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Measuring Value

I have always been amazed by how most Americans pride themselves in making good value decisions–getting a “good deal” on things. Of course, advertisers know this so they promote things like “two for the price of one” or “50% off the retail price” in order to pull buyers in. 50% off the retail price may sound good, but the seller also may have just raised that price 100% — so you may actually be getting no deal at all. Perceiving real value is not easy.

My experience has been that the best entrepreneurs I have met are people who can get behind all of the hoopla and actually determine what the actual value of something is. I remember one young man who had a knack for cars. He could go to a car auction and look at a hundred cars and determine which ones to bid on and at what price. What he bought, almost always brought more money when put on a used car lot… and so he was in high demand as an employee for car dealers.

There was another man I knew and a good friend, whom some of the old-timers around town will remember–Don Gage. Don was in the salvage business. He would buy almost anything from jewelry to sheet rock to appliances and clothing. A lot of it was bought sight unseen from stores that had been wiped out by a tornado or natural calamity of some kind. Don almost had an innate sense of what things were worth, and he would decide quickly on what to buy. Sometimes he paid too much, but not often. He knew the value of things. He also never went back on his word. If he agreed to buy, he would pay, take delivery and never look back. He had a gift for perceiving value as well as taking risk.

You don’t have to be buying “things” to have this gift. Some entrepreneurs succeed because they find value in people. They know how to build teams that can deliver. I am thinking here of how Marv Levy and Bill Polian put together the great Bills teams during those four straight Super Bowl runs. I never thought that the Bills always had the best football players, but they had learned how to put together a team that could win games. Understanding people and putting together a winning team–is a gift in value building that is not easy to replicate.

So why am I writing about this? So what? You might ask. I think the reason this whole idea popped up with me is that I have been thinking about what needs to happen coming out of this coronavirus recession. We are going to be depending on “value finders” to put our economy back together. Our economy and society have been set back. Values have dropped but there is still a lot of “value” out there–not just in business but in our social infrastructure as well.

So, if you know somebody with the kind of entrepreneurial spirit I have described… give them a “high five!” They may be entrepreneurs in health care, education, public service or business. We are going to need them in every area in rebuilding our lives and our economy.

They are probably not people whose names you will find a lot in the headlines–but they are the ones who will actually help us build back what has been lost in this crisis. “Turning them loose,” so-to-speak, is the American way of rebuilding.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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