“Trick or treat?” That’s the question little children will be asking all night long on this Halloween evening. Fortunately it’s a question that has lost its literal meaning. Practically speaking, it is the equivalent of “Please and thank you Mr. Jones, can I have some candy real quick.”

“Trick or treat?” is an analytical question that many business people might profit from asking every now and then. We are all optimists and as such we are vulnerable to occasionally being victimized by a “trick” masquerading as a “treat”.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Thousands or otherwise intelligent Americans get hooked into reading letters that promise great bargains and instant winnings. The “treat” is the chance for good fortune, but there is a “trick” that accompanies many of these great deals.

Excess office supplies, slightly out of tolerance materials, and remanufactured equipment are all offered at tempting discounts from time to time. “Trick or treat?” Probably some of each. There are bargains to be had, but maintain a healthy dose of skepticism for deals that sound “too good to be true”. There are far more “tricks” than “treats”.

You’re faced with making an important decision, the numbers look good but your natural instincts sense problems. “Trick or treat.” You may be in for a nasty “trick” if you don’t listen to your gut reaction. “Gut reactions” of experienced managers aren’t whimsical fantasies. They are instincts developed from years of meaningful experience. They shouldn’t govern the decision making process, but they certainly shouldn’t be disregarded. In this case, knowing the “tricks” of the trade can be helpful.

Things that don’t make sense, don’t make sense. It seems obvious enough, but we all spend too much time trying to figure out things that don’t make sense.

There are a lot of good talkers in this world. It may be an employee, a customer, or a supplier, but some place along the line, somebody is going to try to tell you that black is white, and that white is black. The approach may be convincing and you may be tempted to accept the explanation, but common sense tells you that this is nonsense. Don’t be afraid to listen to your natural instincts. Remember, sometimes “the Emperor wears no clothes”.

There are times when what appears as common sense to you fails to explain the behavior of others. While it’s important to analyze behavior, there comes a time when you have to accept the world as it is, not as you calculated it should be.

You may believe that your customers should be willing to pay more for your product than they do, but they won’t. Your perception of value may be much different than theirs. Your new competitor’s decision to diversify right into your market might make no sense to you, but they are doing it anyway. You must be prepared to deal with the consequences. You may have an idea of the price somebody should be willing to pay you for your business, but the price they will pay might be quite different.

In the final analysis, it often boils down to which side of the check book you are standing on. Perhaps that’s the real logic behind the expression “arms length transaction”. One arm is reaching for the check while the others extending it. If each side didn’t have a different viewpoint, there would be no exchange. At some point you just have to accept it.

Don’t depend on somebody that’s undependable. They will inevitably let you down. Undependable people become dependent on you. Dependable people, the ones that you can really count on, are usually quite independent themselves.

Because undependable people are dependent on you, they always seem to be around, mostly when you don’t need them. Because they are often available, you are tempted to make the mistake of counting on them when you should know better. The “treat” is convenience, but sooner or later you will get “tricked” into depending on them and they won’t be there.

If you have been in business long enough, you have probably said to yourself “I should have known better” a couple of times. The next time that you encounter a deal “too good to be true”, a proposition that “just doesn’t make sense”, or allow yourself to “depend on somebody you know is undependable”, ask yourself the question, “Trick or Treat?”