Tuesday Morning Focal Point

A Lesson in Resource Allocation – turn your pillow around

July 10, 2023

After a stretch of travel I realized an important business lesson could be extracted from a practical travel reality. 

Where are my zzzzzzzzz’s?

I’ve never been able to sleep well on airplanes.  Notwithstanding years and years of extensive travel including a few consecutive years of flying over 200,000 miles.  As such, red-eye flights have always been a last resort for me.  It’s always bothered me. I wish I could sleep overnight on airplanes as it would be such a good use of travel time.  Even back in my last Executive role where; for six years; most weeks I would at least pop into my Calgary office to meet with my EA, and also into my Ottawa office where several of my National Directors sat.

From time to time, a red-eye was unavoidable.  I tried everything.  The only thing that ever helped a little was (what I coined) my “good night Charlie.”  Good night Charlie was what I called the little bottle of pink syrup called Nyquil.  There was a store at the Vancouver airport that used to sell the liquid form.  My little trick was to guzzle a few large tablespoons of Nyquil, and; from time to time; I would actually doze off for an hour or two on the plane. 

Given how little confidence I had in being able to sleep on the red-eye to Ottawa, the mitigating strategy was that my Assistant would have a hotel room ready for me down the street from the office.  I’d taxi in, arriving around 6:30am and the hotel would know to take me straight to my room where the black out blinds were closed, the bed turned down and the temperature at 16 degrees.  I’d crawl into bed and; if lucky; get 60 or so minutes of sleep before getting up, showered and ready for the office.

Queue the neck pillow

There are these fancy little neck pillows that you’ve most certainly seen.  You probably have one.  You know, the one that wraps around the back of your neck to hopefully make you more comfortable for a night on a plane?  I tried 3 or 4 different sizes.  I even have an inflatable one so that I can play with the amount of air in it.  Yet, I could never get comfortable.  I always envied the folks on the plane that have these neck pillows donned and who were sound asleep, seemingly all flight long.

This last fall, as it turned out, I had a string of 4 red-eye flights.  The first was an overnight to New York City from Vancouver in October, the second was a Maui to Vancouver flight in November, the third was Vancouver to Tampa Bay in early December and the final one was Calgary to Punta Cana, December 30.  I am pleased to report, I am currently on a string of having slept well on four straight red-eye flights.  Yes, new skills, new found success and I feel like I have figured out my strategy.

What’s different?  Thank you for asking…I was hoping you would. 

Well, the neck pillow is indeed my angel of light.  However, I had to figure out how to use it in a way that worked for me.  I always put it on like everyone else did on the plane, where they wrap it around the back of their neck.  But you see, that pushed my neck forward and it was never comfortable.  So, on my red-eye to New York in October, I flipped the pillow around and wrapped it around the front of my neck.  Now, the pillow serves to support my neck so it doesn’t fall forward, but the back of my head can rest against the back of the seat.  Yes, 4 great red-eye flights in a row, with a simple shift in how I deployed and utilized a resource that I’ve had in my possession for years upon years.

How can you shift your resource allocation?

Here is the the business lesson is this.  It is simple to notice and identify the resources we think we lack, and to take a position of, “if only we had…”.  However, the reality is that often we do have the resources we need, but we aren’t necessarily using them and deploying them in the best way possible.  Take for instance a recent coaching meeting with a business owner.  He’s had a particular manager on the team for several years, and the gent is absolutely an A player.  However, we’ve started to notice that he and the manager are starting to overlap each other and duplicate efforts.  This creates inefficiencies.  What we’ve realized that that there is an opportunity to rethink and reposition the manager to better utilize his skills.

Take also for example the bakery owner in downtown Vancouver.  In December 2022, she indicated that in order to earn the same amount of money from the same of each croissant that she earned in 2021, she’d have to sell the croissant for over $7 today.  She knows nobody will pay this.  As such, she is completely rethinking how she uses her resources.  Both the butter and vanilla she uses in the croissants have more than tripled in price.  Now, profitability has much more to do with ensuring that the bakers in the bakery don’t waste one little bit of the ingredients.  This was never on their radar before.  Not that they would purposely waste, but they didn’t pay attention in the same way.  Today, one little, tiny bit of waste is very costly.  Same resources, same bakery staff baking, but focusing them differently. 

Turn the zzzzz’s to ah ha’s!

As a mid year check in review and evaluate your various resources, and how you are deploying them.  There is a good chance that you have resources that are being utilized in good and profitable ways, but through a closer look and with some strategic thinking added in, there could be much more efficiency and profitability to be had. You might be able to improve the company’s resource allocation.

Cameron’s Call to Action

  1. With your senior team, list out what you believe your main resources are. Consider the people side, the cash side and other key areas of the business.
  2. Identify what you commonly think to be your resource gaps.
  3. Going through your resources, identify possible ways to redeploy in fresh ways, matched to today’s market conditions.  It may be that some of your resource allocation decisions were made during very different market conditions.
  4. Set up some new and fresh KPI’s associated with key leaders, functions and processes and see what happens.

Cameron is an Executive Coach and Consultant specializing in business growth and creating psychologically healthy workplaces.