There’s an old story about the two footwear salespeople who were sent to a tropical island:

After spending a day walking around the island looking for opportunities, the first salesperson emailed the home office: “Sending my samples back ASAP. No one here wears shoes.”

The second salesperson also spent the day looking for customers. Returning to the hotel that night, salesperson number two also sent an email: “Send me more samples ASAP. No one here wears shoes!!”

You don’t need me to tell you that COVID-19 has done great harm to many businesses in 2020.  And in many cases, that harm has been irreparable. To wit, 17% of restaurants in America have already shuttered. Worse, it’s estimated that another 10,000 will close before the end of the year. 

Despite all the business devastation the Corona crisis has wrought, there are certain companies that through good fortune or good planning have become unexpectedly profitable in unprecedented ways.  Thanks to their successes, these companies are now dealing with a different problem –  they are facing a potentially enormous income tax bill that they didn’t expect. Granted, it’s a good problem to have – but it’s still a problem.

One of the ways that business owners have protected their assets in the past has been by implementing traditional defined benefit plans. But these programs sometimes set up future expectations that can frighten potential purchasers. Because while they know that they have enough money to fund the plan in year one, they don’t know what the future holds.  So if 2020’s windfall turns out to be a once-in-a-lifetime revenue generator for their business, they cannot afford to be locked into a similar contribution in future years.  And installing the plan for year one and then terminating it is not a viable strategy, because the IRS could pose a challenge that the plan was never intended to be a permanent retirement plan in the first place.

However there is a strategy where one large deductible contribution can be made in year one with little or no contributions being required for the next two years.  After that, the investor can simply decide that the plan has outlived its usefulness, terminate it, and roll the balance over into an IRA without penalty.  

So why am I telling you all this? Have I abandoned my current track and moved to the financial planning industry?

Absolutely not. Financial planning is something I know very little about. It’s simply a real world example. (If you have had a 2020 windfall, congratulations! If you’re interested in the strategy above, contact my friend David Gensler dgensler@madisonpension.com and he can help you.)

The reason I explained that strategy in excruciating detail is because I believe it’s important to understand that different people experience the same situations in very different ways. COVID-19 has been devastating for way too many people. But it’s also created unforeseen windfalls for others. And that means there can be opportunities for those of us who look beyond the obvious and think differently.

Thanks to Corona’s effects on our lives – sheltering-in-place, physical distancing, reduced travel, reduced spending, and more – buyer habits have changed overnight. And many companies are looking for ways to pivot their own businesses to satisfy these abruptly available buyers. 

The descriptions for this phenomenon are legion: One person’s ceiling is another’s floor; One person’s trash is another’s treasure; One person’s meat is another’s poison; One person’s pleasure is another’s pain; One person’s loss is another’s profit; and A thing which is a sin to one is a blessing to another.

The question is, which one of these descriptions fits your next opportunity? After all, as the second footwear salesperson learned at the beginning of this post, if the shoe fits, wear it.