When It’s Time to Let Go

Taking a break at the cowboy coffee house in Cochrane, Alberta

I was talking to my motorcycle mechanic about my latest acquisition, when a quote from Drucker came to mind:

If we did not do this already, would we go into it now?” If the answer is no, the reaction must be “What do we do now?” Very often, the right answer is abandonment.

I spent two years rebuilding my last motorcycle’s carburetors. I’d never done it before. I figured it would be a fun project to do with my buddy. It turned into an epic trial spanning multiple spare parts, nested layers of mechanical failure, and mishaps such as screws dropped into the engine. I could have taken that time, got a weekend job driving a cab, and bought myself a new bike.

The upside was that I did get to spend time with my buddy, mostly in an unheated Canadian garage. So when he found a $100 bike last fall, and it ran well, I jumped at it. Cosmetically it looked bad, but I’d rather be riding than busting my knuckles turning wrenches.

Third ride out, however, it started backfiring, stalling, and losing power. I took it down to my local mechanic who, after a quick inspection, identified about $2000 worth of work. Only two out of four cylinders were firing, the chain rusted out, there was an oil leak, and the carburetors were also leaking. This last one got my attention, as memories of busting knuckles in a cold garage came flooding back.

So I sold it to him for $200 in trade. He’s going to break it down for parts. For the money I would have spent fixing that one up I’d still have a bike that was only worth $100. I’m better off saving my pennies and spending that money buying a new, better looking, mechanically sound bike that I can actually enjoy riding. Sometime before another two years elapses.

As leaders we have to ask ourselves the tough questions:

  • What parts of your business are sucking up more time and energy than their worth, draining the life and joy from the rest of the company?
  • Which employees have you kept because you have an emotional investment in them unsupported by performance or results?
  • What opportunities are slipping away from you because you’ve been focused for too long on fixing something that’s not working and that isn’t your core business?
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One response to “When It’s Time to Let Go

  1. Pingback: The Definition of Business Focus | Practical Managers

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