2016-12-23

Reflections on Being in the Industry

So a "bro" popped in for a chat, and we covered this much. (The conversation, before I wrote some reflections on it.)

Bruh: Here's an idea that we can collaborate on. It'll take zero investment - that's only a small lie.

Me: If you want to handle merchandising for us, that could be fun. But we need a third party for credit or investment. Merchandising: not furniture (maybe later).

Bruh: I know a guy who's good for handling the delivery of cups, mugs, brewers, etc. With logo printings.

Me: We don't need merch for coffee geeks. It's possible but the market is too jammed. I prefer general lifestyle merchandise, ergo apparel. Not conclusive. I would open a shop next door purely selling clothes but, we're not ready. The F&B talent pipeline is not stable.

Bruh: Now would you want to have capex when you can run a business without money upfront?

Me: Accountants: our talent pipeline isn't stable.

Bruh: F&B is not meant to be stable. *laughs out loud* You need to be constantly investing in research and development unless franchising is your goal.

Me: I'm mostly focused on building an army. So I occupy myself with whatever it takes until that fails. As to what that's for, the opposite of franchising: management services.

Bruh: Turnkey service solutions? My thoughts exactly!

Me: Well, there's not enough talent here. So the viability hypothesis remains unproven.

Bruh: Have you considered head hunting?

Me: Nope. Dude, we train MYR5/hour folks to do bookkeeping. We have a salary scale that is uncompetitive with fresh graduate recruitment programs all over. We're just digging for gold in the dirt. Lol

Bruh: It's got to be difficult maintaining or creating talents with that rate of pay, frankly.

Me: Lots of dirt. Not a lot of gold. But more than zero.

Bruh: Jesus Christ.

Me: The GM is paid 3.5k net, that is less than the fresh graduate starting package at Anderson Consulting, a tier-two/three outsourcing firm lol

Bruh: Rather than comparing your scale to AC, consider the Jobstreet average instead.

Me: I have met AC talent and have not been impressed. So far it looks like better value to train school leavers to keep books and build pivot tables from scratch. But this approach may be soon discredited. We shall see.

Bruh: It sounds like you'll be spinning around on square-one with no plans for retention.

Me: I have only more learning opportunities to offer. Everything else is boring. It is F&B :)

Bruh: How about you break some rules?

Me: People are in F&B for fun. I picked it because it is predictable. Then I break it, because we can tell that the breakages will be predictable. So typical F&B staff will not be happy that things are breaking. If the company completely breaks before we find the right people, then it's a day. If not, it will just be a constant process of distilling the target attributes from the market. Lol? Here's a simple way to read it: F&B (as an industry) is lacking in innovation, and therefore does not attract the sort of profits (and therefore talent) that technology (as an industry) attracts. So if we begin by investing available capital in increasing innovation in F&B, we potentially grow faster and kill all the small players at some point in the future. I am just investing my time, as a superior talent. I don't have anything else to do with my time!

Bruh: I see now that your disasters are synthetic.

M: Disasters are how you interpret events. Without interpretation, stuff just happens, who cares, really?

So following the writing down of it, I get some time to revisit the initial tangential thoughts that occurred to me during the conversation itself. Maybe a few other thoughts too.
Well clearly, all year it's just a question of whether I should choose to understand the objective state of this business, from the point of view of (1) imposter syndrome, (2) schizophrenia, or (3) psychopathy. Since I have at least a minimal understanding of what each one entails, I can't actually know which of the above is the most accurate model. Each model takes into consideration (a) objective states of affairs (b) perceptions and computations which are subconscious in the subject, and (c) perceptions and computations which are conscious in the subject.

Let's call the default psychological appreciation of (a, b, c) the (0) point of view, simply that this remains a business that has not yet collapsed, which nevertheless teeters on the brink thereof. In the (0)-th view, stabilising the business at all cost is not a priority, rather, reaching for innovation while risking financial ruin appears to be the status quo. This can plainly be called bad management, if we assume that the mandate of management is to stabilise the business at all cost. Under that assumption, however, it would not be such bad management if the current risk of financial ruin are consciously being over-stated; it would nevertheless be proven to be bad management if the business actually encounters financial ruin. But setting the mandate has been left largely to myself, which is part of why I generally strive to establish a system with clearer check and balance mechanisms by building middle-management roles wherever I can.

Again, from the (0)-th point of view, let's ask if the gamble on managing talent at arm's length with periodic correction by baseball bat is a good gamble, or a bad one. I really don't know. It doesn't seem like I have the time to micro-manage all of three departments, when some departments at times have zero other staff whereupon I must operationalise their roles by myself, and when all departments at most times have no reliable middle-management layer. We've been shooting from the hip, from nearly to day-1. History begins there with the resignation of two out of three operating partners prior to the opening of the establishment; I'm not going to blame them - they had to put up with me, after all.

Clearly F&B doesn't scale as well as technology, on average, but the most scalable companies in F&B have some non-trivial degree of scale, which allows those companies to command non-trivial shares of market, and non-trivial improvements in talent pools from the industry baseline. I'm not actually sure that it's worth working for. But it is the job at hand. So on with the job, for now.

Maybe the silly explanation is that I'm just being too activist about aesthetic properties: the error of being overly artistic, whereas the medium that typically gets hacked around here is organisational form and movement.

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