Applying Historical Lessons to Your Managed Services Approach

Joe Norman

When you work in the Salesforce ecosystem, you quickly learn that you can take lessons from a lot of different places. From 7Summits’ own mountain motifs that illustrate our ability to help our customers reach new heights, to the hundreds of historical figures and events that businesses borrow from, there’s no shortage of source material for potential inspiration. 

One of my all-time favorite historical leaders to reference in my everyday work would be Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson. When it comes to selecting a vendor to partner with on your Salesforce post-go-live enhancement and support, some of the best lessons come from the story of Admiral Nelson.

I won’t go into his full history or the controversy around his life (although it is certainly worth the read). Instead, I’ll focus on a fact that few who know his story would argue with: that his leadership is legendary. In fact, his leadership style earned its own nickname, The Nelson Touch, that is still frequently repeated today. 

In the Battle of Trafalgar, his most defining moment and one of my favorite stories, Admiral Nelson chose to think differently about how his ships would attack the French fleet. Instead of sailing parallel to the French line as was the custom at the time, he went straight at them, sailing perpendicularly and exposing his fleet to several minutes of fire before they could answer. The result? No English ships were lost and the French were defeated. 

Now it’s worth mentioning that this was war. It was not pretty and there was no grand swell of music. Many men risked and lost their lives on both sides, a reality that is nowhere near the challenges most of us face at our desks each day. In fact, Admiral Nelson lost his life in this very battle, an event that in itself has resulted in a multitude of books and articles on his “lead from the front” style. Even with the vast discrepancy in risk and consequence, it would be a mistake to think there is nothing from Trafalgar that can be applied to our work lives.

There are three major points that I find most fascinating about the story of Trafalgar and what it can teach us in the business and Salesforce world:

  1. Admiral Nelson’s tactics that day were radical. They went against every commonly used paradigm for success in naval battles. Historically, the reason for sailing in parallel lines was to maintain complete control of the entire group at all times, as parallel lines enabled ships to relay signals to each other. The downside, battles were often inconclusive and it was relatively easy for one side to break off the engagement. Nelson wanted complete victory and chose to sacrifice complete control to achieve this. As a result, no British ships were lost while the French lost 19.
  2. The scale of this battle and the tactics being deployed meant he could not have his eye on everything all at once nor plan for every contingency. Instead, Admiral Nelson surrounded himself with a group of Captains who could be trusted to use their own judgment in conjunction with Nelson’s own values. This is best illustrated in Admiral Nelson’s words the night before the battle when he advised his captains that, “no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.” There are many stories of his Captains leveraging this trust and flexibility during the battle to make a positive impact.
  3. Lastly, Nelson understood nearly every aspect of war and life at sea. He had lived it. This allowed him to understand the risks associated with the decisions he was making and to weigh the reward against those risks. This mastery of his profession allowed him to think differently from others.

Now, this is a Salesforce blog after all, so I’ll repeat that Salesforce is not war; not even close. However we can learn lessons from Nelson’s story. When working with a Salesforce partner, you should strive to work with a team that is experienced. You need someone who understands the nuances and intricacies of their business and profession well enough to accurately weigh risk and reward.

Additionally, as Admiral Nelson would have stated, not every contingency can be known. Life after your digital solution’s go-live is similarly unpredictable. When you find yourself in these situations, ensure you are surrounded by people who have the skillset and mentality to deal with sudden changes in a calm and professional manner.

Finally, work with a partner that enables and expects their people–from top to bottom–to lead-based on a mutual understanding of the project’s and company’s goals. When there are unknowns, especially if they arise with urgency, the last thing you want is a team that requires micromanagement and lacks the skill to think independently. 

Years of experience in nearly every managed services role, coupled with the lessons of Admiral Nelson, are what has pushed 7Summits to think differently about our post-go-live partnerships. Our team is staffed with experienced and seasoned leaders–from project manager to developer to business analyst–who are skilled at thinking on their feet, know their profession well, and can be trusted to leverage their own experience and knowledge. This enables us to do what is right for each individual partner in every situation, no matter how unpredictable the lessons or unique your solution’s managed services requirements may be.

Joe Norman is 7Summits’ Director of Customer Success. Joe brings years of experience working in and leading managed services teams and ensuring long-term stability and success of clients’ digital solutions. 

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