It was the winter of 1988 in the Pacific Northwest, and it was cold. Aside from that annoying song, the cold air is what I remember most. Chilled to the bone against an oily concrete floor, where I labored underneath a rusted Chevrolet. The converted barn that served as makeshift garage for my beloved project and me was a lonely place. Lighting was scarce, heating was non-existent and the only thing more limited than my tool supply was my mechanical ability.
Yet I battled undeterred. Through bloody knuckles, stripped bolts and numb toes, I pressed on; all the while forced to listen to the radio looping the same dumb song over and over – yes, that song.
In theory, mounting a recently-acquired small-block into the ’55 Bel-Air should have been simple. And it would have been – for an experienced mechanic with proper tools, lighting, and workspace. But for a teenager who hadn’t finished first-year auto shop in a filthy barn using scrounged-up parts? Not so much.
After countless hours toiling away in that rickety shed, having exhausted both skill and funds, I finally surrendered, selling off my dream project. The buyer was a middle-aged hot-rod builder with the wherewithal to transform my butchered abomination into the sublime machine it deserved to become. Meanwhile, I turned my attention to a 1974 Harley Chopper that was much easier (and cheaper) to tinker with.
As it turns out, messing around with motorcycles has served me pretty well since then. But these days I’m knowledgeable enough to take my bike to a real mechanic when it needs work. That’s because I learned an important lesson early on: It’s ok to be passionate about something, regardless of your skill level. But know when to leave things to the professionals.
It seems simple, but too often egos and enthusiasm get in the way; we all prefer to leave the directions in the box, after all. Instructions are for losers. We’ll tackle that “simple” bathroom job, only to discover (after 87 trips to Home Depot) that countless hours and dollars could have been saved had we called a real plumber in the first place.
Humans are hardwired to believe our opinions to be the most important, our experience the most valuable and our instincts unsurpassed. We all consider ourselves experts in a lot of things. But as good as you are, there is always someone better – and it pays to know when to radio-in an airstrike.
This is especially true when operating a business. Outside consultants are expensive, but good ones have skills you can’t appreciate until seeing them in action. Trainers and coaches cost money, but until you witness their impact upon your staff, you can’t realize the return on investment.
The same is true for all professionals: web developers, marketing experts, graphic designers, copywriters, paralegals, event coordinators, merchandisers, trainers, you name it. Discover who on your team possess skills that can benefit the company, and then allow them opportunity to use those talents. More importantly, know when to seek outside help. You wouldn’t let your accountant remove your appendix, why let amateurs shape your business?
Recently, I needed to create a development program for my store operators. As a guy who leads managers for a living—and also writes an adult learning column in the motorcycle business—I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable. But I’m a good enough mechanic to take my car to the dealership, and I’m a good enough educator to know the value a professional trainer brings. So I hired a pro*.
It’s common to believe “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” And ‘outsourcing’ can be a dirty word. But your organization deserves the best. Whether it’s fixing the roof, creating an ad campaign, training your staff, auditing your books, or evaluating your salespeople, know when to rely on an expert.
Although it was a tough blow to my teenage ego, allowing that garage project to be restored by someone else was the best outcome for everyone. Someday, I hope to find that car again. If you happen to spot a ’55 Bel Air cruising around Parkland, Washington, ask the guy if he’d be willing to sell it back to that teenager. This time, I promise only top-shelf mechanics will touch it—and it won’t have to live in an old barn ever again.
*The “pro” referenced is Gart Sutton of GSA [www.gartsutton.com].
Chris Clovis has had the honor and pleasure of 25 years in the Powersports Industry, currently serving as Vice-President of Eaglerider Motorcycles [http://www.eaglerider.com/]. Chris’ opinions are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of his employer, publisher, or clients. Chris is also serious about finding that car – please keep a lookout for that ’55. Visit www.chrisclovis.com for more information.