bigger picture, whether that be about branding, the viability of different marketing approaches, or how to build your customer base. This is where expert advice and guidance can allow you to get back to doing what you do best.

Get in touch

If you’re in need of advice on any aspect of advertising, marketing for your business or fetching Lycra all-in-ones, please get in touch.

Email us at or call 0115 8965 300.

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