Business Lessons are Easier to Recall When You Experience a Play


As you know, we believe the best way to convey business principles is through story. And the best way to convey story is through theatre where actors play the parts of characters to demonstrate the principles. The characters have differing goals, attitudes, and behaviors, which through the action produces outcomes.

Some of the outcomes are positive, and some are negative. Because the audience witnesses the action and outcomes, the lessons become more memorable and applicable. Plus, it’s a whole lot more fun that a lecture, or a slide deck!

We are blessed every year with a visitation from Nanyang Technological University students out of Singapore. This year a few of the students will present a short business theatre we wrote to specifically identify two differing business approaches and their outcomes.

We wanted to share the script with you to see what you think of this new approach to business edutainment. Hope you enjoy it!

How Soft Skills Earn Hard Cash!

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey

Summary:  How two skateboard companies (Cheapskate and Above Board), with opposite philosophies, negotiate the 3 critical entrepreneurial relationships: 1. Employees, 2. Vendors (Suppliers), and 3. Customers (Buyers). There are 3 acts, one for each of the 3 relationships.

In each act there are two short scenes, one to demonstrate each approach. The first scene in each act is a demonstration of how Cheapskate handles the relationship and the outcomes. The second scene in each act is a demonstration of how Above Board handles the relationship and outcomes.

Students will contrast the attitudes, behaviors, and outcomes of each approach through the 3 relationships with a Q&A session and open discussion following each scene.

Cheapskate has the limited wealth perspective (short term, narrow view, fear, selfishness, competitive) and subscribes to attitudes such as, “There is a limited amount of wealth and you must take it from someone who already has it,” and “I want my share of the pie.”

Above Board has the unlimited wealth perspective (long term, broad view, trust, empathy, cooperation) and subscribes to attitudes like “How can we work together to create new wealth?” and “We will always take a smaller slice of a larger pie.”

Act 1 – Relationship with Employees

Scene 1: The Cheapskate Approach to Employees (employees are a commodity)

Cheapskate: Phone Rings, Cheapskate answers: “What do you want? Who? I don’t have time for this! OK, OK send her in! But this better be quick!”

Employee: “My sister is getting married next month in Thailand and I would like to take some time off to be there. Bill will cover for me.”

Cheapskate: “Forget about it! Sales are down. I can’t spare anybody right now!”

Employee: “But I’ve been working for you for 5 years and haven’t had a break for over a year!”

Cheapskate: “Forget about it!”

Employee: “But I’m your top salesperson!”

Cheapskate: “Yea? Well I’m the boss and I say, the answer is NO! I told you sales are down! Now what else do you want?”

Employee: “Well, actually, I have an idea that can really improve our sales.”

Cheapskate: “You are not in marketing and they come up with all the promotions. It’s not your department! Anything else?”

Employee: “You know, I’m selling most of the boards around here and I would like to get paid based on my performance.”

Cheapskate: “You get paid just the same as everybody else! You put in your time and get paid just like everybody else. Now I’m pretty busy, so what else do you want?”

Employee: “Well, I don’t want to work for you! Here’s your board back, I quit!”

Employee stomps off, Cheapskate is left holding the board.

Scene over. Bows.

Scene Two:  The Above Board Approach to Employees (employees are an asset)

Above Board: Phone Rings, Above Board answers: “Good Morning Mary! How are you today? A new sales applicant? Send her right in!”

Employee enters: “Hi, I’d like to work for Above Board, I have tons of experience and have a great relationship with the buyer at Skateboard Depot.”

Above Board: “Really! You know we pay by performance, right? The more you sell, the more you make!”

Employee: “That’s exactly what I’m looking for! And I have some ideas about how we can improve our sales.”

Above Board: “Great! We like good ideas no matter where they come from, but with your sales experience, you have a practical understanding of the market our marketing people may not even have. Can you start tomorrow?”

Employee: “I wish I could, but my sister is getting married in Thailand and I will be gone for two weeks!”

Above Board: “No Problem! Have a great time and come back refreshed and ready to go. I’m really interested in your ideas to improve sales! You are hired!

