I recently read an article on Thomas Bata, the Czechoslovakian-born cobbler who became ‘shoemaker to the world’ through his Toronto-based Bata Shoes. There is a famous, somewhat apocryphal story about him that speaks to the entrepreneurial nose for opportunity. In determining whether to expand his company into Africa, Mr. Bata and one of his senior executives traveled to the dark continent on a scouting mission. They agreed that the senior executive would travel down the African east coast recording his observations while Mr. Bata would do the same down the west coast. They would meet back in Canada, compare notes and make a decision.
On returning, the senior executive reported that the prospects in Africa were dismal. As he stated, ‘There is no way we are not going to sell shoes down there. It is hopeless. Over ninety-percent of the people do not even wear shoes. The remaining ten-percent wear sandals’. The entrepreneur listened intently and then offered his observations, ‘This is one of the greatest opportunities in the history of our company. The possibilities are endless…think about it, no one even wears shoes down there”.
About the Author
Robert Hebert is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements.