Don’t pick up that $20 note

Don’t pick up that $20 note

No, this is not a prison joke.

This is a metaphor I made up to advise a client that he needed focus in his strategy. I thought perhaps this may also apply to other endeavours, such as a career change.

Let’s say you see a basket of $100 notes sitting on the other side of the street. When you walk across the road to get it, you see a $20 note lying in the middle of the road. Don’t stop to pick it up.

While your are trying to to pick up the $20 notes, someone else may run over to grab the $100 notes. Or you may fail to see a truck speeding at you.


My client had been struggling with an obsolete business model. Yet he has a good team, and solid knowledge in the industry. After a few discussions, we came up with a new model that would serve the market in a completely new way. “Disruptive” was the word. It all made sense. All he needed was to transition his business into the new business model.

Then he thought part of the strategy to present to new investors was to work on old-style opportunities that might still come along. After all, he had invested so much in the old (but dying) model.

It might seem to be easy money. But I said, since his team were all dedicated people, once they saw an opportunity, they would pursue with full force. While result was not guaranteed, a lot of effort would be expended to chase a small prize. Overall, a distraction.

Any kind of business transition is not going to be easy. It may seem like just a small twist of the old model, but often it is not. The effort required is often underestimated.

Of course, in the end it is a judgement call. Risks need to be taken.

This should apply to business transformations, as well as career changes. If it makes sense, and if it feels right, go for it. Forget about old investments. They are sunk cost.  But they are also assets that you will find useful again.

Strategy is choosing what not to do. Don’t try to do everything just because you can.

Ignore $20 notes along the way.



Leroy Yue, currently based in his hometown Hong Kong, is a business advisor focusing on Japan and China. He has held senior positions in large global companies, and has worked and lived in London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila.

Leroy speaks fluent English, Japanese, Putonghua and Cantonese. He has an MBA from London Business School. He also did a program at Sophia University 上智大学 (Tokyo), and an executive program at Shanghai Jiaotong Univsersity 上海交通大学.

more about Leroy Yue,  LinkedIn Profile


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