Volume 48, Issue 6 - November/December 2009

A Manager's View
Management Musings
by Keith Castleman, manager of 84 Lumber in Blue Springs, Mo. Mr. Castleman’s opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.


“Hey! That’s My Candy!”
When you have children, Halloween instantly becomes one of the biggest and most important holidays of the year. My daughters, ages 12 and 8, have the same goal every year: accumulate as much candy as possible. This past Halloween was an especially successful one for my kids as they managed to amass a bag of candy that was so big and so full it took both of them to lift it.

My job is to stay home, answer the door and pass out treats. This particular Halloween, I was all prepared and even a little excited. I got dressed up, gathered our store-bought candy and waited for the kids to start showing up. Shortly after dark, the doorbell rang and I threw open the door and yelled, “Howdy, partners!” The doorbell rang and rang and rang. Kids in large groups kept coming and coming and coming. I finally got so low on candy that I had to turn our light off and call it a night. As I went to turn out the light, the bell rang again. I opened the door and standing before me were at least 15 of the cutest little trick-or-treaters I had ever seen. After a moment of uncertainty I remembered that the gigantic bag of candy that my daughters had accumulated was sitting in the kitchen. “Hold on a second, partners. I’ll be right back.” I ran to the kitchen and grabbed that big bag of candy and raced back to the anxious kids standing at my front door. When I got back to the door I took one hand off the bag and when I did, the bag ripped and all of this candy fell on my front porch.

These kids had found Halloween Heaven. They were grabbing candy and screaming with joy as they filled their plastic pumpkins with huge handfuls of candy. I looked out to see the group of proud parents start writing down my address so they could remember to come back next year. I instantly joined the fray shamelessly elbowing and nudging these kids away and started grabbing up as much candy as I could save (which wasn’t very much) before this mob of kids picked my front porch clean.

After they left, I turned out the light and waited rather impatiently for my wife to return with my daughters. My youngest daughter burst into the house to show me all of the new candy she had gotten while out in the neighborhood. Then she stopped in her tracks.

“Dad, why is my candy bag ripped?” she asked, hoping I would have an answer that didn’t involve the loss of candy.

“Well, honey, here’s what happened…” Halfway through my story she burst into tears. “I’ll tell you what, tomorrow we can go to a candy store and I will buy you all the candy you want. Anything you want, just tell me and I’ll get it for you.”

“But that was my candy! I worked hard for that candy and now it’s almost all gone!” she screamed through her tears.

I only had one option. I dried my tears (and my daughter’s), put my boots and cowboy hat back on and we ventured back out into the neighborhood to try to earn some more candy.

In much the same way, most businesses related to the housing industry have seen their revenues dwindle to a fraction of what they once were. Desperation mode has set in with a few suppliers who have taken the Next Day Candy Store Shopping Spree approach and tried to buy business at profit margins well below the break-even point, while others just close their doors completely and wait on the already backlogged bankruptcy court to liquidate their assets. A few managers, however, have managed to dry their tears and go back to work doing the very things that made them successful to begin with. Sure, there are fewer lights on and where you once got a handful of Snickers bars you now only get one peppermint, but selling opportunities still exist for those who are willing to work for them. Yes, your candy is gone, but it’s not too late to put your boots back on and go earn some more.

Copyright 2009 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.