Why personal due diligence matters

You’re a good person. You work hard. You know your specialty and you carry out your work well. Shouldn’t that be enough to be secure?

Well, there was a time when it was. But not any longer.

Here’s why personal due diligence matters. Anyone who’s seen the explosion of cellular phones worldwide — over two thirds of the world’s seven billion people now have access to one — knows it’s been a dynamic market. Smartphones, those cellular phones that also act as Internet gateways, are following fast. The market is exploding.

Yet, if you worked for, say, Nokia — the world leader in the first wave, but an also-ran in the smartphone era — or Research in Motion, whose iconic Blackberry has lost favour — you could be in trouble and not know it until it was too late.

In today’s world of dual income earners and webs of schools, activities and special trainers for children, plus obligations to aging parents, having to uproot the family can be traumatic. A great engineer or manager at Nokia or RIM could certainly add value to Samsung, Google-Motorola, Apple or HTC, but not living in Espoo, or Waterloo.

That’s why personal due diligence matters. That the market was shifting away from both companies was something you could ferret out as much as five years ago. An original iPhone beside a Symbian-equipped Nokia smartphone of the time, or the then top-of-the-line Blackberry, would have told you that here was a challenge to worry about. The much-improved web browser experience — more like the computer, less like the phone — alone should have set the warning bells off.

The rise of the app should have signalled even larger warnings. All this long before market share was in any danger.

It would have given time to (if you wanted to stay put) raise the alarms internally, propose projects, become one of the people who’d head the danger off before it became a real problem.

Alternatively, it would have bought several years to consider your own and your family’s future, to make a move something that serves everyone’s needs, not just a sudden panic-driven need.

In a world where real estate values can suddenly lock up making houses hard to sell at a reasonable price, where companies are shedding staff, making finding two jobs harder than before, and where your community can be in a downdraft even while others are booming (and pricey as a result), this can be the difference between preserving and extending your family’s wealth, or consuming it.

Right now we’re in a situation where governments are broke, have made promises they can’t afford to keep, and can’t afford to back away from. We’re in a world where no price signal has managed to increase resource production, suggesting that something, at least, is different from what we’re used to. We’re watching name brands shake and fall. There’s great uncertainty — and its counterpart, great opportunity.

If you’re trusting to the business pages, or the television news, or your industry’s trade magazine, to know what’s going on, you’re missing the signals that will make a difference to your life.

That’s why an active program of personal due diligence matters, both seeking out information and watching for signals yourself, and working with others who are observing and distilling the patterns that are hiding out of sight of the headlines.

What works has changed. It’s time you did, too.

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