Camels Or Elephants? Making The Right Choice For Your Business

12 May 2021

It is vitally important, for any business, to fully understand the aims of any medium to long-term goals that are set. The key business leaders must understand where they are heading and exactly what is required to get there.

I recently asked a client of mine how he was setting his growth targets for the next three to five years, to which he replied that he had hit his peak already. He told me that the team had achieved the best they could achieve.

In answer to this, I asked him to pick up his copy of my book, SPARKS: Ideas to Ignite Your Business Growth, and to read the chapter on business management, called Camels and Elephants.

Today, I want to share with you what I shared with him, as there is an important lesson to be gleaned from the story I included in that chapter.

Setting out on a journey

A long time ago there was a very capable trader, who would travel all over to sell his wares to different people and who was destined for bigger things.

He knew that and he wanted to make that potential become a reality, so he decided to undertake a journey. He was in central Asia and needed to cover a vast distance so he could reach several people along the way.

When he looked at the landscape, he realized that the journey was comprised of two legs, firstly across the jungle and secondly across the desert. As such, he had to decide what kind of animals he would take on the journey.

Making a choice

When he started thinking, he looked at different options, took different people’s opinions and finally settled on elephants, as they would be a really good choice for the first leg of the journey. An elephant is perfectly suited to the jungle, they are strong, can travel long distances and a lot of the other animals would give them a wide birth.

He embarked on this journey and exactly as he had expected, his elephants were proving a wise decision. They protected his goods, they were able to find their own food, they could swim if they needed to and they were intelligent. They were able to understand his instructions perfectly and were proving such a blessing to him that he started to become quite attached. He gave them pet names and started to become quite invested in caring for them emotionally too, building up quite a bond with them.

Reaching an important juncture

The trader had traversed the entirety of the jungle and stopped at the edge of the desert to take stock. At this stage, he was planning the second leg of his journey and different people were approaching, trying to convince him to buy their camels. He was unconvinced, however.

So far in his journey, the trader had been able to rely on his trusted elephants and they had taken good care of him. He also deduced that they had similar flat feet to camels, long lashes to protect their eyes from the sand and thick skin to protect them from the scorching heat. Moreover, the elephants already knew what to expect from him and there was a good understanding already built up.

Coming to a realisation

The trader continued on his journey and soon realised that he had made a terrible mistake. The elephants, who had served him so well in the jungle, were too heavy and were beginning to sink into the sand. They also needed a lot more food and water than before and this was a scarce resource in the new environment.

By the time he reached his next checkpoint, half of his herd had perished and he took the difficult option of switching them for some camels for the remainder of his trek. After doing this, he managed to reach the end safe and sound, with all of his goods intact.

The moral

The moral of this story is that when crossing a desert, you need camels, no matter how well modified your elephants have become.

Whilst very practical, this isn’t necessarily the most cheerful of discussion points today. In reality, there may come a point when the situation around you has changed, when the landscape has shifted. At that time, as the leader, you have to sit down and take stock of what resources you have. Your human capital, your technology and your systems to see what adaptation is required for the business to sustain its growth.

For many people, rather than making a rational decision for their business, they start thinking emotionally and can make decisions that don’t help in the long term. In certain circumstances, when it comes to people, you’re doing the right thing for them if you decide to let them go, at the right time, as you will only be setting them up for failure if not.

Taking stock for your business

Coming back to what my client told me about his team. If you are in a position like this, you need to adapt your team around your goals, not the other way around. You will need to identify what is required, whether that is further training or any other additions that need to be made around the organisation or structure, to reach the next level for your targets?

I also wrote about how to ensure you are not missing any blind spots within your business, which should be a great help to you when planning ahead.

Read: Walk The 4 Corners Of Your Business

You need to take the time for your business to truly think through your ambitions and how you will get there. Don’t worry too much about your current team or structure, think about the size and extent of your ambition and consider, much like the trader, whether you need to bring in those camels and replace your elephants, or whether you just need some upskilling to occur.

I hope that helps and you are able to successfully analyse your current business to clarify where you are heading. You can pick up a copy of SPARKS at the link below to find more practical tips and insights like this:

Order a free copy of SPARKS: Ideas to Ignite Your Business Growth

We would love to hear from you, to discuss your three to five year growth plans and how we can help you design your business to prepare it for the next phase.

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