Like Good Cheese and Fine Wine. It All Takes Time

Last week we had a meeting with an architect friend of Janey’s. Up for discussion were some ideas around changes to the main Lodge building. These proposed changes include a revamp of the kitchen and bar working areas, and also changes to the customer dining and lounge areas.

Where we would like to end up after having carried out these changes is, in the customer area, having better seating options and improved customer flow and comfort. In our working area, it is to have a better workflow and give us the capability to offer an a la carte menu.

An a la carte menu will allow us to maximise opportunities highlighting produce from our own gardens.

However, these proposed changes, exciting as they may be, are not the reason for this post. Rather the reason for this post is what I got out of the walk around the whole property. As with any meeting such as the one outlined above, there is always an obligatory wander around the buildings and grounds, showing areas off, highlighting those features that don’t work so well, talking about successes and failures, ideas that worked and those that did not.

What I got out of this particular walk was a deep appreciation of the impact of what I would like to call incremental change.

Incremental change, I liken to the effect of compound interest. Compound interest is the interest gained where you invest a sum, you may add to it at intervals, but you leave the total sum to grow, in effect, gaining interest not only on the initial sum invested and periodically added to but also interest on the interest. Over time, compound interest can have a profound effect on how much you save.

When you work within an organisation or place of work for a long time, such as a farm or a place like River Valley, you do not always note the incremental (or compound) changes. You do not always notice, that in the same way as compound interest becomes greater than the sum of its inputs, how incremental changes can lead over time to profound changes. Take how the growth of trees in gardens seems to pull buildings down into the landscape, making them look as if they belong. Or of how that area of paving combined with that deck and some plantings has created inviting hangout areas, greater than the individual parts.

How additions, often but not always, add to the utility and attractiveness of existing structures in ways that are greater than all the parts.

How River Valley has developed over the years

Early 1980s prior to the lodge being built.  The people would have belonged to the Palmerston North Canoe Club as there are slalom poles set up on the river.

Early 1990s.  The main lodge had been built but not the volleyball court or gardens.

The lodge as it is today.

I have been involved in this River Valley journey for 33 years. In that time we never have, other than from the Bank received funds to help us grow and develop. Because of this, change and development have always been incremental. No big-time investors here! No fairy godmother with a $5 million brush making everything finished.

Rather the pace of change has been incremental, one or two projects each year. Some of them have been a stretch for sure and placed us under considerable strain, but each time we got through. The old saying, “pulling yourself up by your own bootlaces” sums it up well.

A wander around with people who have not been involved in the journey makes you look at what that incremental development has achieved. How overtime so much has changed (and so many critical things have stayed the same).

Or to use another analogy, that just like making truly great wine or superb cheese, it all takes time.

Changes to the main lodge building

The main lodge under construction, probably early 1988.

rafting in the 80s

The lodge sometime between 1995 and 2000 – prior to building the reception in 2001 and remodelling the gardens

The main lodge building as it is today.

And at the end of the wander around the buildings and grounds, you are back where you started, sitting at a table in the main Lodge, sipping on a Flat White coffee and thinking to yourself, so much to do yet, but so much also to be pleased with and grateful for.

I would imagine that many people in their own lives do not always take the time for a wander and see what incremental change has meant for them.

I probably need to take a quiet wander more often.

Brian Megaw

River Valley Lodge panorama

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