Welkom | 256 km (160 miles) | Population 408 173 | Author: Bob | Day 1
Aliwal North | Author: Bob | Day 2
We arrive the next day in Aliwal North with the good intentions of apologising and moving on. The hurt and anger, of us Roland simply dropping this town of 80 000 inhabitants from our list of to do's, cuts deep and I feel wretched, while Teresa points to her PNC-960 bought fifteen years ago and calls it "My first million" It strikes home once again our task is to free the butterfly that lives within everyone, by making people believe they can so easily shed the worm and fly!!
I know now, that we cannot let any town down and we will need to double our efforts. The five hours packing and unpacking needs serious streamlining.
East London | 717 km (Running total; 973 km) | Population 212 323| Author: Bob | Day 3
Port Elizabeth | 300km (Running total;1 273 km) | Population 749 921 | Author: Bob | Day 4
|The emerging lights of Port Elizabeth a welcome relief at 2:30 am. Jaco in the trailing vehicle, without a swap out driver, physically worn out by the strain of the journey. The team is dangerously close to mutiny. Sam in the ariculated truck arrives at 4 am travel weary and beaten. The pace we have set, far too dangerous and punishing. A decision needs making, we need to lengthen the trip, effectively doubling it, if we are to survive as team and actually stay alive. We rush some emergency relief to the straining team calling on Bianca, Pooven and Michael to join the show. I need to return for a short while to the office to sort out headaches that are slowly crowding the little time I have to my own thoughts.
Setting up Port Elizabeth becomes a challenge on its own with the truck unable to park near the convention center, we need therefore to push the products up a steep hill. Here the dolly's prove to be invaluable, and Wayne and Darren reveal an inner energy source that keeps the team competitive. We take up half the exhibition hall with our display, it is clear Roland owns the exhibition. The team that night has its first proper meal since leaving Welkom 5 days previously, the tension is palpable, the team leaders don't rise to the occasion and dig a deep negative swathe through the old and new teams.
I do not attend the show in Port Elizabeth as I jet home for two days to sort out as much as I can of my administration headaches.
George | 323km (Running total;1 596km) | Population 203 253| Author: Bob |Day 6
Cape Town | 323km (Running total;1 596km) | Population 203 253| Author: Bob | Day 7
|They arrive in Cape Town to be greeted by an inappropriate site, yes its near a shopping mall but for only that qualification does it succeed, for the rest it fails dismally, the ground is uneven and the pass by traffic is as close to zero as you will get The area is filled with gusty winds that carry the tents and Vicky the able rescuer who holds desperately to the tie down as it threatens to carry her and itself out into the ocean.
A quick decision is made to move to a grassy knoll, fortunately the tent pegs had been sent by courier to Cape Town, if not the show would have needed to be cancelled. It is clear over the next two days that our marketing efforts leave much to be desired and we are seriously late in delivery and the deadlines have been ignored to our own peril. The Radio advert is rushed to be in time for the next town Vrededal. Vicky again the able rescuer takes the flyer's and plasters all the cars windscreens parked at the mall.
I arrive back on the first day to find boxes and tent bags etc carelessly thrown in the back of the container, so much so that I cannot help but destroy some of the boxes in clambering over the debris. Carefully unpacking, myself and Sam sweep and clean the container, as untidy is only going to create more delays, destroy more assets and ultimately make everyone's temper very short. We soon have it spic and span again and the necessity of cleaning the container after every unload now becomes a habit, which pays huge dividends.
A visit to the mall convinces me that wherever there are closed malls in a town, ie roofed; that we should opt to be inside the mall, yes it is expensive but considering that it costs approx R6000 ($750) a day to keep the team on the road and the investment in the container with all its frills is is just over 2 Million ($285 000) the investment in malls would seem insignificant in the bigger picture. Robert and Grant take their leave for Johannesburg early, happy to see their short stint come to a close and the mood still dark threatens to overwhelm me. Bianca, lloyd, Sam and I visit Table Mountain and they are blown away at the views from on top, I feel the mood slowly lifting and a new excitement, like a beautiful flower starts to unfold. I breath a sigh of relief.
