When Is A Cost Not A Cost?


Using sport as a metaphor to illustrate how different approaches can be applied in different areas of life. 


The footy season is now over, and concluded on the same weekend as the Ryder Cup between the USA and Europe was being played. For any sports fan, the recent long weekend was absolute bliss. For the sports connoisseur, it was historic.

Sport can be a great metaphor for many other aspects of life and sportspeople sometimes demonstrate approaches that can be applied in other areas. The footy finals and Ryder Cup all reinforced the same lesson – when the pressure is on, leadership with a plan and a calm influence prove the difference.

The AFL final between Collingwood and West Coast was a real dingdong affair. Collingwood was always on top and seemed destined to win, and it was surprising when West Coast got within range.

However, with two points between them and five minutes to go, West Coast marched down the field, one controlled kick at a time, and slotted the critical goal.

The Ryder Cup also unfolded against the odds. The USA team had the greater depth and track record, and were 3-1 up after the first morning. But the leadership demonstrated by non-playing captain Thomas Bjorn, and the obvious commitment of the players to what he wanted, created a swing in fortunes from which they never looked back.


It’ll never happen again
For the sports connoisseur however, the NRL final is unlikely to be repeated ever again. In all my years of playing and watching sport, I have never seen a team purposely go into a game (let alone a grand final) with a player carrying a significant injury. The Sydney Roosters chose to effectively play 12 against 13. As one of the commentators said, “They’re playing with 12 and an on-field coach”.


The Roosters were prepared to pay a very high price (one player less) to have Cronk’s ability as a strategist and influencer  when it mattered most. Very few teams would have been prepared to do that!

Cooper Cronk ran onto the field with a 15cm fracture through the width of his scapula. The other players had to cover for and protect him. He called the plays and kept the structures under pressure. He knew what the opposition were going to do and organised his team to counter every move. He slowed it down and speeded it up when necessary and kept their emotions in check. The Melbourne Storm, known to be a clinical team, was completely outwitted. In the end, having a strategist and cool head watching the plays proved the difference.

In all these examples, it was noticeable how a clear strategy, together with the ability to remain calm under pressure and redirect resources as required, were critical to achieve the desired result.

The value of strategy, leadership and refocusing are equally important when managing personal finance. A financial plan is important but it’s only really words on paper. The real difference is made when circumstances aren’t quite going to plan. When asset prices fall, when personal circumstances are tough and when the unexpected becomes reality – that’s when the cost of having someone observing from a higher level and redirecting resources is worth every cent.
Everyone, no matter how astute or successful,  needs a sounding board. If only to test ones thinking and get a second opinion – but often it’s much more.

Cronk’s pure playing statistics were diabolical – probably the worst ever seen in any rugby league match, let alone a grand final. Yet, the overwhelming story of the game in the press over the following days was the dominant role he played in the victory.

Ironically when things are ticking along smoothly, the value of an adviser isn’t questioned. The reality however is that the value of a good advisor is greater when the pressure is on, the strategy doesn’t look like it’s working and emotions are volatile. It’s often the simplest comments that can make all the difference. During the most difficult times in the GFC, reminding clients that “capitalism and human optimism will always exist” often became a catalyst to reinforce the strategy in place.

Success doesn’t come from the most talented teams or the greatest plans. At the top level of any field, there is very little difference between talent and plans – the difference comes from the intangibles like mindset and leadership.
A high-quality adviser will have the ability to adapt the plan to changing circumstances. They will call the plays and opportunistically reallocate resources when required. They will throw themselves into the fray when needed but most of the time their value will be their influence on the intangibles.

The Australian cricket selectors would do well to change their philosophy on how they select their captain. For many years, it has been the best captain from the group of players already selected for their playing ability. It may be better to select the best captain in the country who can hold their place in the team. It could make all the difference.