Act over. Bows.

Act 2 – Relationship with Vendors

Scene 1: The Cheapskate Approach to Vendors (vendors are out to cheat you)

Cheapskate: (Phone rings) Cheapskate answers: “Yea, What now? The Roll Rite Rep? She can wait! She’s just here to sell me something. Those salespeople bug me.” (Clock hands spins to demonstrate 1 hour passing). Phone Rings: “Yea? Ok, Ok! Send her in but tell her I don’t have much time!”

Roll Right Rep: “Hi Mr. Cheapskate, How’s your wheel supply?”

Cheapskate: “You salespeople are always trying to stick me with more than I need. I’ll take two boxes, but that’s all. Got It?”

Roll Right Rep: “Yes, Mr. Cheapskate. Anything else?”

Cheapskate: “No! Now you got your order and I’m really busy! Goodbye!”

Roll Right Rep: “Goodbye, Mr. Cheapskate.” (leaves shaking her head.)

Cheapskate: (Phone Rings) “Now what? Oh that Rollie from Roll Rite – he’s after me for my late payment. Tell him I’m out of town. And next time don’t answer the phone!”

Cheapskate: (Phone Rings) “Yea? The Roll Rite Lady? Wasn’t she just here? Ok, Ok, send her in.”

Cheapskate: (Roll Rite rep enters) “Yea what do you want now?”

Roll Right Rep: “My Boss just called and told me that I’m supposed to collect $1000 from you for your last order and from now on, you will be on a COD basis. He’s removing your credit! You will now have to pay cash for everything! Upfront!”

Scene over. Bows.

Scene 2: The Above Board Approach to Vendors (vendors are bankers)

Above Board: (Phone rings) “Good morning Mary, how are you today? Great! Oh, The Roll Rite Lady! Send her right in!” (Roll Rite Rep enters) “Welcome! Welcome! Great to see you again! How have you been?”

Roll Rite Rep: “Much better now.”

Above Board (picks up the phone): “Hello Mary? Will you please bring in a cup of coffee and a piece of pie for the Roll Rite lady? Thanks!” (Turning to the Roll Rite rep) “That’s cream and sugar, right?”

Roll Rite Rep: “Oh, thank you so much!  You guys always treat me so nice! I just love calling on Above Board. And thanks for introducing me around to your people last month. You always make me feel like I’m part of the family around here!”

Above Board: “So what’s going on out there?”

Roll Rite Rep: “Well, those folks over at Cheapskate seem to be having some difficulties and there may be some opportunities for Above Board to pick up some market share.” (Pause) “Oh, and my boss says he really appreciates you coming in once a quarter and sharing your growth plans with him. He also says he appreciates the long term contract. It make him feel more secure helping you achieve those plans.  You know both companies will benefit if you are successful.” (Pauses) “By the way, there’s a new buyer over at Skateboard Depot and they’re expanding their operations. They may be ready for a big Above Board promotion!”

Above Board: “Wow! Thanks for all the market intel! It will be a big help. Looks like I will need more skate wheels!”

Roll Rite Rep: “And my boss says he really appreciated you calling in last month warning him in advance of your late payment and offering a catch up plan to bring your account current. He says no one has ever called before they missed a payment! He hates having to call our customers and beg to get paid. As a matter of fact, he is extending your credit and increasing your terms. He says he needs more customers like you.” (Pause) “Bye the way, he’s sitting on some excess inventory right now and you can get it at the quantity discount, and he will even warehouse it for you for free so you can take it as you need it.”

Above Board: “Wow! That’s great! Now we can expand into the new market I told you about!”

Roll Rite Rep: “YUP!”

Above Board: “Well, in that case, I’ll take 10 boxes!”

Act over. Bows.

Act 3 – Relationships with Buyers

Scene 1: The Cheapskate Approach to Buyers (buyers want too much)

Skateboard Depot Buyer: (Phone rings, Buyer answers) “Yes? Who? Cheapskate? Send him in.”

Cheapskate enters; Buyer says, “So what happened to your rep?”

Cheapskate: “Oh, she quit and went to work for my competitor, can ya beat that?”

