Three turtles, Joe, Steve, and Poncho, decide to go on a picnic. Joe packs the picnic basket with cookies, bottled sodas, and sandwiches. The trouble is, the picnic site is 10 miles away, so the turtles take 10 whole days to get there.
By the time they do arrive, everyone’s whipped and hungry. Joe takes the stuff out of the basket, one by one. He takes out the sodas and realizes that they forgot to bring a bottle opener. Joe & Steve beg Poncho to turn back home and retrieve it, but Poncho flatly refuses, knowing that they’ll eat everything by the time he gets back.
Somehow, after about two hours, the turtles manage to convince Poncho to go, swearing on their great-grand turtles’ graves that they won’t touch the food. So, Poncho sets off down the road, slow and steady.
Twenty days pass, but no Poncho. Joe and Steve are hungry and puzzled, but a promise is a promise. Another day passes, and still no Poncho, but a promise is a promise. After three more days pass without Poncho in sight, Steve starts getting restless. “I NEED FOOD!” he says with a hint of dementia in his voice.
“NO!” Joe retorts. “We promised.”
Five more days pass. Joe realizes that Poncho probably skipped out to the Burger King down the road, so the two turtles weakly lift the lid, get a sandwich, and open their mouths to eat. But then, right at that instant, Poncho pops out behind a rock. “Just for that, I’m not going.”
Many times I am asked what the key element is to starting a company and seeing it thrive and prosper. Obviously, there are many factors: people, funding, technology, good advice, and sound decision making, to name a few. One thing that is often overlooked by people considering a new venture is the significance of having patience.
In today’s world of immediate information, response and connection, we are spoiled into believing that everything is “instant”. That coupled with seeing overnight business success stories makes having patience almost impossible.
Warren Buffett once wrote to his shareholders, “The pace of the earth’s movement around the sun is not synchronized with the time required for either investment ideas or operating decisions to bear fruit. At GEICO, for example, we enthusiastically spent $900 million last year on advertising to obtain policyholders who deliver us no immediate profits. If we could spend twice that amount productively, we would happily do so though short-term results would be further penalized. Many large investments at our railroad and utility operations are also made with an eye to payoffs well down the road.”
His quote underscores the idea that patience is at the heart of any long-term business success. We cannot assume an investment made today is going to pay off this month, quarter or even this year.
I think that the vital key to sustaining patience is having an all-consuming sense of purpose in what you are doing. Knowing why you are doing what you are doing is the only way to continue the high level of passion needed to remain patient through all of the highs and lows. I have found only three sources of passion: you love what you do, love who you do it for, or both.
As we continue to run the race and build our economy here in Tama County we all need to remember that it was the tortoise (a descendent of Poncho, Joe & Steve) that eventually won his race against the speedy hare.