Saturday, 3 August 2013

It's ok to procrastinate

When I saw my nine year old niece, Tolu, two Sundays ago, she wore the prettiest smile as she walked up to me and said with a voice impregnated with pride, "Come and see my garden. It beats that of all my classmates". Reluctantly, I dragged my tired self after her as she led me to the backyard. I must confess that the sight that greeted me when she opened the screen door was almost out of this world. My niece's qualification of her garden as the best in her class did no justice to the Eden she had grown behind my sister's house.

One week later, her smiley face had turn teary and Eden was a wasteland. "What happened", I queried, scooping up her sobbing body in my arms to comfort her. But the pain of her loss was to deep for words, as each time she tried mouthing an explanation, all she could do was shed more tears.
My sister volunteered to explain: Tolu had learnt a new word 'POSTPONE' the following Monday, at school. The teacher explained that not a few good future had been ruined by people who chose to put away till later what they ought to have done immediately. Tolu, taking the lesson to heart, feared ruin coming to her garden and decided to be proactive. She would not wait for butterflies to come and pollinate her flowers; she was going to bring them into her garden now. She went to a friend's, 'harvested' caterpillars and brought them into her garden so that her flowers will be the first port of call once they turned into butterflies. What she didn't know was that butterflies in their caterpillar phase and
gardens don't mix. These 'premature' butterflies are destructive when they come into your gardens; when they are old enough to pollinate, they would have destroyed your garden and would fly to other blossoming gardens to do their constructive bit before they die.

Entrepreneurs too can bring some well-intentioned ideas into their businesses too early, like Tolu, and the good they envisage later turns to regret because they were introduced prematurely.

Take for instance, a start-up entrepreneur in the high-end fashion industry who feels that he needs to look the part to attract fashionistas to his store and insists on getting expensive gold-plated business cards to match his reputation might have started out on the road to ruin. He needs to procrastinate making the cards and use the funds to build the reputation he is hoping to live up to.

A business plan of a start up that includes three employees might not be a smart plan; justify it as hard as we can. Division of labour starts not with dividing job descriptions but with obtaining work in the first place. In its early days, the founder of Microsoft had to wear many hats; it was after the business grew that he started handing the hats out to qualified hands.

Renting an office in the business district for proximity to customers as against one in the suburbs, renting ad space on gigantic billboards to reach a wider audience as against word of mouth referrals and mechanizing job functions for speedy delivery as against manually doing them are some things you might want to procrastinate as you are starting out on your business. I know it's hard not living up to one's expectations on these things.... but you need to ask yourself, "Are these caterpillars or butterflies?"

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