I walked out of the travel office, disconsolate. I had started my little wine touring business with such naïve enthusiasm. After all, wasn’t I wordy, interesting, ridiculously good-looking, a great storyteller, and a purveyor of fine wines? Who, in their right mind, would not want to come sample Sauvignons, savour Shiraz’s, or quaff Cabernets with me?
Well, a lot of people as it turns out. In 2009, I had thought to tackle Long Street and the “backpacker” market for my newly formed business, PG TOPS Travel and Tours. I had a newly minted tour guide card, a shiny van, and I was confident that my charm, product, and personality would see them fall all over themselves on the street to send me their clients.
As business models go, the idea (admittedly borne out of being single at the time) of taking young attractive Swedish backpackers on wine tours...it was not a bad one. Except, as I would quickly find out, there was one teeny-tiny problem. Everyone already had a guy.
The business was called African Story, and owner Bruce Story, as far as I could tell, was simply in the hot seat because he was Mr. Consistency. At the Genesis of the wine touring backpacking market, Big Brother Ferdinand Rabie was DA MAN. But celebrity and success saw him take his eye off the ball. Then some chap called Robby came in, but the same thing happened. Started well, didn’t sustain, and dropped out.
When I had a go at this market, Bruce was firmly entrenched. The feedback was consistent: Clients never ever complained. His product wasn’t flash (went to the same four boring wine farms over and over), but it was simple to sell, it delivered on client expectations, and most importantly: He did the basics right. It frustrated the hell out of me!
So here I was, exhibit A: I had a flashy business card, oodles of pizazz and I wanted to do cool and interesting things. It was the wrong strategy for the market I was targeting, though, because all the Long Street agents wanted was reliability, value for money, and a good commission –paid on time.
I owe Bruce for the big lesson. It didn’t take me long to strip out the flash in my offering, pick a lane in terms of targeted clients, and offer them a simple but consistent product. It took a while, but I eventually grew my own solid business, playingin a different segment. At time of the telling, Bruce was still rocking out in the backpacker wine touring market, going to those same few vineyards...
It occurs to me that this lesson has been prevalent throughout my life, but I have often chosen to ignore it. Whether it is the financial manager who wants you to accurately and consistently produce the numbers, the spouse who prefers an even keel to hectic mood swings, or the group of friends and family who would prefer not to be guessing which version of you will show up to dinner...consistency is key, hey.
I still struggle with this. My Enneagram profile is a 7 (Enthusiastic Visionary), which speaks 100% to the quest to focus and be persistent. The collateral damage caused by my kind not being able to stay committed to something, and the resultant lack of consistent delivery, is just about a cliché.
I walked the Outeniqua Trail as a 17-year-old in high school. It was a wonderful experience, and I remember 90% of it being epic. But I also have a recollection of the 10%, towards the end, where, for some reason, I withdrew into myself. Where I had been engaging and gregarious before, I became moody and insular. The reasons evade me today, but I do remember what it felt like. How it alienated the group, made meeven more unhappy and detracted from my whole experience.
Stephen Covey calls it the Speed of Trust. You build trust with people by filling your emotional bank account, and this relies on you keeping your promises. One of the core promises is in what people can expect of you. And if you are not keeping that promise consistently, it’s harder for the trust to happen.
Consistency can be boring. Consistency could be the guy you marry not the guy you want to take home for the night. Consistency could be the job that pays the bills, the buddy that calls regularly, the meal that will fill you up but not blow you away. Consistency is the Castle Lager, the Big Mac, the Toyota Corolla, the Jackie Collins novel. Consistency is your plumber, your accountant, your insurance broker. You want consistency from these people and these things, not flash.
So my quest to be consistent continues. Like keeping it tidy at the buffet table, it’s a discipline and a muscle that I constantly need to work out, because it just doesn’t come naturally to me.
One of the key shifts that I have made in my life has been the daily ritual of morning check-ins, by way of the 10-10-10. Some anchoring in breathing, throw in a bit of uplifting reading, and stir it up with intentional journaling. I wouldn’t say I’m a Consistency Ninja yet, but in this small part of my day, I’ve managed to make a change.
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All the best,