Fish Tales

Smart leaders plan ahead for problems and have a plan for dealing with them. A fictional fish-tale communicates this principle well. 

A young couple decided to start their own business. He was an engineer and she was an advertising copywriter. They wound up buying a small salmon cannery in Alaska. They soon discovered they had a problem.

Customers opening a can of their salmon discovered that the fish was grey. Sales sagged. Investigation revealed that the problem was a result of the way they processed the fish. “This is a technical problem,” said the wife, “and you’re an engineer. You have to find a way to fix this.”

A month later, the husband announced that they would have to replace some machinery and make other changes. It was going to take at least 10 months to do the job and it was going to cost a lot of money. “We have to do something sooner than that,” said the wife, “or we’re going to go under.” 

For the next two days she pondered the problem and came up with this solution: There was nothing wrong with the salmon—it tasted fine. The problem lay in its looks. So she changed the label on the can.

In bold letters, right under the brand name, the labels thereafter announced, “The only salmon guaranteed not to turn pink in the can.”

Smart and effective leaders have a process built in to deal with changes, disappointments, and simply the unexpected. Anticipate, look ahead, foresee, and expect problems. You’re either dealing with a problem right now, coming out of a problem, or about to enter into one.  

Be ready and have a plan. Deal with the problems as they come and do not let them sway you from completing the vision and the task.




Think of a current situation. Ask: What exactly am I trying to achieve?

As I move toward that answer, what problems might I anticipate?

Develop a plan for dealing with those potential problems.