How to find your wonder horse - by Richard Koch

Posted by Richard Koch on Tue, Feb 26, 2013 @ 01:30 PM

Richard Koch guest blogLast week’s blog, Find Your Horse, seems to have resonated. This week we look at how you can find your own wonder-horse.

The horse, you will recall, is something with inherent power to propel you. It could be a college or organisation, a job, a new business venture, a cause, an idea, or a group of friends fixated on one specific aim.

By definition, the wonder-horse is rare. But if you keep your senses alert, and you really want to find your horse, you will do so.

But how? There are three secrets.

The easiest give-away is that the horse is young, yet fast and powerful. It is growing rapidly. Its time has come, but only just.

If the horse is a business, it will be growing by more than 10% a year, and probably between 30-50% a year, maybe even more. Such firms are very unusual – somewhere between 1 and 5 in 100. Yet if you keep your eyes open, you will find such a firm.

The firm must be growing under its own steam. Firms that grow by merger or acquisition do not count.

What does it mean if the business is expanding fast? It means it has created a product or service that people really want. It means the firm has a formula or business model or knowledge that other firms don’t have. It means the business is a winner.

Every very large and profitable firm started life like this – from starting its life and being tiny, it went through several years of incredibly quick growth. If you go to work in such a business, you will benefit enormously because there is more opportunity in the firm for experienced workers. You will spread your wings and learn to fly like an angel. Your work will be fascinating and you will get promoted rapidly. If you can get stock options, you may end up with a fortune. Ask the first 100 people into Microsoft, Google, Amazon, e-Bay, Twitter, Facebook, or any other mega-success. They are all millionaires, centi-millionaires, or billionaires, not because they are smarter than you or me, but because they were there at the start or shortly after.

It’s the same for a cause, a social movement, or even a qualification. If it’s not growing very fast, it won’t push you forward. In the 1960s and 1970s it made sense to get an MBA, because there weren’t many around and business schools were mushrooming. Now it’s futile to do an MBA – there are far too many already and the currency is devalued. Instead, look for the next big thing. Get in early, while the growth is exponential.

The second clue to finding your horse is that it excites you. The idea, the cause, the organization, whatever it is, must turn you on and have meaning for you. You must think, 'I love the idea of this', or at the very least, 'I am going to grow to love this'. Animation, enthusiasm, and genuine fervour are peculiarly human attributes. They too are rare. Most people are not excited by life and what they do. The few who are, have a tremendous edge.  They are tens, hundreds, or thousands of times more likely to succeed – and they will have a ball doing so, not least because every day they will collaborate with people who are as excited and motivated as they are.

The third pointer is that the horse has integrity. Everything about the horse hangs together. The horse is beautiful. The horse is admirable and excellent. The horse is generous. The horse doesn’t have bad breath, a gamy leg, or a hidden disease. If the horse is an idea, the idea is true – or as close to truth as humans can find. If the horse is a firm, it has a mission to improve the world in some well-defined and narrow way, and everything about the firm is designed to fulfil that mission. And if the horse is a cause, the cause has to benefit society at large, not just the people behind the cause. With any wonder-horse, there is always some deeply satisfying insight behind the idea, the firm, or the cause – an insight that is unusual or unique, and thoroughly worthwhile.

In large parts of Europe in the 1920s and early 1930s, there were two horses growing faster than any other. One horse was the Communist Party and the other horse was the Nazis. Both horses excited their devotees. Both horses were immensely strong. But neither of them had integrity. The ideas they espoused were simply not true. The horses were speckled with evil. It is the same with every get-rich-quick scam, every witch-hunt, every mean and nasty movement. One of the most amazing and hopeful things about the universe is that evil does not last, because it cannot embody the spiritual longing of humans, the thirst for truth and beauty. Only ideas, firms, causes and people with integrity can build something wonderful and enduring.

So there it is. To find your horse, just remember three words – growth, excitement, and integrity. Finding your horse will not be easy. But if you think hard and look hard, if you really are consumed with desire for such a horse, it will come to you. You will recognize it immediately, with overflowing joy. The horse will change your life, and that of many other people.

Acknowledgement – one night this week I suddenly woke up and thought, the phrase 'Find Your Horse' may not be original. I realised I might have read it somewhere. And I have found where – in one of my favourite books, the wonderful marketing classic, Positioning, by Al Ries and Jack Trout. On pages 186-191 they tell you to 'Find a horse to ride'. Their advice, though not the same as mine, is perhaps in a similar vein – and well worth reading. I am pleased to acknowledge their originality and thank them for the idea. In case you suspect that this Acknowledgement was prompted, by them or anyone else, I can tell you it was not!

Enjoy Richard's blog

describe the imageSign up here for Richard Koch’s weekly blog, which will give you ideas on how to improve your work and personal lives with relatively little effort. Richard specialises in spreading proven ideas, from economics, psychology, sociology, or other sciences, that are so powerful they can spark a big improvement in your life. He wrote the international bestseller THE 80/20 PRINCIPLE, which has sold over a million copies and been translated into 34 languages. The blogs are short and easy to read and come out each Monday afternoon. Richard is also a client, a friend of ISACO and a big fan of our approach to investment, as well as the author of THE FINANCIAL TIMES GUIDE TO SELECTING SHARES THAT PERFORM.


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