My friend Wes Ehrecke tells a story about turning 50. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reaching that milestone yet, it’s a time when people often take stock of their lives. Well, Wes decided that over the next five years he would ride his bicycle 10,000 miles, and he made a plan to do just that. To put a little perspective on that, the distance from New York to Los Angeles is roughly 2,500 miles as the crow flies. So Wes would be making the equivalent of four cross-country trips on his 21-speed. Over the next five years he methodically attacked his plan and surpassed his goal.
During one of his countless rides, Wes met a gentleman who was churning along on a bicycle without a seat. In other words, the guy had to stand up the whole time to pedal. Wes, of course, asked him about it.
“Well, my seat broke a few years ago and instead of replacing it, I just decided to ride standing up,” the old guy said. If you have ever ridden a bicycle for any length of time without sitting down, you know it’s quite a challenge. It puts tremendous stress on your back and your legs and your feet.
Managing a precast concrete business in this economy is a lot like riding a bicycle uphill against a stiff wind with no seat. You’re standing, you’re leaning forward, you’re pedaling hard, and you’re feeling every bit of the extra stress. The precast business is a lot harder than it used to be. If you were a quality precaster in the mid 2000s, you probably found as much work as you wanted. And if you were innovative and aggressive, you were growing, hiring new people, buying new equipment and just coasting along – downhill, wind at your back. But it’s not that way now, and it’s not likely to be that way again any time soon.
You don’t have to be like the guy pedaling his bike without a seat, though. The answer is to be more like my friend Wes. Take a long look ahead, set some lofty but attainable goals for your business and plan how you’re going to get there. Wes made a paradigm shift and at 55 he was in a lot better shape than he was at 50 – a lean, mean ridin’ machine. If you take the “Wes” approach rather than the “Broken Seat Guy” approach, your business could be in good shape in five years, no matter which way the wind blows.
President, National Precast Concrete Association