We were all horrified to see the Interstate 35W bridge spanning the Mississippi River in Minnesota collapsed in 2007.
What may be surprising is a Discovery Channel report that indicates pigeons may be partially responsible for the collapse. Certainly experts aren’t looking to the pigeon as the brainchild of some terrorist plot, but the pigeons apparently do create a problem, and not just for bridges.
This DC report indicates pigeon guano is highly corrosive. Since these birds instinctively nest in concealed locations the discrete call of nature can provide significant and corrosive buildup given enough time.
Reports going back to 1987 indicate the birds were a problem in relation to the bridge in the collapse and their guano was especially problematic for bridge inspectors who recognized the potential problem. Screens were placed over openings in the bridge reducing nesting opportunities, but the birds continued to roost on the steel beams, which pigeons apparently view as a place to roost much like they would on cliffs in a more natural setting.
According to the report, the corrosive nature of pigeon guano may have actually accelerated rusting of the steel beams of the Minnesota bridge beyond engineers original predictions.
Colorado Department of Transportation officials indicate pigeon guano can actually dissolve concrete.
No one is saying the pigeons are responsible, but the bridge collapse has allowed concerns to be issued and other states are looking into ways to discourage pigeons from seeing bridges as a desirable place to roost.
Entrepreneurs can gain some insight into how they develop their business from the hapless pigeon.
There is a saying that is true in most instances, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” However, when developing a business it is important to at least pay attention and work at managing the ‘small stuff’.
It is possible to view minor issues that come up as simple annoyances, but the accumulation of ‘small stuff’ provides the potential of creating a major problem in the realm of entrepreneurialism.
Developing an entrepreneurial enterprise is not unlike building a bridge in that you need a mechanism to get from one location to another. Entrepreneurialism helps make it possible to travel to where your dreams have yearned to explore (from point A to point B).
Sometimes the concentration of mismanaged, but minor, details can cause the bridge of entrepreneurialism to collapse. For instance if you do not pay attention to the details of administration you may miss details that could cause problems down the road. Refusing to look into various government regulations could cause additional problems, setbacks and the potential collapse of your entrepreneurial efforts. These problems might be minor setbacks or they could be something more substantial.
I recognize the devastation of the bridge collapse and nothing in this article is intended to minimize the seriousness of the issue, but the matter of the pigeons and their long-term association with the bridge provides a powerful lesson in the negative effects of failing to adequately address the small problems in your startup. This is true of bridges, life and entrepreneurialism.