Being uninformed is the key to business success

In the last few days everyone who had an opinion was asked to comment on the fact that South Africa is in a technical recession. You just could not escape it. Every news channel, radio show, and podcast was filled to the brim with serious hosts talking to even more serious guests about the impact of the recession and how everyone will suddenly have to sell their children into slavery and go back to the barter system, swopping grandma’s doilies for a tin of defective pilchards. 

The bombardment of bad news was so intense that I wished Eskom would throw us back into stage 6  load-shedding just to shut up the news and radio channels. I was so desperate to get away from the deluge of pessimism and doom that I went for a stroll in the park, where I heard two bergies talk about the drop in consumer spending and how they will soon be forced to buy their own half-eaten pies and empty wine bottles. In a final desperate attempt, I stepped away from the razor blade cabinet and decided to go for coffee with a friend of mine who also has his own business. And not once in the two hours we sat there did we touch on any negative issues. Rather than focussing on the bad, he chose to see the opportunities around him.

Which reminded me of another, similar chat I had with Jannie Mouton of PSG years ago over a cup of coffee and a cigarette about how he managed to grow his company at an exponential rate in difficult circumstances. His advice to me was simple: Choose to see the positive in any situation and look for opportunities when others see challenges.

The problem is that we are bombarded with negativity and that it becomes very hard to see the positives. It is the effect of the news we are being fed. Bad news sells, and if it bleeds, it leads. And these “staccato signals of constant information” (to quote Paul Simon) only manages to get us down and rob us of our creativity and energy.

To be successful, especially when you run a small business, you need to tune out of the news and focus on opportunities around you. If your focus is on the macro-economic woes, you will not notice the micro-economic opportunities in front of your eyes even if they look like Scarlett Johansson in a bubble bath. You need to be in tune with what your direct customers want, because that is who you make your money from.

So switch off the TV, the radio and your Twitter feed and go ask your customers how you can solve their problems.  I guarantee you at the end of the week you will be happier, and your order book will be full.  You might not know what Dawie Roodt said yesterday, but Dawie Roodt never bought anything from you so it does not matter what he said.

So there you go: a solid business case for NOT watching the news.

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