Don’t Forget the Logistics

In a recent panel discussion at a convention, those at the table were quite distraught over the conflict between the artists and the business minds who planned their event. I listened to their challenges about venue, setup, lack of volunteers, and a dozen other pieces of the puzzle. The artists were complaining about the business aspect of it conflicting with their intent, and the business-minded folks complained about getting speakers and the people and resources it took to get things moving.

Once they really got started, what they were both talking about wasn’t a conflict of interests between artistic intent and business model. The main focus of their frustration seemed to be logistics. Had there been enough time for me to muddy the water, I would have recommended that their organization add a third person and one more skill set to the planning. They had the art, they had business, but they didn’t have an experienced logistic person.

It’s not uncommon for someone with an idea to immediately reach out for help to create a business model. This is a great first step, but the two alone, idea and model, don’t always get things moving in the right direction. What we often forget about until it’s too late is the logistics.

Supply is easy, and so is demand. Someone wants what I offer– lucky me. Even if I know who that is, I still have the challenge of getting what I have to the person who wants it. Simplistically, that gap between supply and demand is logistics. The artistic side identifies a guest speaker, the business side gets that speaker to accept, everything after that is logistics, and it is truly an art.

I’ve been in some fairly remote places over the years. The easy part was deciding what I needed. It was a little harder to find out who I could get it from. The frustrating piece was figuring out how to get it to me in a reasonable amount of time and at the right temperature. When you deal in human blood, temperature is very important.

– When will the box fly out?
– Where will it layover?
– Can I get someone to open the box and put more ice in it?
– When will it arrive here?
– How long will it sit in a non-airconditioned warehouse, or more likely in the blazing sun, before getting picked up?
– Do I need to get a vehicle and start driving to the next city to meet it?
– Will it be like this every time I order, and can I maintain it?

All excellent questions I needed answered before a box was sent on its way to wherever I was.

Here’s another example: A care package from home arrives for you on an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea – hooray!

It’s full of melted stuff.

Well, it’s the thought that counts, right?

No. No it does not. It’s the chocolate that counts.

If you’ve ever received a box of melted stuff, you understand logistic failure. The supply, your loving parents, sent something for the demand, your sweet tooth, but the getting it there, the logistics, didn’t work out. Now you’re opening deformed wrappers and licking chocolate out of them. Yes, you are. Trust me.

Your new idea is great, the model of what you’re going to do is great, but the how, the money, purchasing, and the steps from point A to point D are logistics. How we move people, food, fuel, and stuff to where we want it wins or loses wars, and can make or break good ideas. Logistics get donations and food to those in need, get birthday presents to the party on time, and can get your idea to those who want it, but only if you have the right talent. You need a third person at the table while the idea guy and the business guy make their first plans.

– Who does the logistics where you work?

– Have you asked that person’s opinion of the next great idea?

– If not, why not?

Have a  great week out there.

– JT

James Tinker

About James Tinker

James was born and raised in Bangor, and left home at 18 for the Navy. Twenty-five years later, he retired as a Command Master Chief, the highest enlisted rank on a warship in San Diego. His popular blog series, The Day Job, shares personal and professional lessons learned through his career.