Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

May 2003

Cigar?

Picture this!

A sales rep I used to depend on for wit, wisdom and sales production in northern California used a visualization to keep him self on top of things. He flew a single-engine, high-performance plane to cover his large territory. Whenever I joined him in his plane for a few days of meeting and greeting our customers (specialty ski shops), he always asked, "Cigar?" as we buckled up.

At first, I thought he was offering me a cigar, which struck me as highly inappropriate as we were going to be cooped up in a small cabin.

"Hey, Floyd, I don't want to smell like an ashtray when I meet our dealers," I told him.

He laughed and explained that "cigar" was his flight checklist: chocks, instruments, gas, ailerons, rudder."

"Oh."

Lots of business people I've worked with over the years used visualizations to keep themselves concentrated on the task at hand. Most of the visual aids were versions of Floyd's checklist.

I wrote before of a fellow, Lowell, who had a big sign in his office facing his desk that read "Wolfhsac." His credit guy, Denny, put him on to it. Denny used Hebrew School training to spell anything backward. "Wolfhsac" is cashflow spelled backward, and the sign reminded Lowell of the importance of keeping Denny on the phone charming payable clerks with his "Mr. Backwards" act.

Lots of folks I've known and worked with couldn't function without an "org chart." All those little boxes and lines (solid and dotted) represented to them the order of the universe. The ones really hooked on them were really org-chart artists. There wasn't an organization that couldn't be reduced to boxes and lines; nor was there a chart that couldn't be improved tweaked, here and there with another dotted line or a slight raising or lowering of a box to connote the fortunes and future of all who lived within the boxes.

Recently, I heard from a former colleague who wanted to be reminded of the fan. The fan is a simple drawing of an old-fashioned fan with a sturdy base and three blades. The base represents fixed assets and the blades in clockwise order represent cash, inventory and receivables. The faster one turns cash into inventory and inventory into sales (receivables) and receivables into cash, the faster the fan spins and the nicer the breeze. With a bigger base you can have bigger blades.

All of this leads to an old joke: Two guys my age are talking. One complains of his failing memory. His friend suggests he take a super power memory course.

"Where do I take this course?"

"Aaah, listen to this. I'm thinking of a green stick, with a beautiful red flower on top but with terrible little prickers all along the stick.."

"You mean a rose?"

"That's it! Rose! Rose! What's the name of that place I took that memory course?"