There was some pretty significant economic news last week.
Despite all the media-fuelled doom and gloom surrounding the retail industry, retail sales actually went up.
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Now, I could spend the rest of this article poking fun at all the self-important economists and commentators out there who consistently get their calls wrong.
But I won’t. (It would be fun, though!)
To me, the great lesson of the latest retail sales figures is that the future is simply unknowable and certainly doesn’t necessarily track past trends or ‘expert’ forecasts.
So, the best thing you can do in business is block out all the chatter and just get on with the task at hand.
The truth is that, especially for start-ups, the broader economic picture is generally not that important.
Large, established companies tend to move with key economic statistics very closely. If China slows, you can bet Rio Tinto’s revenues will closely track that decline.
For a new business, all it needs to do is secure that next contract and its revenue will double or triple.
In any economy, there is always going to be activity. And all a new business needs to do is land a tiny bit of it and it will have a profound effect on its fortunes.
The so-called big picture is really not that relevant.
The economy may be tracking up. The economy may be tracking down. The key thing is to focus on what you can control, put in the work and company-changing results can still happen.
Analysing the economy to decide whether to launch your business or to release that new product or to undertake that marketing campaign is too hard and is the first step towards procrastination.
I don’t normally get into bible references but there is one maxim from Ecclesiastes that is instructive.
He said (the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes was most commonly thought to be King Solomon) that it is a mistake for the farmer to look at the sky in the morning and decide based on the level of clouds whether to work the soil that day.
In his view, half the time the farmer will decide that it will rain and not plant seeds. And at least half the time he will be wrong and do no work on what turns out to be a perfectly fine day.
If Ecclesiastes was a management consultant advising start-ups in 2012, I reckon his advice would go something like this: Ignore all those economists with their predictions. Just get out there and go for it.