October 2, 2009
October 16, 2009
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(Originally broadcast on Oct. 9, 2009, on The Frank Show, here.)

I’ve been in Romania a while now and have gotten to know a few companies and have heard plenty of stories about others.  In too many cases, it makes me think of a story about an old man.  He lives out in the country on top of a very tall mountain.  He owns a car, very badly designed, and the engine stopped working years ago.  One day a friend of his comes over and old the man offers to take them to town down in the valley.  So they get in the car and the old man gives it a push and down they go.  About halfway down the mountain, the friend turns to him and asks why he doesn’t get his car fixed.  The old man says, fixed?  Why get it fixed.  It’s moving just fine.

Now, I don’t think you need to look very far to see examples of this all around.  I’ve been told the term for this in Romania is “merge si asa.”  It doesn’t translate very well, but essentially means, eh, it’s working, why mess with it?

Well, to state the obvious, at some point, you reach the bottom.  And then what?

You start patching.  You try a fix here and a fix there.  And pretty soon, to mix metaphors, you end up with an overcoat like that in Nikolai Gogol’s story.  Eventually, the tailor tells you that he can patch no longer.  There is no coat left.  He’s just putting patches on the patches.

If you don’t think this applies to you, some of you, I reckon, should look in the mirror.  Patches are no solution.  Eventually, you’ll reach the bottom of that hill.  And if you wonder why you’re getting cold down there, don’t blame the tailor, or the mechanic.  They are not creating the problems simply by pointing them out.  More than likely, you need a new coat, a new car, or a new way of thinking.  Any venture capitalist will tell you it takes a different personality to build a company rather than run one.  Recessions have a wonderful way of deciding who among us realize this.

So if I were you, I’d wonder if I really want the person who designed that old man’s flawed engine to be the one to fix it.

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