Carr-Michael

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Owners and directors: Professional Services company

Butch and Sundance Show the Way

18.07.2009


Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of my favourite films of all time. It’s funny. It has pathos. It’s beautifully shot and it teaches us about successful business. From the first to the last, the characters, superbly played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford stay true to their values and reveal a partnership that balances growth management and operations.
 

In business such partnerships often mark out great performing companies. Businesses that manage to work the two key but conflicting styles of management side by side.
Butch is the thinker, the planner, the strategist the developer of great ideas – which just happen to involve robbing banks.
 

Sundance is the operator, in fact the best of operators. He knows how to get the very best out of his undoubted skill. To be truly effective and efficient he changes the rules of the game: recall the scene. He is asked to shoot a coin at ten paces. He is told just to hold the gun and shoot – no need for that fast draw of his. He shoots, gets close, but misses. He is dismissed. Quietly he asks “can I move...I am better when I move”. He is allowed another chance. This time he holsters his gun, uses his lightening speed draw and fires many times scattering the coin across the floor as he does so. Redford’s sardonic smile says it all. Constrain me as an operator with unnecessary controls and I can’t perform to my maximum. So too for the operator in business.
 

Later in the film when trapped in the US by marshalls and a gun fight is imminent, Butch says “Next time I say let’s go somewhere like Bolivia, let’s go to Bolivia”. Another cracking line, in a film of cracking lines. Why had they not gone to Bolivia? The operations side of the team did not have the vision to go to Bolivia. It was outside of Sundance’s comfort zone. He couldn’t speak the language, but more importantly he had no idea what it was like and his assumptions constrained his ability to think and act.
 

So there we have it. The need to balance creative thinking with operational excellence is at the heart of running a great business. It drives the daily cash and secures profitable growth for the future. But in any business, assumptions and preconceived ideas must be challenged and tested openly and positively if the team is to move forward together. This takes time, planning and a desire to work with Two Hats: the visionary (growth) hat and the operational (cash) hat. One can’t exist without the other. Butch and Sundance needed each other. They both knew to work to each other’s skills: they managed their strengths, respected their relative skills and enjoyed each other as part of a team.


OK so they died in the end....knowing when to quit evaded them, but it doesn’t change the story or the lessons to be learned.