No Pets Allowed


No Pets Allowed
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Best Practices

As a Florida resident as well as a political observer, I have been watching the escalating battle between Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and Disney. In a previous article, I had discussed how Disney had perhaps made some missteps in their approach to the governor’s signing into law the “Parental Rights in Education” bill—popularly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill—in March of 2022. 

Initially, Disney took some heat in the court of public opinion for not taking a position on the bill. Then after pressure from employees and others, then-CEO Bob Chapek reversed himself and came out publicly against the bill. In retaliation, Florida legislators passed a bill stripping Disney of its special tax status, which gave Disney wide-ranging control and autonomy related to land use and development.

More recently, Disney was seen to have won a victory by pushing through a development agreement that would limit the new government-appointed Board’s power. Subsequently, Governor DeSantis has threatened to build a prison next to Disney World, and it was recently reported that Disney is suing the Florida governor for actions that are negatively affecting its business.

Yes, it is getting ridiculous, regardless of what political party you favor, especially given that it is all happening in the public eye and that Disney is Florida’s biggest taxpayer.

My point in telling this story is that it is a good example of a “pet peeve.” Pet peeves, in business as in life, are usually counterproductive. They tend to seem petty and emotional rather than consequential and clear-headed. I have seen many instances of “pet peeves” playing out in the business world; here are a few examples:

  • A customer put their business up for bid, and my company at the time was bidding on it. Despite being competitive (according to the customer), we were not awarded the business because the customer had a problem with a high-level manager at our company, which essentially became disqualifying. The issue was personal and minor, and was not related to anything substantive. This was a “lose-lose” situation, as the customer lost the opportunity to perhaps get even better products, pricing and terms, while my company did not gain the business.
  • An employee who worked for me had a “pet peeve” regarding the brand and model of a company car we were giving our field salespeople to use. He confronted the manager of the whole department (my boss) with this and handed in his resignation over it. (He was otherwise a very good employee, and I brokered him getting his job back, but some damage was done.)

Another “pet problem” at work is related to “pet projects” in which a manager has a belief that a certain business project is the way to go, and they put in place a team to evaluate it. Despite a low return or a lot of risk, this project is not allowed to die. Of course, management is supposed to have ideas and to put in place project teams to study them; however, the nature of something becoming a “pet project” is that it gets relooked at multiple times in various forms and wastes resources, distracting the organization from better options. I have witnessed (and yes, even had my own) pet projects over the years.

You might ask, “How can you differentiate a pet project from any other project?” Here are some key questions to ask in order to do so:

  • Would the project still be pursued if its main supporter left the company?
  • Is the project a significant one, and is it aligned with company vision and strategy. Or is the project marginal and fringe-y?
  • Does the project stem from some emotional desire or past injury rather than from a real unmet business need?

Of course, not all projects are “move the dial” projects; some are smaller, more focused and more limited in scope. I always believed in having a portfolio of projects of various types. However, good projects tend to be very clearly justifiable and based on such characteristics as high returns, which are sustainable in multiple economic scenarios. Good projects also encourage wide support across various parts of the organization or deep support within a single organization. They align with trends, business strategies and customer needs, and they generally result in a reduction in organizational risk. Pet projects may lack some or all of these characteristics and are often accompanied by lackluster support in the organization as well as difficulty in finding people willing to lead or work on them.

I have seen many cases of either pet peeves or pet projects related to a manager’s beliefs about a single individual and their potential within the company. If you find yourself standing alone in your strong support for an employee—or similarly alone in your negative views about an employee—it may be time to question your own motivations and experiences with that individual. Consider taking a more neutral stance and support the individual getting a wider range of experiences in different parts of the organization, so that a more balanced view may emerge.

I have also seen quite a few instances in which the pet peeve or the pet project relate to how your company compares with competition. It can be an easy observation for higher-level management to take note of a deficiency in your product slate versus competitors, or to want to act on data that suggests inferior performance in some aspect of your operations. While these observations may clearly be valid, they do not by themselves justify a specific action plan to fix the performance issue or fill in the product gap. 

The trick in such cases is to evaluate the opportunity in an even-handed way, including the costs, risks and returns associated with such projects. You will need to prove to management why the seemingly obvious project is or isn’t attractive as well as bring better options forward. As an example from a different industry, it may be that Walmart secretly harbors a pet peeve that they can’t deliver same-day service for as wide a range of goods as can Amazon; however, it isn’t necessarily a good idea that Walmart do so, as it is more likely that Walmart can succeed better by differentiating from Amazon rather than imitating it.

I hope this article will make you buy into a “no pets allowed” policy in your business!  

Sara Lefcourt of Lefcourt Consulting LLC specializes in helping companies to improve profits, reduce risk and step up their operations. Her experience includes many years in marketing, sales and procurement, first for Exxon and then at Infineum, where she was vice president, supply. Contact her at or (908) 400-5210.

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