client communications

Making Connections

© Can Stock Photo / alphaspirit

A client recently talked about a friend, searching for an investment philosophy that works. (This sometimes happens after a person withdraws from investing for loss of faith in the markets or an advisor.)

The questions to me were, how do I help my friend understand your philosophy? What is the best way for her to learn about what you do?

I am always aware of our day job: taking care of your bucket as best as we are able, striving to help you get where you want to go. Talking to strangers, even friends of yours, always ranks lower. These days we are quite occupied with our day job.

It takes time for people to understand whether we might be a good fit for them. We know we are different. Our old-fashioned philosophy and methods are a labor of love – and require more effort than simply filling up the pie chart like the computer tells you. A contrarian approach is not for everyone.

Fortunately, there are three ways you can help a friend like that, without getting in our way at all.

  • Forward a weekly email newsletter you find interesting, with links to our current thoughts.
  • ‘Like’ or share our content on Facebook or other social media. That is a way to spread the word.
  • The most foolproof way: provide us a name and email address so we may send the weekly email newsletter, with links to new articles and videos and other short notes.

We’re too busy with our day job to make unsolicited calls. We will make time for your friends who call, when we can. It is always helpful if they have first had a chance to see what we are about.

You know this already, but our approach is not suitable for everyone. We do not cater to short-sighted thinking or overly pessimistic long term views. All of the communications we put out for you may be read by bystanders or eavesdroppers, without cost in time or money to us. That means we can start on the same page when we do talk one-on-one, a big time-saver.

If you would like to talk about this or anything else, or sign up a new subscriber, email us or call.

Better Safe Than Sorry

© Can Stock Photo / Subbotina

2020 will certainly go down as a memorable year, between the changes in our every day lives and the economic and market developments. My years as caregiver for a person with an extemely fragile immune system has given me a sense of caution about the coronavirus. (Cathy continues to influence me!)

In the spirit of ‘better safe than sorry’ we are seeking some modifications in our work with you. The median age of our advisory clients is in the area of elevated risk, and many of us have other risk factors as well. Here are the things we can do to limit exposure and illness among us all:

  • Many service matters can be done by phone or email; most forms can be signed electronically. This reduces traffic in 228 Main.
  • Schedule appointments in advance, to minimize the chance to be in a crowded place.
  • One on one consultations can be done by phone at your option; we will soon be able to video conference if you prefer.

Of course I will meet with you in person if you need that. We work with you on vital subjects, and we want you to have what you need. For the present we see no reason to suspend face to face visits.

We are doing what we can in the shop to keep it safe, wiping down public surfaces and shared objects, making hand sanitizer available. Handshakes and hugs need to stay virtual for now, not physical.

The best thing that can possibly happen is for everyone to be laughing at me in a few weeks for the needless over-reaction. I desperately hope for that outcome.

Having some experience with respiratory failure leading to death, I’m just wary of a virus that can produce that in a slight fraction of cases in a period of a couple weeks. Thank you for humoring me on this.

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

Our Work With You

© Can Stock Photo / gajdamak

One of the blessings of a periodic travel day is time to think. My thoughts about our work together recently crystallized at 40,000 feet in the air. The guts of our business may be captured in a single sentence:

People who know us believe we are worthy of helping them manage some part of their net worth.

This thought has three distinct facets.

1. “People who know us” highlights the key role of communicating our principles and values. Who are we? What are we doing? Why are we doing it?

2. To determine if “we are worthy” of helping you, it helps if you can get a feeling for our competence and consistency. Whether we are focused on your results or ours is a key thing, too.

3. “Net worth” figures into our work. We strive to help you two ways, by investing effectively and helping you frame major financial issues so you can make effective decisions. The better off you are, the better off we will be.

It seems to us that this concept of the financial advisory business is timeless, has always been true. Yet our experience with 21st century communications over the past few years says each facet is powerfully improved by the new methods.

People get to know us much more quickly by reading our blogs and seeing the videos. What makes us tick? What are we focused on? Are we paying attention to business? Do we care about our clients? This digital presence makes it easier for you to form an opinion about our worthiness to work with you.

