The Inventory

Anyone remember Fairfax Cone?  His name used to be on the door at Foote, Cone, and Belding, now DraftFCB.  I was thinking about what is probably his most famous quote:

“The inventory goes down the elevator every night.”

He was talking about people.  While there is certainly intellectual property that is owned by businesses, the reality in my book is that businesses are the people who comprise them.  Hire good people, you’ll have a good business.  Hire schlubs, well, not so much.

I had a client ask me what I thought we could do to jump start what is a business dying a slow death.  I believe the business itself is OK – not the most robust media sector but still viable.  I told him two things – use more technology to expand his reach and, more importantly, bring in someone in a key role (they have a vacancy) whom you hire less on the basis of his/her resume or specific job skills and more and the basis of their vision, people skills, and ability to make a better sandbox where the other kids want to play.

I’ve worked in places where the people were thought of as totally replaceable parts.  While no one is irreplaceable, discounting things such as institutional memory and team cohesiveness is, in my opinion, a management mistake.  Up to a point, one can find a fair number of people with relatively equal skill sets.  What always distinguished one candidate from another in my mind was that ability to play nicely with the other kids and to become a unique, integral part of the business.

People are a source of competitive advantage.  Discount the value of those people and you’re removing the advantage.  Now,  why would you want to do that!

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Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints, Thinking Aloud

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