Sunday, 10 January 2010

Finding the right place to maximize your value

"I need time to think," said Martin Sonner. "I'm going away for a week." Martin's boss looked at his best salesman with understanding. "If you are going to take a holiday, this is the best time," he replied. That was true, since no customer had set foot in the car dealership during the last ten days.

It was as though the desire to buy a new car had been suddenly erased from the memory of millions of people. Due to the economic crisis, car sales had dropped catastrophically. If the situation did not improve during the next months, Martin's boss might be forced to shut down the business. The car dealership was not generating enough cash even to pay the rent.

Martin told his wife that he had to travel to a sales conference, packed a small suitcase, went to the airport, and took the first flight to Cairo. The plane landed in Egypt eight hours later and Martin took a room in a hotel near the pyramids.

The next day, he walked around the pyramids, climbed to the top, descended, and climbed again. On his second day, he went inside the Great Pyramid, where he found only empty rooms and rarefied air. He woke up in the middle of the second night and was unable to fall asleep again.

It was too warm in his hotel room and, besides, a question was bothering him. He got dressed, went out of the hotel, and walked towards the pyramids. Then he left the road, took off his shoes, and walked on the desert sand.

Even at night, the sand was still warm from the previous day's sunshine. Martin stood still in front of the Great Pyramid and took in a deep breath. The problems of the car dealership were now far away from his mind.

A different subject was troubling Martin. What was the point of building pyramids? Why had ancient Egyptians not devoted their efforts to more useful things? Indeed, it had taken five thousand years for the pyramids to bring tourists to Egypt in substantial numbers.

Martin stared at the stone blocks for several hours, as the night came to an end. The first light of dawn made him close his eyes. There has never been any good reason to build pyramids, he concluded. Pyramids are useless; they are a reminder that you should not spend your life piling stone blocks for no useful purpose.

When Martin returned to the car dealership at the end of the week, his boss welcomed him warmly. He was glad to have his best salesman back. "Did you come up with a brilliant sales strategy while you were in Egypt?" Martin's boss asked, half-jokingly, half-desperately. "Did you get any idea about how to turn around the situation?"

Martin nodded and handed in his resignation. "As a matter of fact, I did," he replied. "I have learned that you can wait a long time for pyramids to pay off. Too long." A few days later, Martin found a sales job in a growing field. It was a company that sold turn-key factories in the Middle-East. A booming business.


[Image by eviljohnius under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]