Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Gambler vs. The Business Man

Just about everybody, whether they like it or not, will remember Kenny Roger's best known song, "The Gambler". They will remember the song as much as anything, by the chorus;

You gotta know when to hold em,
Know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run.

You never count your money,
While you're sittin at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin,
When the dealin's done.

I got to thinking about this as I read that over 80,000 more people were "let go" this week. Someone has to decide who gets to stay and who gets to go; which is the pretty much the business end of "knowin what to throw away and knowin what to keep." Kenny makes it sound easy, all you have to do is "read people's faces" and "know what their cards are by the way they held their eyes." That's pretty easy, just read their faces and decide. Some of these decisions are pretty easy others...well they can get tougher as you go.

Here's some examples of the easy decisions;
1. The guy who loads the truck and delivers product to your remaining customers. KEEPER
2. The guy or gal who makes the products for your customers. KEEPER
3. The person who takes customer orders for your products. KEEPER

I like these type of decisions for a couple of reasons; first, I like keeping people around, and these people who clearly and directly serve the customer - are the ones who nobody should ever try and do without. They are in many ways the backbone of the business, and the backbone of America. On the other hand, if business get's slow enough, even some of these will have to go.

Now let's try a tough decision;
A "continuous improvement project manager" who during the six months has improved cash flow for the business by over $1,000,000 and reduced actual expense by $150,000? Keep or Toss? Hold or Fold? Here is some additional information to help you make the decision:
  • Was saving $1 million in cash flow necessary? Not really.
  • Would the savings have occurred without the project manager? Probably not.
  • What is the annual return of this individual. Approx. 20 -1
  • Who will know if this individual is not there? No one of any import.

Your decision? If you said "toss or fold" you got it right. If you think the example I am writing about is me, you are also correct. Why does it make sense for my company to let me go? Simple, my efforts and results are reasonably hard to quantify, and no one will know that I am not there to produce these results in 2009 or thereafter.

One of the things that even I never figured out how to analyze is "the work that should be done, but is not done." More simply said, what is the cost of not doing something? Most people won't know or realize if the strategic plan is not updated, or if it the strat plan in place is not realistic. No one will ever know how much money could have, would have, or should have been saved in excess inventory was eliminated, excess warehouses closed, non-value-added activities eliminated, and customer processes streamlined. Honestly, since these things are not measured - no one knows what they are worth - not even me. This makes it easy to eliminate some positions and not others.

Am I bitter? I hope not, I consider myself a reasonably capable Poker Player, Business Man, and Entrepreneur. As such, I know that people fold the wrong hands and keep the wrong hands all the time, they hire and fire the wrong and right people all the time, and they buy and sell business at the right and wrong time. They / we do it all the time. That's part of what makes Poker such a great game. It's also part of life, which is another really great game. It's also why professional poker players, almost never show their cards when their opponent folds. It's best to keep everybody guessing.

All the best,


One more thought, I'll bet if Kenny's song had been about the Businessman instead of the gambler, it wouldn't have sold many records.

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