We close the show early on the second day, with a grand number of 23 visitors, and pack for 4 hours. The sandy site has left its mark with the machines covered in it and the carpets carrying in half a ton of trampled in dirt. The team feels very despondent that for all their efforts so few have turned up and we begin to question the validity of the road show concept. We retire tired and dejected, clinging to a small thread of hope, “this has to get better!”
It is important to realise that the road show will have many resisters and detractors, this the nature of trying something new, there are those that run exhibitions who see us as essentially changing the playing field, no longer do we expect our customer to come to us, but we will go to them. There are those who are extremely comfortable in our family who have not bothered to read the signs of the world wide meltdown and don't realise the game has to change, this will require many experiments in determining the correct approach. There are those who by their nature resist change, and those who feel that they are too important to make the effort to change. Our competitors also don't want us to succeed as they will then need to emulate us, furthermore some of the customers in these remote towns also feel threatened by us making their customers aware of the technology they are using.
We and only us can make this a winning experience by learning from our mistakes. Those who dare win, those who sit still waiting for the future will get hit by a runaway train. So please understand the purpose of my criticism, it is adapt and create a wonderful future or die a lingering death in the calmness of your pleasant garden.
The Road Show in its final form is still to arrive, it is in the journey that we need to learn the winning ideas that will make it fantastic not just great. If we combine the power of all our minds in a constructive concentrated effort we will blow all the detractors and the resisters out of the water. You may sit and mope or you can fight back with better ideas. I hope it is the latter or we need to say goodbye, my role is to look to your future and hopefully create a better one for you all, this I can only do if you all supply me with accurate market intelligence and applying our minds in a collective brainstorm. There is a further habit amongst some of you to indicate that when a choice proves unworkable that you always knew it would not work. This is counter productive, share your thoughts before the event or as the priests say forever hold your peace.
Vredendal | 302km (Running total; 2 330km) | Population 13 666 | Author: Bob | Day 10
Springbok | 272km (Running total; 2 602km) | Population 10 294 | Author: Bob | Weekend at the Augrabies Waterfalls | Day 12
Upington | 375km (Running total; 2 977km) | Population 100 920| Author: Bob | Day 15 | Including a stop in Putsonderwater
Prieska | 248km (Running total; 3 225km) | Population 11 187 | Author: Bob | Day 17
De Aar | 184km (Running total; 3 409km) | Population 45 857| Author: Bob | Day 19
Aliwal North | 318km (Running total; 3 727km) | Population 22 508| Author: Bob | Day 21
Lady Brand | 219km (Running total; 3 946km) | Population 34 950 | Author: Bob | Day 23
Lady Brand was a great success! Our tents were positioned in the middle of town, right on the Town Hall's front grass. Up to 60 visitors grace our machine packed tent and the team's mood is lifted once again.
Bethlehem | 221km (Running total; 4 167km) | Population 66 704 | Author: Bob | Day 25
|The peak of team Alpha's effort has been achieved. Bethlehem blows our team out the water with the interest and pure curiosity shown towards our tents as well as our Roland machines.
Harrismith | 92km (Running total; 4 259km) | Population 96 000 | Author: Jared | Day 27
|The roadshow for me began with a bang. Driving to Harismith I expected to meet the team at the venue or the hotel only to find the Roland truck on the side of the freeway, much to my amazement, 20 km outside of Harrismith on a deserted piece of land. Wondering now if the team had gone completely mad and decided to have a drive through roadshow, I half u-turned to make my way to the truck, only to find them all unpacking the container to replace stock and maximize efficiency of the container for the new team that was about to take over aka Team Beta.
With the SJ-1045 being taken out and the new flooring put into the container, along with some improvements in the packing method, we are assured that the new team has it easier and there should be no problems with build up and take down of the show. After learning a few ins and outs of how the operation is done, we set off confidently in the hope that the new team would be in good stead for the show and have a smoother time than Team Alpha.
