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Hidden Meanings

Business is just business until it isn’t….

Hidden Meanings

Aphorisms not about business that are about business. Top five answers on the board. Survey says…

“A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”Oscar Wilde

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar. When you refer to yourself as a “wit,” and are rumored to have answered when asked by a customs agent if you had anything to declare, “only my brilliance,” you had better be able to back up those actions with words. And he did, coining such gems as “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken,” and a personal favorite, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

But the comment about the cynic is more than a catchy quip; rather, it’s sage advice for any biz dev peeps out there. If you’ve ever debated the acquisition of a company or a product, it’s easy to focus on how much it costs rather than how much it’s worth. That’s why a lot of deals are done—or not done—based purely on standard multiples of revenue or EBITDA, or whatever metric is in vogue at the time. While this can work, especially with established cash-cow-type products, when uncertainty abounds, such a lazy approach can lead you to: 1) overpaying for something; or, 2) passing on something because you undervalued it.

Or as they are known in the trade, $@%# and Double $@%#.

“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” —General George Patton

Not to say you should ready, fire, aim, but if you wait for perfection beyond fallibility, you’ll never pull the damn trigger. There’s only so much you can analyze and re-analyze and over-analyze before taking action. Which is why any tactical plan needs contingencies, and contingencies to those contingencies, etc., etc., etc.

You can’t anticipate everything, so why try?

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” —Bruce Lee

In other words, don’t mess with a specialist.

Whether it’s a person or a team or a division or a company, focus matters. The less you do, for the most part, the better you will do it. And the inverse rings just as true: Nothing good will come from trying to do it all, to be everything to everyone.

“Things without all remedy should be without regard.” —William Shakespeare

If Lady Macbeth is whispering to her husband, or a supervisor is offering counsel to a subordinate, the message is the same: What’s done is done. $@%# happens sometimes. Whatever. You can’t let a blunder haunt you to the point you’re on one knee, talking to disembodied skulls or wandering around aimlessly and decrying the meaninglessness of human existence.

Get over it.

Move on.

But… Just don’t make the same mistake twice.

“I’d p—- on a sparkplug if I thought it’d do any good.” —General Beringer, in the movie War Games

Now let’s state for the record that no, doing this to that wouldn’t have mitigated Beringer’s problem—trying to stop a glitchy computer from triggering global thermonuclear war—but that’s not the point; this is: When you have nothing to lose—speaking of clichéd aphorism—you have everything to gain. To that extent, it’s quite liberating. You can’t make the situation worse, so in theory, anything you do can only make it better. It’s all upside.

If you want to point to a case in point, wag your finger at the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Because this is what the Kennedy administration faced in those 13 days in October: 1) Soviet nuclear missiles were being assembled 90 miles off the coast of Florida; 2) More missiles—and troops—were on their way; and, 3) U.S. military commanders wanted to bomb those silos to smithereens and follow up with a ground invasion to ensure they were non-operational.

Which in turn would have resulted in the annihilation of Cuba. Which in turn would have led to the deaths of Soviet soldiers. Which in turn would have led to the Soviets retaliating by attacking a NATO target in Europe, most likely West Berlin. Which in turn would have led to the U.S. and its allies counter- attacking. Which in turn would have led to, well…

Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain.

Not to spoil the ending, but cooler and cleverer heads prevailed. With no perfect options available, advisers to Kennedy came up with this p—-on-a-sparkplug idea: a naval blockade of Cuba to keep additional missiles and troops off the island, and an overture to the Soviets to remove their missiles today, and we would remove ours—albeit six months from now to camouflage this quid-pro-quo to the public—in Poland. This let everyone involved save face and kept the Cold War just that…


Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Light & Wonder. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Light & Wonder or its affiliates.

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