Counting Calories - The Business Version of the PB&J Sandwich

I don’t count calories, but I often glance at the nutritional information on the side of nearly all packaged food.  As I was making a couple of peanut butter and jam sandwiches for the kids the other day, I was instantly struck with an insight that reminded me of the shortsightedness of many companies. 

First I took out the bread and promptly slathered on a good helping of peanut butter. After that, I followed up with a liberal spoonful of delicious raspberry jam. 

When I looked at the peanut butter, I saw that for every tablespoon, you were subjected to a total of 90 overall calories and 8 grams of fat. 

When compared to the raspberry jam, a tablespoon contained only 45 calories and 0 grams of fat. 

Okay, Noah – what’s the big deal? Why does this matter? 

Here’s why it matters.  

I wasn’t measuring or counting calories, but if I were, then by simply overestimating the amount of peanut butter I used, I would have tripled the total overall calories and fat intake! 

No big deal, I mean peanut butter is delicious. 

But here’s the problem. It’s overly easy to do it with almost anything, not just making sandwiches. It’s easy to misjudge your efforts and not focus on the small stuff that might have a BIG impact. 

Think about it as it applies to business. 

Actually, think about it this way…. Consider how much time is spent in meetings discussing something objectively important versus the time spent doing something about it. 

Or think about it this way (a real-life example that a client and I figured out)…

He was running a 30M company that engaged in a lot of outside training and group meetings. He said a lot of it was okay, some was great,  and most of it was subpar. But then I showed him the real cost. He had 15 salespeople. They generated an average of $2M in sales revenue per year per salesperson.  

As he learned, this was a VERY expensive hour. For every hour he took them out of the field, this was at a cost of about $15,000 in lost sales. He suddenly became a lot more careful when making his investment decisions. 

For any business, at $15,000 hour at minimum, you better be sure, you haven’t misjudged the time or the reason for getting all your people in the same room.  It’s simple for us to consider the soft cost – “It’s only an hour.” It’s harder to consider the actual cost, “it’s a $15,000 hour!”

I’ve met companies that have spent three years and bundles of cash on tools and software development that have never come to fruition

I’ve seen other companies engage consultants or experts only to refuse to change or listen to any recommendations. 

At the same time, I’ve seen months spent deliberating decisions that could have been made within days and at what cost? 

Misjudging your time and efforts costs you money, especially if you’re not calculating or measuring. 

It’s the reason why I’m changing the way annual retreats and corporate training are handled with Evergreen Experiences™

It’s a lot like peanut butter and jam. We’re often misjudging our time and effort by focusing on the wrong things, and not paying enough attention to the ratios.  With those experiences, we will spend most of our time focusing on the WHY before the where. 

Paying attention to the ratios means asking the right questions. 

Why are we spending time on this? 
What are the desired outcomes? 
Have we spent enough time clarifying our objectives before booking that overpriced speaker? 

In most areas, you have to be precise if you want specific results. 

It’s one of the reasons we staunchly teach our clients to track, and set defined expectations of the activity of their people. If they want the desired outputs, they need to specify the inputs. 

Your Challenge For This Week: Look at your last four meetings and ask if you were precise in what you wanted to achieve. Otherwise, ask yourself if you were you just slathering on the peanut butter and jam hoping things would work out? 

For the $30M company I mentioned earlier, the question can be rephrased:  “Is this worth the $250 per minute it costs us to hold this meeting?” And it’s easy to do this math for yourself. In fact, it’s just as easy as counting calories.

Let’s not kid ourselves, little extra peanut butter makes a great sandwich, but eventually, all those extra calories add up.  

And that’s not a good thing.