Unused Assets

Unused Assets

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

Unused Assets

Sackett’s Harbor NY:

In a “previous life,” my wife (and business partner) and I had the great fortune to own a very nice sailing vessel on Lake Ontario. We considered it a major asset. A big investment.

Many of you know that the sailing season is short on Lake Ontario. But we made the most of it! We would start the sailing season wearing our ski clothes. And we would end the sailing season wearing our ski clothes. We were always among the first to commission our boat in the Spring, and among the last to pull it out of the water in the Fall.

We observed, and often commented on, how sad it was that so many boats in our small marina seemed to never be used. All the signs pointed to them being abandoned. We, on the other hand, made sure to be on our boat just about every weekend during sailing season. Family and friends knew that if they wanted to see us during the summer, they would have to come to us and be prepared to go sailing!

Dana Point, CA:

When we moved to southern California, we chose to forgo owning a sailboat because of the expense of moving a large boat across country. Also, at the time, there was a five year waiting list for a slip in any marina close by us. However, we have a friend, who at the time, had a sailboat in Dana Point harbor. We got to have out cake and eat it too!

We observed that the number of “sad boats” (those that seemed to not be used), was much larger here than back in New York. Our friends agreed that such was the case. Our speculation is that the weather is so nice here, that it’s easy to say, “I’m too busy right now. I can always sail next week.” So the millions of dollars in assets sit idle. In the image above, we see not even 25% of one of the Dana Point marina basins. There are two such basins. Amazing.

Unused and/or Underused Assets:

I think we have the same problem in our businesses. We under utilize our assets. Especially our human assets. According to what I see, we aren’t so bad at maximizing our machines and real estate assets. But we somehow don’t find it as easy to invest in and utilize our human assets. We don’t create environments that maximize employee engagement. There are exceptions of course, yet for the most part, I see a lack of commitment to our human assets. Despite the rhetoric to the contrary, employees are often viewed as an expense and expendable.

Why do we not pay attention to the cost of employee turnover? How is it that we avoid the challenging work of clarifying a compelling set of organizational values? Do we provide, as Daniel Pink described it, an environment that encourages Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose for our people?


It seems to me to be fundamentally true that in the end, business is a human-to-human activity. At least it is until the Super-Intelligent Machines take over! Given that is the case, then it follows that we would do well to put our employees first. It has been demonstrated that the way we treat our employees is the way they will treat each other and all other stakeholders in our business. I hope leaders live out their values when they claim that “employees are our most important asset.” That should be visible in the company culture for all to confirm and affirm. I also know from experience, that managing the organizational culture is the most difficult and rewarding task for leadership.