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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Owners, Performers, and Optimizers

One of my really talented performers called today. He had met with a new consultant and was a little rattled, considering mutually assured destruction, rape, and pillage. He called wanting to know if I had any more satisfying revenge scenarios.

His boss, the company’s owner, had brought in the new guy because he was frustrated with their rate of growth. The consultant figured where better to start than with their top performer?

So the “consultant,” who is really an unemployed administrator, thought it would be helpful if the producer would take the time to recommend a dozen people with similar talents, right after documenting why he is successful.

The performer had an ugly year last year, and he did a lot better than the owner, best in the company, in fact. The consultant had been asked to clean out his desk at wherever he was hiding last year.

I’m real sure why the performer is successful. He works hard. He and I have spent a good deal of time honing what he does as he learns about what his market wants.

After figuring out something new, he disappears into the market and comes back with a new trophy. In the last 20 or so years, I’ve seen him do it at six companies, and what he does changes as the buyers’ needs change.

Sooner or later, he attracts the attention of an organizer who wants to optimize the effectiveness of the performer’s work. Not do any work, mind you, just trick somebody into supplying the magic slideshow that creates the tsunami.

Our internal explanation for these guys is, “When all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.”

At one company, we built an explanation of the market that bewildered a dozen optimizers, while the performer built a six billion dollar business.

Finally, one optimizer understood that the real problem was the performer and managed to rightsize him. The organization exited an unusually profitable multi-billion dollar niche fifteen months later.

And we understand the owner’s frustration. As we were figuring out a tactical plan, we realized that the performer is the main hope for the owner, and that being nasty wasn’t going to help.

We are dealing with a government controlled economic slowdown, so correct behavior to continue to  support the owner, without necessarily giving intellectual property to a consultant who can’t understand it. The owner is getting most of his useful support from the performer.

The best defense is not being offensive, it is using the current position as a vehicle until the road ahead clears.

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