business planning

Who We Strive To Be

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We have been reading the work of the late Donald Clifton of the Gallup Organization recently. The idea of working from your strengths was central to his work. As we think about building the optimal kind of organization to help you make the most of your position, what kind of strengths do we need?

In collaborative work such as ours with you, a deep relationship of mutual trust is a most useful foundation. This is the hallmark of what Clifton calls the Relator strength, or theme. Rather than meet many strangers, hoping to find some that might do business, the Relator seeks close relationships with those they know. We invest our time in communicating with you and working on your business, not hunting strangers to turn into clients.

The Strategic strength enables people to sort through the clutter to find the best path forward, to see patterns where others see complexity. Thinking about your goals in the context of the investment universe, and whole range of financial planning tactics, this skill might be mandatory.

The Focus strength gives people the ability to concentrate on goals, set a course, and stay on track. That is a good description of what we are trying to do here at 228 Main. The Achiever strength helps get things done, stay productive, and work effectively.

In the dynamic world we live in, change is constant. Technology advances, the economy and markets go through their cycles, and tax law changes. The Learner strength is how people adapt and thrive as the world evolves.

One of the blessings of the challenges we’ve faced: we had to figure out how to delegate, how to depend on a team approach, how to work together to get you what you need. We are striving to build a diverse team where each member works from their strengths, happily and effectively, to take care of business for you.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Convention Time Again

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One of the best and biggest gatherings of financial professionals is coming up. LPL Financial’s annual Focus Conference presents a number of opportunities to gain education, perspective, and more.

Because we 16,000 registered representatives are free to build our businesses in accordance with our own principles and interests, a wide range of presentations are held. These are conducted by an incredible array of company and industry talent, as well as peers.

Our investment philosophy and portfolio management operations are mature. We’ll be looking for ways to enhance our productivity and speed of execution, as well as potential new research and information sources.

We have a deep interest in communications theory and practice as applied to the 21st century venues we use to keep in touch with you. Fortunately, some of the most talented people in the industry (maybe the world) will be available. They understand what we’re doing at 228Main.com, they have helped us all the way along, and we expect to make more progress on our plans for the future.

The cast of characters includes communications professionals in LPL departments, as well as specialized consultants like Scott McKain and Amy Florian. McKain is the author of ‘Create Distinction,’ a business best-seller that has inspired us over the years. Florian is an expert in helping advisors communicate more effectively with those who have experienced loss or difficult transitions. I’m looking forward to working with them again.

Over my long association with LPL, I’ve been fortunate to build close relationships with the leadership team. Most of this happened in the last four years, as many people in managing director and executive roles became readers and followers of our blog and social media. As we sort out the best structure for our business going forward, these connections are a great help.

I have breakfast and lunch meetings scheduled each day of the conference with key players on my LPL team. With all this, plus gatherings with friends and colleagues from around the country, it looks to be another exceptional experience.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Louisville, My Home Sweet Home

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Planning to work to age 92 has a side effect: there is no date any time soon after which I can do what I want. Cathy and I knew this. A decade ago we figured out that we needed to have some fun along the way. That’s how the whole snowbird plan got started.

Snowbirds are people who go south for part or all of the winter, migrating north to their homes in the spring. We began doing that in 2010, for a few winter months. It was the best of both worlds. We had our home in Nebraska to enjoy most of the year, close to friends and family, and a place to get some weeks of warmth in the dead of winter.

A couple years after we began this, Cathy’s health went south. She was diagnosed with a slew of pretty awful lung conditions. We were able to continue our snowbird routine. Her rising need for oxygen eventually made flying impossible, so we simply drove back and forth.

Three years ago, things got to where long road trips were no longer possible. She had to choose where to live. The specialists who saved her life and continued to treat her are in the south. And Nebraska winter weather could be fatal in a power outage or a stalled car. Staying in the south became a matter of medical necessity for Cathy.

At the same time, health insurance paid the bills for stuff that kept Cathy alive. My small group policy required me to maintain Nebraska residency. And I needed to be in the shop at 228 Main Street for a bit every month. (Our work for you helped Cathy, because it’s expensive to be sick.) I became a long-range commuter. Cathy could remain in the warmth and I could keep the business end going.

Cathy got extra years of life with the help of Florida weather and Florida doctors—important years, in which children got married and grandbabies were born. With her passing, I can focus again on life in Louisville, my home. I’ll be selling Cathy’s Florida house – it’s too much, and in the wrong place.

We have come full circle, back to the original situation. I’m going to work to age 92, so I need to figure out how to have some fun along the way. Bottom line, I’ll be spending much more time at home in Louisville.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Anniversaries

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We balance our attention between the moments in which we live, and the longer term over which we plan for the future. Anniversaries are a natural place to pause and take stock.

My 63rd birthday approaches. This may not seem like a particularly important number, but for me it is. My father and my eldest brother both passed away at age 62. Getting older has never been a problem for me; it is key to my intention to live a long and productive life. I am trying to do what I can to extend the string of birthdays so I can indeed work to age 92.

