Lessons Learned From a Chinese Motorcycle

Sometimes the little things in life determine success or failure, and experiences that one of my sons and I had with a Chinese motorcycle reminded me of this.

Steve Maxwell
Steve Maxwell

When Joseph was 12, he got the urge to buy himself an off-road dirt bike. Nothing large, just something to toot around the country property where we live. Joe had a couple of thousand dollars saved, and that would buy him a decent but used name-brand
bike. Somewhere along the line he discovered that he could buy a brand new discount
motorcycle made in China for half as much as a used Japanese bike cost, so that’s what he did.

The little motorcycle arrived in a wooden crate needing some assembly. Shortly after getting the thing running, an old-timer came over and warned us about something. “The nuts and bolts on those Chinese motorcycles are always coming loose”, he warned. “Better put Loctite on all of them before you lose something.”

This sounded crazy to me, but he was right. It’s not that the motorcycle vibrated much, either. In fact, it ran smoothly and started on the first kick. But sure enough, things fell off that bike every day or two. Sometimes this was no big deal, other times it caused metal parts to break. I spent a lot of time wrenching, welding and delivering TLC to this “bargain” bike. I also bought a big bottle of Loctite.

The problem, as I discovered upon close examination, was something very small but crucial. The fit between the threads on the nuts and bolts was loose. Although they seemed to tighten properly with a wrench, there wasn’t enough friction between the threads to keep nuts and bolts together reliably. Everything else about Joe’s Chinese motorcycle worked great, but it turned out to be a massive make-work project for me because the fit of small but crucial details was deficient.

The deficiency of small but crucial details can affect your painting business, too. Just like Joe’s motorcycle, the difference between success and failure can sometimes be nothing more than a small detail here or a little tweak there. Do you gather and use testimonials from happy clients? Do you capture photos of your best work and use them for promotion? Have you taken steps to connect with contractors you can trust to handle overflow work? All these things and more are the business equivalent of the fit between nuts and bolts on a boy’s hard-earned dirt bike. Are there small things coming loose regularly on your business? Fix them and life will be better.

Sharing is caring!