I just got back from vacation and as I was looking back at our photos, I realized once again how the real world provides us with some pretty good examples of the basic principles we sometimes struggle with in the business world.
My last adventure involved spending several days in the Canyonlands backcountry of Moab, Utah with my family. No electricity, no running water and (gasp) no cell service. To get where we were going required a several-hour, off road jeep excursion.
As a family, we’re pretty comfortable with the challenges of off-roading. We even have our own classification system regarding trail difficulty. Easy trails have stones on them. You can pick up and move stones. Medium trails have rocks. You can’t move rocks, but you can drive over them pretty easily. Hard trails have boulders. Boulders are the size of jeeps. You can drive over them but it usually requires a little finesse and a spotter .
In terms of difficulty, the trail we were driving had a mixture of medium and hard. Nothing that seemed too difficult, the last time I drove it. The plan was for me to drive one jeep and my wife the other.
And here’s where the lesson begins. Around the office, we have a lot of discussions about outsourcing. Net-net, I usually summarize it this way. There are two reasons to outsource. Either you don’t have time to do it yourself, or you don’t know how to do it yourself. In either case, hiring it out is often not only more productive, it also turns out to be a lot more effective.
So, back to the jeeping. After a quick stop at the ranger station to get our backcountry permits we headed out for the trailhead, aired down the tires, disconnected the sway bars, and proceeded to the trail, where we encountered, BOULDERS, not rocks. And while I had tackled some of Moab’s most difficult trails, my wife had not. Suddenly the whole adventure came to a screeching halt. While I could (and did for the first 500 feet) drive two jeeps over boulders, I couldn’t do it all day long and get us to the campsite before the sun set on our fun.
So I outsourced it. In this case, my first supplier didn’t possess the experience needed to navigate the boulders. So I switched suppliers to my youngest son. With a few quick reminders about which was the clutch verses the brake, I placed him behind the wheel. And with a little timely coaching, he navigated the rocks and boulders like a pro and saved our adventure.
So, the real world taught me why outsourcing can really pay off. I think that a lot of folks know that they can solve the problem better than any outside “consultant” or supplier. But being better at doing the job isn’t always the issue. I am a more experienced driver than my son, but there was no way I could have gotten two jeeps down five miles of boulder-filled trail on my own.
In the end my son saved the day and we made it to the campsite in time to set up the tent before the sun went down. Now, if only I had remembered to check the air mattresses for leaks before we had left.