Are You Carrying Buckets or Building Pipelines?

There is an old story that goes something like this: There once was a village with a very big problem. The village had no water and unless it rained the people would die. To solve the problem, the village leaders chose two business people to figure out how they could get water delivered daily to the village. The two business people accepted the challenge and took off to solve the problem.

The first business person, Aaron, quickly went out and invested in two buckets. He began running back and forth along the trail to the nearest lake which was several miles away. With each bucket of water he brought to the village, the village leaders paid him several dollars. He was very happy because he was making money almost immediately.

bucket

The second business person, we’ll name him Michael, was not heard from or seen for several months. The people in the village started to wonder if Michael was lazy or if he had been eaten by a lion. The village leaders sent out a search party for Michael to figure out what was going on with him. After all, they wanted their water.

What they found out was that instead of using buckets to compete with Aaron, Michael had spent his time writing out a business plan, creating a company, finding investors, and hiring a team of construction workers and experts to build a pipeline from the lake all of the way to the village.

pipe

It took Michael’s team several more months to complete the project. However, once the pipeline was complete it delivered water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The water was cooler than Aaron’s water and it didn’t require anyone to carry water for miles in the hot sun. Michael brought so much water to the village that the people named the city park after him.

Years went by and Michael’s pipeline continued to bring plenty of water almost effortlessly. Michael continued to collect a handsome paycheck from the village leaders. At the same time, Aaron was still laboring on the trail carrying two buckets of water at a time. Every day Aaron wondered how much longer he could continue to carry buckets, but deep down he knew that if he stopped his money would stop too.

The question I have for you is: In your business, are you carrying buckets or building pipelines? 

You may have to carry buckets for a while by yourself. That’s just fine. However, once you’ve proven that there is market demand and are generating consistent revenues, it’s time for you to start building pipelines. Your job is to eventually build enough systems so that you can almost step away from your business while other people run the systems for you. You will still manage the business, but you won’t have to be physically present in order for the business to continue to run.

There are two books that I highly recommend you read if you want to get serious about building “pipelines.” The first book is The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. The second book is Linchpin by Seth Godin.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them.

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