Management in Unexpected Places 0

Thousands of people have gathered on the Camden waterfront to witness Red Bull’s Fulgtag, where contestants launch their homemade flying machines off of a 30′ tall runway attached to a barge anchored in the Delaware river. From the website promoting the event, to the local radio show celebrities who were judging the efforts, anyone could tell that this was a well organized event. The promoters were very clear in all of the advertising that they were not allowing any outside food or beverages (with the exception of unopened bottles of water) into the viewing area. This created a captive audience for the group’s $5.00 hotdogs and $6.00 beers. But as my son and I were watching one of the crafts attempt their flight, I noticed a business transaction taking place right beside me in the crowd.

 

The “Manager” of the operation was wearing a purple drawstring backpack. He casually approached his potential customer in the crowd and happened to ask, almost in passing, if the two men would be interested in purchasing a cold beer for $3.00. There was initial interest, followed by negotiation. The customer’s friend was very interested also and would the manager consider selling 2 beers for $5.00. As it was close to the end of the event, the “manager” said yes. As the manager was speaking with his customers, I noticed that he had two employees with him. Once the customer was interested, the managers’ employees backed up to the group, with each employee facing out towards the crowd. The employees never looked at the manager or acknowledged the customers. As the transaction took place, their job appeared to be that of making sure the manager was working safe. I pictured the 3 holding practice in someone’s garage where they covered evacuation drills in the event that their customers became disruptive or an outside entity attempted to interrupt their operation.

 

After the transaction was complete the customer said” I wish you had been here earlier” to which the manager said, “we’ve been here all day”. So the manager and his employees must have put together a business model in advance, had worked out the logistics of supplying their operation in spite of obstacles at the point of entry to the event and had planned out in advance evacuation routes in case their business was discovered by the original operations managers or local authorities. This was necessary because I had to assume that they had not secured the necessary permits to operate such a business.

 

Now I’m not passing judgment either way on what they did, but in the final analysis, price controls and regulations created an underground market. A group of entrepreneur’s recognized that opportunity and capitalized on it after weighing the costs and the benefits. Their conclusion was the potential costs (possible fines and a night in the Camden jail) were offset by the chance to make some money. I imagine they saw their company providing a service. So next time you are out and about, keep your eyes open and you will probably see your own examples of management in unexpected places.