Lets say you run a business. The business makes $40k in a year. You are used to living on $40k, so you spend it, and have a reasonable life. Then suddenly things go well, and you make $50k the next year. Do you
a) Have a better year, buy better donuts, drink more beer and enjoy the $50k
b) Have a slightly better year, buy a few more donuts, spend $5k of the surplus and invest the other $5k in making the business better.
c) Stay as before and invest the whole $10k on making the business better.
I think most people are like a). I think a lot of people who work for themselves are like b), including me. I suspect that a lot of the dotcom billionaires are like c). I read once that valve basically took all the money from Half Life’s success and invested it in Steam and Half Life 2. I suspect this is true. I would guess that when World Of Warcraft was making tens of millions in profit, Blizzard took ALL that money and reinvested it. Then did the same when it made hundreds of millions. It turned out to work very well for them…
The problem is, no matter how much I may intuitively see this, and would even recommend it as a policy to others, I find it difficult to do myself. Maybe I’m just not as obsessed with running a bigger company as the dotcom guys, but when positech has a good year, I tend to bank some it (paranoid about having a bad year), spend a little bit more on the business (ooh look! some professional spaceship art), and buy a new TV. I tend to fear that if I don’t spend some of the company profits when there are some, it might crash and burn one day and I’ll have nothing to show for it, whereas with my current policy, at least I have a new TV.
I read Duncan Bannatynes autobiography, which is a great read. He made an absolute fortune from ice cream sales once. he then invested ALL of it in making retirement homes. he sold his car, re-mortgaged his house, even sold his TV to make the final payment on the first home. He had multiple maxxed out credit cards at that point. James Caan did the same. They went from having a good income to being penniless and in debt, because they could see the return in the long term being a whole step-change higher.
I don’t reckon I could ever do that. And even if I could, I’d be a nervous wreck doing it. What about you? Are you risk-averse? or a dotcom dude?