By Bill Prosch
In 1963, Dick Fosbury was the worst high jumper on his high school track team. In fact, Fosbury was sometimes thought of as the worst high school high jumper in the entire state of Oregon.
Using the traditional “scissors” style of high jumping, Fosbury could barely clear the bar when set at five feet — the minimum required height to qualify to be on the team. Obviously, he wasn’t enjoying a lot of success, but what’s inspiring is that he didn’t give up. He practiced and practiced but still barely cleared the five-foot mark.
Landing on your feet had always been in the rule book as a requirement of a successful jump. But in the early 1960s the rules changed. Traditional sawdust and sand pits for landing were replaced with softer, elevated foam areas. The requirement to land on one’s feet disappeared, clearing the way for new jumping techniques like “the roll.” However, other than being safer for the jumpers, the new techniques were still similar to the old ones. And, new techniques or not, Fosbury still struggled with mediocre results.
Fosbury wasn’t the kind of guy who cherished the thought of mediocrity, which pushed him to think of a better way to high jump, or more accurately, a better way to get more clearance over the bar. He started experimenting with a totally new approach, which was literally a part of the ultimate solution. While the scissor jumpers and rollers approached the bar in essentially the same manner, Fosbury curved his approach to give himself more leverage … and then went over the bar backwards. Essentially, he completed his jump 180 degrees opposite of the way anyone had done it before. He enjoyed moderate success with his new technique in high school, adding almost sixteen inches to his previous best effort.
When Fosbury moved on to college, his coach at Oregon State University discouraged the unconventional method. Fosbury returned to more traditional jumping approaches, once again with little success, before getting his coach’s attention when he abandoned tradition, switched to his backwards “flop,” and cleared seven feet.
Despite several years of controversy regarding the safety of Fosbury’s method, he qualified to represent the United States at the 1968 Olympic Games held in Mexico City. There, on his third jumping attempt, Dick Fosbury, and what had come to be known as the “Fosbury Flop,” set a new world record by clearing 7 feet and 4.25 inches, winning a gold medal for his efforts in the process. Although his record went the way of most records and was soon topped, Fosbury’s unconventional system of clearing the bar is the standard used today by most competitive high jumpers across the globe. The current world record for the high jump stands at 8 feet and a quarter inch, and it was reached using the Fosbury Flop by Javier Sotomayor of Cuba in 1993. Not bad for a guy running at a bar and jumping over it without the aid of a pole.
So, what does the Fosbury Flop have to do with your cleaning or restoration business? I would assume many of you are using the same techniques that have been used in these industries for decades. And, like Dick Fosbury early on, maybe you’re not enjoying all the success you’ve dreamed of. Conceivably, there’s a different way to approach the bar, possibly curving your path slightly to gain leverage and looking at the issue from a perspective that’s 180 degrees different from what you’re doing now.
There will be those who say it’s not safe, it won’t work, or “that’s not how we’ve always done it.” But what if in viewing what you’re currently doing from a completely different angle you disrupt an entire industry with your new approach? What if your leap is so revolutionary, so effective, so profitable that it becomes the industry standard in the future? What if your new way of doing things results in your company becoming the industry leader? How would that feel?
No matter what the challenge is, ask yourself what you have to lose by looking at the problem in an unconventional way. Or, better yet, what you have to gain. Perhaps your own version of a gold medal.
Bill Prosch, CR, is a Business Development Adviser for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Prosch is a leading expert in operations and a Certified Restorer. He has a deep understanding of entrepreneurial challenges having owned and operated a successful restoration company for more than 30 years. Through Violand, he works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit violand.com or call (800)360-3513.