Find The Center of Effort – Business Plan or Sail Plan

The Center of Effort is defined in sailing as the single point in a sailplan where you can visualize all the forces of the wind coming together to drive a yacht forward, which with a little effort easily interpolates to your own definition. Sweet spot, Center of buoyancy, Center of Concentration, Focus of Work, Mission Plan etc.

Nautical Symbol Meaning Center of Effort

Nautical Symbol Indicating Center of Effort

Many of my readers and friends are aware that I have a previous life experience as a captain of yachts, tugs and ships.  Sometimes I ponder how those years at sea and my time messing about in boats and yachts applies to what I do today.

You may ask, how would sailing a ship or a tugboat or even a small yacht have to do with business and the Internet?

I could give many answers to that question depending upon the situation at hand.  Situational awareness, discipline, planning and execution are all parts of the daily routine of a ships officer at sea.  I don’t think they are all that much different from the daily requirements and skills the owner of a small business needs to possess, other than the fact that most small business owners do not need to worry about saving lives if the ship sinks.

  • This brings me to the focus of this somewhat odd article idea…

A Center of Effort is Required

As the definition above states “The Center of Effort is defined in sailing as the single point in a sailplan where you can visualize all the forces of the wind coming together to drive a yacht forward”.  If that statement were re-defined for small business owners it would read something like this…

The Center of Effort is defined in business as the single point in a business plan where you can visualize all the forces of the marketing, supply, logistics and demand coming together to drive a company forward.

This place will be different for every business plan just as it is on every sail plan but one constant will always be true.  Knowing where it is and how to keep it working for you will drive your ship or your business forward.

As the owner of a business you should have a visualization of where the center of effort of your business is.  Where is the “sweet spot” is and how do you maintain focus on that one specific place where all the forces of business come together to make your plan for success move forward.

How does your business work, how do different emphasis’s on marketing or supply or customer service bring all of these variables closer to or farther away from your ideal center of effort and then ultimately the profit or loss of the business plan?  A lopsided sail plan will not allow a vessel to sail correctly, too much emphasis on one aspect of your business and not enough on all of the other essential parts will cause it to founder or fail, awash in anonymity.

“A small business can offer the greatest product in the world, but may still fail if no one hears about it or buys it”.

We have all heard the statement repeated time and again but what does it mean? It means that there is more to building a successful business than just having a groovy product.  You must also market that product, warranty the product, merchandise the product (website or store) and provide customer service for the product and most of all, there must be demand for your product. These and many more variables are all factors that come together at the center of effort for you business.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Everyone of us has strengths and weaknesses in business and in life.  We all want to specialize or focus on the things that give us the most satisfaction.  Personally I hate doing the books and love writing, this causes an imbalance in my center of effort, what good is my writing or website work if I do not know how to do the books or send out an invoice? As an entrepreneur one must be more of a generalist, a person who can see the big picture and know where the different specialties come together to drive the ship forward, drive sales forward, drive marketing forward and execute the overall plan. Focusing on anything else is simply committing business suicide and only serves to hinder your path to success.

The first step to finding the juice that makes your business plan work is to not allow other distractions the opportunity to take away from your pinpoint laser guided adherence to the center of effort. Many of us find we let ourselves get distracted from the center of effort.

We find ways of spending time and expending effort on other things and lose focus on our plan, our sweet spot, the things that make us successful.

Concentrating resources on other peoples businesses and how they do things right or wrong, listening to too many gurus and experts, attending get rich scheme money making Internet riches seminars or simply dividing your time up into too many different business ideas can all take away from your opportunity to forge success. If you find yourself involved with outside distractions involving business or personal pursuits that are not related to your primary goal to become successful, no matter if those distractions are positive or negative, they each take away from the probability that your small business will prosper.

I have fallen victim to many of these types of distractions and I can testify that with all that I do and with all of the business interests I find myself getting involved in, I know that if I were to simply focus on one center of effort for one business plan, I would be even more successful. It is difficult to back away from many of the distractions that I have accepted into my life and my business but if I am to be more than I am now, it must be done.

Many of the most successful and famous entrepreneurs in the world would agree if asked that while they are all tempted to look at the next business plan while still working on the last, they would never have become wealthy if they had not figured out one very simple concept. They all had to become disciplined business owners and drive themselves to concentrate all of their effort on one primary goal.  That goal will not be realized without complete attention to all of the forces that are required to attain it.  i.e. a Center of Effort.

Suggested Do’s and Don’ts


  • Focus on all aspects of your business plan – You may not like to do one part or the other, but you should know how each part of the plan works and how it effects the other aspects of your business plan.
  • Spend time refining all aspects to work in harmony with one another. – A Business without customer service can have all the marketing in the world but will not survive in the long haul.
  • Know your limitations – You only have so much time in a day, spreading yourself thin with projects outside your primary business plan only causes your business to suffer (I am guilty of this).
  • Find the Sweet Spot and maintain your focus on where everything comes together to create demand while providing timely and quality deliverables culminating in ultimately happy customers and reasonable profits.


  • Worry about the competition – Worry about your own business, no one elses. You can only control what you do and how you deliver, the competition can not control those factors.  Never get distracted by trumpeting your superiority due to your competitions inferiority.
  • Allow outside distractions to get between you and your center of effort – Worrying about what other companies do or don’t do (i.e. eBay ) can only lead to a dissipation of your effort.
  • (Oops, not a don’t) Do – Set up your business to take advantage of situations and opportunities, not be controlled by them.
  • Allow your business plan to become imbalanced – Forgetting one vital part of the puzzle can place your chances at success in jeopardy
  • Forget that even at sea mistakes can be made and with the right situational awareness you can save the ship. Do not panic when something goes wrong.

I am unsure if my readers will get the gist of what it is I am trying to convey here or not.

Some of this is a sermon to myself and a reminder that even while I find that as I do more interesting and exciting projects they tend to take away from some of my original focus.  This can happen to anyone, afterall it is exciting to start new projects and find opportunities where none existed before.  Yet if these become a hinderance to the culmination of the center of effort, my ship may not sail efficiently.  It is a lesson I learned many years past and now it applies in a different day and realm, but it is just as true in the here and now.

Thanks for reading….


8 Responses to Find The Center of Effort – Business Plan or Sail Plan

  1. DelectablyYoursDecor March 3, 2009 at 3:59 pm #

    Perfect! Loved the sailing analogy with it!

  2. renagade March 3, 2009 at 6:08 pm #

    Words of wisdom ALL of us need to heed! Thank you Scott, You always seem to get me “Back on course”!

  3. Joey March 4, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    you sounded like you were talking directly to me!!

  4. Henrietta March 4, 2009 at 9:48 pm #

    Great analogy, the only thing you left out is having a clear vision of where you want to go. Just saying I want to be rich doesn’t cut it.

    I had to come back and read this twice to make sure I ‘got it’ and each time my attention was caught by a different snip of wisdom.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts

  5. Scott Pooler March 4, 2009 at 11:23 pm #


    Thanks so much for your comment: “the only thing you left out is having a clear vision of where you want to go”.

    While “Center of Effort” is a sailing term, it has nothing to do with navigation.

    I will need to come up with an appropriate analogy for the direction of a business plan in a later article.

  6. Consignment Pal Resale Directory March 5, 2009 at 2:56 pm #


    Well said. I needed this today!

    PeSA/ECMTA members are evaluating our website at this week and with helpful programming suggestions still underway, it has not been smooth sailing!


  7. Robert Howard March 20, 2009 at 6:06 pm #

    Thanks so much for the read. This is some fantastic information and overview you have shared. Will tweet for others to enjoy!

Leave a Reply