In 1996, my first assignment to South Africa for XONITEK was being hired by Macola-South Africa to train their personnel – and the personnel of their resellers – on how to implement Macola’s ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution. It was a very turbulent time in South Africa; apartheid had just ended, there was a new government, the United States had just ended its sanctions, and nobody really knew what the future would bring.
I met many people on this trip – people with whom I will establish life-long bonds and in a country that I will come to cherish a great deal – and where I will experience cultures and adventures that not many others will.
It was during this trip that Macola South Africa was pursuing an engagement with a textile manufacturer in Rustenburg. The Operations Manager, a gentleman by the name of Johannes, was in my class. At the end of the class, we (the leadership of Macola South Africa and I) were invited to spend the weekend at the private game farm as guests of Mr. Pretorius, who was also the owner of the textile manufacturer. It was obvious that he wanted to “size us up”, in the South African way, by “breaking-bread” with us.
Ever the intrepid (read: “stupid”) adventurer, I decided to hike up a mountain that was behind the lodge after dinner just to see what I can see. I brought my camera and a canteen of water. Although I was a Boy Scout and should have remembered the “buddy-system”, I did not. Up the mountain I went.
I made it to the top of the mountain as the sun began to set and sat on a boulder overlooking the lodge. I was taking some pictures of the valley when I heard a quiet mewing. I looked around and saw a small cub. It was either a cheetah or a leopard (I could not tell the difference) and it was about 20 meters away from me.
Now when I was a child, I used to watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I used to watch in amazement at the places and critters that Marlin Perkins used to see and how he always sent Jim Fowler into the danger zone whilst he sat in the relative safety of the vehicle or behind others. “I will sit in the comfort of this Range Rover, while Jim sneaks up on the wild boar and tries not to get gorged to death”, Marlin would whisper.
One of the most important lessons that I learned watching Wild Kingdom was “never get between a critter and its cubs”.
Well, now I find myself being “Jim” except that there is no “Marlin” to be found.
Not caring to stay until “mom” comes to visit me, I melt into the mountain and – as quickly and as quietly as possible – I return to the lodge unscathed. I remember feeling my heartbeat in my ears as I recall the story to my host and the other guests. They all laugh and Mr. Pretorius stands up and embraces me as if I was his son and says – “Never go into the bush alone. Always take a buddy with you. Because it is not important to outrun the animal, it is important to outrun your buddy”.
It was at that very moment that I understood the relationship between Jim and Marlin. Jim was not bravely going into the bush. Jim had a plan. Jim knew he was younger and quicker than Marlin. Jim was just giving Marlin a sporting head-start.
So it is in today’s world of business. The healthy, the strong, the quick, the nimble, and the crafty survive. All of the rest are food.
If you find that your business is out of shape and in threat of being eaten, you need to embrace – with all of your mind, body and soul – a regimen to regain your strength and your prowess.
If you need a “personal trainer” – I can help.
Paris is the Founder and Chairman of the XONITEK Group of Companies; an international management consultancy firm specializing in all disciplines related to Operational Excellence, the continuous and deliberate improvement of company performance AND the circumstances of those who work there – to pursue “Operational Excellence by Design” and not by coincidence.
He is also the Founder of the Operational Excellence Society, with hundreds of members and several Chapters located around the world, as well as the Owner of the Operational Excellence Group on Linked-In, with over 25,000 members.
For more information on Paris, please check his Linked-In Profile at: http://de.linkedin.com/in/josephparis