“I don’t care what anything was designed to do. I care about what it can do”

Do you remember in Apollo 13 (Tom Hanks, 1995, “Houston we have a problem") where the on-the-ground technicians urgently have to find a solution to the increasing carbon dioxide levels in the lunar module? The fix has to be something that can be implemented by the in-flight crew, and of course only using only the tools and materials they have available in the module.

The lead technician sets the challenge whilst emptying a cardboard box of components onto the table: “We gotta find a way to make this… fit into the hole for this… using nothing but that." (click to youtube clip)

Now, I’m a big fan of strategy and pragmatism and working with business owners on their change journey, seeing growth and improvement over the coming weeks and months and sometimes longer. However, sometimes you simply don’t have time to map out detailed plans, or to develop new skills or resources. Sometimes you need a solution right now. 

I had an approach recently from a new client who had suddenly discovered their own in-flight crisis; despite a healthy order book and guaranteed income later in the year, they realised they were about to hit a critical cashflow problem in the short-term. The promise of money next month doesn’t help much when you need cash in the bank tomorrow, and so with Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon in mind, we set about checking through my client’s own battle-box…

Using only the resources and talents and connections that were immediately accessible (and generally free), we managed to construct a high impact, tactical marketing campaign to existing contacts using low cost mediums (LinkedIn & email), with a push on those services that produced the best short-term cashflow. It wasn’t elegant, and it won’t be a sustainable marketing strategy, but I am confident that it will produce the kind of quick results required, and bridge the impending cashflow crisis.

I wouldn’t recommend this as an ongoing way to manage your business, just as I doubt the NASA scientists plan their missions around duck-taping makeshift air filters together in mid-flight. However, sometimes, an immediate imperative can be healthy and revitalising.

Sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got to hand.

Apollo 13, Released 1995, Universal Pictures. Title quote from Gene Krantz (Flight Director) Played By Ed Harris.

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