Before you can rebuild, you have to deconstruct, says CFO Brad Wentzel


Frey’s Food CFO Brad Wentzel shares the similarities between disassembling a motorcycle and deconstructing a business strategy.

In the first part of this series, we looked at what you need to start building a motorcycle. Now, service manual in head and hand, it’s time to disassemble.

My recent career change coincided with this phase of the motorcycle build, and the lessons, I’ve found, are very similar.

Read more: 100 days of Frey's 

Deconstruction doesn’t mean to demolish, but instead means to dissect or fractionate something to discover its purpose, operations and significance. This process is a journey and it’s important to understand what those before us have put in place and incorporate their processes and responses.

As I’ve said time and again, this means leaders need to immerse themselves in every situation and get their hands dirty.

Getting dirty

I have witnessed many C-suite executives and their incumbents elevating themselves to a 30,000-foot view immediately upon arrival in a new business, which has always flummoxed me. Our world and the problems we need to address are so opaque from that height that you won’t be able to understand what is happening at the coal face.

This doesn’t mean leaders shouldn’t extract themselves from the details when it comes to developing strategic plans, as this is truly the raison d’être of their roles, but instead, they need to first immerse themselves in the business.

When it comes to building a motorcycle, the internal combustion engine has some ethereal inner workings, so attention to detail in the disassembly process will only help to understand what is really going on.

When you start a new build/project, inspect what you have received and ascertain the condition it has been handed over to you in. A glutton for punishment and someone who enjoys overcoming insurmountable challenges, most of the motorcycles I procure come in a sorry state – often mostly disassembled and divided into plastic containers or fridge drawers (as is the case currently). I then embark on the process of repairing and reusing parts that might have been discarded by others.

Taking it back to business, a big part of this journey is finding the shortcuts that have been incorporated into the business systems and restoring them to their true operational intentions, with the correct equipment and specifications.

This means taking your time to understand the workings of the business engine and the people that drive it.

Picking at the details

We have the privilege to live in such an incredible time, where technology and human knowledge have converged into a myriad of opportunities. These advances, often achieved through combinations of strategic planning, trial and error, and sometimes just fortuitously, have impacted every facet of our lives.

Below are the steps I’ve tried and tested when it comes to disassembling a motorcycle and business.

  • Assess the entire picture – examine what you have and make a mental note of what you don’t have. The time to take action will come, but not yet.
  • Clean as you go – deal with the large items that require rectification immediately. You’ll be surprised how, with new techniques and minimal effort, people and parts return to a sheen that’s been dimmed for many years. Vapour blasting is a great modern way of cleaning bike parts.
  • Take notes – there is no implementation action required yet, but as you are delving into each detail of the business and the build, document in detail what you will need. Once you’ve completed the build/project, these notes should be used as a method of reminiscing and future encouragement.
  • Be systematic – deconstruct in a way that allows you to figure out how to piece it back together. Motorcycle parts fit in freezer bags, which are a great asset in compartmentalising what can appear to be an overwhelming amount of unknowns. In the workplace, an open door, plenty of one-on-ones and 360 reviews with each individual are the equivalent of freezer bags.
  • Allow for mistakes – this process improves the more you do it. Each situation is unique, with its own unique challenges.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and on-the-job training, coupled with your service manual, is the best way to learn.

Stay tuned for the next article to find out if you’re ready to start putting your bike together yet.

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