Contrarian Thinking: Don’t Follow the Herd

    June 12, 2006

People tend to follow the crowd. From fear of being left behind in business and social circles, many business people follow the latest management fads.

They blindly chase the latest self-proclaimed guru endorsed, flavour of the month business concept. Not taking into consideration what’s best for their own companies, otherwise astute executives run with the herd. All too often, they wind up getting trampled.

Intead of chasing fads, it’s better to march to your own business beat. Think like a contrarian. You know the type. When others are rushing to buy, they are selling. At moments of panic and rushed selling, our contrarian friend is busily buying, and often at greatly reduced bargain prices. While contrarian tendencies are obvious in the financial and investment communities, they are more difficult to discern in the everyday world of entrepreneurship and independent business. Still, the contrarians are out there, and more often than not, their companies are thriving.

The image many people have of the contrarian is a gruff, crotchety, almost Ebenezer Scrooge type individual. While there might be a few individuals will resemble that caricature, more often than not, the person appears more like a typical business owner. They are far from ordinary in their thinking, however. Always cautious of the latest mainstream group think ideas, these rugged individualists prefer to trust their own judgement, experience, and their hard financial and marketing data.

You don’t think you want to be contrarian?

Think about this idea for a moment. When following the crowd, you are always behind, by definition. It’s impossible to become an industry leader when travelling in the competition’s dust. Fad followers are already several steps behind.

Think about it this way. When everyone is competing for the same market, and very often with virtually identical products and services, entire market segments are left almost untouched. A contrarian would happily find and fill those profitable business niches.

When finding your own way on the entrepreneurial journey, advice will be offered from all quarters. Sometimes the advice is sound and helpful. All too often, the loudest voices are simply critical and destroy your confidence. Instead of providing support, they prefer to subject the listener to negativity. The word can’t is heard constantly. Rather than fight the naysayers, many business people take what appears to be the safe and popular route. In many cases, what looks like the path of least resistance, is the fast track to business failure.

Should you decide to become a contrarian, it’s essential that your business maintain solid business and financial records. Follow your marketing and advertising through careful tracking mechanisms. It’s impossible to make sound business decisions if you don’t have dependable and accurate numbers as your guide. After all, when you make a decision that flies in the face of conventional wisdom, it’s crucial to have the data to back it up.

Contrarian business people are often strong believers in creativity and brainstorming new ideas. Getting members of your staff together, from many different departments, will provide fresh and unique insights into new products, services, and customer relations. Staff input can also alert the owner or manager to potential signs of trouble. Don’t surround yourself with yes people. Give everyone the opportunity to express their opinion freely and openly at your creativity and idea seeking sessions. In the end, however, the final decision as to the course of action, rests with the business owner or top executive.

Become a contrarian, and zig when everyone else is zagging.

Your business success could depend on it.

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Wayne Hurlbert provides insigtful information about marketing, promotions, search engine optimization and public relations for websites and business blogs on the popular Blog Business World.

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