A company is only as valuable as its assets, and no assets are more valuable than human beings. In fact, how a company recruits and manages its human capital is oftentimes the wild card that differentiates the winners from the losers and the leaders from the laggards.

Despite their obvious value, however, many employers fail to realize that human beings are not inanimate assets; humans are fragile and need to be handled with care. This involves accommodating those characters that stray off the beaten path. Most of the people that make up the human capital of a firm typically tend to be straight arrows, but you can always count on encountering your fair share of oddballs… or, as they are referred to euphemistically, eccentric people.

If one were to pin them on a spectrum, it would be seen that eccentric people are more commonplace in business than they are in sports. Of course, both business and sports take a backseat to entertainment, where oddness seems to be de rigueur.

Nonetheless, business people — particularly the eccentric ones — can sometimes be just as challenging to manage as a crazed rock star. In the same way that a musician’s manager needs to coddle and cater to his very particular client (his human capital), firms that employ odder types need to accommodate them. Oftentimes, this comes down to massaging their egos.

The ego has landed

To some extent, everyone is a diva. But before we go there, I must stress that it is indeed very appealing to come across as humble and modest at all times. While the way a company manages its talent is half the equation, what should matter to you is how you handle yourself.

In the business world, like in the dating game, if you can exude confidence without crossing over to arrogance, you will make a lot of contacts, win over a lot of influential people, make a good amount of money, and be well positioned to have a successful life. The problem with exhibiting too much humility and modesty is that it encourages employers to take advantage of you.

It’s in the numbers…

Two’s a crowd

When it comes to managing egos and talent within a company, two departments that demand plenty of attention are those of finance and marketing (for the sake of this article, marketing includes the sales function). Having studied the former in college and being currently employed in the latter, I have always been interested in assessing the nuances between financiers and marketers. Examining some of the similarities and differences between the two reveals how playing both sides can help you in your career.

Finance and marketing both tend to offer lucrative career options. It is not unusual for a company’s top finance lieutenant to outearn the company president. It is also not unusual for a CFO to have to take the bullet when a company’s numbers disappoint. The same applies to marketing positions. Both career paths are laced with potential returns, so it is only normal that the accompanying inherent risks are high as well.

In response to these risks, marketers and financiers tend to display eccentric mannerisms. But when it comes to how these eccentricities manifest themselves, the differences between the two positions couldn’t be further apart.

Comparing DNA

Business boils down to numbers, yes, but so many of the decisions that ultimately determine where the numbers fall come down to gut instinct. And herein lies the major difference between finance and marketing people.

Macro-level decisions involving strategy tend to originate from an innate instinct pertaining to one major trend or another. And, as you can imagine, micro-level steps taken to meet the resulting objectives tend to involve a more methodical, analytical framework. This general rule applies to both the finance and marketing sectors.

In spite of this similarity, however, financiers generally tend to be analytical by nature, instinctively combing through data in search of one inefficiency or another. Marketers will also comb over copious amounts of numbers, but most of what they do and say comes down to emotions.

Take the example of one marketing position, that of a salesman. A salesman can present all the numbers in the world, but in the end, he’s selling a feeling or positioning a brand to convey an image. A stock analyst, on the other hand, must let go of his emotions and look at the bottom line. The analyst can love a company, yet will still recommend that a shareholder sell their stock if the numbers say so.

Mix it up

In the end, the spoils seem to go to those who can manage the two schools of thought. In life, it is always better to let others come to their own conclusions. When the time does come to help someone along the way, you can always appeal to people’s senses to nudge them in the right direction, but you’ll need to assuage their inner doubts by letting the numbers do the heavy lifting.

E-mail of the week:

I work in my family’s business. I am a minority owner. My parents act as officers and upper management, my siblings and I as employees. I face a dilemma: I want to leave in order to broaden my horizons. My parents are content with the status quo whereas, if I were to stay, I would want the company to grow. If I leave, however, the company might suffer and even go out of business. I do not know if you have worked in family businesses, but what do you think I should do?

Yes, I’ve worked in my family’s business in the past. You raise numerous valid points, but there is a chance that your family’s business could survive and thrive without you in the picture. After all, there are always people out there looking for a stable job who can help a company without the need to make it grow.

That being said, that is not the real issue here. Your dilemma boils down to whether your loyalty to your family should supersede your own ambitions. That is a thorny issue. Frankly, you should always consider others, but your decision should be based on what makes sense for you. You can also go on to greater things and help your family indirectly. Since you seem to have a long-term vision, I would suggest that you find a solution that makes everyone happy. First, explain to your parents that you are limited there. Emphasize that, were you to stay, not only would you have to go against them but, in the event that they step aside, you would then find yourself locking horns with your siblings. Then, assuming that they haven’t already thrown you out of the family, look for a replacement for yourself. Be honest about it, and find someone who is better than you and not just someone who will make you look irreplaceable. Then, strike out on your own and start sleeping well at night.

Good luck. The good thing about family is that, unlike colleagues, they remain family after you stop working with them.

Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at www.CourseToSuccess.com. His new book, The Confessions of Alexander The Great: 33 Lessons in Greatness, is available at www.AlexanderTheBook.com.