What Ever Happened to "Cash is King"?

by Mike Starling

Part 3 - Stuffing the Piggy Bank Beats Hanging Out in the Unemployment Line

piggybank.pngEmulating Dad’s no nonsense nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, Junior busied himself in aisle 2, the non-perishable sector of the family food-storage warehouse. Dutifully reviewing and working to fill the customer order pick-ticket he clutched in his left hand, he paused in front of bay 3 and reached up to level 2 to pluck six of “Aunt Janie’s Butter Salted Biscuits, 10oz tin, in olive oil – SKU12457900-495.” His mind had wandered briefly as he approached the pick location. Still worrying about his future, Junior was amazed at the variety of business strategies being employed by his second- and third-generation counterparts in the other family-owned food-service distribution organizations that he had come to know through Dad’s participation in a number of industry trade groups and food co-ops. Junior wondered if these counterparts all shared his dream of one day taking over the family business? “What are they thinking?” he asked himself. He began to suspect that few, if any, had visited the Wizard. “Why?” he wondered aloud, shaking his head, and refocused on the pick ticket crumpled in his left hand.

The BEEP! BEEP! of a forklift whizzing past him suddenly refocused his attention on reality. Still quivering from excitement from his encounter with the Wizard, Junior knew it was time to go one-on-one with Dad if he was to have a chance to fulfill his dream of one day becoming company President. It was time to drag Dad out of the milk cooler and get his undivided attention, away from the distractions of the warehouse floor hubbub.
Shortly thereafter, off campus at a corner booth at the local Denny’s restaurant, Dad and I had a long heart to heart talk. I told him about my dream and sought clarification of where I fit into the businesses succession plan. I pointed out to Dad that I had excelled in learning the language of business (i.e.; accounting) in college and thanked him for the opportunity to work in the family business. And that practical application of financial assessment measurements provided me with insight into the strengths and weaknesses of our business, allowing me to grasp the challenges of the economic reality of the marketplace in which we sought to survive.

I worked to convince Dad that I was mature and vision-motivated. I WANTED to take over the business DAMN IT! I WANTED to see Dad succeed and retire comfortably, ABSOLUTELY! I was also genuinely concerned about our short-term liquidity position. Banging the salt shaker on the table, I could not hold my frustration back any longer. “DAD, OUR CURRNET OPERATING CASH FLOW SUCKS!” Startled, waitresses and other restaurant patrons stared at us, wondering what had provoked such an outburst. I tried to tamp down the adrenalin coursing through my veins.

Dad nodded reluctantly in agreement with my observation. I wanted Dad’s commitment that we would pursue the dream together, as a team! I also knew that to eliminate our individual biases it would be prudent for us to find and engage an experienced supply-chain coach, who would bring fresh ideas and an independent perspective to our current baseline situation and steer us toward continuous cash flow improvement.

  • ⦁    We’d assess the situation!
  • ⦁    We’d collaborate and develop the plan!
  • ⦁    We’d commit to action to pump up the operating cash flow!
  • ⦁    We’d measure the results to insure ROI!
  • ⦁    We’d fine-tune our business control levers!
  • ⦁    We’d maximizing the opportunities to generate piles of cash!

Dad extended his hand and we shook on it. Dad came from an era when a man’s handshake was his bond, a firm commitment that meant he was ready for action. I picked up the tab and Dad and I headed back to the office to do some research to find a coach.

Yes, our mutual goal now was to make this business a long-haul success, one that would make my mom proud to say, “That’s my son, the President!”

Together, Dad and I, we’d not only weather this economic storm, We would turn this ship around, and set sail for the place where Dreams Come True!
The words of the WIZARD continued to echo in Junior's mind...


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