Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The end of get-rich-quick schemes (for now)

The last 20 years has been pretty unusual.  There has been a lot of opportunities to get rich quick (or get poor if you messed up). There was the Internet boom and bust, a few stock market booms, rising house prices, rising commodities prices, low unemployment, a housing boom and huge wages for mining workers.
Source: Reserve Bank of Australia

So, whether you were white collar or blue collar, there have been plenty of ways to get rich if you took a few risks.

It's over!

Back to the old days - do things that people want

What is going to happen now is simple. If you offer products or services that people want, they will be bought, at a fair price. If you are a healthcare worker, there is a lot of demand for your services - you will be able to get work and charge a fair price for it. If you are a manufacturing worker in Australia, there is less demand for your services.  You will need to be one of the best manufacturing workers, or reskill, or do something different.

More importantly, as a society, we need to think about what people want, and create those products and services.  Before mobile phones, few people thought that having a mobile phone would be a necessity. They were a luxury item.  In hindsight, we can see how useful they are, and mobile phone companies have done very well.

Before the washing machine, the idea of having a mechanical way to do laundry wasn't obvious. But once the washing machine was invented, every washing person (mainly, women) wanted one. (Watch Hans Rosling's great talk for more on this). And increasingly, we are happy to pay for the services of others to do other cleaning for us.

What happens next?

Now, it is up to us, to identify what the next washing machine is.

Ask yourself, what do I want? What does my neighbour want?

Ask yourself, how can I do what I already do better, faster, more effectively?

Ask yourself, how can I "sell" my great services better.  I know that what I offer to my firm, or my customers is valuable.  I need to communicate that value better.

Every transaction has to offer value to both sides.
Ask yourself, am I doing something that nobody wants or needs any more? If you are handwashing clothes, while everyone else is using a washing machine, sooner or later, your customers will politely stop paying for your services.  Make sure that you keep up with the times.

We will get wealthier as we continue to be more productive

By doing all of these "normal" things, we will get a little more effective every day.  Our incomes will grow a little every day, and our standard of living will grow a little every day.  It won't be a get-rich-quick scheme.  The improvements will often be so small that you won't notice it - much like healthy eating - one day you look back and realise that you have taken off weight.

So, in 2013, let's all get rich moderately quickly.  Let's all try to do just a little bit better in what we do, or change what we do and choose something different. When we all do that, we all benefit.

In 2013, let's be innovative, productive, and creative.  By the end of the year, you will notice the difference.

Let me know what you think

Mark S

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