The 25th anniversary of my affiliation with LPL Financial comes later this year. It has always seemed like the right choice. With the challenges that we have had to work around in recent years, the flexibility and effectiveness of our partner LPL has become vital. In particular, full support for 21st century communication has helped us make a digital presence a key way to deal with periodic separation in time and distance.

Speaking of partners, I will celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary with the really important one this summer. In a life filled with good fortune, I count alphabetical order as a special blessing. On the first day of freshman year of high school, I found my assigned locker right next to Cathy Livingston’s.

You play a huge role in my long range plans: you are why I want to work to age 92. To say I am having a good time would be an understatement. While enjoying the moments as they pass, I’m also looking ahead to ways to build an organization that can better serve you, on a more sustainable basis.

Back to work! Thank you all, for everything. If you would like to talk about anything, please email us or call.

The Golden Business Rule

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The Golden Rule exists in many forms and many cultures around the world. We see it in different formulations: what goes around comes around, you reap what you sow, do unto others.

At 228 Main, we stopped thinking about our business revenue or asset goals a long time ago. We do have goals: a specific one and a broader one.

The narrow one is to try to grow your buckets. This has us reading and researching, assessing opportunities and threats in the economy and markets, forming views, and taking action in portfolios. It is endlessly fascinating to me, one of the reasons I want to work until age 92.

The broader goal is to do great work for you, from your perspective. There are two pieces to this. First, we have to understand your life and your plans and planning. Whatever your financial position is, your objectives and needs play a large role in shaping the best strategies.

The second part is in communicating in clear terms and engaging with you, so we understand you and you see how your money connects with your life. Living with confidence about your financial position may contribute to your happiness and wellness, which is our true underlying purpose. Life may be better when you have confidence in your approach and know that we are responsive to changes in your situation.

The ironic thing is that business got a whole lot better when we stopped worrying about it and began to focus more on your situation. Evidently, what goes around comes around.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Building an Enterprise to Serve You

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Over lunch with dear clients recently, I mentioned that our work together has now spanned twenty years, through the beginning of retirement and building a dream home.

One said, “I will never forget what you told us in that first meeting.” I was curious: what had been so memorable?

“You told us you wanted to work to age 92.”

I still have the goal, as you know. (Although, I had not remembered that it was twenty years old.) Of course, working to age 92 depends on living to age 92, maintaining vitality and mental acuity.

But we do not choose our lifespans, and good health is a gift that may be lost.
Early in my career I established a succession agreement. This assured your affairs would be handled by competent, high-integrity colleagues in the event I could no longer work for you. You could elect to go elsewhere at your convenience, on your time frame, but you would not be forced to scramble for help.

Although I would not walk across the street to talk to a prospect, being fully occupied with the goal of growing your buckets, the business has grown beyond anything I could have imagined when I established that agreement. Our outbound communication is aimed at you, not prospects. And yet we grow and grow, and new clients find us.

You point neighbors to our blogs and videos at 228Main.com. Your relatives find their way in. Even “likes” and “shares” in social media spread the word about our services.

This unexpected success prompts us to think about building an enterprise strong enough and deep enough to survive me. We’ve had success in finding wonderful people to work with us. Our philosophy and strategies resonate with them, and they bring their personal contributions to the shared mission.

You see four people working at 228 Main, but three others are working part-time, behind the scenes, and there may come a day when any of them devote even more of their energy to working for you.

I’ll never farm out talking to you to someone else. Yet we will develop associates who help new clients get connected to our system and philosophy, and take care of them.

Our object is to develop the organizational depth to survive the loss of any one of us. Then you will have a more resilient, sustainable partner in this enterprise.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Change is Changing

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When we think about our lives, our work, and our leisure, it seems evident that the pace of change is accelerating. This is not a new idea. A 1970 best-selling book by Alvin and Heidi Toffler, Future Shock, first brought this idea into public consciousness—they argued that the rate of change was overwhelming for many people. The future was coming too quickly. And since then, things have only gotten faster.

Thinker Burt White spent time talking about change at the recent LPL Financial national conference. One of the lessons of change is that knowing about it is not good enough, he says: “You have to do something about it.”

We think about the evolution of the economy and the markets, the changing face of law and regulation, industry trends that affect us, and the unfolding needs of you, our clients. There are many sources of change!

Knowing that adaptability is the new superpower, as White says, we also think about how we survive change, or better yet, thrive in it. How do we “do something about it”? The answer, for us, has a number of parts.

• Focusing on your wellbeing helps us sort out what we need to do in seeking to improve your position in the years ahead. You know our theory has long been the better off you are, the better off we will ultimately be. Looking at change through this lens brings clarity about what we need to do.

• Planning to work to age 92 has perhaps given us the perspective of a younger, more vibrant enterprise. When others might be coasting toward retirement, seeking an exit, we are gearing up and planning for the decades ahead.

• Having a sophisticated institutional partner like LPL Financial is a boon. It feels as if they are creating the future of digital communications together with us. They are at the leading edge of new media in terms of support and training, in our opinion. Few colleagues employ these tools to the extent we do, to keep our connection to you.

