Weekly Thoughts


Our Work Is Serious

Here is something that caught our eye this week:

After all, it is an accrual world

Chenmark is in the business of acquiring and operating small businesses.  On the deal side, we spend our days looking at new acquisition opportunities, putting together deal models, negotiating purchase prices, securing debt financing, and reviewing legal documents.  On the operational side, we spend our days hiring (and sometimes firing) talent, nurturing sales relationships, implementing new tech systems, collecting cash and paying invoices, evaluating equipment purchases, and developing marketing programs (among other things).  Our metric of choice is free cash flow, and our goal is to compound capital at high rates over the long term.

These are all serious-sounding business-y things.  They may evoke images of grim-looking people staring diligently at their computers, sober conversations about the intricacies of implementing new ERP systems, and austere discussions about cash management.

We have the luxury of being a closely held organization with a long time horizon and expect to own our businesses indefinitely but have no intention of spending the foreseeable future being solemn.  So, while we take our jobs seriously, at Chenmark, we try not to take ourselves seriously.  For instance, we know that a good meme in the middle of a strategy presentation goes a long way and understand the importance of finding a way to laugh at the ridiculousness of certain otherwise terrible situations (i.e., see here).  Turns out, it’s not just us.  More from The Economist on Why We Need To Laugh At Work:

“Work is a serious matter but it cannot be taken seriously all the time. Sometimes things happen at work that are inherently ridiculous. Perhaps the technology breaks down just as the boss is in mid-oration, or a customer makes an absurd request. (Remember the probably apocryphal story of a person who rang the equipment manufacturer and asked them to fax through some more paper when the machine ran out?)  There is also something deeply silly about management jargon. Most people will have sat through presentations by executives who insist on calling a spade a ‘manual horticultural implement’. Too many managers use long words to disguise the fact they have no coherent message to impart. Such language is ripe for satire or at the very least a collective game of ‘buzzword bingo’.”

The Economist goes on to argue that humor in the workplace reduces stress and anxiety whilst bringing humanity to work, something with which we wholeheartedly agree.  Apart from just being decent, humor is also good for business.  From Stanford Business Insights:

“Humor helps directly with your bottom line, too. Employees who rate their bosses as having any sense of humor at all are 15% more satisfied in their jobs and rate their bosses as 27% more motivating and admired. Even a lighthearted line at the end of a sales pitch increases customers’ willingness to pay by 18%. A study from Harvard Business School showed that putting a lame pun at the end of testimonials as to why people should visit Switzerland (‘the flag is a big plus’) made readers think the person who wrote it was 37% higher in status, and also more competent and confident. Participants in the study were much more likely to pick the dad-flag-joke teller as their group leader.”

This is all good news.  While we build our firm, we can simultaneously feel free to lean into our love of puns and dad-jokes. Let’s try some out:

  • Did you hear about the kidnapping at school? It’s ok, the kid woke up.
  • Dear Math, grow up and solve your own problems.
  • I’m afraid for the calendar. Its days are numbered.
  • If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? The Pilgrims.

We could circle back to double click into a deeper dive here, but net-net we are going to continue to enjoy moments of levity while endeavoring to achieve serious business success.  As the late, great gag-writer and comic Bob Monkhouse recalled at the height of his career, “They laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian. Well, they’re not laughing now.”

Have a great week,

Your Chenmark Team

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