Tuesday Talk: The Front of the Line

David Baker


Two years ago I was driving around with my son, Josh, and he wanted to see the hockey game. We pulled into Smitty's restaurant, and you go one way to the restaurant the other way to the lounge. We turned to go to the lounge and there's 12 or 13 people all standing in line to get into the lounge. I'm standing in this line with Josh. I looked past the people that were standing there in line, and I could see at the bar - it was one of those not a stand up bar but it's got the stools around it - there was two empty spots. The whole place is full. We're waiting to get in, and there's these two empty spots. I just walked past everybody in line, "Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me." To the receptionist or the hostess at the front desk I said, "Are those spots open?" She said, "Yeah, you can have them." I went in to the stand up, or to the bar there, and I asked everybody, "Would you mind moving around?" I moved a couple people one way and another couple people the other way, and I put the two empty spots right in the middle. I threw my jacket on. It was no problem. Everybody said, "Sure." They were all really good about it. I went back to the line. You can maybe see the problems starting to surface here because I said to Josh, "Hey, come on Josh." He sheepishly started to go through the line past all these people. The guy at the front of the line said, "Hey buddy, can you see me here?" He did this waving about his body. I immediately took the position like, "Buddy, you're crazy. You could have had these spots and you didn't." I read an article in the newspaper a little while ago. You guys have heard about Uber's trying to come to Winnipeg? This article talked about the amount of insurance that the cab drivers need to pay. They need to put extra equipment in their cars. The cab drivers, and they've got together, they've created something called the Winnipeg Taxi Association. It's to fight Uber because they're saying, "You know what? Our cost structure's completely different. This is completely unfair for Uber." Uber's going, "Hey, forget it. You know what? Here's a person who wants a ride, and here's another person who's got a car. This person who has a car wants to give this person who wants a ride a ride." All Uber's doing is putting these guys together. That's what Uber is. If you wanted to be an Uber driver you could. You got your cell phone, you're good. They'll vet you. Uber puts these two together and they say, "We're going to take a little piece of the extra value. That's all we're doing." Uber says, "Hey, I'm creating new value. It should accrue to me." The taxi guys are going, "Hold it. No, no, no, no. That's not fair for you to create this new value because it's not fair to me." If you're the cab guys, you're going, "Hold it, I get my value based on my place in line. We've always been here. This is the way things are." Just like the guy at Smitty's was at the front of the line, and there's a social contract there at Smitty's. You could say, "Well, you know, things haven't changed." The fact is, he saw the value that he's ... Based on the fact that he's front of the line. Fact that I was coming along creating value from the back of the line. His mind says, "Shouldn't matter. It shouldn't matter." We talk about change. That we're in this place to try to help people change. I think it's a great picture of what's going on, corporately and personally. This idea of value creation. Are we going to accept the value that we created last week? Are we going to operate the same way? I don't know what it is. The picture's not black and white. I feel for the cab guys. It's totally not fair. Some of these people have put in thousands and thousands of dollars for that place in line. Now that place in line isn't worth very much because things are changing around them. It's not a tool, but it is, I think, a story that says, "You know what? We, as a company and as individuals, we've got to look at how we're creating value and making sure we're staying on top of it, and we're not resting on the idea of the value that we're collecting is based on what we did last week." GE, and we don't operate this, but GE had this saying: Friday we're even because the idea that, "Hey, you've been paid for those last two weeks." That's kind of harsh, but I think the real opportunity is, "Hey, what's changing around us and how do we create new value?" That, today, is my Tuesday Talk.


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