The Fish Strategy

The kids wanted to get a new pet.

According to the alpha male in our house, who isn’t the male, as you already know, “One dog is enough.”

The kids decided on getting a fish. The alpha male said she was having nothing to do with anything slimy, so the fish became my responsibility.

My only criteria was that the kids pay for everything. I figured this would teach them some responsibility. In other words, the only strategy was a zero based budget (more on this later).

We make the first trip to the pet store. Bad news. Their fish were sent to Saskatoon and froze…on the way there or perhaps on the way back. It’s a long drive, especially for fish, in the winter. We did find some small aquariums for starter kits that were on sale so we bought them.

We went next door to the specialty fish place and they had lots of fish, live, swimming and happily not frozen. “We’d like to buy some fish,” we said. “What are you putting them into?” the wise man asked. “Brand new tanks” we replied. “The water needs to sit for 24 hours before the fish can be introduced” he advised.

The kids, of the instant gratification generation, were crushed. “We have to wait???” they exclaimed incredulously.

We go home and load up the little aquariums with water. The next day, we go fish shopping to a different store.

“How many fish do you want?” asked the friendly lady at PetSmart. “Two or three each” replied the kids.

“How big are your tanks?” she asked. “About seven litres each” I recalled.

“Your tank is too small for that many fish” she advised. “You’ll need a larger tank.”

I’m now sensing that we (me, myself and I) entered this transaction with the kids in charge, no strategy, and only a budget. I issued a leadership directive: “Girls, I need you to research your fish, their environments, and what needs to happen, before we buy anything else!” Now highly motivated and gratification within sight, they used their technology skills to research on their ipods and macbooks. Never have I seen due diligence executed so thoroughly and quickly. Knowledge in hand, we go to the store…again.

So, we buy larger tanks. We buy fish. We fill the tanks, add a few drops of tap water conditioner, dump the fish right in, and everybody is swimmingly happy.

"Banana" the goldfish
"Banana" the goldfish

Lessons for business:

  • A budget is not a strategy.
  • Leadership needs to be in charge and, at least, give clear instructions on the goals and purpose.
  • Operational metrics (what does success look like), resources and obstacles need to be identified in advance.
  • An action plan needs to be developed to execute efficiently. We visited four stores on two different days. I was beginning to envy the Saskatoon fish.
  • Enthusiasm alone will not create results. Harness it, and you can create great results.
  • If someone asks you a question within your area of expertise, don’t rush to answer it. Ask more questions to find out what is going on.
  • Take control. The expert in the aquarium store could have sold us everything if he had taken control of the conversation.

Copyright 2011. Phil Symchych. All Rights Reserved.

0 thoughts on “The Fish Strategy”

    1. Roberta,

      The kids and fish passed the one week test so they both got more fish. We’ve grown from two to five fish. The dog is not amused.

      We’ll let you know whose in charge!

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