S-t-r-e-t-c-h as a Strategy

When we think of the word “stretch”, for most of us it conjures up an image of working harder. However, stretch is very often about “Stretching” & challenging our mind to look beyond conventional wisdom and come up with a unique solution. This can happen at every level. Here’s a story on this theme.

S-t-r-e-t-c-h-as-a-StrategyHaving fled Seoul during the Korean War, we lived as refugees in Taegu. My father had been kidnapped and taken north, and my older brothers were serving in the army. It was up to me, at the age of fourteen, to earn a livelihood for the rest of the family. There was not much that a fourteen-year old could do in the chaos of the war, but fortunately one of my father’s former students, who worked at a newspaper, arranged for me to sell newspapers.

I usually sold the papers to the shops in the crowded Pangchon market in Taegu. As soon as I got the papers I ran to the market. If I lost time selling a couple of papers on the way, I could lose the market to other paperboys. So I was always the first one at the market, but I still could not capture the whole market, because I lost valuable time giving change as I sold to people in the first third of the market. During those precious moments, the other newsboys would catch up and pass me, securing the rest of the market for themselves.

In order to feed my family, I had to sell a minimum of the hundred papers a day; my mother and two younger brothers were always anxiously waiting for me at home. I had to come up with a new method to sell more papers, so everyday before I started I would make sure I had plenty of change ready. I was able to save important time by tossing the folded bills of change with the paper, grabbing the money, and running to the next shop. In that way, I eventually was able to capture about two-thirds of the market. But the other kids were still catching up with me.

I had to improve my tactics, and I did. I just ran through the market tossing the papers to the shops- nobody could catch up with me. Then I could take my time making my way back through the market to collect the money. Not everybody paid each day, but I was able to sell all my papers and usually was able to collect what was owed to me within a couple of days. After about two months, the other paperboys had given up completely, and I had the market all to myself.

Source: Every street is paved with gold by Kim-Woo-Jung, founder and chairman, Daewoo.