Monday, November 3, 2008

Ploughing the Road

"What you're talking about is like ploughing the road"

"What do you mean"?

"Well, it's kind of like when I was growing up in Western P.E.I. and those days when we'd get hammered with about 4o inches on snow and my father would say, "someobody's gotta get out and start ploughing the road". The first pass was never perfect, edges were crooked and the plough may have knocked over the odd mailbox here and there, but they had to make the first run at it. Hours later another snow plough would come along and make the road a little wider and the edges a little straighter and before long people could drive again in relative comfort. But nothing happened till someone started ploughing the road" .

With that story, Harvey captured what I have been sharing for years on the professional speaking and training circuit when it comes to attempting anything new that might take someone out of their comfort zone.

Our party line at TSB is .. "Anything worth doing ... is worth doing badly". .

In other words, can you jump in and do something badly (at first) rather than be paralyzed by the need to have all your ducks in a row before starting a new project or learning a new skill? Just ask yourself how well did you play golf, swing a tennis racket, act in the school play; ski, skate or sketch the very first time? Can anyone expect to do anything well unless first doing it "badly"? Do something "badly" long enough, make enough mistakes, learn from them and you just might surprise yourself and others.

Willingness to attempt something new is what led Harvey to build his first "live-bottom" trailer in 1999 for a local lime hauler near Trout River, PEI. A conventional dump truck wasn't doing the job. Materials would clump and stick and there was a constant threat of the trailer tipping over. Harvey took it upon himself to look at various "live-bottom" trailer concepts and by combining the best features from several designs, came up with the initial "Trout River Design".

Three years later, Harvey opens a manufacturing plant in tiny Coleman, PEI with floor space to build three trailers simultaneously. By 2006, more than 40 people are employed at the expanded 30,000 square foot facility with more than 90% of their products sold out-of-province. Trout River also has licensing agreements with companies as far away as Australia to build and sell their products worldwide. More at

Earlier this month, Harvey Stewart of Trout River Industries was recognized as the Ernst & Young Atlantic Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year at a black-tie gala in Halifax. "Ploughing the Road" has paid off handsomely for Harvey and his Western PEI team in much the same way Chuck benefited from doing something "badly" more than 50 years ago in Hollywood.

When he was starting out, Chuck was told by a senior animator that everyone has about 10,000 lousy drawings they need to get rid of, before they can really start drawing. That one line spurred Chuck on, sometimes drawing and re-drawing his work again and again just so he could get that one perfect drawing.

Eventually, Chuck Jones would hit his stride with a company named after a couple of brothers named Warner, ploughing his way to success with a future, Oscar-winning rabbit named Bugs.

Whenever attempting something new, Harvey and Chuck can assure you that it's only natural to expect to stumble, or even fall flat on your face.

But, tackling something difficult is a sign you’re learning something new, because if it’s too easy, it probably contains elements of what you already know. There is no way you can skid if you stay in a rut. The challenge lies in being able to distinguish the difference between a single setback and a final defeat.

In which ways are you, your business and your brand "ploughing the road"?

Are you willing to jump in and do something "badly" this week?

Prepared to scribble 10,000 lousy drawings? Find new roads to start "ploughing"?

Should the "ploughing" ever stop?

"You always pass failure on your way to success" MICKEY ROONEY

p.s.... as a life-long, unabashed, make-no-apologies fan of Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn and the Looney Tunes gang, could not resist throwing in this one!


jonreid said...

Excellent article.

The fastest way to growth is to step outside of your comfort zone.

Dive into something new, sink or swim. Either way you are guaranteed to get "soaked" with new knowledge and experiences.

Darren said...

Gair, you never cease to impress me and start my day off with a smile.

Ploughing isn't easy...but in the end it's always worth doing :)

Thanks for the post!

Gair Maxwell said...

Thanks for the comments guys ... It would be interesting to hear from other TSB readers at least one example of where they discovered how "ploughing the road" actually helped them get somewhere....