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How to convert major political or economic changes into great opportunities

/ 04:10 AM May 16, 2022
ILLUSTRATION BY RACHEL REVILLA

ILLUSTRATION BY RACHEL REVILLA

Times of great change always bring great opportunities. That is a fundamental rule in business and life. This holds true for any situation of significant change, not just political but also economic or otherwise, whether you like the change or not.

In my work with self-made billionaire entrepreneurs around the world, I have found that most of them share the following mindset:

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  • They look at everything as an opportunity.
  • They are positive about life in general.
  • They look at everything with the attitude that the glass is nearly full. This empowers them to find unique opportunities in even the most challenging of situations.

The Dalai Lama and full control

I am not a Buddhist but I had the fortune to have a private audience with the Dalai Lama many years ago. One thing I learned from him is that we should not spend any energy on things we cannot change. I learned from Ray Dalio, the American business magnate and self-made billionaire investor, that all we have control over in the ups and downs of the economy and political changes is our productivity: that of ourselves, our teams and our business.

When dealing with significant economic or political changes that you cannot control, regardless of the nature of the changes, the question you need to ask yourself is: “How can I exploit this change for my benefit and that of my business?”

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No. 1 success rule for human beings: adaptability

Elon Musk said in an interview: “I tend to approach things from a physics framework. Physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy.” Let us go through some first principles of major changes in economic or political environments.

The more you can adapt to a new environment, the more successful you will become. That is a basic principle of survival that exists not just in nature but also in all human beings. What does this have to do with major political or economic changes? It means that you first have to emotionally disassociate from the outcome.

Focus on the answers to the question: “How can my business use this as an opportunity?”

A practical guide to uncovering opportunities

Here is a practical step-by-step guide you can use:

Take a blank sheet of paper. Assemble a few people in your team who are smart and who have different strengths and weaknesses from you. A quiet room. A minimum of one hour.

First, start to brainstorm about the central question: “what changes will this bring for us and our business?” Remember the key rule of brainstorming: do not criticize anyone’s ideas until you have collected at least more than 75 ideas. Everyone should put their creative hat on. We want a maximum of possible changes, good or bad, on our list. Focus on quantity first, not quality. Get as much output as you can.

In the beginning, this might feel like the “wobbly phase,” as if you just learned to ride a bike. It may feel uneasy and uncomfortable. Stick with the process even if that happens.

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Then, in the next phase, we change everyone’s hat to that of the critic’s. The critic looks at each change on the list and asks: “Does that change make sense? Will that change really have an impact on our business?”

The practical dreamer

Then, put on your and your team’s opportunity glasses: “How could we profit from it?” Become the dreamer who sees the glass as nearly full. Imagine all the opportunities that could come out of the changes you and your business are facing.

Venture to look ahead and stretch the muscles of your team’s imagination to come up with a list of such opportunities. Or get help from a neutral expert to guide you.

“What steps can we take that will empower us to benefit from this change?” Or, if you think the new changes may mean a threat to your business, ask yourself and your team: “What action steps can we take that will avoid or mitigate that threat?”

Use your imagination to make sophisticated plans about how you are going to adapt to the situation and move beyond it. Human beings are the happiest when they have a plan and a purpose that goes into the future. Adapt to the present situation and plan for a better future.

Strengths

When analyzing how to exploit this new situation for your benefit, focus on strengths, the ones of your teams and your business. Business success always comes from leveraging strengths: “How can we use our natural strengths to exploit this change as an opportunity and avert any danger?”

I often talk about the importance of trends because trends are the one thing that separates the winners from the losers, and negligence of trends has always been one of the key elements of the downfall of the “famous failures”—the former corporate giants that are no more. Most companies and business leaders spend too little time analyzing and predicting trends.

Trends are fundamental for your business. One advantage that my company and I have is that we have a global perspective. If you operate in so many countries at once and interact with so many cultures and economies, you can often see the same patterns of trends moving from country to country and around the world. Imagine them like waves sweeping over the globe. If you do not know what these are, you can easily drown in one of these waves. If you see them coming, you can surf them ahead of your competition and have a hell of a ride!

Therefore, you should have a general practice of regularly analyzing trends and their impact on your business: global and local trends. Ask yourself if the new political or economic changes will trigger any new trends in your country. Will any of these impact your business? If so, how can you profit from them?

A word of caution: only dead fish swim with the river

This is an old Chinese proverb. It still bears true today. When analyzing the outcomes of the significant new changes on your business, and the new trends that will emerge, make up your own mind. Many people will talk about the outcome of these changes and their consequences, but unless they are absolute experts, listen with caution.

And if you see or predict a trend or opportunity no one else is seeing, even better. You might be on to something! To make my point: Did the Airbnb founders invent the internet? No. They simply saw an opportunity that had been there all along but no one else was seeing, namely that anybody can be a hotel. They became dollar billionaires well-deserved.

Focus on taking massive action

If you follow this step-by-step guide, you and your team will approach significant political or economic changes from a constructive perspective and focus on action. This will also give you a major advantage over competitors because, in times of major changes, most companies will just sit and wait.

You should not. As Tim Ferris said: “Many a false step was made by standing still.” Especially if you are frustrated over the changes, action solves frustration more than anything else.

Then, take massive action to exploit the opportunities. INQ

Tom Oliver, a “global management guru” (Bloomberg), is the chair of The Tom Oliver Group, the trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential family businesses, medium-sized enterprises, market leaders and global conglomerates. For more information and inquiries: www.TomOliverGroup.com or email

[email protected]

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