What do Politics, Social Media and the Stock Market Have in Common? They're All Distractions.
About a year ago, I was speaking with a prospective business owner who was trying to decide whether he should open a franchised business. He completely understood the franchise opportunity, but was worried about the “big picture” and whether larger trends in our country would allow him to be successful. His major concerns included:
The current state of US politics.
He first mentioned the dysfunctional nature of our government. He had a litany of complaints, including the fact that our politicians never seem to agree on anything. If one side says it is green, the other side says it’s orange. Promises are made and broken.
The 24/7 news coverage and “in depth analysis” brings the news into our lives every day. Obviously, our country has problems. He wondered, “How can a person build a business with so much uncertainty?”
The potentially game-changing power of social media.
Next, he moved on to social media. He said social media was a positive trend that can change the nature of communication. He explained that he spends hours each day on various social media platforms. He had hundreds of “friends,” had racked up countless impressive “snapstreaks” and felt more “connected” to his network than ever before. He proceeded to explain how this trend could offset the scary trends in Washington.
A stock market on the verge of collapse.
Finally, we transitioned to his other area of focus, the stock market. A year ago he was firmly convinced that the market was going to crash and possessed plenty of data supporting his position.
He presented three major takeaways based on his data: 1) the market was overvalued; 2) auto trading programs always beat individual investors (by minimizing emotion, preserving discipline and achieving consistency); and 3) the Federal Reserve had purchased too much debt and would soon begin “easing" to stimulate the economy (and as one Fed economist suggests, the impact of "easing" has been murky).
Busyness is not business.
After 20 minutes, I asked him what all these things have in common. He didn’t know. I explained that all three things on his list were time sinks. He was filling his day watching 24/7 news, weighing in on every social media topic and endlessly researching public companies.
None of these activities were productive. Instead, they sucked up all his time and distracted him from accomplishing anything in life. My advice to him and to other potential business owners grappling with similar worries is simple.
Cut the cord.
If you want to be a successful business owner, turn off 24/7 news. It is emotionally draining and doesn’t make you a more positive person or better decision maker. Even better, turn of the TV entirely during the day. If something is going to directly affect you, like a hurricane, one of your friends will tell you.
Limit Social Media Activities.
Second, stop the obsession with social media. Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram -- the list goes on and on. There is a new platform every day feeding our impulses, and none of us have enough hours to keep up. Tracking Trump’s tweets will not make any business more successful. Generating 150 likes for your daughter in a Cinderella dress doesn’t improve your business nor does it prove you’re a great parent.
However, if you believe social media can be used as a tool to grow your business, partner with an expert who can help you use your time wisely. Use social media strategically, don’t be consumed by it.
The wolves don’t beat Wall Street.
Sadly, we can all be Leo Dicaprio. Trying to beat the stock market, especially in today’s world, rarely works. Large trading houses hire hundreds of MBA’s to do nothing but research companies. You can spend all day gambling on the market, but eventually performance reverts to the mean.
Ninety-nine percent of people will never outperform a basic, market-based ETF (exchange traded fund). Again, this is a time sink with limited upside. In addition, any time spent trying to predict the direction of the market is time you are not growing your business.
Here’s the bottom line. I’m a firm believer that time is our most precious resource. I devote large sections of my book, The Educated Franchisee, to this subject and have written many articles about the value of time.
Time wisdom and focused attention.
If you want to be a successful business owner, you need to use your time wisely and focus on activities that directly affect your business. Focus on providing an outstanding customer experience. Focus on hiring, managing and motivating better employees. Focus on improving your marketing results. Focus on improving your financial controls.
When you are not working, spend quality time with your spouse, children or friends. Volunteer, give back and involve yourself in activities that allow you to make a positive difference in the world around you.
Where you spend your time matters. Spend your time focused on activities that matter and avoid wasting your time. By doing this you can thrive as a franchise owner -- no matter what’s happening in politics, on social media or in the stock market.