Look for opportunity during these times

Legitimate opportunities exist within these trying times. At this moment however, it is the last thing many people are looking for.

Common sense calls one to just hunker down and try to survive any way possible. The pain and consternation of sequestering ourselves, watching the stock market dive and wondering how toilet paper could have become so dear are all things that militate for the moment — not stretch to find hidden opportunities.

Nevertheless, when the virus is gone and the economy is chugging along, the opportunities we couldn’t see before will become more visible. You’ll know this is true when you hear people exclaim “if only I would have known earlier.”

Investors will bemoan not having purchased the market when it was belly up. Other will grieve that they sold going down, locking in their losses. Sometimes that is necessary; often it is just fear. Panic is a terrible leader in times of real crises.

While most folks suffer along worrying themselves to death, a few ask themselves what the worst is that could happen if they make choices one way or the other. Fewer ask themselves which choices in the storm could bring an opportunity bigger and better than things were before the tempest. Then, as things continue to happen, bad as they might be, they manage toward the opportunity.

I knew a farmer who lived through the Great Depression. He suffered terribly like everyone else. Then he learned that most of the farmers around him were somewhat worse off than he was. He sat down and estimated how long it would take for him to lose the farm if he operated in his conservative method. Then he imagined how long his nearest neighbors could last if they operated in their normal way.

He set a plan to be able to buy out at least one neighbor if that neighbor had to sell out. Then he went to the bank and had a private talk about what he might need to buy the neighbor’s farm when the time came. The banker gave him a likely number. Time went by; things got terribly worse. A couple of years went by and it happened: The neighbor didn’t conserve enough fast enough.

The farmer approached his neighbor with an offer to buy the farm and the neighbor was allowed to farm it as an employee for a specified period of time. It worked. Then the farmer did the same thing again — four times.

Eventually he had six farms for his six children. When he died in 1966 his net worth was about $5 million. The real difference with the successful farmer was his ability to see opportunities where others couldn’t and stay on track to achieve his goal. He didn’t cheat anyone; he had no secret or magic. He just knew to look for opportunity when it was likely nobody else was.

I am getting calls from old business clients asking for help doing what the farmer did. These things are not easy. Burying your head in the sand isn’t easy either.

This time will come and go. Some will survive; some won’t. Some will find and exercise on opportunities; others won’t. Some will stretch to make their luck; most won’t. Either way, the whole of the hard times is rough but normal. God willing, we will learn beneficial things and increase our humanity and humility.