The unfolding future, change and all, feels as if it were built for us. We like having the same story for everyone. Communicating at the speed of light is good for you and for us. And it is as gratifying as ever to work with you as you strive toward your goals.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Only Thirty Years Left

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In the merry month of May a long time ago, I graduated from college in a new cheap suit and embarked on my career in financial services. The first entry on the resume was life insurance agent, the Prudential Insurance Company of America.

The insurance companies managed their affairs with vast armies of file clerks and secretaries and bookkeepers, filling towers of offices in major cities. There were no computers on desktops, long distance telephone calls cost a lot of money, and typing a letter was surprisingly time consuming.

Just a few years before, the New York Stock Exchange got so far behind in its record-keeping that it was forced to stay closed on Wednesdays for months in order to catch up the paperwork. This was due to the record trading volume of…wait for it…TWELVE MILLION SHARES A DAY.

Needless to say, times have changed a lot since I got in business.

I don’t understand how it happened, but I am turning age 62 this month. My plan to work to age 92 may be keeping me young. Between our digital communications, expansion of the team, reworking our systems and processes, keeping up with economic and market developments, and talking to you, there isn’t really time to feel old.

Thinking about the arc of this career so far, I began in the 20th century with a company founded in the 19th century. And now we are at the vanguard of the 21st century.

It feels like this unfolding age was made for us. We understand how to communicate with you in the new media. Being straightforward is a big edge when everything you say and do is visible. Word of mouth is a speed-of-light phenomena nowadays.

At this milestone, with so much left to do, we are grateful to be alive and part of it. With the best clients in the world and support by LPL Financial, we are very fortunate.

Clients, thank you all, again, for everything. If we can do anything for you, email us or call. Here’s to a great thirty years ahead, for you and for us.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Leibman Financial Services and LPL Financial are not affiliated.

Frisky as a Puppy

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We recently wrote about our plans to keep on managing your needs, and those of the friends and loved ones you keep sending to us. Bottom line, we have to scale up.

Greater effectiveness gives us the time we need to talk to you and understand what you are trying to accomplish. Our systems and our staffing are key to the effort. The scale we are building adds to the resiliency of the organization.

An interesting byproduct of intending to work to age 92 is that the business seems as frisky as a puppy. Why? Maybe because I have thirty more years to work. While some of my colleagues are coasting into retirement, we are planning for the decades ahead.

Those plans are getting exciting.

1. You know about the understudy to our Client Service Specialist Larry Wiederspan: Patsy Havenridge, Client Service Assistant. She is already on the job, working and training with Larry and Greg.

2. Technology Associate Max Leibman is working on a project basis, part-time, building a new operating system for the business. This will last through year-end, or longer. This new system will be a platform to automate and simplify our administrative tasks, freeing up our staff to spend more time with you and on seeking opportunities to grow your accounts.

3. Our Marketing Associate Caitie Leibman, within three semesters of her doctorate in English, is spending some part-time hours for the firm–outside of and without interfering with her current work as Director of the Writing Center at Doane University. Fittingly, she is collaborating with Greg Leibman to improve our communications and provide more consistency.

4. Caitie’s partner, Operations Associate Billy Garver, is also engaged in projects for us. His master’s degree in statistics is a good base from which to add depth to our research and portfolio management capabilities. His work with online course content provides some insight into things we are trying to do with http://www.228Main.com. He will continue to serve on the adjunct faculty at Doane University.

We cannot know whether the current projects turn into more permanent connections with these talented people. But having more of the next generation more involved with 228 Main is wonderful.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Doane University and LPL Financial are not affiliated.

Here We Grow Again

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We spend a lot of time thinking about business. Shares of common stock are percentage ownership interests in businesses, after all. But lately we have had to spend some time thinking about our business. It keeps growing.

Our idea has long been that growing your buckets is the best way to grow the business. So we put all of our energy into that task, and talking to you clients instead of strangers. You evidently talk about us–word of mouth is an amazing thing.

We think the best strategy to manage growth is a concept we learned by revamping our communications beginning in 2015. The digital venues like 228Main.com are scalable. In other words, when we communicate to dozens of clients, hundreds or thousands of others can listen in with no additional cost or effort or time on our part.

Scalability in our operations means systematizing the things that would be done better if they were systematized. Scalability in our staff means getting understudies in place for every human activity, and documenting those processes.

When you think about it, our efforts in these areas will make our enterprise more durable and resilient. These are good things for everyone.

The first steps in the scalability project:

1. Hire an understudy for Larry, to work in client logistics (forms, paperwork, and organization). This will happen soon.
2. Develop a custom operating system for the business. Portfolio analytics, our longevity-driven fee administration, task management and client contact records will ultimately all be in a single system. This is in development, and will probably take many months to complete.
3. Hire an understudy for Greg, to work in research and trading. This will be a longer-term project.

Of course, we all pitch in on many different activities as needed to meet your needs. Clients, if you have questions about this or anything else, please email us or call.