Do nothing

I really love this scene from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. In fact I even used it in another post.

(If you are reading this post in an email and don’t see the vid, click here)

I was reminded of it recently when I read this quote from Charlie Munger, who is business partners with Warren Buffet and is one of the most successful investors in history. Munger was talking about what separates the very few people who have consistently beaten the market from the vast majority who, while occasionally having good years, have failed to beat the market over long periods of time.

“And the one thing that all those winning betters in the whole history of people who’ve beaten the pari-mutuel system have is quite simple. They bet very seldom.

It’s not given to human beings to have such talent that they can just know everything about everything all the time. But it is given to human beings who work hard at it — who look and sift the world for a mispriced be — that they can occasionally find one.

And the wise ones bet heavily when the world offers them that opportunity. They bet big when they have the odds. And the rest of the time, they don’t. It’s just that simple.”

The character Arnold Rothstein and the real Charlie Munger know that it is critical to wait, plan, think, be patient, and make sure they are as positive as possible that they’ll be right before they make their bets. So once they’ve gotten to the point where they are ready to make a bet, they bet big.

We try to run our business in much the same way. We’re not sitting around daily thinking of what features we should add, or having whiteboard sessions where we all throw out ideas and then we feel compelled to do at least a few of them, or coming up with lists of potential industries we could sell into and then picking some and then hiring people to go do it.

Rather, we made our bet years ago on focusing on serving independent restaurants, and we bet big. We also bet big on keeping our app simple and clean and not filling it with bells and whistles and settings. We bet big on having extremely talented and committed people on our team (5 total people) to take care of our customers when they need anything. And, finally, we bet big on not having sales people and not doing traditional marketing, and instead focusing on things like creating the Restaurant Owners Uncorked book and video series.

Well that leaves us with lots of chunks of time where we “do nothing.” Or, rather, where we “do nothing new.” It seems unnatural in these busy, hectic, fast-paced times to not be constantly adding things, doing more. To “do nothing” is uncomfortable at first.

But if you learn to wait, plan, think, be patient, and only make (big) bets when you are confident they will pay off, you’ll never look back. In fact you’ll wonder how you ever were able to do it any other way.


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