Book review: Around the world in 80 trades by Conor Woodman

80trades

Around the World in 80 Trades: Adventures in economics, from coffee to camels and back

Conor Woodman is a banking analyst who was familiar with multiple million pound deals.

But as an economist, he wondered if it were still possible to make a good living as a practical trader, buying and selling goods on the free market and along the traditional trading routes.

So he set himself the challenge of doubling his money in 6 months, from trading face to face.  With £50,000 in the bank and a round the world ticket, Woodman traveled from Africa to India to china to South America, trading camels, coffee, horses, chilli sauces, wines, tequila, jade and timber!

As well as the financial gain from the trading itself, Woodman also learned some very interesting lessons, lessons that are more practical in nature than the theoretical economics he learned at university.  These include:

  • If you are new to a market, you are likely to be at a disadvantage.  The incumbent traders will know much more about the Market than you so you are likely to tar poorly. The will also be reticence in you setting up your stall as you offer competition.  Better to pioneer a new market than try to compete in an established Market. You then have first movers advantage and build the new trading relationships rather than impose on existing relationships.
  • When you are looking for trading opportunities, they are more easily they are found.  Keeping your eyes open for what people are trading locally, then you might see opportunities there are with trading internationally.
  • Trading is both socials and adversarial. Anyone that has traded and is bitten by the bug will enjoy the cut and thrust of a financial negotiation, and will haggle over pennies to feel the thrill of the win. There are techniques that can be used to your advantage and techniques that can be used just to push the negotiations forward.
  • Know your market! Having a commodity can be profitable but only if the market will buy the product at an increased price.  That means demonstrating that the product is something that will enhance the customer’s life.  Know what your customer values and provide it! Sounds simple but even luxury goods like jade may not sell at a profit in a depressed market.
  • Value is in the eyes of the buyer.  South African wines didn’t bring the premium expected in China because the Market was focused on French wines. Sometimes you will need to educate your Market on the value your product ( Marketing counts ).
  • It is still possible to make money trading but it will take effort and persistence to make a good living at it.

Woodman’s experiment proves that economics works at all levels and the basics still apply.  Provide a product that resolves ‘a need’ or appeals to ‘an emotional want’ and you can make a profit.

Woodman’s book  makes an entertaining read and you will find yourself supporting him as he trades his way around the world.

As an alternative to reading the book, you will find the television series still available for viewing here…

Dare to Aspire

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