Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Investment Principle

I was with a client of ours the other day and we were talking about a joint venture they were looking into doing. Like a lot of third sector organisations, they were big on vision and ideas but a little thin on practicalities. And I found myself saying what I often say to leaders of spin-outs.

Which is this: it's very bloody hard to grow a business without investment. Financial investment. Personal investment. A commitment and a choice to take the risk. An intrinsic understanding that you can only get massive results if you're willing ot make big calls. Let's call it the Investment Principle.

I have, when I think about it, tried to live my own life by it, whether I consciously called it that or not. I seek, where possible, to be an Investor. Why? Because the he stand-out people who I admire most are, for me, those who invest. They take risks with their time. They give freely - but selectively. They put their reputation and money on the line in pursuit of that in which they believe. Their impulse is to make big inputs, sure in the knowledge that exceptional result are only created that way.

The obverse of the Investors are the Conservers. I use this term deliberately. It's a frame of mind as well as a set of actions Conseervers' life-strategies revolve around protecting and maintaining a current position, not in enhancing it. It is defensive rather than speculative, closed rather than open in spirit. Conservers fight for their share of the cake rather than investing in a bigger one.

But this isn't a simple linear split. I suspect the distribution curve is pretty standard with most people being somewhere between the two poles with extreme Investors and Conservers as outliers. My guess though is that the people who make the biggest difference in the world , certainly socially, are almost all on Investors. These people are not 'born'. They make a choice about how to live. They know that the Investment Principle works - and they live by it.

Of course, Investment isn't just a one way street. Investments frequently don't pay off. In people, in relationships, in business. You get burned as much as you get it right. And investments that are not made judiciously, in people or ventures that are wrong to begin with, are not defensible either. Being investment-minded isn't about being a soft-heart. But it is about understanding the powerful link between investment and reward and making this, somehow, a feature in the way you operate.


Edward Harkins said...

I like that term 'conservers' because it does effectively encapsulate a common scenario.

My purely subjective suspicion is that the 'conserver' is the default position in most UK public services - especially at local government level.

I don't suggest that this is solely because of any deficiency or innate conservative on the part of the officials concerned.

Rather, I suggest that it 'comes with the territory' of always protecting your back from the wrath of elected officers or the dreaded media , should any innovation go wrong.

After all, in public services the number of officials critised for not taking risks with a new idea must be tiny - whereas we can all probably cite examples of severe, often disproportionate critism fired off by politicians or the media (Minster Ed Balls. the media and Haringay Social Services?).

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