Look Mum no hands…

You know those times when you say something and the response you get is not what you expect? Well, this happened late last year. Let me explain…

One of the reasons us entrepreneurs do what we do is so we can attain a certain lifestyle, and one of my personal goals last year was to buy a new car. So a week before Christmas I went to pick up our new 4 x 4 and whilst I was there waiting for the unveiling I started to mooch around a sporty little number. This mild flirtation culminated in taking a seat and thinking to myself: “I know what I will be doing next Christmas”. I must admit I was pretty smitten to the extent that I mentioned it to a few close contacts. Now this is where I didn’t expect this response: “you don’t want to get that, think of your children and grandchildren – get a Tesla”.

What the f –type is a Tesla?, I thought, I had heard of it but no idea why this progressive, Australian entrepreneur would, quite vocally, put down my dream.

So long story short, I visit a retail outlet in Westfield shopping centre for a test drive of this unique machine. For those that are not aware, this is a pure electric car with a range of around 250 miles and an acceleration of a motorbike, under 3.0 seconds. They call the test drive reaction the ‘Tesla smile’. Because it is an electric vehicle there are also some great incentives from the government for a company acquisition, in fact, it would be rude not to. So we did.

June 25th (the day after Brexit result!) we travel to West Drayton to collect our new addition. Now remember, we are only collecting a new car, not learning how to construct it, so I am a little surprised that It takes around three hours to go through each element of the car.

It did make me a little nervous, to be honest, as to what could so be different. I had test driven it, it’s only a car.

Then the reality set in as I drove it away. I suddenly realised I was not in a conventional car anymore. This, in reality, is an iPhone on wheels. Yes, I would need to plug it in every night. Yes, there are software updates. Yes, it can drive itself on autopilot and YES it accelerates like a rocket.

I am now outside my comfort zone and into a new experience in lots of ways. A bit like we are on a regular basis in our businesses. And what do we turn to, to know if we are winning or losing is our dashboard, or as we call them in the SCALE world: Alerts.

The idea of having alerts or alarms operating within the business is that they are activated in real time. It amazes me that most business owners, even lots of really sizeable companies, do not know how they are performing until their accountant presents them with a set of year-end figures. Often this can be 12 to18 months later. How can you possibly deal with a problem that far in the past? My mind boggles at the thought.

The starting point for setting up alerts and alarms is to ensure that each member of staff knows what 100% looks like for them, in their role. This should not be a hardship or a ‘ruling with a rod of iron’ scenario, but simply an employee delivering exactly what is reasonably expected of them (100%) in return for 100% of their salary. A fair deal! When you add to this the precursor that they no longer see their role as merely a job, but as an important part of a joint vision which they have entered into, this is fairly straightforward. In fact, they will appreciate the support. The key here is the willingness to do it, not the having to do it.

If you have identified everybody’s 100% and you set up real-time (preferably daily) measurements to check that the target is being achieved, then you can see if there is an issue before it becomes a problem. It might just be a blip or a bad day, that you can choose to ignore or monitor for a while, but if you ‘don’t know’ then you are running blind. Things go wrong from time to time, the unexpected or unfortunate does happen, but if you have a robust system you can either work through it or make the necessary adjustments instantly.

Back to my Tesla. Less than a week later I get to make a journey of over 220 miles in one day…eeek! Since the 25th I had only travelled 2.4 miles each day to and from our office, so this was a BIG change for me. If you run out of petrol or diesel there is always that iconic green can to fill up, do the walk of shame, but at least get home. However, you cannot put electricity in a can if you run out, that is it unless you have a bloody long cable.

Alerts to the rescue. Driving a Tesla; the difference starts from the beginning. Sat Nav’s are accessories for most modern cars BUT for the Tesla they are essential. Before you start your journey you enter the destination into the 17’’ dashboard and wait for the car to inform you of the route and any potential supercharger stops on the way. A supercharger is Tesla’s private network of chargers dotted around the UK.  The car also lets you know if it can return to your start point without a charge on route. It’s close we have about 30 miles to spare. Eeek again. Our plan is to gain confidence by measuring our journey, literally, mile by mile. We get to the first 50 miles into our journey and yes our start point has gone down by 50 or so miles. This gives us lots of confidence we are over half way there and our range still looks good with the car telling us we are on track. All alerts are working.

Now, remember earlier I mentioned this autopilot feature where the car will completely drive itself including the speed, steering and distance all without human intervention. With confidence growing I put the car into autopilot and nervously let go of the wheel. A double bong sounds and the car deftly centres itself between the white lines and maintains the same speed with the wheel turning – ON ITS OWN…

At first, I am as nervous as my first day at senior school BUT I realise that I have all the alerts I need to know this is going to work.

1. I have read everything about autopilot so know what to expect.

2. I have a view of all the traffic outside of my window, along with the distance between us and other cars, lorries and bikes in all lanes.

3. The dashboard doubles up as a virtual windscreen with a representation of everything around you (driven by lots of radars and cameras).

4. I have a plan B – I can re-grasp the wheel, put my foot on the brake and take back control of my vehicle.

We did 30 miles on autopilot up to junction 29. It should have been 28 but we were so involved we missed our junction!

My challenge for you this month is: what do you need to do to let go of your business wheel and go a certain distance on autopilot?

If you don’t know then may I suggest you get ‘plugged in’…