Trader or Landlord?

No matter how sophisticated business seems to get, the driving forces behind the people who write the cheques are clear behavioral motivators that are always apparent. It seems that every businessman or woman I’ve met subscribes to either the "trader" or "landlord" mentality at the core.

A "trader" is motivated by moving inventory, whether product(s) or service(s). They have little or no ownership of what they are moving, and for the most part, it doesn’t matter to them whether its porn or priceless paintings. The longer it stays on their side of the door, the longer they feel they are losing out on exchanging it for revenue.Think Wall Street, M&A, and the neighborhood Tony Montana wannabe.

On the other hand, a "landlord" is someone motivated by ownership. Acquisition of property of any kind is the measure of success for them and the revenue paradigm is about creating more value over time for the things that they acquire.Think Wynn, Trump, and even BhulaBhai at the corner motel.

Now I realize that these generalities can be just as pretentious sounding as all the branding and marketing books at Borders that claim 8 principles of this, and 22 laws of that; so how is this observation so different and absolute? Doesn’t an hotelier trade time in their rooms for cash? Doesn’t a trader of merchandise take ownership of their brand? Yes. But we are talking motivation and not just the apparent action on the surface.

I think the main reason these two motivators are prevalent in business today is a narrow view of capitalism as practiced. Capitalism today DOES NOT take into account where the capital ultimately comes from, and it liquidates it in the current form and calls it income. What da Faa?

OK. It’s like this. As long as people seem to profit from moving products and transferring ownership ("owning" is just a longer form of moving product), the wasteful inefficient behavior continues. But when a manufacturer realizes that a supplier of key components is overextended and running behind on deliveries, he takes action to address that does he not? In a connected world, that’s exactly what we have. Our economies are cashing cheques our ecology is failing to cash.

Take the US auto industry for example. It requires paved area equal to all the farmable land in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania that costs $200 million per day to maintain. It kills a million wild animals per week, and creates 7billion pounds of unrecycled scrap a year. It threatens global climatic stability and agriculture. All to move people from point A to B. Is that really smart? Especially given what we now know about how systems in nature work so well to do the same thing without creating waste and inefficiency? Nature doesn’t have life forms other than us who are traders or landlords, but rather "agents" and "carriers". Hmm interesting…

The previous argument may be a logical scientific view, but even from a human POV, as we see more and more of how cause and effect really work, operating from these core drivers (trading and owning) are quite apparently becoming passé. The pride in ownership (at least the perceived version of it) creates more value than the willingness to turn it over. The ownership of ideas also becomes more important than the ownership of things when dealing with the connected world at large.

So will the purist trader or landlord survive? Perhaps the question is not so much about sticking to their roots, but seeing the benefit of alternate thinking to adapt to a better version of the behavior that survives. It’s not enough to say that: "Just think of the hemophiliac pure breeds that lost their monarchies, and maybe history already has your answer" because that implies most people are willing to analyze their mistakes and think deeply about their predicament. They are not. They will mimic what works and follow the leader. So if you are a leader, reading this, perhaps the thing to think about is something more along the lines of this:

You wouldn’t cash a cheque that your funds can’t cover, so why would you engage in an activity like trading or owning when the market system you operate in can’t bear the burden? Especially if you already know that it will come back to bite you in the ass, is it really worth it?

For those who have the foresight to actually see this, the world might belong to you after all. Not to trade or own, but integrated into how your business creates value for yourself and the system it feeds. A "trader" or "landlord" are outdated concepts you don’t have to subscribe to anymore…

1 Responses to “Trader or Landlord?”

  1. # Blogger Sarah the Penguin

    Good info.
    Great Blog!

    Just wanted to let you know that I've added it to by blogroll.


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