Don’t Waste a Good Lockdown*

June 18, 2020

When the world comes out the other side of this lockdown, we had better be prepared for more change than we’ve ever seen before!

Before WW2, young Bill Lyons started bashing tin in his Blackpool garage to make shapes for vehicle bodies. He went on to build his company, Jaguar Cars into a powerhouse success, with an incredible brand name. Bill was a stylist; while Henry Ford built cars that worked, Bill Lyons built cars that had beauty and style. His cars were successful but they were underpowered so much that they got a reputation for being ‘All show and no go’. During the second world war, his factory was taken over to make aircraft parts and Jaguar Cars found itself under constant bombing threat. Britain was under the equivalent of a lockdown. Lyons designated his senior management team as the factory fire wardens so he could keep them together.

While on his fire watch, Chief Engineer William Heynes spent time sketching out an idea for a brand new more powerful engine that was unlike anything that existed. Lyons gave him the go-ahead and put him to work in a back room for the duration of the war. Heynes developed his first engine that he called the XA, X for experimental and A for the first model. After putting it through its paces he thought he could do better, so he built an XB. Once again, the cycle repeated and he continued to learn and improve through the cycles until he had developed the 11th model. That was the one he decided was good enough, the XK.

When the war ended, Lyons was back in business and he had an engine but no car. Within a few weeks, his engineers put together a sports-car platform for the engine and called it the Jaguar XK 120, because that’s how fast it went. It was the fastest car in the world. The Americans loved it, and thank goodness, because Britain desperately needed the money. Lyon’s business expanded rapidly, with the XK engine powering all his cars for the next 40 years, under his inspirational slogan – ‘Grace, Space, Pace’. Now Sir William Lyons, young Bill built a world-wide business employing 20,000 skilled people, was knighted, made a fortune, and left a legacy.

Potter Josiah Wedgwood made up over 600 glazes in his workshop before he got just the right translucent finish for his new bone china. It made him a fortune. The rest is legacy history. James Dyson made over 5000 prototypes of his vacuum cleaner in his garden shed before he was satisfied with it. (I doubt that his recent new ventilator needed as many!). He parlayed his cyclonic vacuum into a world-wide business, was knighted and made a fortune. He’s now the richest man in the UK, and will no doubt leave a legacy.

Time to head into the garage, the back room or the garden shed, and get going!


*With apologies to Sir Winston Churchill, who said -“ Never waste a good crisis”


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