Sunday, October 19, 2008

Crowd mentality

We wake up every day to bleaker and bleaker headlines. We watch as governments flail in vain attempts to provide a ‘quick-fix’ solution. Everyone we talk to is worried about what the ‘credit-crunch’ will mean to them. My advice? Take a step back, stop and think whether ‘following the herd’ is such a great strategy.

 

My favourite book is ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu and the quote that really rings true at the moment for me is

 

In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace.

In essence, this means that ‘blind freddy’ could have seen the economic turmoil in which we are embroiled coming sooner or later. A smart operator would have taken the necessary steps to prepare for this, even though that would probably have gone against what the ‘crowd’ was saying.

 

So now we are facing some tough times no doubt. Every individual and every business is going to be affected. Is there much that you can do to prevent it? Probably not. The best tactic will be to develop a strategy to ride it out. However, once again the smart operators are looking beyond the current issues and preparing themselves to benefit from the next phase.

 

The best evidence of this is what Warren Buffet said recently (another commentary). Most people would agree that Warren is a pretty smart dude and knows what his talking about, his record as one of the richest men in the world (US$52 billion) certainly stands as testimony to that. Here’s what he said -

 

A simple rule dictates my buying: be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.

In simple terms he believes prices are low and now is a good time to start accumulating quality assets that will rise in value over the long term. Sounds pretty simple but how many people will do it? It is much easier to run with the crowd isn’t it?

 

I believe that now more than ever you need to be evaluating your business and determining whether it is prepared for the upcoming financial storm AND what lies beyond. To be successful in my books you are going to have to look above and beyond what everyone else is doing or saying. It takes courage to stand up and be different but remember it is your life and your business. You need to determine what works for you! You need to cast an unemotional eye across all aspects of your business and whether the investment you are making (in time, effort and money) is actually giving you a good rate of return. If it isn’t, will it? Should you jettison it? Should you look at taking something else on to add to your ‘portfolio’ that will pay dividends in the future? Doing something that has a poor rate of return day after day after day is plain dumb.

 

Preparing for anything is not easy, it involves time and effort but if you view it as an investment you will receive far more than you ever invested. You can never hope to achieve this unless you invest in the first place. I wish you could but as they say – you can’t get something for nothing.

 

So become a ‘smart operator’ and look beyond the emotional crowd mentality that currently rules almost everything we hear these days. Learn from the masters of their game (Sun Tzu and Warren Buffet to name but two) and prepare for what lies ahead rather than simply reacting to what is happening now. Yet above all remember this last piece of advice from Sun Tzu -

 

You have to believe in yourself