Building anything great takes time


Zachary Aldwin : Milkshake in the Boardroom

Anyone who has ever been involved in the organisation of a wedding knows about the glorious carnage that accompanies sorting a dress, decorating a venue and picking a cake that everyone will like.In the space of a few short hours the reception and ceremony is over and everyone heads home. Thereafter the newlyweds are faced with a harder task than arranging the wedding, the process of building a solid marriage that stands the test of time.“Happily ever after” is the stuff of fairy tales that ignores arguments, tragedies, job-loss, financial disagreements and the chaos of children.

A marriage takes work — even the best marriages take maintenance and effort. Easy to obtain; hard to maintain.

The same can be said about business. There are a number of reasons why we fail to build something great in our business but today I want to tackle two significant mindsets; the fear of hard work and the desire for instant gratification.

We live in an instant world that demands even faster speeds. I remember 20 years ago, when the internet was just penetrating Zimbabwe in the days of dial-up, heading overseas and being amazed at the difference in connectivity speeds.

At the time I could log onto a page at home and go shave and make a cup of coffee while it loaded, and there was the same page in the UK loading in 4 whole seconds!

Today, with even a comparatively slow broadband connection, I get frustrated with a 4 second loading speed.

The speed is faster, and yet it is still not enough. With such a mindset pervading our lives it is easy to forget to maintain, and easy to forget to look into the future by getting trapped in short iteration cycles.

Let’s be honest, we all want more money. We all want more money now; instantly, with as little effort as possible.

Hustling the quick sale on a smuggled import is a faster option than developing a product, taking it through market research, building a factory and shipping it to a consumer base that can take a while to take up your creation.

It is easier to go on strike and demand a raise than to make yourself indispensable to a company, showing consistently why you are worth investing in.

Why make one great advert when the market is willing to pay the same amount for 10 sloppy ones made in the same time frame (even if they do not work because people associate the product with poor quality and laugh at them when they play before a movie)? It is easy to settle for second best if it feeds the now.

Short term stuff, the quick bits, are often easy. Because they are easy it is tempting to fill our day with them.

We put off the difficult because it is just that — or at least we think it is. Because of our innate nature to associate maintenance with hard work we delay attending to it.

Sadly much of what can be maintained is far easier to do than the fixing the disaster that accompanies a full breakdown.

A simple example: if you have a prepaid meter it comes with a battery system to enable you to recharge if you run out of power completely.

With extended cuts, like faults or load shedding, the batteries run down over time. It does not take much to keep a stock of spare batteries in the house for such an occasion.

The alternative is to run out of power, need to get batteries, have to go to the shops to buy some (assuming they are open), face an annoyed spouse and then recharge your account. Yet we do not buy the batteries in advance because they are “expensive”. Holding someone to account for behaviour that runs counter to the company culture you are trying to build is hard emotionally.

Let it slide and you could be facing a full on culture rebellion in time to come. Change your mind-set to maintenance.

Realise that it is not as hard as you make it out to be; especially when compared to the alternative.

Switching it over to an “I want to do this . . . ” mentality is done by looking at the benefits that it brings — more uptime on your systems, happier clients, satisfied employees.

Building anything great takes time, but it is worth it.

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