Five business lessons to live by

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I have been writing for Inside Retail since early 2007, and I have decided that it is time for a change.

For those who have enjoyed my take on things, the best thing I could do for my last column is to leave you in the company of some of the great thinkers and business philosophers who have shaped my thinking. I am not linking to any of them – if you are serious about finding them, you will. One link or one article is not the point; it is about discovering a way of thinking that will shape the way you approach business.

Five thinkers

I discovered [1] Benoit Mandelbrot as a young MBA and his thinking has become embedded in the mental models that govern everything I do in business. If that sounds a bit strange, consider his work, summarised by the great man himself, from the homepage of my website, “Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules, which are repeated without end”.

Business is really not that complicated, and is only made so by those with a vested interest in doing so. Look for the patterns (not trends) to unlock the way things really work.

You only need to read one business book if you want to be a corporate titan: In Search of Excellence, by [2] Tom Peters & Bob Waterman. Almost everything since then (the mid-80s) has been derivative.

There is only one person that is writing sensibly about business risk and strategy and that is [3] Nicholas Taleb, and in most important things the worst thing you can do is extrapolate the trend.

There are two people writing sensibly about advertising and marketing – one is [4] Bob Hoffman at Ad Contrarian, the other is [5] Roy H. Williams at Wizard of Ads. You can do a lot worse than to find them and follow them.

Five lessons

There are a few themes that have always obsessed me, which I’ve summarised into these five lessons:

1. You will find no wisdom or peace or success in popular opinion. When everyday bloggers and wannabes start sprouting on a particular topic (internet of things, neuroscience etc), it is the equivalent of the cabbie giving investment advice. You can almost guarantee they will be wrong, but that is not what the market makers are doing. The road never travelled is the only road to travel. That way you will find the purple cows.

2. Most things can be learned, but few things can be unlearned. This is why someone once claimed that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. People over-invest in what they think they know and leave little room for doubt and uncertainty, only be tripped up by those very firm convictions when the world takes a turn.

3. Almost everybody confuses the symptom (sales, market share, customer complaints etc) for the cause. If you can discipline yourself to look past the outcomes and the symptoms and really begin to understand the real drivers and causes, you will be in a position to shape the outcome you want.

4. Far too many people worry about what they do relative to a competitor, rather than focussing on their own patch of dirt. Greatness and success is what you define it to be. Getting there requires two things that you need disproportionately: luck and effort. You can only control one of those, so it is best to focus on that. Rock up every day, do the best you can – and that is all. Truly, nothing else required.

5. The way you do anything is the way you do everything. This is why it is time for me to move on. I can’t be sure that I am doing any good, nor that I am doing it well enough, anymore to warrant your time and attention.

I guess I would have written over 400 columns for Inside Retail, and I only hope that somewhere along the way it made your world better in a small way. Hook up on social media if you are that way inclined, I’ll appreciate it. Be sure to mention that you read Inside Retail, because I rarely link with strangers. I’m sure I will pop up somewhere, sometime to stir things up, but until then – Au Revoir.




  1. Brian Walker posted on June 15, 2015

    Dennis, I have always enjoyed your perspective and thank you for your contributions to the noble art & science of retail strategy. Change only occurs through the voice of the alternate or even challenging point of view amongst us. Thanks and very best wishes. Brian Walker CEO Retail Doctor Group

  2. Vaughn Clair posted on June 15, 2015

    Dennis, Thanks for your interesting columns over the years. Always worth reading and always something to think about.

  3. Paul Fetterplace posted on June 15, 2015

    Dennis, I'm surprised I've been reading your stuff for so long, but it was always a worthy read. I enjoyed your take on the art and science of retail. Good luck in what every comes next. Paul Fetterplace

  4. Michael Compendium posted on June 15, 2015

    Dennis, on occasions we have agreed to disagree but always with respect. With all your sincerest and knowledgeable intentions and of course experience, I have always wondered who is listening and more importantly who is using some of the very advanced and futuristic thinking to have some advantage. I think there should be a DNA test for apathy. Those that have that particular strand SURVIVE and those without that strand PROSPER. You'll always be on my radar and I'm going to miss your column. Just best wishes to you and Monyeen. Michael Ratner- Compendium

  5. Moonyeen posted on June 15, 2015

    After so many years you still surprise me everyday with the way you think about everything!

  6. Dave moreton posted on June 15, 2015

    Best of luck with your ventures Dennis!

  7. Dennis posted on June 16, 2015

    Thanks Brian, Paul, Michael and Vaughn. Appreciate the kinds words and the occasional RT :) I hope to pop up around the show form time to time. (Pop-up is the new black, right?)

  8. Dennis posted on June 16, 2015

    And thanks to you guys too Stephen and Dave!

  9. Chris McMahon posted on June 17, 2015

    Life after Dennis Price? I have never even considered this!! Your ability to get to the crux (the REAL crux) of any matter with a brilliant economy of words and lack of ego has been sensational and made your posts essential reading. Thank you.

  10. Scott Lang posted on July 20, 2016

    I'm sad to see you will not be writing here, Dennis. Thank you for always making me think ;) Scott

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