Gravel or Canvas? - Quartet Service

Gravel or Canvas?

I owe this thought to my father and Quartet’s newest employee.


My father worked in the food industry for most of his career and put himself through night school with three kids and a wife to feed. Very down to earth, he worked hard, had a great sense of humor and didn’t tolerate any sort of artificiality. Sunday dinners were usually really fun. I remember laughing so hard we couldn’t eat and sitting around the table so long our legs went numb. I miss him, I miss those dinners and I smile at some of the things I hear myself say now, knowing full well that they are little nuggets of hard-earned wisdom that spilled out during those marathon meals.


You couldn’t fool anybody around those Sunday dinner tables, least of all my father. One night after I’d pontificated ad-nauseum about something he said “Rob, if anybody spoke to me like that in my office, I would walk them to the door. Success is more like shoveling gravel than anything else. Cut the big words. Just do your job. Shovel the gravel.” I was mad that he wasn’t listening, but knew immediately that he had a good point. Dinner probably finished a little early that week, but I remember what he said.


Well, I took our newest employee out for coffee and a talk the other day and grimaced when that gravel metaphor resurfaced. My point to him was that execution is more important than inspiration. I told him the gravel story. We talked about how over time you can morph your role to do more of what inspires you and more of what you are good at, but in the beginning, you just have to shovel gravel through the tough jobs. He understood exactly what I was talking about, agreed with me (smart kid) and then he suggested that the same concept applies to companies.


I think it’s true. In the early stages most companies have to shovel their own gravel. There are some parts of what they do that they don’t like and are not very good at, but they struggle through because they have to. At some point however, more can be gained by focusing on core competencies than it costs to get help. Or said another way, as a firm becomes more professional, intolerance for mediocrity grows and professional assistance becomes attractive. It does not happen right away and the timing varies by industry, location and some other factors, but at some stage in a company’s development, professional IT management is required. Fortunately, one company’s gravel is another’s canvas and at Quartet, our canvas is IT infrastructure management. We pride ourselves in it, we are very efficient and we can do things that most companies are incapable of.


I’m sure this gravel metaphor would make my father cringe, but he would smile knowing he was part of it. I think it helped make a point to our newest employee and I hope it resonated with you too. If you’d like to explore whether or not IT Infrastructure management is right for your company at this time, we’d be pleased to visit, do a free technical assessment and discuss alternatives. As always, call with any comments or questions.


Robert Bracey,

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