We start setup at 6.30am and are finished comfortably by 10am ready for the days events. The show starts slowly but for such a small town we were not expecting a huge response. We start to get a steady stream of visitors to the show mid morning/lunch time, mostly existing customers, but they are still amazed at the effort we have put in for their little town. Robert speaks to some customers about the show and finds out some valuable information. In the small rural towns there are many people that live on farms which are far out, hence most of the locals will come into town earlier on in the day and then head back home. This happens especially on the weekends and should be taken into account for future shows.
Chantellele and Allister do well to show new products to existing customers. They would not normally see such a wide variety of machines unless they are able to attend the bigger annual shows in JHB or Durban. I find from their responses that they appreciate that we have made the effort to come to their town. In total we had around 10-20 visitors to the show, I am sure Chantellele can confirm if this number is correct. We set the projector screen up for the first time and showed some videos, but the light from outside made it difficult to see. We planned to use the PA system in the next town to attract people to the tents. Overall the response from the show was positive. We even had one customer very interested in the LEC-540, but that, we will have to see...
We pack up in a time of 3 hours and are very confident that the next leg of the show should be fine, even though we will be without the help of Chantellele and Allister. We try learn as much as we can from them to take on to the next town, Ladysmith.
Ladysmith | 82km (Running total; 4 431km) | Population 225 452 | Author: Jared | Day 29
Richards Bay | 276km (Running total; 4 707km) | Population 252 968 | Author: Brian | Day 31
Pongola | 190km (Running total; 4 897km) | Population 10 000| Author: Brian | Day 33
Vryheid | 109km (Running total; 5 006km) | Population 10 000| Author: Brian | Day 35
|A Sunday in a long weekend is now a day that we must learn to avoid. We put posters on fences and trees and Adam had tried to distribute flyers during a service visit the previous week. Shoprite venue was okay and alongside a taxi rank which had been unbelievably busy at site inspection on Saturday midday, but on Sunday the place was quiet. A disappointment for all, but we had about 40 visitors and some were quality leads, some existing customers and some genuine interest from business people not normally associated with Roland equipment.
Break down commenced at 2:00pm as there had not been a single customer since midday. The parting gesture to chase us out of town was that we awoke on Monday, Heritage Day public holiday to find that the truck had been splattered with green paintball pellets. This washed off, and hopefully, was only a teenage prank and nothing more sinister.
Newcastle | 97km (Running total; 5 103km) | Population 245 425 | Author: Jared | Day 37 & 38
Volksrus | 45km (Running total; 5 148km) | Population 43 378 | Author: Jared | Day 39
|We arrived during the night having left Newcastle at 06h00, the road to Volksrus was only 45km but took us 2 hours due to road works. We had plan to try have a small show with one tent the next day, even though we had done two days in Newcastle. When we arrived at the shopping center we realized the truck was not permitted onto the parking lot. The street outside had a no stopping sign along it. We were thus unable to do the show in any case. We were lucky we had made the decision to do a two day show in Newcastle as this would have been a huge disappointment that we could not exhibit in Volksrus. With an extra day now we decided not to waste it and do a bit of cold calling on potential customers. The town is so small we were finished in under an hour. The negativity from the residents was incredible and had started to dampen our mood substantially so we decided to move straight onto Piet Retief. We decided the extra two days in Piet Retief would help us to do more marketing for the show.
Piet Retief | 120km (Running total; 5 268km) | Population 44 981| Author: Jared | Day 40
Thabazimbi | 141km (Running total; 5 905km) | Population 85 000 | Author: Mike | Day 45
|Sam is on his way to Thabazimbi from Rustenburg. Robert meets us in Britz for the change over. Edmund takes the place of Llloyd and Adam joins us from Durban. Closer to Thabazimbi we pass through some beautiful mountains until we see the huge iron mountains which are mined for their iron ore. We book into the B&B and check out the venue. It is a lovely grassed site at a sports ground on a fairly busy street. We look around to see if we can find a better site, but to no avail.
