Tackle the hard stuff – not just what is easiest.
On our way to Mozambique, we encountered a section of road that was just riddled with potholes.
For Central Queenslanders who want a comparison – it was significantly worse than the Clermont to Mackay road after the 2010-2011 floods.
The section of road leads into one of the entrance gates to the famous Kruger National Park, so in addition to local traffic, it hosts a good deal of tourist traffic as well. Add to this 1,800 trucks (that’s how many I was told, and it certainly seemed to be that many!) running between a minesite and the Mozambiquan port of Maputo, transporting magnetite ore for export to China. I’ll add some more about this in a later post. For the moment, imagine 1,800 of these trucks on the road – constantly travelling the approximately 400km journey. That doesn’t do much good for any road, let alone one that is already dangerously full of potholes and sharp edges. The photo above doesn’t show a really bad patch, but Uncle Pete was in a hurry to get to a meeting so we couldn’t stop for a photo shoot!
Passing the magnetite trucks on this road was a task to be undertaken with extreme caution. At any moment, they could (and did!) swerve wildly to avoid a particularly large pothole, or collapsed road edge. So, in addition to all the normal traffic hazards, add in treacherous roads with swerving trucks, and the possibility of wandering wildlife.
Consequently, I was very relieved to see a traffic sign on the side of the road announcing:
“CAUTION – MAINTENANCE IN PROGRESS”.
Undertaking maintenance on this road seemed to me to be an awesome idea, and I envisaged crews of road workers with trucks and road-building machinery, filling potholes or even tearing up sections of the road and completely replacing it.
A little further on, we encountered the maintenance works, which consisted of a gang of about 5 workers with whipper snippers, or line trimmers, cutting the already very short grass on the side of the road. It has been quite dry here, so there was very little grass to begin with, and I couldn’t really fathom exactly why it needed cutting.
But cutting the grass is clearly a cheaper and easier activity than ripping up sections of road and replacing it.
The business lesson I took away from this part of our journey to Mozambique was this:
Sometimes in our businesses, we go for the tasks that are the easiest to do, or we enjoy the most, and leave the critical but hard tasks undone – because they’re hard, or expensive, or for some other reason.
But like the road maintenance, they will have to be done at some stage if our business is to progress, grow and be successful.
Having a bumpy and dangerous drive into a world renowned game reserve will only turn visitors off. Likewise, not attending to the really important parts of our businesses will impair our business performance. As an example, I talk to many small business owners who avoid the finance part of their business, and are prepared to hand a shoebox full of receipts and bank statements to the accountant at the end of the year. Knowing exactly what your costs are in this economic environment is vital.
What are the vital business activities you are avoiding? We all have them, and they need our attention NOW!
PS. Because Uncle Pete was in a hurry I only got the one photo, so I have included a photo of two Saddle-Billed Stork. These are classified as Endangered, but we were lucky enough to see two. These guys don’t get the same publicity as the big animals, but they’re my favourite African bird and they need all the help and publicity they can get.
By Bronwyn Reid
3 November 2014