Can a kid’s game of pick-up-sticks teach us anything?

Can a kid’s game of pick-up-sticks teach us anything?

Did you ever play pick-up sticks as a kid? We played on rainy days or when it was just too cold to be outdoors.

Sitting in a circle on the floor – the first player lets all the sticks drop on the floor. The idea is to pick up as many sticks as possible without moving any other stick. If another stick moves, you lose your turn and the next player starts her turn.

Me at age six waiting my turn at pick-up-sticks. Waiting was never a strength for me.

The sticks have different colors – with different point values – so you need to also think about getting high value sticks. When all the sticks are picked up, the person with the most points wins. Go for the high value if you want – but don’t lose your turn.

I have come to see the value of pick-up-sticks in business and in life. Go for the highest score with the least risk of losing your turn. Choices Do Matter, so make good choices.

When McIntyreSales, Inc. was young we had very little money. We needed quick cash to pay the bills. Just like the easy sticks to be picked up off the floor.

Rather than focus on the large customers in the market like Bojangles and Golden Corral – both with hundreds of stores and a very slow decision making process – we went for the smaller customers who could make a quick decision. These small restaurants, schools, and other foodservice operators were the easy sticks to pick up. We got to all of the larger customers in time – but only when we had our hands full of easy sticks.

I also knew which manufacturers paid us quickly and which were slow to pay. One seafood supplier wrote a check to us the same day they received their payment from the customer – so in the time it took the mail to deliver we had our money in hand.

Other manufacturers could take 3-4 months to pay. Seafood was our focus pick-up-stick – fast pay.

There is no need to make life or business more complicated than necessary. Think big – start small – act now.

It is fine to have a grand design, but go for the easy sticks and start now – right now.

What do you think? How does a pick-up-stick philosophy work for your business or life? What works better?

As always, the discussion starts here.