Fast Company

Learning To Thrive While Your Competitors Flounder

I'm sitting outside of a cafe in Greenwich, Conn., enjoying some free time and unseasonably warm weather, before boarding a 14-hour flight to Beijing. In this era of uncertainty, with the fear of Chinese and Indian economies eclipsing the U.S., of Europe doing too little too late, what we need is some perspective. We need to lift our gaze from in front of our feet and look up, and think about the long term.

I got a precious opportunity to do just that last week at an investor conference hosted by a man who Forbes says is worth about $1.5 billion, who runs a series of funds valued at over $15 billion. I won't give you his name because I have not yet formally interviewed him and would like to, but he laid out a formula for the few of us willing to look for opportunity in trouble. He has a long record. His formula must work. So it’s worth something.

I asked him how he identifies companies that will thrive during the slow-growth era we are operating in. Here is what he said:

1) Vision: He looks for leaders who have a compelling long-term vision and inspire people to pursue it.

2) Belief: These leaders believe so much in their companies that they are bullish, and see opportunities for growth.

3) Capital: These companies have the cash to invest when their competitors must cut back, so they can seize opportunities others cannot.

4) Advantage: They have a capacity or own something that is too expensive for competitors to duplicate. They own an historic building, for example, or have built a recognized brand that competitors feel costs too much to be worth building themselves.

I love that the first thing on his list was his interest in betting on leaders with a vision.

The implications for investors are clear. For entrepreneurs they are equally compelling. To be one of the few who thrive, to sail ahead of your competition over the next five to 10 years, you want to remember "VBCA"--vision, belief, capital, advantage. You want to create an inspiring vision that you can believe in passionately, find or create the capital capacity to invest in this vision (take an inventory of your full assets and you may be surprised to find that you have an asset you are not thinking about now), and focus on building something that arms you with a competitive advantage (something competitors will choose not to copy).

Let's go get them!

[Image: Flickr user Bobcatnorth]

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