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Betting On You

Betting on you may well be the best thing you can do in these economic times. Betting on someone else to make your money grow (vis a vis the stock market) may be a thing of the past (at least for the foreseeable future.) This is the age of the small business. Entrepreneurs will flourish in this economy.

I think the problem many of us run into, is we think if we start a business, we have to ride that horse until we (or it) die of old age. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many (if not most) businesses have a finite life. You get in, stay until the life of the business reaches an end, and get out.

I think of the pet rock phenomenon in the ’70’s. That’s right. For $3 they would sell you a “pet” rock. You gave it a name, treated it like a pet, and everybody had to have one. Now these weren’t special rocks. They were just like any rock you pick up alongside the road around here. But they came from the pet rock company, and there soon was a cult following.

Now, what would you predict? Is this a business you’d retire from and leave thousands of employees waving in the parking lot? Of course not. You’ve got a niche. It’s good for a year (maybe a little less, maybe a little more,) then it’s over. Does that mean it’s not a legitimate business? Absolutely not. The guys who did it made a killing. But it had a finite life, measured in months, not years. Some businesses are measured in hours or days and others in decades or centuries, but all are legitimate businesses.

Where you get into trouble is when you start thinking it will go on forever. If our friends at pet rock had invested heavily in inventory just about the time the window was closing, they’d have lost everything by doing so. The key is to determine how you’ll get in, and how (and when) you’ll get out. If you ride it to the very last day, you’ll lose money. If you get out too soon, you’ll leave money on the table. Business savvy is about knowing when to get in, and when to get out. You learn those things by staying too long and leaving too early. As you gain experience, you learn what works and what doesn’t. That’s why they say experience is the best teacher.

But no matter what you do now, I’d still say you’re better off to bet on you. Would you rather give your money to someone else to lose, or would you rather lose it yourself and gain the education that comes with that? For me, I’d just as soon control my own destiny (and I have for much of my career.) There’s nobody in this world I trust with my money more than I trust me.

Think about it.

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