Choosing The Right Lobsters

Posted on January 3, 2013 at 7:36 pm | Posted in: Blog

Several years ago I was reviewing business and marketing challenges with a friend, who is a CFO. I was explaining the challenges we faced staying focused on the most likely and most available business opportunities in the marketplace. He was curious and asking good questions.  He wanted to know our resource commitments and margins on particular jobs.

 So it was amusing when he commented, “Sounds a lot like lobster diving.” Because that’s not the kind of analysis you normally get from a numbers guy.

 He told me a story that relates to the vast ocean of opportunity out there, and that not every business opportunity should be pursued. Just because someone is amenable to doing business doesn’t make them a good opportunity.

“You see,” he said, “I go lobster diving on the first day of the season each year. I’m not a pro at it, but I have a lot of fun. This year it was discouraging. I stayed down for the amount of time my tank would allow and got some lobsters in my bag, but when I surfaced and measured them, most of them had to be released. They were too short. It was kind of fun, but a waste of time.”

 “I was out there with a guy who had about as many lobsters as I came up with, but they were all keepers. So I asked him, How come we’re hunting in the same area and all of yours are keepers? What are you doing differently?”

 “He told me that the first thing to know is what a keeper looks like. We went under water and he showed me that my vision through my mask (we’ll call them opportunity goggles) distorted their size. He brought down a keeper and showed me what a keeper looks like under water. It looked much bigger under water with the mask on than it did above the surface. When we surfaced he told me that I was picking up lobsters that were wasting my time.”

 “Next he told me that I wasn’t covering enough ground. See, once you know what a keeper looks like, you have to cover as much ground as possible with your eye out for the keepers. The more ground you cover, the more likely you’ll spot them and fill your bag. You can’t linger in an area and hope they will crawl out of a rock. You have to go looking and move fast and ignore everything else.”

 “So I commented about the REALLY big ones I saw hiding back in the rocks and asked him how to get some of those. He laughed and told me they’re a waste of time. They’re big for a reason – nobody else has figured out how to get them out. Consider yourself lucky if one crawls out while you’re hunting the sandy bed for your lobsters, but don’t waste your time hunting the ones that are only going to crawl back in their hole before you get them.”

 So there it is. Profitable business is a lot like lobster diving. We have a limited amount of time to get our work done. We can’t waste it working opportunities just because the opportunity was available. We need to clearly understand what our ideal client looks like and stay focused on finding those, and just those. We need to cover as much ground as possible while we can. And we need to avoid the tempting and distracting big deals that are always just out of our reach.

 Happy lobster diving to you!