Close counts in horseshoes! In business, how close do you need to be to score?

todd herman web

Perhaps you've heard the saying, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." It turns out this quote is from Frank Robinson, who had a long and successful career in Major League Baseball as a player, coach, and manager. The full quote is actually:

Close don't count in baseball. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

A baseball game's box score only reflects ACTUAL runs, hits, RBI's, and the like – not whether a player gets close. Did the player get a hit – Yes or No? Did the player bat in a run – Yes or No? Close doesn't count in baseball - all stats reflect an EXACT answer.

Baseball Stats Are Exact – Business Problems Are Fuzzy

My firm recently celebrated its 28th anniversary! During this time, we've served over 225 clients on more than 1,000 distinct projects, in dozens of industries. Each project has helped clients score runs for their business!

  • Reducing inventory shrink yields higher inventory accuracy – score!
  • Slashing product development cycle time delivers happier customers – score!
  • Clearing up the relation between costs and prices means higher profits – score!

Helping our clients score requires us to answer hard questions as we address fuzzy problems. We do so by mixing “right brain” skills – such as management information systems, business analysis, and process improvement – and “left brain” qualities such as creativity and curiosity (and NEVER underestimate the power of this quality!). Our 28 years of experience allows us to bridge textbook theories with business realities.

How Close Is "Close Enough" In Business?

There are numerous ways a client's challenge might be successfully addressed. We typically come up with a few ways, then recommend the one we believe best fits the client's environment and budget.

Sometimes clients will want to engage us to, for example, "find THE BEST software system for my company." What clients typically mean is, "What's the best for me, given constraints of time, budget, and other resources?"

In my experience, there are NO 100% or “perfect” solutions. There IS, however, at least one solution right for a client’s unique situation.

How to Score a Run In Business

To illustrate the power of close in business, let me share experiences from two client projects at opposite ends of my firm's timeline.

My first large project nearly 28 years ago required me to tackle the causes of large ($100,000+) inventory shrinks at two plants. I came up with about 15 causes of inventory shrink for each plant, explaining about 80% of the problem. This proved more than sufficient because, at the next physical inventory, the differences between the counts and the records were negligible.

As another example, we're currently working with a client to help estimate the cost of their products and services. Why? Pricing of these was been set by several individuals spanning 20+ years. Our goal is to estimate costs for use in evaluating product and service profitability. Anticipated results? By using our backwards-facing cost model, our client can change their forward-looking prices.

In these cases, 80% to 90% accuracy IS a home run!

Close Counts In Business, Too!

I'd tweak Frank Robinson's wonderful words of wisdom to read like this ...

Close don't count in baseball. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades ... and in business, too!

Have you avoided a project you need to do because it is too hard or too complex? Put off by the difficulty of getting a handle on your company's costs? If so, please contact me, and let's discuss how we can help YOU "hit it out of the park!"



Todd L. Herman