One of the best business books I have had the pleasure of reading is, not surprising, Good to Great by Jim Collins. In the book, Collins and his colleagues outline the key aspects that take a company from just being ‘good’ to true ‘great’ success. Several of his analogies stuck with me through the years and still ring true years after I have first read this good book, nay, great book.
One of the most powerful analogies used in the book is the one which refers to a company as a flywheel. The essence of this analogy is that the additive effect of many small initiatives allows them to act on each other like compound interest. Said differently, the flywheel is a truly heavy contraption that’s very hard to get going. You start off pushing and pushing and pushing just to get it to begin to turn. You then wipe the sweat from your eyes, take a quick sip from the cold (and bitter) cup of reality and return to pushing some more. However, if you keep at it long enough and if you can overcome the friction and other hurdles you face, eventually the flywheel begins to turn more and more rapidly. First it completes a first turn, then a second one and a third and so on and so forth. Soon enough what you have in front of you is one of nature’s most simple, yet powerful machines. In its very core the flywheel is an energy storage apparatus which can pack tremendous amounts of power and momentum and which is extremely hard to stop.
Back to the company analogy, this is the stage when you feel that your company’s engine is humming, Sales are picking up, customers return for some more of the great stuff and engineers are going home smiling (preferably well before midnight). This transition from a slowly rotating huge flywheel that looks too hard to move to a rapidly revolving, unstoppable machine is the so called ‘inflection point.’ I have experienced these inflection points in the past and, no matter how much you expect them, they always catch you by surprise. Suddenly, sales quarter-over-quarter jump 10x, the press is all over you, unsolicited resumes start landing in your mailbox and the boss gives you an expensive bottle of Bordeaux for the holiday (hint to our BOD: left bank please, preferably from Pauillac).
‘Are we there yet?’ you might be asking kids.
‘Well, not quite yet’ would be my answer. But I can smell it coming, real soon.’
Activity is picking up. Our VP of Sales has been spotted in the wild talking on two cellphones, one pressed to each ear, at the same time, and the trickle of sales is rapidly becoming a steady stream with growing strength.
The AirPatrol flywheel is now revolving more and more rapidly. The tension is building up internally and excitement accompanies it, like a loyal friend.
‘Here we go again,’ I mutter to myself, uncorking a bottle of a good Brunello di Montalcino, pouring it to my wine glass. ‘What a good wine but, more importantly, it just cleared some room on the shelf in my collection for that great bottle of Bordeaux that’s coming (thank you, our BOD, in advance).’