Apart from all that, we know that communication can help drive understanding and attitudes about effective investing behavior. Although some do not need it, others may benefit from the perspective and context we provide. If we are successful in promoting effective investment behavior, we may be helping people build their net worth over time.

It feels invigorating to be using 21st century methods to do business according to timeless principles. 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.

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

Our Digital Communications: 4th Anniversary

© Can Stock Photo / iqoncept

As we complete four years in the world of digital communications, it makes sense to take stock. What have we gotten done, where are we headed?

We began with three thoughts. We had the intent to be able to communicate at the speed of light when events demanded – sort of a civil defense system for times of stress. And we wanted to communicate with all of you each week about our current thinking on a wide variety of topics. Finally, make available a complete archive of our philosophy and strategies, for you to find and read on your schedule, available 24/7.

We worked out a way to deliver these things with a combination of three methods. Nobody needs to access all three, but we can reach more of you by being more places.

228Main.com hosts our blogs, nearly 400 already published, one or two new ones each week. Daily posts in social media offer additional features, plus links to the blog articles, comments about developments in our thinking, and weekly short videos. And weekly email newsletters provide links to the new blog posts and videos, along with schedule notes.

We love the way you forward emails or like or share our Facebook or Twitter posts. Some of your friends and relatives have gotten to know us this way, at their leisure, with no threat of us bothering them with unwanted approaches (as if we ever would!) The 21st century is a great place to live if you like to communicate.

We are working on consolidating selected blog posts into books, thinking about a YouTube channel to make our video library more searchable, and continuing to explore new ways to communicate.

21st century communications played a key role as we met the challenges of the last few years. But instead of being a pale substitute for the way we had done business before, we learned that more communication is just plain good for you and good for us.

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

Building an Enterprise to Serve You

© Can Stock Photo / artjazz

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.

The 5 W’s of Carl Braun

© Can Stock Photo / zaganDesign

Legendary investor Charlie Munger once spoke of a great business builder, Carl Braun, and the story of the five W’s. His company was a specialized engineering firm. His rule for all communication became known as the five W’s.

You had to tell who was going to do what, where, when and why.

We write about a great many topics. It makes sense to get back to the basics from time to time.

Who: We manage wealth to try to help people live the lives they desire. To do that, we have to understand your life and your objectives. We do arithmetic, we research things that need to be learned, we think about alternatives. Most importantly, we consult with you—we talk.

What: We listen to you about the things on which you are the expert. We explain clearly and simply the things that need explaining. Together we figure out if we might be of service to you. (Our investment approach is not for everyone. Determining suitability in advance is better for you and for us.)

Where: The center of our business universe is at 228 Main Street in beautiful downtown Louisville, Nebraska. The phones and the internet go everywhere, of course, and work can be done from many places.

When: Nearly every business day until I am 92.

Why: The little answer is that we get paid to manage wealth. (The talk and the arithmetic and all the rest is just to get to the place where we might manage wealth, no separate charge.) The big answer is that this work is an obsession of mine.

The five W’s are a useful framework, but there is one more feature that is different than most of our colleagues. We believe the best way to grow our business is to grow your buckets—not look for new buckets. This has worked well for a long time. We do not plan to change.

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

The Things We Do Together

things we do

We figured out a long time ago that three things we do matter the most.

Clients, talking with you is at the top. We connect to understand your situation and collaborate with you on your plans and planning. You are the most important part of our business. Otherwise we have no one for whom to research investments or manage portfolios through LPL Financial.

Research and portfolio management are the other two core activities. Our principles drive both of these: avoid stampedes in the market, seek the best bargains, ‘own the orchard for the fruit crop.’ And both are informed by our connection and collaboration with you.

Although each member of the team serves you in multiple ways, we think of our support infrastructure as the trade desk, the research desk, and the logistics desk. (By logistics, we mean taking care of the details of doing business with you.) These functions connect our main activities.

