They say death and taxes are the only certainties in life, but there is one more. Nothing lasts forever. This can apply to just about anything — relationships, health, luck — especially the markets. When the market is down, it will eventually turn around. Conversely, when it is up it’s only a matter of time before the bubble bursts.
An entrepreneur has to adapt to the ups and downs of the business. I vividly remember when the market was thriving, prior to the 2007 real estate debacle. Not even experts like Alan Greenspan could have expected the mortgage crisis to hit the real estate market as hard as it did.
Back then, I had millions of dollars in real estate assets. I was having a good time learning the business and riding the wave. There was no bad deal. My partners and I continued investing and manifesting magnificent pay days from every deal. I thought this cycle was going to last forever, but when the market crashed, I couldn’t cash out. The market declined faster than we could put together deals.
My net worth diminished little by little, and there was nothing I could do to protect myself. How could I not see the downturn coming? The signs were everywhere. Home buyers were paying prices above asking while banks were doling out loans in excess of asset values with little to no supporting documentation to secure the loan. Others were teaching the tricks of the real estate investing game. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie. Even my landscaper tried to get in on the action by doing mortgage origination part-time on the side.
The game was out of control. When the ball stopped moving, it caught everyone by surprise. Most of us thought it was a brief time out, but when the whistle blew and the game began again, we really saw the aftermath of all the excitement.
Banks went out of business and the stock market crashed. It was the beginning of years of dark times. Many businessmen didn’t make it. Even now, I still hear entrepreneurs talk about how the crash destroyed their families and their businesses.
They lost more than money. They lost their certainty to take risks. And when you are part of a game where your ability to win or lose is based on your capacity to take risks, it gets harder to keep playing. You stop believing you can win and only play the game out of fear of losing.
Unlike some of those who lost during those tough times, I eventually learned how to navigate the challenging new marketplace. I learned every market has seasons. Even though I had enjoyed the financial abundance of summer as an investor, the stark reality of winter took me by surprise. I wasn’t ready for the challenges ahead of me then, but I adapted and took advantage of the down market by becoming an asset manager and investor in the toxic assets banks held. I was still in the real estate game I knew and loved, but I had adapted in response to the changed marketplace. I became a better businessman because of these hard lessons.
I now know one more certainty. I didn’t have the right connections prior to the crash. I had no one to properly advise me on how to handle the crash. During the last 10 years, I have built a network of professionals who also made it through the storm. We are now preparing for the next crash. Here are four things you can do to prepare for the next wave when it hits.
1. Mentally prepare.
Mindset is not the only thing, but it is one of the most important things. In uncertain times, only those who don’t panic can see things clearly and will spot the opportunities. When the market crashed in 2007, I spent months clearing my mind and controlling my anxiety so I could see the opportunities in front of me. Learn meditation or martial arts, or simply become more aware of your triggers so you can manage panicky feelings when things aren’t going well.
2. Raise money when you don’t need it, and keep it liquid.
CPA and wealth consultant Jason Bauer said, “I believe having a strategic reserve of cash is crucial so that you are ready to capitalize on opportunities. Leverage is a great tool but liquidity is the name of the game in a downturn.” Keep this in mind when preparing your assets for the next crash.
3. Diversify your business or create an alternate source of income.
Jason Walter, CEO of National Land Realty, says diversification is key. He says diversification allows you to have a balance in your portfolio. When one asset or business isn’t doing well, another serving another market can counteract the negatives of the slower business.
4. Surround yourself with the right people.
Daniel Barres, CEO of Soaring Sky, says finding people who can help you navigate a down market can help you avoid the pitfalls. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking they can figure things out on their own until it’s too late. Build a network and share strategies. Take what you learn from your network and apply it so you are ready when the market downshifts.
It’s not a matter of when a market correction will occur. It is coming, so get ready. Those with a mindset of certainty are the ones who will win, and those who have diversified and have cash will take advantage of the crash.