Buyer: “Listen Cheapskate, I’ve been meaning to talk to you. We’ve been getting some complaints lately on the quality of your boards. What are you going to do about it?”

Cheapskate: “Well, you know how people are. You just can’t please everybody. I can’t help you with that.”

Buyer: “But they are your boards!”

Cheapskate: “Not anymore, now they are your boards!”

Buyer: “Well, I’ve also had a hard time even getting your boards.”

Cheapskate: “Oh, that’s the distributer’s fault. They keep fouling up!”

Buyer: “Look, I’ve got summer coming up and I want my stores to look like fun. What kind of seasonal advertising materials do you have?”

Cheapskate: “We’re already giving you standard materials; we don’t have anything in the budget for extras like that.”

Buyer: “You know, I’m sitting on a bunch of unsold Cheapskates. What can you do to help me move them?”

Cheapskate: “I’m already doing all I can. Sometimes business is just slow, that’s all!”

Buyer: “OK, listen – we’re going to have to lower the price to move them out. But then no one will want to pay full price again, so we’re going to have to discontinue The Cheapskate boards!”

Cheapskate: “But, but, but!”

Buyer: “Good day Cheapskate!”

Scene over. Bows.

Act 3 Scene 2: The Above Board Approach to Buyers (buyers are partners)

Skateboard Depot Buyer: (Phone rings) “Yes, I’m ready for my next appointment. Above Board? Great! Send him in! Hello there, nice to see you again!”

Above Board: “Yes, I hired a new rep but she’s attending a wedding in Thailand this week. She’ll be back next week. I think you already know her, she used to work for Cheapskate.”

Buyer: “Yes, I heard! Well congratulations, she has a great personality!”

Above Board: “Anyway, I wanted to come in personally and tell you how much we appreciate your business.” (Pause) “You know, there’s a fundraiser coming up where we are going to donate some boards to help them raise money for their new skateboard park. It’ll be right down the street. We were wondering if we could put up these signs in your stores promoting the event. We think our support will help drive Above Board business into your store. We’re listing all your stores as places that carry our boards.”

Buyer: “I love the idea; you’re giving the members of the Skateboard Association a social reason to support your business! And mine, too! Very cool! Your signs help the fundraiser achieve their goals in a new venue they never had access to, my stores! It’s a win win win all the way around!” (Pause) “So, what else is new?”

Above Board: “Well, I’ve brought in a check to make up the difference for a foul up we discovered. Some of our boards went out with the wrong UPC codes on them. They caused your scanners to undercharge for the boards. This check will make up for the difference and our trucks are swapping out the wrong UPC tagged boards as we speak. Further, we aren’t going to allow this kind of mistake to ever happen again.” (Pause) “Now we have bigger signs on the labels coming from the printer and we have a new cross-check procedure on our production lines to prevent this from reoccurring. We are very sorry for the inconvenience. It won’t happen again!”

Buyer: “WOW! I really like the way you handled this, Above Board! It makes me feel more confident working with you!”

Above Board: “Thanks, we see you as a partner and want to help out as much as well can. You know we have summer coming up and we have some special merchandising materials to help decorate your stores for the season. We know how important it is to get people to come in and we believe in retail entertainment.” (Pause) “Also, I want to bring you up to date. Here the latest on skateboard helmets (handing Buyer a news clipping), looks like they are going to be required. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to put them on special to coincide with all the press.”

Buyer: “Good Idea!”

Above Board: “Yea, and I was at your competitor’s store last week and they are putting their boards upfront for summer.  And they will be putting them on a 20% discount through next month.”

Buyer: “Thanks for all the info! So listen, Above Board, I’m making some changes in my skateboard offering and there’s an opportunity for some more Above Boards.”

Above Board: “I’ll get right back to you with special pricing, display designs, and all that seasonal signage I mentioned!”

Buyer: “Great!” (Shaking hands) “Looks like it’s going to be an Above Board summer!”

Play over. Bows.

So now, as you approach your 3 primary business relationships, your employees, your vendors, and your buyers, are you going to be a “Cheapskate” or an “Above Board”?