The Cat and the Squirrel

Mao vs. Squirrel 1

I was out in the yard the other day when I heard this tremendous commotion down in the lower part of the yard.  Turns out it was a cat chasing a squirrel.  There’s a woman down the street who has a number of cats and they roam the neighborhood.  Most are pretty ordinary except one has three legs and one is as black as great coffee.  It was this black one I saw giving its all to catch the squirrel and of course the immediate thought I had, which pertains to cats and business, was what is it going to do when it catches it?

That same sort of thinking isn’t unique to cats.  Philosophers have wondered for years what happens when a dog finally catches the mail truck, right?  But we humans sometimes manifest the same sort of behavior and I’ll give you a couple of examples.

Take the start-up that pitches big companies on being a provider.  This is sometimes a chihuahua chasing a semi.  I’ve been involved with this personally many times – companies have pitched my old company, the NHL, as a client and my large media current clients.  Inevitably, issues such as documentation, scale, customer service, and implementation come up and the start-up assures everyone that they can handle everything.  The fun begins when they get the order and realize they can’t – they caught the mail truck and got run over.  They might have hoped to use their new big deal as a reference point to generate other new business.  Instead it becomes something that crushes them.

Let’s move on to the manager who wants new responsibilities.  As digital became a “hot” place to be, I saw a number of executives attempt to insert themselves into that area even though they knew nothing about it from a technology or business perspective.  They had some digital experience as a consumer and figured it couldn’t be all that difficult.   They could not have been more wrong and their failures on various projects made they and their departments look incompetent.  They caught the squirrel – now what?

All of us need to grow as individuals.  All businesses need new clients.  But the landscape is littered with the corpses of businesses that were underfunded and grew too fast as well big companies (Starbucks, as an example) that were well-managed but chased one squirrel too many.  Moving people and companies forward is how I spend my time so I’m all for that.  Making sure they have the ability to handle what thy catch is a big part of the equation.

You with me?

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