Catching Monkeys in Your Business

Guest blogger. With over 1,500 speaking engagements throughout the US and Canada to his credit, Brendan J. Cunningham, President of Excelleron Business Consulting, has been called the ”Patron Saint of Entrepreneurs. As a business coach, when I recognize that my clients are at an impasse, sometimes I ask them this question: “How do you catch a monkey?”

Usually, they are perplexed by the question. The last person I asked shot back with:

“What the heck, does that have to do with anything?”

But I pressed on:

“Stick with me, because I am going somewhere.”

Here’s the deal. In certain parts of Africa when they want to catch a monkey, they cut a hole in a coconut, empty it out,and put a few grains of rice inside. Then they tie the coconut to a tree…and wait. After a while, a monkey comes along and spots the coconut. He looks around checking for hunters or prying eyes. When it’s safe, he picks up the coconut, looks at it, shakes it, and hears something rattling inside. As a notoriously curious animal, not unlike human beings, he reaches in—the hole is just big enough for him to squeeze his hand into—he feels the few grains of rice, and tries to grab them. Got ‘em! He clenches the rice in his fist and tries to pull out his hand… and then a strange thing happens. He can’t get his fist out. It’s stuck! All he has to do is let go of the rice and he is free…but no way will that monkey let go.


Well, if the trapper returns soon enough, he has caught a monkey. If the trapper is busy gathering monkeys from the many other traps he has set in the jungle and he doesn’t get back to this monkey in about a week, when he does get there, he collects a dead monkey with a coconut stuck on his hand because, as we know, the monkey will never let go. NEVER! Even if it means death.

“Nice story. How does this relate to business?”

We see owners of companies, sales managers, and supervisors that simply get stuck and will not change the way they do business regardless of how negatively it affects their bottom line, profitability, or the quality of their life. Even if the inevitability of actually having to go out of business confronts them, they simply will not let go (of the coconut) of bad procedures or ineffective ways of doing business. Not convinced? Let us consider how marketing has changed over the years. Here’s one example: Yellow Pages out…websites in. How many companies either have no website or have one that looks like a high school kid designed it? Often I hear, “we don’t need a website, we never had one before and we are doing just fine.”

Even if that is true, which it probably isn’t, know that your competition has thought otherwise. Which means you are still hanging on to your old ways of doing business, and they are grabbing chunks of your market share… and really appreciate your stubbornness. And, as far as having a high school kid, or a relative create a website for you—not a smart plan. If I want to build a business to support me and my family for years to come together with lots of other people who I would hope to employ, I would NOT have my website be designed by an amateur. Isn’t a website really an extension of your business like your storefront is? Might it not make a lot more sense to have a professional do it?

So if you are monkeying around with your business that’s great. Just be careful, because if you are holding on to archaic procedures or a business modality that just doesn’t work as well as it used to work, you may find that you and your company might become one of those growing statistics and you might be doing your part to add a few more names to the unemployment rolls. You could get stuck permanently.

Want to hear more from Brendan? Learn more about his latest book: The Seventh Sense: The Key to Effectiveness in Life and Business.

About the Author: Guest blogger Brendan J. Cunningham, President of Excelleron Business Consulting, is a Licensed Professional Business Coach. You can reach him by calling 716-818-2526, emailing at or visiting


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