Yale grad, business consultant and professional speaker Jack Quarles sees through the bull-puckey miring your company and your personal life. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do or how you do it, you’ve doubtlessly cheated yourself along the way with “expensive sentences.” What is an expensive sentence? It’s that idea that it’s easier to keep going forward, throwing good money after bad, instead of making the hard decision to cut your losses. Usually this comes in the format of “We can’t fire him, he’s been with the company for a long time.” That can wind up being the sort of expensive sentence that can outright kill a company entirely.
Fortunately for you, this converted Toledoan and three-time author’s latest business/life book Expensive Sentences, tackles your issues in a broad, easy-to-comprehend format. And while it is written through the lens of a business book, you can see how this narrative lends itself expertly to life in general. We decided to talk with Jack to learn a little more.
What’s your background in business?
I’ve spent the last 20 years mostly in the field of procurement, purchasing and expense management, so helping companies make buying decisions.
Are you a Toledo lifer?
No, I’m an adopted Toledoan. I’ve only been here for two years. We moved here for my wife’s job at Owens Corning.
What do you think of Toledo so far?
We’re really enjoying it. We’re from the Washington D.C.-area, inside the Beltway. It’s smaller and slower here in ways that we really appreciate. It’s also incredibly friendly. There’s so much to do here with the Museum and the Zoo, and we’re Walleye season ticket holders.
Why did you decide to become an author?
It first started because I wanted to solve a problem. Senior executives didn’t really appreciate the value of looking at their expenses and the middle line. When you start talking about saving 10 percent or operational excellence, their eyes can glaze over. My first book was How Smart Companies Save Money. And it’s really designed as a primer to introduce a senior leader who may not be familiar with anything about expense management or procurement, and to introduce them to basic concepts.
A common problem business books have is they have one simple idea and then they spend 300 pages beating readers to death with that idea. Thoughts?
I’ve seen that in a few books as well. It’s funny that you say that, when I was working with my editor, she said, ‘I love how much you’ve got here, I’ve worked with a few people that had a great TED talk and somebody said they should turn that into a book. But it wasn’t a book, it was a TED talk, about 18 minutes of content that they put 300 pages around.’
What’s the most egregious expensive sentence that you’ve ever heard?
At a 30-person company, we had a technical expert on the team. It had taken us months to find ‘Louis’ and he had expertise in this arcane language that we needed. He was valuable to the company, but he was a problem. He was odd in ways that caused problems for the team. We had a discussion with his boss, who said, ‘I know that Louis isn’t the best, but he’s the only person who can do the job.’ And that was the expensive sentence. We trusted our leader, and with that as a rational, we kept Louis on the team for another 18 months. And during that time, the problems got worse. It costs a lot in productivity and some great people chose to leave the team because they hated working with this guy. But he was the only guy we thought could do the job. Eventually, a couple people on the team learned to do what Louis did and the team was so much better off without him.