The quote today comes from William Golding who says:
“Consider a man riding a bicycle. Whoever he is, we can say three things about him. We know he got on the bicycle and started to move. We know that at some point he will stop and get off. Most important of all, we know that if at any point between the beginning and the end of his journey he stops moving and does not get off the bicycle he will fall off it. That is a metaphor for the journey through the life of any living thing, and I think of any society of living things.”
This for me rings true, both from a personal and business perspective.
Imagine, if you will – in your business, just going about things in the same way as when you started. In my opinion, at some point, everything will just stop moving. You need to constantly strive to do things better, to improve your service to your clients, to get new clients, to get new products or services.
I am reminded of this by one of my recent clients. The family business, let’s call it Joe Blog’s Inc., started in 1967, by his father. In its heyday they had 24 members of staff and a production line that worked very well, selling widgets. They started off with just the father and his dream and he worked at it, adding new products and different lines and it grew and grew until about 10 years ago when everything seemed to go somewhat pear-shaped.
You see the father became ill and went into semi-retirement, and his son took over the business. Now the son is an Entrepreneur of note. He has wonderful ideas but has no plan on how to implement things. So even while all the ideas are whizzing around in his head, he tries to carry on with “Business as usual”. The problem is that the area where the factory is positioned, has deteriorated, shops have moved into the malls that have sprung up everywhere you look in Gauteng, and of course, the business has started to slow down.
The son panicked and increased production, but soon – with very few good sales taking place, he has had to start downsizing and eventually is reduced to himself and two staff members. The premises were allowed to deteriorate and pretty soon, he was making just enough money to ‘tick-over’.
Then he met me and I did an assessment on his business. The administrative side of the business is in a mess, so we put together a plan to sort it out. “Spring cleaning” is the first order of the day and the premises were cleaned from top to toe and with a fresh coat of paint, clean windows, and new curtains – the place already looked and felt different and I could see how this small change has actually made a difference to him.
We got all the administration sorted out and then started on a marketing campaign. His ideas were all recorded (although he never did anything with them before). They were all prioritized and we bring in one new product every two months. We left ‘adverts’ at all of the Unemployment Offices around town and pretty soon we had a small compliment of work staff, who purchased stock from him for re-sale into the townships. He now had to increase his production staff and soon he was back up to five people in the factory.
He now has goals, he has direction and his life has purpose again. He is moving forward, constantly changing, constantly seeking, constantly riding his bicycle, and remaining upright!
Now I get a call once a month or so – to tell me how he is doing. What he has achieved and what his goals for the following month are. All he needed was to understand that the bicycle needed to be kept in motion, preferably a forward motion in order for it to stay balanced and upright.
What are you doing on your bicycle? Are you riding it towards something, are you going round in circles, have you planned your journey?