Saturday, April 05, 2014

Building Your Trading Culture

Recent posts have focused on running your trading business, especially by keeping score and innovating.  Toffler's quote is a reminder that the world is constantly changing, requiring not just learning, but relearning.  I increasingly find that traders fail to succeed, not because they cannot learn markets and not because they are beset with psychological problems, but because of the inherent challenges of actively trading markets and simultaneously running an adaptive trading business.

Early in a trader's development, a great deal of time is spent learning new skills, studying different market relationships and patterns, and trying out different trading strategies.  Once the trader is established, how much time is spent in learning/growing mode?  Understandably, the demands of keeping up with markets push innovation to the back burner: it's hard to work on tomorrow's trading when you're pushing to make money today.

If you look at a successful company like Apple or Toyota, you'll find that they are doing fresh things from one time period to another.  They innovate.  They improve their processes.  They stay close to customers and anticipate shifting tastes and needs.  They don't stay still.  They don't just motivate; they inspire.

That is rare in the business world (which is why those companies are frequent objects of study in business schools); it is equally rare in the trading world.  

Look at how most traders run their businesses:  how they understand, structure, and assess their processes; how they pursue innovations in trading; how they evaluate what they do and how well they do it and feed that information forward for continuous improvement.  Would you want to work for such a business?  Would you invest in those businesses?

The WindoTrader site makes a great point about "trading culture".  Successful businesses have a distinctive culture:  they have core values, unique areas of expertise, and signature strengths.  Market knowledge and self-understanding are necessary for trading success, the site points out, but the culture created by a trader is what brings those two together.  Culture is "the process of knowing the why, what, when, where, who, and how of your trading."  It is what defines what your trading business is all about.

One can be passionate about trading and yet completely neglect running a trading business, just as one can be passionate about cooking and baking and fail to run a successful restaurant.  Terry at WindoTrader points to Bridgewater as an example of a trading enterprise that is grounded in culture.  One's own culture may differ from Bridgewater's, but it will serve the same purpose: it aligns who you are with what you do.  When you are aligned, you become visible--and the right people find their way to you.

How do you define *your* trading culture?  Here are a few questions to get you started:

*  Write out a mission statement for your trading business.  Make sure that statement captures the values, principles, and goals of your trading business.

*  What are you doing, specifically, to ensure that you're following your mission?

*  What truly distinguishes your trading business from the many others in the marketplace?  What is your distinctive knowledge?  Skill sets?  Experience? 

*  What processes set you apart from other market participants?  How are you generating ideas and trades that differ from consensus?

*  What is your vision for the future of markets--the opportunities and the threats--and what are you doing now to prepare for that future?  

*  How do you detail your trading results and use them to make yourself more knowledgeable and skilled?

Interestingly, those are some of the same questions savvy investors would be asking if they were looking to place money with you.  They realize they are investing in a business, not just a track record. 

Further Reading:  Self Leadership and Trading