Next morning we start setting up at 6h00 and are ready by about 9h00. Lots of traffic passing in front of us but nobody stops. Adam and Martin do a walk through town with brochures. This doesn't help. We again walk into town and visit various shops but the answer is 'not interested'. I visit the ladies in the shop across the road with a couple of prints for them, they promise, but don't visit. Although we had about 30 people pass through the tent, it was rather disappointing. We are told by a very pleasant Mr Gawie Hendriks that a Saturday is not a good day for a show in Thabazimbi.
Ellisras | 127km (Running total; 6 032km) | Population 105 000 | Author: Mike | Day 46
|We have a very pleasant drive through 'bush' country to Ellisras and see Baboons, Nyala, and many other animals along the road. We are greeted by Impala as we drive into the Lodge grounds, a very pleasant place. We check out the venue and find the best place we could possibly have – in the parking lot right in front of Pic n Pay.
Next morning we arrive at 6h00 and start setting up, only to be disturbed by a local printer who abuses Martin and tells us that we are unethical and are here to further dilute their small market. He had also phoned the other six printers in the town and asked them to boycott the show. We were open at about 8h45 and soon after, the next printer couple came in very boisterously. After showing them around and showing them all the things their VP540 could do (that they were not aware of) their mood changed and they left with a humble apology of the way they first approached us. Jonathan then went to their shop and showed them how they could use their machine to its fullest potential. (They returned again while we were packing up and again thanked us for the help we had given them). We had a visit from four of the other printers who all left very positively. We got business cards from them and they all benefited in the business sense from the show. (It's amazing how many people would like large prints and are not aware that this can be done).
We had a visit from the local press (Zoutpansberger) who took photo's and offered to advertise for us the next time we are in town.
We must have had 200+ visitors and this was certainly the best show on this leg. (according to Adam the second best after Newcastle). The team were in very high spirits after this very pleasant and successful day.
Mokopane | 182km (Running total; 6 214km) | Population 325 000 | Author: Mike | Day 47
|After negotiating some very steep and twisty roads, we booked into the Protea and went to inspect the site. Although the surface was good, the positioning was not. We then went driving around to find something better. Both the big shopping complexes refused to even consider space for us, saying that their parking space was limited. We then went to the Chamber of business and spoke to one of the board members, a very pleasant lady who showed us a few places, which were unfortunately also not suitable. (stone surface and access). She offered the services of the chamber for our next show there. She says they have a large database and can send invitations to many people on our behalf.
In the end we had to settle for the place we had which turned out to be a particularly good day and much better than expected. We had 100+ visitors of which many were what we are looking for. We were up and ready by 8h15 and had our first visitors shortly thereafter. By 10h00 we had had more than 20 visitors. Lots of interest in the Stika and GX24 machines. There will be a number of machines ordered as a direct result of the show.
Polokwane | 65km (Running total; 6 279km) | Population 271 911 | Author: Mike | Day 48
|Before setting off for Polokwane, we visited a Wildlife breeding centre which was a very pleasant experience for all. A rather aggressive female lion gave a bit of excitement. We saw wild dog, cheetah, black rhino, buffalo, pygmy hippos and many other animals.
The drive to Polokwane was short and after checking in at the lodge, we went to inspect the site which was supposed to be in a shopping centre parking area at the entrance of Game, but when we got there they would not let us and instead offered a site next to the shopping centre in the overflow and delivery parking area which also faced onto the main road. Although not ideal, it was a pretty good site.
