Facing the unexpected: Overcoming obstacles takes time — and a little patience

You might think that the Pennsylvania Game Commission doesn’t seem like it would have much to do with business advice, insights and strategy, but you’d be wrong.

This month I spoke with several people about the lights on Gulf Tower for our Uniquely Pittsburgh feature. As part of that, Larry Walsh, principal and COO of Rugby Realty Co. Inc., Pittsburgh, related a humorous story about when they started installing the new LED lights just over two years ago.

And that got me thinking about obstacles and unintended consequences.


Facing problems out of the blue

In late winter 2012, workers started installing the new weather beacon system near the top of Gulf Tower. Unfortunately, this interfered with the nesting season of the peregrine falcons that had been using a box on the tower for 21 years.

Walsh said a representative of the Pennsylvania Game Commission — who had a gun in her holster — showed up at the building and told everyone to stop work immediately.

The wildlife conservation officer referenced the fact that a company had been fined $1 million for disturbing a falcon nest, and Walsh says Gulf Tower management was told not to go down that road.

Clearly, the nesting cycles of peregrine falcons never entered into the equation.

Time and time again, I hear stories about how it’s impossible to control everything in business as much as you’d like. CEOs and senior executives can probably attribute gray hair and sleepless nights to trying to plan for the future and foreseeing all obstacles.

But then after all that worrying and planning, sometimes the unexpected still occurs.


Overcoming obstacles with time

In the case of the peregrine falcons, Walsh says the project was delayed for months, and the bird enthusiasts were outraged.

Amazingly, the falcons found another home. They took over a ledge on the other side of town — avoiding a move to the suburbs — to nest and raise their young.

The nest, however, was much more inaccessible which meant no live camera feed nor the ability to band the baby birds.

And once the lights were installed, the questions continued.

“There was a concern when we were doing the light project — we didn’t know what the birds were going to do with these LED lights,” Walsh says.

In their history, the falcons had only dealt with static spotlights, not changing LEDs.

But nature found a way to overcome all obstacles. On March 10, 2014, the falcons finally returned to the Gulf Tower to nest in their former spot, producing five eggs that hatched into healthy chicks.

I’m not the most patient person in the world. In fact, I’m probably not even the most patient person in whatever room I’m in.

So, what I’m going to take away from this story is that when the unexpected happens, yes, it’s bad — but it doesn’t have to be disastrous. You do what you can to alleviate the problems and sometimes, with time, things have a way of working out.