Where next?

I am new to this blogging lark and I am intrigued.

The impetus for starting to write came as I was preparing to leave for a two week walk along the Thames Trail in England on the 5th January this year, a trip which had to be re-directed to Wales and the Offa’s Dyke Trail due to the dramatic flooding which deluged the south of the country, literally on the day of my arrival. I had started posting a few thoughts every day before I left and vowed to keep the daily rhythm up for the duration of the walk, undeterred by the potential lack of internet access that I was anticipating in the more rural areas of the Trail. I was somewhat trepid about publishing a daily diary-type outpouring, unsure as I was (am) about finding a genuine voice and about whether anybody – outside of my family, who are honour-bound to find everything that I do awesome (and by the way, thanks for your comments, Mama) – would be interested in reading what I had (have) to write. Also, I am completely new to the technical side of on-line publication and dreaded wading into a quagmire of menus, options and structural issues that would have me ranting and breathing fire within 20 minutes of opening a WordPress account. I have one or two high-level, black belt Techies amongst my closest friends (don’t I, Janine?) and was sure that I could prevail on them to haul me out of any messes I found myself manoeuvred into, but nonetheless, trepid I was and still am, although it is not half as bad or tortuous as I imagined it might be.

As to the lack of interest in any content I might post, well, that was easily countered by the argument that if nobody was interested, nobody would follow and therefore I would talking to the sparrows and no harm would come of that. I do have a few, very few, blogs that I follow with keen interest and am encouraged and inspired by their authors’ efforts, high-level of personal integrity and communications skills. My favourites examples currently are Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert and Nikolaus Förster, Editor in Chief of Impulse Magazin, the german business monthly. I had a moment of epiphany recently when Verne Harnish, the Gazelles Meister pointed me towards a post of Scott’s that went a long way to explaining the rationale behind blogging and committing to a regular routine of communication: Here is Scott’s excellent summary verbatim:

One of the systems I use but didn’t mention in the book is what I’m doing right now: blogging.

When I first started blogging, my future wife often asked about what my goal was. The blogging seemed to double my workload while promising a 5% higher income that didn’t make any real difference in my life. It seemed a silly use of time. I tried explaining that blogging was a system, not a goal. But I never did a good job of it. I’ll try again here. Writing is a skill that requires practice. So the first part of my system involves practicing on a regular basis. I didn’t know what I was practicing for, exactly, and that’s what makes it a system and not a goal. I was moving from a place with low odds (being an out-of-practice writer) to a place of good odds (a well-practiced writer with higher visibility). The second part of my blogging system is a sort of R&D for writing. I write on a variety of topics and see which ones get the best response. I also write in different “voices”. I have my humorously self-deprecating voice, my angry voice, my thoughtful voice, my analytical voice, my half-crazy voice, my offensive voice, and so on. You readers do a good job of telling me what works and what doesn’t.

When the Wall Street Journal took notice of my blog posts, they asked me to write some guest features. Thanks to all of my writing practice here, and my knowledge of which topics got the best response, the guest articles were highly popular. Those articles weren’t big money-makers either, but it all fit within my system of public practice. My writing for the Wall Street Journal, along with my public practice on this blog, attracted the attention of book publishers, and that attention turned into a book deal. And the book deal generated speaking requests that are embarrassingly lucrative. So the payday for blogging eventually arrived, but I didn’t know in advance what path it would take. My blogging has kicked up dozens of business opportunities over the past years, so it could have taken any direction.

So, whilst I  am not starting out with the goal of snagging obscenely lucrative speaking engagements, I do have high hopes for the rewards which regular posting will bring, both in terms of finding that elusive voice and in respect of the communication that it will allow me to foster with those who I hope will eventually become regular readers and commentators. All of which  brings me to the point of this post.

I have loved writing about my walk along the ODT , but given the fact that I am not going to be walking every week, but do want to post more regularly than that, I need to find a scope that will allow me to explore other avenues and areas worthy of public rumination, that fascinate me equally. Next to covering long distances on foot, ski or bike, my greatest interest is in the business of business, more specifically the investment in and development of small and medium sized enterprises. Investing in privately held companies as opposed to public entities is a fascinating and compelling adventure. Over the last 27 years, since I first cut my teeth as a rooky broker learning the ABC of the business in the basement of Merrill Lynch’s Munich offices, I have been fascinated by the process and discipline of investing in business. It seemed to me at a very early stage that more than almost any discipline that I had encountered,  the discipline of investing was the one – at least in civilian life – which required the combination of the most diverse skills. Some of those skills I found I had, some I definitely didn’t. It has been a lifelong journey, with more ups and downs than the Clywd National Park, honing those skills, working on the deficits and formulating a framework of values  within which I wished to operate, that has fascinated me and continues to fascinate me, perhaps more so now at the age of 50 than anytime previously, when I took time and success for granted.

So my experiment is to try and combine my two aspects of journeying – one physical, one occupational – into a single narrative that will, I hope contain regular elements of both and indeed cross-pollenate each other, as they do in reality. My best thinking is done afoot or a-saddle and the lessons learned from convening with nature and the limitations of my own physical condition shape my thinking as an investor. I regularly come across people who enjoy strange combinations of food (even though the are not pregnant): me, for instance. I love grilled pork sausages with(a smidgeon of) orange marmelade . I know others who eat Nutella with slices of cucumber and my children who put Ketchup on everything. Given the seemingly endless range of combinations that the human palate can deal with, I should think that a blog combining Hiking and SME Investment might find a few specialist connoisseurs, who don’t find the prospect nauseating, whilst at the same time, giving me enough fodder to write on before, during and after my hiking. Whatever the outcome, you can definitely state in yours to come (at one of my revoltingly lucrative speaking engagements), that you read it here first.

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