My ‘Coffee with Colm’ topic this week continues my focus on the inevitability of you encountering problems as you grow your business – many of which will be not of your making.
As I said last week, problems are a fact of life; the ONLY people with no problems are lying six feet under. That statement guarantees that you will encounter problems no matter whether you push on with your business or you quit – pushing on just means you get to choose the setting in which they occur and the likely nature of them. In my book Feeding Johnny – How to Build a Business despite the Roadblocks I think it through in this chapter mini-section entitled ‘Blowout’
Below is that snippet from the book for you to consider.
For context; Business was beginning to fly but for legacy financial reasons, I was still doing all the deliveries to Cork myself, leaving Limerick at around 6am so I could get there in time to make all deliveries and then head back up the N21 to start my real job around lunchtime – the job of working ON my business, as opposed to in it.
What follows, in this snippet, is the account of what happened next.
Business was ramping up, there was light at the end of the dark financial tunnel and it didn’t appear to be a train hurtling towards us. It looked like we would make it through, get Carambola Kidz to sufficient profit levels where we could begin to pay off our café debts and begin to pay ourselves again. I was still doing all the Cork deliveries myself, for two reasons: one, this was the front face of the company, where our company interacted with the client daily and I was unwilling at this early stage to trust Cork to a.n.other and two, we couldn’t afford a driver, simple.
Everything was time bound. I had to leave Raheen by a certain time to arrive in Cork by a certain time to make sure Johnny got fed on time. We couldn’t afford to miss or Johnny would go hungry. And so everything was going swimmingly until one morning mid-winter one year.
It was still dark as I rounded a curve in the road at 7.45am, at the point where the Blarney road joins the N21. I was on time. Morning traffic was as usual getting heavy as I indicated right to move into the outer lane to allow for seamless flow of traffic from the Blarney road. My speed was 100kms per hour the same as all the other cars, jeeps and vans.
Bang! I hit something. The van began to shudder violently as I struggled to keep control. I needed to get to the hard shoulder NOW! I couldn’t brake without causing a pile-up behind me; we were all travelling at 100kph. So I began my move back across the inner lane, through the early morning traffic, through the extra traffic coming from Blarney, holding the van as steady as I could, swearing and praying out loud as I went. I finally made it. I had hit something that caused a blowout of my front wheel. The rim of the wheel had a 6” V in it. The tyre was shredded.
It was then that I realized there was a line of vehicles in the hard shoulder; and another one came in after me. In all nine cars, vans and jeeps had hit the same thing in the outer lane and all were damaged. That thing turned out to be a wheel. Someone, we found out later, had been transporting wheels in an open trailer; one bounced out and came to rest in the fast lane. Nine vehicles had hit it; all had suffered blowouts on their passenger sides, some both front and back. It was an absolute miracle that no one was injured or killed.
My problem was I needed to feed Johnny. I had over 2,000 lunches in the back of the van and my time window was diminishing by the minute.
A flurry of phone calls including one to the office to have someone there alert the schools that I would be there before ‘sos beag’ but later than my usual time found me a recovery vehicle. A great guy came out in a suitably equipped truck. He raised my van, changed the wheel, left me the damaged one as a souvenir and helped me back on the road. I lost a wheel and an hour.
I sweated more than ever as I raced around our client schools delivering lunches with a fury. At 10.45, just before ‘sos beag’ I delivered the last load. I about cried with relief. Slowly I retraced my steps, school by school and collected the empties, a task I would normally do when I deliver, as I wound my way back to HQ.
As always, Johnny was fed.
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Thanks for thinking with me.