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Markets, Uncertainty, & Your Business

By David Rayner | Jul 12, 2010 | Business, Insights

Unless you are in Las Vegas tossing dice in the craps pit or flipping cards at the blackjack table, most people, especially most business people don’t like risk and they detest uncertainty. In the Vegas example, risk is contained – limited to the size of my current bet and hopefully the depth of my good judgment. (On a personal aside, while I am not a big gambler I always calculate the value of my free drinks in my Vegas cash out reconciliation:))Uncertainty however, is not a concern in Las Vegas, because I know the rules and trust the system. While my returns are uncertain to be sure, the way the games are played are well known and understood. In short, risk and uncertainty in Vegas have a finite and measurable impact on my net worth.

There is a subtle but very important distinction between risk and uncertainty. Risk implies a risk/reward relationship. While there is a downside to something that might be considered risky, there is also a measurable upside – a return that should be commensurate with the downside risk. Boeing took tremendous risk when it embarked upon its project that would, in retrospect, completely outflank its competition with the then revolutionary Boeing 747. While there was clearly great risk (it almost bankrupted the company) there was also a very large upside which delivered strong financial returns to Boeing investors for several years.

Uncertainty on the other hand, is almost all downside. Uncertainty is looking in the abyss and seeing only darkness looking back. It is a driver of inaction and retreat. It is the one thing that business and markets almost universally detest. Uncertainty is manifest not in an inability to predict the future directions of the stock market or interest rates. Uncertainty is a fear in the fundamentals of the market and of the rules of the game.

I think this important to consider because as a nation and an economic community we are facing a potential stretch of uncertainty. We are not certain how all of the changes that have been enacted in the past 24 months are going to impact the rules of our markets and the players in our game. We can guess, but for the first time in a long time the influence of the government is totally unpredictable, the state of economic activity abroad is not reliable, and the impact of legislation both passed and proposed is not well understood and therefore uncertain.  

While all of this sounds a bit scarier than I intended, I think it may be reality for a while. I also think those of us in the technology business can help. The I/T industry is unique among industries competing for business investment because we help businesses and organizations invest in and optimize themselves. Our results and impacts can be pretty well quantified and predictable over time. I/T projects,in a time of great uncertainty, allow you to invest in what you know best…yourself, your business, and your colleagues.  From virtualization of servers and desktops to driving rich collaboration over your existing network, I/T can make what you do better, more efficient, and more adaptive to uncertain market conditions. While I am no market guru and certainly no predictor of economic direction, I feel comfortable in speaking with our clients about their investment strategies in their business, recommending that they look to optimize themselves beyond what was “best of breed” but a few short years ago. There is little uncertainty and little risk in driving costs out and productivity into your business or organization. That is what we do for a living at in the I/T industry and at TBL Networks.

While risk is inherent in any business activity and levels of market uncertainty will ebb and flow, we know that the drum beat of technology has been smaller, faster, cheaper for the past several decades. Instead of worrying over things we cannot control, take a hard look at optimizing the things you can control. Optimize your infrastructure to thrive in any market condition. While maybe not as much fun as an evening at the craps table, it is likely to yield better results that last for a longer time…and you don’t have to calculate the value your free drinks to figure out if you broke even:)

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