Carry on Scaling
Last weekend, we embarked on our first ever family camping trip. Okay, it was for only one night at a camp site just 30 minutes from home, but we wanted to have a bit of a trial run.
For our four-year-old twins to enjoy their first ever experience of sleeping under the stars, we needed to put our tent up. We were feeling confident because our new tent came with its own set of instructions.
Or so we thought.
The instructions contained just four basic outline drawings, all in black and white. We unwrapped the peg bag to find four different types of pegs, all colour coded, which proved a little tricky reading off the mono plans. And one set of pegs was entirely omitted from the instructions. It was Okay, we were only there for one night so pretty much guessed where these should go. What’s the worst that could happen? I thought to myself as I casually tapped in the pegs, looking forward to well-deserved cold beer.
That brings me onto the next set of ‘challenges’. Jacki and I had packed between us with little discussion, which meant no one was 100% accountable and we weren’t working to any system. This meant that we ended up borrowing a mallet from our friend because we both assumed the other had packed it. It was okay though, because Jacki had packed the bottle opener – an odd looking alligator shaped one with the end (i.e. the actual bottle opener) snapped off. Thankfully, we borrowed our friends, and I enjoyed sip of cold beer during our little ‘discussion’ on how this had happened.
The tent was now up, looking sturdy, and we were confident of a peaceful night in the great outdoors. Time for another beer!
Our smugness didn’t last for long. Because we hadn’t defined a process for packing, or agreed who was responsible for what, essentials were missing. Yes, we had meat to BBQ, but no butter for the rolls, and no ketchup (explain that to a hot and tired four-year-old), and we had somehow left the water carrier at home meaning constant treks to the drinking tap to fill up small bottles which were consumed by the time we’d hiked back to our tent.
Jacki was confident that the breakfast would go smoother because she had called the camp site earlier in the week and had confirmation we could buy food at their farm shop just up the road. She got ready to leave at 8am only to remember that her flip flop had broken the night before (she hadn’t packed any spare shoes). So in the end all four of us went, which meant unpacking the car with the empty tent bags and boxes.
Jacki eventually came out of the farm shop looking a little sheepish, carrying 6 eggs, a pack of bacon and a bag of frozen sausages (sadly, too early for a beer). We gave the sausages to our friends who were staying on longer and I finally got our new camping cooker on. It was a little tricky however, cooking with no oil or butter and without a spatula. Luckily, our friend came to the rescue plying our now starving kids with cereals. The bacon, they agreed, smelt nice though.
Don’t get me wrong, we had a fantastic time and are planning our next trip. And I mean planning; we’ve got a list going, we know what we need to pack and how best to pack, we know who will be getting what, and we’re both watching “how to put your tent up” YouTube videos in the evenings.
This entire experience reminded me of business – the importance of systemising. In order to grow efficiently and scale, you must work out exactly what makes your business work and document the method. Ensuring that everything and everyone who needs to be involved understands their role (and the goal), and there are systems and processes in place that support the business so it can run without you. If your business is always bespoke, always requires you to be involved, and is never systemised, then you have a job, not an exit-able business.
And the importance of learning from your mistakes – a growing business is an evolving business and if you want to scale up and exit, then you need to be dedicated to continuous improvement. Getting stuck in a “we’ve always done it this way” mind-set is a sure way to block growth and limit learning potential.
I have to end on a quote from Carry on Camping which seems a fitting end to this week’s scale snippet:
Dr. Kenneth Soaper: “Barbara dear, do you think you’re quite suitably dressed for travelling?”
Babs: “Oh but sir, we were told to bring the minimum of clothing.”