I spent 11 years working in capital markets, as an arbitrageur and market maker at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). It was a wonderful experience that taught me a tremendous amount about markets and myself. Since then, I have become Director of Finance at Method, which I thought would be a large departure from my former life. I was wrong. There is considerable overlap between the trading world and small business community; both operate in a fluid world of imperfect information and uncertainty.
Here are three things that day traders and entrepreneurs have in common:
1. All failures are just information:
The single mo st important thing I learned from tradin g was that all mistakes and failures are just information. If you can peel away the anger and frustration associated with failing, and objectively analyze the result, there is a pot of gold sitting in front of you. This was not a free pot of gold, obviously. You had invested time and mo ney making the mis takes to acquire the information, but the only way to monetize this gold, is to be emotionally flexible enough to grab it. Also, this vital information is time sensitive - it has a short shelf life. Cultivating this mind set in your sales team ca n be especially effective. For example, all unsuccessful sales calls are a rich source of information, if looked at the right way, fueling your next great innovation.
2 . Pivot q uickly based on objective data:
A good trader is someone who is hardworking, disciplined and can operate effectively under conditions of uncertainty - ‘pivoting’ quickly when information changes. Does this sound familiar? It should if you work in a small business or start up. Over the months at Method, I have heard many references to ‘pivoting’, ‘fail-fast’ and ‘monthly sprints'. To me, they are just different ways to describe concepts that I have seen in my previous life. If your firm is pursuing a project, setting objective criteria for completion and success or failure is critical. It is easy to leave projects open-ended but this can create operational uncertainty, breeding laziness and indecision. One or two slow transitions or iterations may not make a large impact, but if you multiply this over many occurrences, the effect on your company’s competitiveness could be massive.
3. When you have an edge, press it:
In trading, one spends a lot of time searching for a clear advantage that can be leveraged for an outsized ret urn. Often a handful of trades can make a major difference to your month, quarter or year. The same is true for small businesses where the release of a new product or service can have a significant impact on the top and bottom line. For every company, there are often only a few true insights over the course of the year. If you see a marketing channel, product or service start to work, it is time to press it! For example, at Method we hit our target ROI on Paid Search campaigns last month. This month we’re “pressing” that by increasing our spend with a goal of maintaining the ROI level while boosting the number of leads.
Please share your thoughts. Have you pressed an edge or pivoted with success? Please tell us about it.