Household maintenance has never been one of my strong points. I’m not the handiest guy in the world. I’m not that precise at cuts, joins, and glueing, and frankly, I’ve never really enjoyed it that much. I do alright with electrical work – connecting wires and switches is pretty easy. Plumbing is the job I try to avoid. The consequences of poor plumbing are usually messy.
Tough economic times, however, have called upon us all to be more resourceful. Over the weekend I spent a few hours tracking down and repairing leaks in our pool filter, rather than call for a repairman. The pool was easy, though. The hot tub has become my personal plumbing “Alamo”. A top of the line Sundance Cameo, it was bought 13 years ago when we lived in Seattle. We loved it so much that when we moved to Ottawa we brought it with us, whereupon it promptly developed a slow leak. Every week, the water level would fall an inch and a half. The leak couldn’t be found, but no matter – the simple solution was to top up the water once a week.
A couple of winters ago, I forgot. In the middle of January, the water level fell below the pump intake, which meant that it stopped circulating, and therefore stopped heating. The tub froze. A freeze is catastrophic for a hot tub – it means cracked pipes, broken pumps, and more. Freeze damage can be repaired, however, if the leak can be found and the piping replaced. So last summer, we decided to do this.
Repairing a hot tub is a bit like building a startup. You know what the end goal is, but it takes a lot of steps to get there, and sometimes some significant back tracking. The process is to fill the tub, look for leaks, empty the tub, repair the leaks you’ve found, fill it again and look for more leaks. Just like building a new product – build, release, collect feedback, evaluate, build, and release again. Or as they say in shampoo commercials — lather, rinse, repeat.
The job didn’t get completed last year. It looked like it was almost done. The tub held water to just about 6 or 8 inches below the top. However, critical parts were slow to arrive from Sundance in California, and we were forced to winterize the spa. In spring, we discovered new leaks. The spa didn’t hold any water, which was a huge backtrack from the fall. Worse, the leaks were under the spa, requiring that it be turned on edge, and the foam insulation removed in order to find the problems.
So why go to the effort? Part of it is simply because I’m bloody minded and this thing isn’t going to beat me. It’s the personal symbolism – if I give up on the hot tub in these economic times, what else am I willing to give up on? And part of it’s the opportunity to become better at the job I hate the most around the house, plumbing.
In many ways, that’s the opportunity for all businesses and individuals in this economy. Become more resourceful, learn to do more with less, be creative and succeed in spite of what’s going on around you. Don’t give up. And startups — if you can prosper now, you can do well in any economy.
I think I’ll try kitchen cabinets next.