“Who knew Sheffield had so much going on?!”
That was me, mere minutes ago as I alighted the train and walked out into the breezy Sheffield air. I am here because I am giving a talk tonight to a large group of property investors and developers and decided that instead of going straight to my hotel as I would normally do, I’d take a few minutes and walk around the city. When else was I going to get this chance?
And man am I glad I took that walk…
Now, I do know where Sheffield is, and unlike most Arsenal fans, I have no aversion to wanting to get to know Sheffield just a bit better. I didn’t have much time to waste, so I headed for an Antipodean coffee shop minutes from the station and walked around for a bit.
And in that short walk, here’s what I saw: lots of factories and warehouses now being used as shops and workshops for artists and artisans; lots of good smelling cafes; more organic food restaurants than I could count on one hand; two separate universities; hundreds of student apartments; and not one but TWO “oriental” grocery stores (their words, not mine… rugs are Oriental, people are not!). And that last observation was one that made me take the most pause. “Oriental” grocery stores? In Sheffield?
And then as I continued to look around, I noticed how ethnically diverse Sheffield city center was. Many were international students, to be sure, but plenty more looked like they were born-and-bred Sheffielders. And it made me think bigger thoughts about disruption and change and globalization and the opportunities that disruption and change and globalization bring with them.
Case in point: when Sheffield’s steel industry took a hit, many artisans turned to goldsmithing and silversmithing (and make some jaw-dropping stuff that I would love to adorn my home with when I can justify £4200 for gorgeous silver candlesticks… I’m looking at you Brett Payne). The factories that once forged steel now forge art of various kinds and disused warehouses have been repurposed into trendy coffee shops and art spaces. The big takeaway for me is this: Sheffield hasn’t given up, and neither should we, even when it seems the world is changing around us faster than we can say “What English steel industry?”
Big changes happen. Cataclysms happen. Population changes happen. There are so many forces that we as business owners and investors can’t predict or control, but the key is not to let what is out of our control dictate what IS in our control. The key is to do what we can to change and adapt and take notice of the opportunities around us even as the changes and cataclysms happen.
There is always so much wasted opportunity going around. And while my observations of Sheffield are superficial (I’ve only been here two hours, after all, and my observations above are the sum total of my knowledge of the place), the bigger lesson is not.
What opportunities are you not taking notice of? What inevitable changes have you not prepared for? What — dare I say the “B-word” — Brexit-related upheavals have you not thought of a response to?
As Warren Buffet says “Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.” So whatever industry you’re in, whatever location, whatever stage in growth, why join the fearful masses when you could be one of the opportunity-seers?
The opportunities are there, if you take the time to notice them and make the effort to do something about them.
Just ask the people of Sheffield.