There is a saying one of my partners likes to use frequently when we discuss our strategic plan: “Don’t skate to where the puck is — skate to where the puck is going to be.” I’m not a sports guy, but even I can figure out what he means. That said, it’s certainly much easier to see where the puck currently is than to determine where the puck will be going next. If you have ever watched five-year-olds play soccer, you know that we are wired to run to what we can see now, not to what we believe we will see in the future.
Yes, it is much simpler to identify the current location of the puck: You simply find it on the rink and, if you’re anything like me, carefully skate over like Bambi on ice, hoping you don’t cause significant physical harm en route. Guessing where the puck is headed requires a completely different course. First, you have to be willing to put time and effort into understanding the flow of the game, the tendencies of the players, the action of the puck as the players strike it, and a host of other factors. Once that work is complete, you also have to be willing to take risks, because there is no guarantee, no matter how much advance work and research is done, that you will be correct. And last, if you are not completely accurate, you have to be able to adapt in order to regroup, change course, and keep pushing for an optimal outcome.
My partner brings up this analogy with frequency because it aligns fantastically with the strategy of a business: Success lies in doing the work to calculate where the puck will be, taking a risk to position your organization there in advance, and building a dynamic, creative business that can adapt to and overcome the challenges that will, no doubt, materialize.
So, what industries does the puck appear to be moving toward?
A well-heeled market-research firm recently looked at the top-ten doomed industries moving forward, as well as the top-ten fastest-growing industries. It found that solar power, environmental consulting and wind power make up three of the top-ten industries. As the country and the world continue their quest to limit usage of fossil fuels, this makes a lot of sense.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has also been getting an enormous amount of press recently. This is a process by which petroleum, natural gas, and shale gas are extracted from rocks underground. Some estimate that the U.S. holds twice as much natural gas as Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves, and tapping into this resource has great implications for our economy. Certainly, this fact also brings up environmental concerns that need to be addressed. Fracking may prove to be an interesting development as it moves in tandem with the solar-power and wind industries toward a changing energy environment.
In a 2012 article in The Economist titled “Shale of the Century,” the author points out that we are currently producing more natural gas than we know what to do with. Without veering too off-course, my point is that the energy industry, specifically focused on solar, wind, fracking, and environmental consulting, is not only a great industry to skate toward — it could also be a primary driver for our economic recovery and energy independence, and could usher in wealth for future generations.
The bottom line is that even in the midst of the U.S.’s slow economic recovery, significant windows of opportunity exist. We just need to be willing to do our homework, focus on good decision-making, take calculated risks, and approach problems, setbacks, and issues with the attitude that they can be overcome and success can be attained.