“The future is uncertain.” Duh!

It’s the beginning of a new year so folks and firms are quickly pumping out “memos” and “insights” and “wisdom” on their expectations for 2017. The majority of things I’ve read over the last couple weeks could be summarized as follows: the future of PE, Hedge Funds, Equities, Bonds (anything really) in 2017 is uncertain. Well, duh.

The word uncertain has been around since the late 14th century and originally meant “of indeterminate time or occurrence.” So by definition the future is uncertain. But we struggle with uncertainty so we make guesses, estimates, theoretical leaps and extrapolations to try and imagine where things might be headed. Part of that it seems to is assuage our own nervousness, part may be simple human nature and rest is to plot out objectives and a path forward. These pieces can be useful, I don’t mean to simply poke fun, heck, in an earlier missive I took a few guesses towards the effects of a Trump presidency, but they are just guesses, no matter how well thought out or how many people integrate the findings into their models.

Here, however, are a few certainties:

  • Inflation (if not modern human nature) will lead you, your staff, your competitors and their employees all to need (or want) to earn more money
  • This years sales targets will be higher then last years
  • Investors will want higher returns
  • Margins will get squeezed
  • Your competition will target your clients
  • Productivity improvements and costs savings will be sought out
  • The “Tweeter-in-chief” will use his new bully pulpit (even if some try to ask him not to)
  • The U.K. and EU will get a divorce, no telling if it will be amicable or messy
  • China will claim to hit it’s growth targets
  • Goals will be set and missed
  • Bureaucracies will continue to move and change slowly

Change is constant, and the future is inherently uncertain. Sure, spend a bit of time thinking of things that could happen, but spend more time building a business or thought model that can adapt and grow within or despite the changes that come your way.

Long-range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.

Peter Drucker