A funny thing happened when we concentrated on the three activities that are most valuable to you. Less pleasant things that dominate the schedules of most financial types simply disappeared: selling, searching for prospects, marketing to strangers. Ever since, we’ve been able to spend a much higher fraction of our time talking with you and striving to grow your buckets.

If your buckets grow, you like it and our revenues grow. Why waste time and energy on strangers when we can invest it in our friends? It sure raises the enjoyment factor for us.

Clients, we do not know if this is of any interest to you. Writing it helped clarify our thoughts about what we are doing and why. If you would like to discuss this or any other pertinent topic, 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.

It Really Is All About You

© Can Stock Photo / ShutterM

Time is finite, limited, for everyone. We have diligently restructured how we take care of business for you over the past few years to create more time for our key activities. One of those key activities is talking to you, one on one.

Two years ago we were preparing a total makeover of our communications program. In the 21st century, thoughts can emerge from our fingertips and travel at the speed of light to the screens of your computer, tablet or smart phone. The instantaneous aspect of new media is nicely complemented by the permanent archive of our philosophies, methods and views at 228Main.com—available anytime, anywhere.

If we get the same question twice or need to tell the same story twice, we figure a lot more people have the same question or should hear the same story. So we put it out there for everyone.

We also write about case studies, retirement concepts, financial planning issues, the economy, investment strategy and tactics. Topics in the news also get our attention, particularly when there is context we would like to add.

Bottom line, if we think of something that has a chance to improve your financial position, we are going to write about it. It might be a story or a parable or a bit of history or biography.

Each one of you is unique. Some pay attention to our daily comments and features on our Facebook page, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Others ignore all that, but read our blog posts. At least one client already knows how we think, and doesn’t need any more. And a few read everything in every venue.

We get a lot of feedback from our colleagues—but we are writing for you, not them. What would you like to tell us about our blog or social media activity? Are there topics we aren’t covering, but should? Are you getting anything out of it? Do you feel like any time you spend reading our stuff is well spent—or wasted?

Email us or call if you would like to let us know how we are doing.

Meanwhile, if you aren’t connected to daily commentary but wish to, you can bookmark https://twitter.com/MarkLeibman even if you are not registered at Twitter. Or ‘like’ our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LFNEWS. Or connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lfnews/. We look forward to hearing from you.


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

Our Success Will Never Hurt You

© Can Stock Photo / Cebas

I never aimed to build an empire, or hire an army of people to run it. From a very young age in business, all I wanted to do was find a group of clients who, if we took care of them, would take care of us. Little did I know how gratifying this outcome would be, or how close our relationships would become!

But nothing succeeds like success. It turns out many of you believe we are good at what we do: understanding your life and goals, framing issues so you can make good decisions, and managing your money effectively in a way that coordinates with your life.

Our communications are simple, accessible to almost anyone who can read. Our stories and essays and parables get shared to friends of our friends, and their friends. You recommend our services when you believe it would be a favor to someone close to you. So growth is inevitably happening, even though we devote all of our thoughts and efforts to growing your buckets and communicating with you—not looking for more buckets.

Consultants advise us to ‘segment’ our client group into A, B, and C clients. This is typically based on economics: big accounts are A, little accounts are C. The advice is to get rid of C clients, move B clients to a junior partner, and concentrate on A clients. Of course, being contrarian, this conventional wisdom has never made sense to us. It never seemed right. More than one of you came to us after getting demoted in this way by some hotshot.

For a long time we’ve been able to say, all of our clients are first class. Increasing efficiencies and improvements to our systems and processes and delegation of administrative duties helped us keep this true.

Between the wide reach of new media and unsolicited referrals, one thing—my time—will come into play as a limiting factor. But we have a thoughtful plan, and I think you will like it.

All the way back to the 1970’s, when you went to Kentucky Fried Chicken, Col. Sanders was not back in the kitchen at the fryer. His recipe was there, his methods were there, his image was there. But associates were doing the work. If our growth continues, as seems likely, new clients—not you—will get the Col. Sanders version.

You folks with whom I have a personal relationship, who value our work and depend on it, you will always have access to me to help with your plans and planning. This is why we say our success will never hurt you. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email or call 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.