An enterprising entrepreneur is supposedly a problem solver. An enterprising entrepreneur takes on uncertainty, assesses risks, makes decisions and has a sense of consequence and alternative ideas. These behaviours are particularly relevant when ‘Plan A’ fails and a real problem arises.
And so a couple of weeks ago I faced a real problem…
Market demand means the SimVenture team is scaling up.
And on Monday 20th June I caught the train from York to Edinburgh. The next day I’d be helping to interview six keen candidates who had applied for a newly created post.
Unfortunately, Tuesday 21st June was also a scheduled train strike. No LNER trains would be running on the East Coast Mainline.
Unperturbed, we’d decided to go ahead with the interviews as most people were travelling locally. We also wanted to meet candidates face-to-face and gauge enterprising entrepreneur qualities.
But this approach was double-edged…
Because I knew ‘Plan A’, my scheduled return train journey back to York, had been cancelled.
Enterprising Entrepreneur decision time
And so at 3pm and with interviews over, I changed clothes, donned my metaphorical enterprising entrepreneur hat and waved farewell to my colleague Cilla. With experience on my side, I decided the only way to tackle the 200-mile journey to York (195 miles actually, read on) – was to hitchhike.
But being mid afternoon, would I get home before nightfall? Would I even get home?
Stage one was supposed to be the easiest. Take a cab to the city bypass and specifically the A68 junction and road south to Jedburgh. My iPhone Google Street View had confirmed this location offered somewhere to stand and more importantly a space for vehicles to pull over.
But Lewis Hamilton the taxi driver was not. The suburban 5 miles through the gears of ‘sluggish’ and ‘slow’ took a pain-staking 30 minutes. At this rate, I calculated York would be sighted in 20 hours.
Thankfully, I’d had the presence of mind to bring my reliable ‘Rab’ sleeping bag along.
Eventually, escaping Mr Timid and taxi safety I headed off with rucksack on my back, cardboard sign in my hand and uncertainty on my mind.
But how would passing drivers react to the sight of a hitchhiker? Or rather, how would drivers react to a greying, 56-year-old exec in jeans, who they’d assume and assert should know better?
Time would tell. And it did.
Francois and Le Trust
Stage Two Speeding cars and wagons passed every ten seconds. But none showed any sign of slowing. Until that is, a driver in a white middle-aged VW campervan eyeballed the enterprising entrepreneur and jammed on the brakes.
Clothed in vest and shorts, Francois was très French. He was also en-route to Jedburgh – ‘pour faire le camping’.
And as I would discover, my Marseille-based companion was also enjoying his solo firefighter retirement tour of Ireland, Scotland and was ultimately heading to Scandinavia.
Forty years ago, almost to the day, I sat my French ‘O’ level. The powers that were, somehow passed me with a ‘C’. So how would my forgotten franglais be received by Francois?
Straining every linguistic ligament I managed to ‘parler francais avec Francois’ all the way to Jedburgh. And somewhat ironically, even though the former firefighter apologised for not having washed for 3 days (confession not necessary), we got on like a ‘maison en feu’.
Suddenly, the clouds gathered, greyed and gave over the green Cheviot Hills. Windscreen wipers went straight to vite. Yet without apparent effort I turned to my left and remarked, ‘Francois – il pleu beaucoup!’
Francois nodded sagely and with smile suggested wet Jedburgh was not ‘pour faire le camping’. Pointing to a sign saying ‘Newcastle 60 miles’ he put his foot down.
Stage three was a breeze. Empowered by Google Translate and taking advantage of my fully-charged iPhone, I accessed lots more mots in French.
And then just before we reached the A1, Francois exclaimed…
“I go York!”
Enterprising entrepreneurship duo sense victory
Realising the significance of Francois’ fresh plan, I immediately went in search of campsites for my new-found friend. I even made calls so a pitch could be booked and purchased.
But sadly, whilst York prides itself as a tourist destination, the ‘Welcome to’ bit must have been striking too that day. Three calls went straight to voicemail and the one person who did answer suggested our estimated arrival time (8pm) was too ‘inconvenient’.
Picking up on my failures, Francois, suggested ‘tranquil’ and ‘avec douche’ were his main priorities. Being close to York was less important.
And so I called my good friend Peggy.
Peggy and her husband Rod own a small, rural caravan and camping site 10 miles south of York. As importantly, their site has a douche (shower) and as I discovered on my call, also a space for Francois.
Buoyed by the good news and the increasing blue skies above, Francois took on stage 4 with growing confidence and increasing joy. Having negotiated the Cheviot ‘mountains’ it was now just a simple A1 dash past Scotch Corner, a sweeping left bend to York and a right at the roundabout signposted Selby.
The near-straight A19 would be our own Champs-Élysées.
We arrived at Peggy’s at 8pm and Francois loved the campsite immediately. But when I went to grab my rucksack from the back of his home, my companion for the previous four and half hours objected.
“Attend! No, Peter! I drive you. Chez Peter, I drive you.”
Realising that some things had been lost in translation, I smiled and pointed to a building not 50 yards away.
“Francois,” I replied. “This is where I live. You’ve brought me home!”
There were tears in his eyes as we laughed, hugged and recognised the wonder of our shared time together. The enterprising entrepreneur within us both had taken on uncertainty – and won.