Bubba's Bike Race

December 18, 2009

By Matt Michel
My friend, Bubba decided to enter a bike race.  Though I wasn’t entering, he asked me to ride along side and pace him.

“I gotta beat the competition,” he said.  “I gotta beat Junior, Scooter, and Delbert.”

Bubba got off to a wobbly start.  “I thought once you learned how to ride a bike, you were never supposed to forget,” he muttered.Finally, he got enough forward motion to get moving.  He was working hard to try and get his speed up.  “Why am I riding this bike,” he grumbled.  “I could walk faster.”

“Hang on Bubba,” I said.  “This is like marketing and advertising.  It’s always a little hard to get it going, but once you get some momentum, it will get easier.  You’ll see.”

Soon Bubba did get up some speed.  He was peddling at a steady pace, but so were  Junior, Scooter, and Delbert.  They were all riding together in a pack.

Then, the road grade changed.  The road began to slope down.  Bubba peddled at the same rate, the same pace.  With the slope helping him, Bubba picked up speed.  Traveling downhill was so easy that Bubba began to feel pretty good about himself.  “I’m a real cyclist,” he said.

“Don’t get too cocky.  Just peddle at a steady rate and remember, the road is helping you,” I commented.

As the road got steeper, Bubba started to fly down the hill.  The speed felt great.

“Woooeee,” screamed Bubba.

I shouted, “Bubba, your bike isn’t built for this much speed.  Ease up a little so you don’t lose control.

“No way,” screamed Bubba.  I’m rocking!”

“Bubba, this is like your business getting three or four times the volume you usually get.  You don’t have the infrastructure for it and your bike doesn’t have the stability for this much speed.”

Bubba thought about that for a second and peddled a little less. 

Just then, Junior went flying by, pumping as hard as he could.  Junior was known for doing everything flat out, as fast as he could.  He’d wrecked cars, service trucks, and his company that way.

“I’m gonna beat you noooow,” Junior screamed just before he veered off to the right, bounced off a tree, flipped up in a loop, wedged his ankle in a branch and wound up bouncing up and down thirty feet in the air.

Bubba watched Junior’s cartwheel and stopped peddling.  He started to coast. 

Bubba squeezed the brakes just a hair.  He found the speed he could manage.

I looked back.  Delbert was keeping up, but Scooter stopped and was walking.

Scooter shouted a warning, “You’re going to wipe out.  You watch.  You should walk.  If you walk, you’re in control.”

Just like Scooter, I thought.  He ran his company the same way.  Whenever things started to get good, he slowed down.  It was one of the reasons Scooter refused to hire anyone.

Finally, the road leveled out.  Scooter was nowhere to be seen.  Bubba and Delbert resumed peddling. 

The road started to slope up.  Bubba was exerting the same, steady effort he was when it was flat.  Working uphill, all of us were covering ground less rapidly.  Every yard took effort.  Every yard was a struggle.

The grade increased further.  Bubba was sweating.

“I don’t know if it’s worth peddling,” he said.

“Keep it steady,” I replied.

“I don’t know if I can peddle the rest of the way up the hill.”

Delbert was huffing and puffing too.  Delbert’s bike started to wobble every now and then. 

No one said much.  We were all focused on the task at hand.  After a few minutes, Delbert pulled over. 

“I gotta save my energy,” Delbert said, “It’s too hard peddling up hill.  Plus, look how steep it is.  It goes on and on like it will never end.  This is just a horrible, steep hill.  It doesn’t make sense to peddle on a hill like this.”

“Delbert’s making sense,” said Bubba. 

“Keep peddling,” I said.

“I’m tired.  I might exhaust myself.”

“It’s not always downhill Bubba.  Sometimes the road works against you.”

“I might fall and crash.”

“Look at the ground you’re gaining.  You’ve pulled ahead of all of your competitors.”

“This hill seems like it will never end.  I need to keep a little in reserve.”

“Bubba, just because the peddling gets tougher doesn’t mean you should stop.”

“Stop.  Yeah, I should stop.”

“Think about how hard it was to get started.  It would be even harder if you’re trying to start uphill.  In fact, you might even go backwards.”

“No Bubba.  This is like marketing.  You don’t stop marketing when the economy is working against you.  And you shouldn’t stop peddling because this hill is working against you.”

“No,” said Bubba, “This is no good.  It’s too risky.”

“Come on Bubba.  Only a fool stops trying to market, stops trying to get more sales when the economy makes getting sales tougher.  This is the same thing.  You would be a fool to stop peddling just because it’s tougher to gain ground.”

“Bubba, look at how much ground you’re gaining over Delbert.  This hill won’t last forever.  If you keep going now, Delbert will never catch up.  So peddle on Bubba.  Peddle on.”

“See, we’re already at the top.  Bubba?  Hey Bubba, where are you?”

It took me a minute to spot Bubba.  When I did locate him, he was 30 yards down the hill, with is bike laying on its side and his head propped against a tree, asleep.

“Oh, Bubba,” I sighed. 

Just as it is easy to roll downhill, it’s easy to generate business when the economy is good, though there is a danger of careening out of control.  Some owners act like Junior.  They figure they better get while the getting is good, exceeding their capacity and overwhelming their systems.  Without discipline, they crash and burn.

Scooter represents the other extreme.  Even though things are going well, Scooter stops.  He doesn’t want his business to grow beyond his ability to manage it himself.  He would prefer to hold back.

Many business owners act like Delbert.  He manages when the economy is good, but when progress gets tough, he cuts back on the very activities that will help him move forward.  When he starts up again, his momentum will be gone.  He’s going to repeat the same wobbly start and take just as long to build up to a steady pace.

All too many act like Bubba.  They lack the confidence to press on when things get tough, even though they’re making solid progress.  All too many stop just short of a breakthrough.

When it’s tough to get sales, too many companies cut back on the very activities needed to generate more sales.  Too many companies cut back on their marketing.

When getting sales is an uphill climb, don’t stop climbing.  Don’t stop marketing.  Press on and you’ll reap rewards far into the future.

Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
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Copyright © 2004 Matt Michel

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