We opened at 9h00 the next morning, and started printing banners which we put up in the main parking area with arrows pointing in our direction. This helped a lot (many people said they saw the banners and decided to look in.). We had a steady flow of visitors right through until we closed at 16h15. Lots of existing Roland users visited thanks to Maizeys and Seethrough who sent out lots of invitations the day before. We had well over 100 visitors. Although a very good and rewarding show with lots of potential sales and lots of Roland exposure, it could have been better if we had a better site. A new shopping centre ('the size of Menlyn') opened the day we arrived and would be a potential site next time, although this site is closer to the business area.
Musina | 216km (Running total; 6 495km) | Population 43 586 | Author: Mike | Day 49
|We left Polokwane at about 8h00 and did a 'recce' of Micado which was a hub of activity and I believe we should have a show there next time. There is a good site on the Eastern side of the N1. (shopping centre parking area).
After booking into the B&B we went to the shopping centre and met David ( an extremely helpful and co-operative man who really went out of his way to help us). We agreed to do the show in the shopping mall – a very nice site. We were warned that a Sunday was not a good day and that the shopping centre would close at 13h00
Back at the B&B Sam had a visitor in front of his room which was frightened away by Edmund before Sam even saw it, a streepslang which is extremely fast but completely harmless. After checking out all the rooms everybody settled down, but 'snake fever' was still lurking in the background. The B&B was in a lovely setting but was in a disgraceful state – such a pity that such a beautiful place is left to deteriorate to such an extent that it is unpleasant.
We decided to get an early start and were ready at about 8h15. We had a relatively good show. A Zimbabwean who was very interested in starting up in Zimbabwe and a couple who showed interest in a Stika but otherwise it was mostly people looking for freebies. We closed at 13h30 when they started closing off the shopping centre.
As there were no decent places to eat, we decided to have an early dinner at Tshipise (and a swim in the hot water – which was enjoyed by all)
Phalaborwa | 251km (Running total; 6 746km) | Population 109 468 | Author: Mike | Day 50
|After an early start and a relatively long drive we booked into our B&B which was a really delightful place ( with Augrabies, the best we had stayed in). Fantastic service and lovely people. We then did our usual checking out of the site and found a very helpful Hennie who agreed to us using a very nice area in the parking lot of a large shopping centre.
Next day we had an early start and in spite of some light rain, were ready before 9h00. This was a very nice site, but even though we had more visitors, at least 150 (some say 200), than at any of the other shows, somehow we didn't really get the right visitors. We probably had about twenty that had the right interest. We did however make a big impact on those that did visit – 'Amazed that you get such big printers' , 'we are so thankful that you came to show us all these fantastic machines' , 'so nice that you came to teach us about all these things' – were some of the comments.. One enterprising young man who was a boiler maker without a job was explaining to others how the machines worked. (This after he had been around a few times asking lots of questions). He later told us that he was 'learning to be an employer' and was practising. We stayed busy until almost 16h30, but then had to pack up as there was a BIG storm brewing.
All in all a rewarding and busy day.
Nelspruit | 198km (Running total; 6 944km) | Population 3 617 600 | Author: Mike | Day 51
|After another early start we arrived in Nelspruit at around lunch time and booked into the Protea hotel. We then dropped Adam off at the airport for his flight back to Durban and went off to the shopping centre (quite a big centre which joined up with the Casino) where the show was to be. We met Ria who was extremely helpful and co-operative. We were given a site in the shopping centre, which was rather small (40 square metres) but very well situated. The logistics of getting the equipment there was a bit of a challenge – an escalator, three flights of stairs or a rather small lift. This and the limited space decided what we would show.
Next day we had an early start as we had to have everything set up by 8h30. Fortunately the two small printers fitted into the lift and with a few Pick n Pay trolleys we were set up and ready before 8h30. Even though the venue was good, it was not very busy as it was the day before the Easter week-end. By about 11h30 there were very few people and those that were there were in a hurry and very few even stopped to have a look. At about 14h00 we decided to pack up and head home.
Unfortunately the timing of this show did not allow for its full potential.
This was the last show of this leg which I believe was a very successful and enjoyable leg thanks to a fantastic team and the help from Seethrough, TDS and WIP.