Consider these business insights from the classic plastic oracle

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

Creating a remarkable organization means finding awesome people and providing amazing leadership. And a cornerstone of leadership is the ability to make courageous decisions.

The ability to make decisions, whether right or wrong, is better than making none.  With so much data available these days, many managers suffer from paralysis by analysis and are frozen into a position of indecisiveness.

But deciding how to plan the future based solely on information from the past is dicey at best.  Sure, you can check the data, get input from team members, and ask experts in the field like factory reps. It’s also OK to get your heart and your gut involved.

However, if after all that you are still unable to make a conclusive decision, you can always rely on that black plastic globe on your desk: the Magic 8-Ball.

The plastic phantastic oracle

The Magic 8-Ball is a black plastic sphere that resembles an oversized billiards ball. It’s marketed as a kid’s toy for telling fortunes or seeking advice and has been around longer than you think, having been invented in 1946 by Albert C. Carter, son of a clairvoyant. It was originally cylindrical and sold as the Syco-Slate, “The Pocket Fortune Teller,” but was reintroduced in 1948 encased in an iridescent crystal ball. The updated design caught the attention of Chicago’s Brunswick Billiards, which commissioned a version in the now familiar black-and-white eight-ball configuration.

You can still buy a Magic 8-Ball today from Mattel. It’s wireless and needs no batteries or cell signal; you simply ask it a question and turn it over to reveal the answer, which appears in a window on the bottom. The 8-ball has 20 different responses that are offered either randomly or by divine intervention, depending on your level of belief.

I recently utilized my own 8-ball for advice on current business conditions. The answers below are actual Magic 8-ball replies.

Me: Are we done with extended supply chain interruptions?
Magic 8-Ball: As I see it, yes.

Can I expect another price increase from suppliers, energy or media?
You may rely on it.

My top salesperson is taking several long lunch breaks outside of the store. Could he be interviewing for another job?
Better not to tell you now.

With all the talk of a recession, should I cut my advertising budget?
My reply is no.

It could be a long hot summer for retail and my rep is asking me to build inventory. Should I order extra merchandise to sell?
It is decidedly so.

Summer also means markets and conventions. Is it worthwhile to go?
Without a doubt.

Any chance that gasoline and diesel will cost less than $3 a gallon this year?
Very doubtful.

With gas prices so high, should I continue to offer free delivery?
Outlook is not so good.

Will long-term finance offers attract shoppers this summer?
Reply hazy, try again.

Should I continue to recruit and hire staff?
Yes, definitely.

Is it a good time to spend on print advertising again?
My sources say no.

Even with a slowing economy, are people still buying premium goods?
Outlook good.

Do you see a move back from online to brick-and-mortar shopping?
Signs point to yes.

Will sales improve if we have weekly sales meetings?
Most likely.

Will my sales team complain about weekly meetings?

It is certain.

Can my factory reps add value to weekly meetings?

Despite warnings, one of my salespeople is constantly late for work. Will that change?
Don’t count on it.

If I increase advertising, inventory, and sales staff, am I guaranteed success this year?
Cannot predict now.

If I don’t increase advertising, inventory, and sales staff, am I guaranteed success this year?
Concentrate and ask again.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YourSource. You can reach him at