Tricks of the trade. Business tricks that win
April 26, 2022
by Lance

Not all of business is deep strategic thinking and disciplined execution.  There are lots of lesser techniques and business tricks that are more like the business analogy of the sports technique of drawing the foul.  Not exactly “noble” or sportsmanlike, but such tricks have won many a game.  And no math is needed.  Below is a list of tricks that fall into the range of what is acceptable business behavior, but that get no points for sportsmanship.

You are thrown into a new job with a new team, none of whom you know.  Want to know who you have working for you?  Pull their expense reports for the last six months and read them like a mystery novel.  You will learn a lot.  By the way, you are not just looking for excessive charges; you are also looking at where people spend their time.  For instance, a sales or marketing person who has too few expenses related to traveling to visit customers would also be a red flag.

An employee storms into your office and shouts their resignation.  Before you do anything else, hand them a piece of paper and have them putting it in writing immediately.  Take the signed paper and put it in your draw or pocket.  Now you can have a conversation.  If you don’t want to accept their resignation, you can do that at your leisure.   It is easy to tear up a piece of paper.  If, on the other hand, you decide that enough is enough, they are gone.  You have all the cards.

You are managing a large group of people and you want to drive greater efficiency by squeezing headcount.  That is, you are going to force the manager in charge of the group to do a reduction in force (RIF); but how much?  You know that if you have hired great people, then if there is a way for them to be successful within their resource constraints, they will find it.  For this reason, you don’t need to know exactly who and how, the great manager you have working for you will optimize that (and doesn’t particularly want your “help” doing it, either), but you do want to be careful not to cut too deep.  Such effects can show up much later.  How do you know that you still have more room to squeeze (which is almost always the case, by the way)?  The answer is that every organization has people in it that everyone knows have lost their fire or currency or are there because someone hasn’t done a good enough job of recruiting their replacement or are there simply to help translate between group A and group C.  These are the people your highest performers resent when they working 7×18.  One executive I know had the following painfully-effective technique, which he used on me.  He would propose a cut.  If all such people were not put on the RIF list, he would increase the cut, have a discussion, and then check again.  He would keep doing this until (almost) all these people were on the list.  There are obvious dangers with the technique, for instance, when good managers disagree widely on someone’s contribution, but generally this trick is as effective as it is unpleasant to have used on you.

You have the wonderful-horrible situation that you are terribly busy.  A job comes along that you really don’t want, but you don’t want to say “no” because saying no is bad for your network.  There is a simple solution.  Double the hourly price you quote.  This has only two possible outcomes: both advantageous, both educational.