A few days ago, I took friends to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle. It’s close to my house – right around 100km and I have been there many times. But no matter how often I go there, I am always amazed by the stunning beauty of this monument. It is situated amidst rugged and snow-covered mountains. Awesome waterfalls, lush forrests and pristine lakes surround it. This is the stuff you read about in fairytales. The person who had this castle built truly had a stunning vision.
THE CASTLE BUSINESS
Fabled Bavarian King Ludwig II is known as the fairy-tale king. Born in 1845, he had a thing for beauty and architecture. And he had a big vision for himself and Bavaria. Under his reign, several amazing castles were built across Bavaria. Each one of these castles is highly unique and breath-taking: there are hidden grottos, magic dining-room tables, mirrored dance halls. And this is why millions of tourists from all over the world flock to these castles. They spend their precious money on tours, horse-carriage rides, souvenirs, food, drinks and hotels. It is safe to say that the economic contribution of these sights is enormous. Bavaria is benefiting from these castles in a big way. Vision accomplished!
This interesting story sparked a discussion amongst our group: What if the king had not followed his vision and played it safe? Would Bavaria be as popular and famous amongst tourists as it is today? What would have happened to these remote regions? Difficult to say, but we all agreed that things would be quite different. The king did run into serious resistance when he built his dream castles: while the general public supported him (the castle building created many jobs in the poor and remote regions), his ministers did not appreciate his personal spending habits and vision. The tried to block, hinder and deceive. But the king did not get bogged down in short-term thinking. He did not try to please his ministers. No, he poured his entire energy and fortunes into accomplishing his goals. The one thing we can safely say is that the King’s decisions ultimately led to the long-term well-being of Bavarian tourism.
TOO MUCH SHORT-TERM THINKING?
If we look at how many businesses are run these days, we have to observe that long-term thinking is quickly becoming a rare sight. We are so focused on making our next quarter’s numbers that we often loose sight of our vision. We cut expenses to make margins today but we sacrifice our ability to innovate which will hurt us in the long-term. We push customers to purchase our goods and services at times when we should be investing in long-term relationships. Investors are impatient and the day and age of the Internet seems to have taught many people that they should expect instantaneous gratification. Most of us know that this wrong and we often hear bloggers, analysts and managers complain about this periodic short-term thinking.
There is so much opportunity out there today. Much more opportunity than we have ever had. But we are often at risk of not fully leveraging the moment, by wanting to take it all today. Making a bold vision happen is very difficult if we are guided by short-term thinking. Shouldn’t we start shifting our focus back towards longer-term decision-making? Shouldn’t we strive to give up a little bit right here and right now to ensure that we are more successful in the future? This is true for our companies and for our personal lives. Why don’t we reconnect with our personal vision and the vision of our company? Let’s make a change today and start building some castles!
FINAL REMARKS: One could argue that the King followed the wrong vision. He did spend a fortune on his projects and the value was not quite apparent at that time. Unfortunately, King Ludwig II. ultimately paid the highest price: His ministers were discomforted by his behavior and managed to have him declared insane. He was arrested at Neuschwanstein and admitted to a mental hospital at Lake Starnberg. His dead body was found the next day. He supposedly drowned in knee-deep water. He remains extremely popular in Bavaria and many people suspect that he was killed (he was known to be an exceptional swimmer).