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Reflections – November 2019 – Building more than a business.

by | Nov 25, 2019 | Business

Over the last few months I’ve finally got around to addressing issues with our northern garden wall, About 50 Meters or so of it has effectively collapsed. In the image above you can see that the old lime mortar has lost its grip, ground movements and time causing it to fall out. Repairs over the years with concrete have changed the nature of the way the wall reacts to rain, and wind, and plant growth and more. Over time it had become a rather sorry pile of re-stacked stone, and failed, properly to provide a boundary to ‘our place’.

I’ve never built anything with stone, my experience with mortar was limited to small repointing exercises years ago and only with sand and cement.

Yet I decided to take on this project and learn. I love learning new and different skills, and I always know there will be mistakes and blind alleys along the way. First I researched lime mortar and learned about the right mixes, and strengths of lime to use. I found a supplier, and ordered a bag or two. (I’ve used 11 bags so far…). To begin with my mixes were inconsistent, some to wet to support the weight of stone, some too stiff to work and bind well. Today I mix up small quantities at a time, consistently, and just ‘know’ or ‘feel’ the right balance of water to dry ingredients.

The stones too, are random shapes and piled up, but over time my mind has worked out how to visualise them turned, rotated and flipped so that I can look at a pile of stones and pick out candidates for the right one without having to lift and move too many of them. Increasingly often I lift only one and set it immediately in the space for it. The odd thing is that it’s become a truly unconscious act, I can’t describe how I do it, I just do. It is a three dimensional jig-saw with mortar, and no guiding picture other than the one in my head.

Now if ever there was a metaphor for business this is it.

Experience and trial and error has led to consistency, my skills have developed through practice, and reflection, and research, and, sometimes rework. The effort needed to achieve an ever improving result diminishes over time.

And yet, there is more to learn. I’ve reached where we are adding a gatepost, and that means building an end on the wall. I need different stones (quoins) that make a square corner, and have limited widths to work with. I need different foundations and a gatepost that won’t disturb or move the wall. Just like business, new challenges need new learning.

For me, while I work on this I find I’m also working on my business, thinking about it without consciously choosing the next “stone”. I’ve learned not to question as often when my unconscious business choices rise to consciousness. Instead I run with them and see if they fit. Usually they do.,

What have you done recently, unconnected with your business that’s given you new business insights and changed the way that you work?

Progress so far!

The Gatepost begun.

Top finish.


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Written by: William Buist - all rights reserved.