Airstream saga – Our first real test

Lessons from our first real test that apply to the management of a law practice:
    •    Hitching the trailer to the truck, or getting the right team together, working on the same agenda
    •    Getting the truck and trailer to work seamlessly as one unit, or making sure that separate agendas don’t pull the firm apart
    •    Organizing the inside of the trailer, or creating the firm culture of harmony and esprit de corps that encourages your lawyers and staff to work together, even in hard times
    •    Moving outside of one’s normal urban comfort zone, or seeking and obtaining new clients
    •    Exploring new geographic areas, or increasing your practice by enlarging your practice areas of emphasis
    •    Obtaining new knowledge as we begin our travels, or developing a system of knowledge management that will create greater efficiencies for the practice
    •    When you add a trailer to the back of your truck, you travel more slowly, use more fuel, but have more support and resources for longer travels.  As you grow your firm and add lawyers and staff, you will experience some difficulties (travel more slowly).  This will require greater communication (more fuel) to keep your firm working smoothly. But, you will also experience greater revenues and profits (with your increased support and resources).
    •    When backing up (plan ahead), you are able to make small corrective actions rather than be forced into major efforts.
    •    When you are authentic and walk your talk, others will respond and your business will grow. Being a coach to and for lawyers, our instructor’s behavior resonated with me. I can see why he is successful and is far busier than he wants to be in his retirement.


The saga begins:

Just before  Christmas, the repair shop said our Vintage Steed, otherwise known to the California Department of Motor Vehicles as “SteSpot,” was eager to hit the road. So we gathered “her” in and departed. Our destination was some 120 miles north where we were destined to take driving lessons the following two days. 

We were told to camp out at the local RV park and wait for our instructor to meet us the following morning. We contacted the RV park, made reservations and placed ourselves at the manager’s mercy, requesting a “pull through” site, not one in which we’d have to back up. After all, that is why we were coming, to take driving and backing-up lessons. We didn’t want to have the challenge of backing up before our lessons. We succeeded; she was kind to us and we arrived, having braved the freeways of heavy truck traffic and hundreds of motor vehicles bound for out-of-town destinations in this holiday week.

We found our spot, and pulled right through, ready for our anticipated adventure.   We then unhooked the trailer from my truck, hooked the trailer to electricity and water, lit the pilot lights for heat … and were all set. We then began some housekeeping, tidying up and organizing. As we were doing so, one of our friendly neighbors walked over to offer his help should we need any assistance. We actually took him up on his offer a little while later.

As dinner time came, I thought this might be a very long couple of days. We were already tired from the travel to the park and from the housekeeping. I knew there was more to come. Instead of cooking in the trailer the very first night, I suggested to my wife that we ease into this thing … let’s go to dinner outside this first night.  Since I’ve already unhitched the truck, we’re free and might as well take advantage of the freedom. I knew of a nice restaurant nearby … that’s just what we did.  We returned after dinner to find our first disaster. The fresh water in our toilet had overflowed. We cleaned it up and made a note that this item needs to go on our checklist for the repair shop on our return. By now, we were ready for bed.

The morning came; the evening had been very cold and a storm front had moved through the area, dumping rain as though there would be no tomorrow. The good news: The Airstream was and is water tight; no leaks.

Our instructor arrived right on time. We talked about what we were going to do, he answered our questions about the trailer, and we planned the day. Then, we went outside to do a “walk around inspection.” The Airstream was first built incorporating aircraft construction methods. And now it felt as though we were going through a pre-flight checklist. We were.

Everything either check-out or was corrected and we were ready to start the engine and get on the road. For the next few hours, we drove, stopped, learned and drove again. At the end of the day, frankly, I was tired and, yet, we hadn’t even addressed the single most important reason for my signing up – learning how to back up the truck and trailer in a straight line. That was to come the following day. I felt cheated … but had confidence in the instructor. He was more than an instructor. He was my driving “coach.” And I told myself to be patient.

That night, we kept the truck connected to the trailer, made dinner inside the trailer and relaxed. The storm had come and gone, we had had a good lesson and our world was peaceful. We rested easily that night.

The next morning came and our coach arrived on time. We talked about the previous day … since we had no questions, we did our walk-around again and then got onto the road for the next lesson. This time, we went right to the backing-up. It turns out that it’s not that difficult when you are taught by an expert coach. First, we talked about what I was going to do. He asked me how to spell “back.” I knew this was a trick question, but didn’t have the right answer, so I said “b-a-c-k.” He spelled it “s-l-o-w.” In other words, when you back up a trailer, one has greater success when doing so slowly. This enables you to make corrections promptly with minimum movements, before any disaster occurs. Next, we went through the movements together,  slowly. Then I was on my own … and succeeded, though I did have to make several corrective adjustments. But, that is part of the process.                               

Throughout the entire two days, my wife and I learned together. She did the same amount of driving as I did. When it came to backing up, however, she made me the designated driver. 🙂

The lessons ended; our coach departed; and we returned home with a checklist of items for the repair shop to correct before our next adventure. All in all, it was a great way to spend a couple of days, learning, growing and working with my wife as a team. While not inexpensive, this activity proved to be a great therapy session as well. 🙂

One of the unexpected benefits of our sojourn was conversing with a couple of the neighbors. Most of the folks, according to the manager, in this RV park were retirees. Despite being retired, many of them have been very creative in finding new ways of earning money. I was actually surprised by the activities of a couple of them. They are nomads who find new ways of earning money so as to keep their retirement funds intact, they enjoy their adventures seeing the beauty of our country and many make serious contributions to the well-being of our society in their travels.

It certainly was a couple of days well-spent.


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