client relationships

Our Work With You

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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.

Tend and Befriend

© Can Stock Photo / KalengUang

One concept we hear about in the investment and financial planning world is a real downer. This is the idea that evolutionary bias may force us into unwise decisions. Supposedly, our caveman brains are stimulated by ‘fight or flight’ tendencies in the face of uncertainty or danger.

We have always believed we can learn, we are trainable, we can use reason and logic to our advantage. In other words, there is more in our heads than caveman brains. But it still irritates us when we see the implication that we humans are doomed to stupidity by evolution.

We recently read about another supposed product of evolution, a far more optimistic and different instinct.

‘Tend and befriend’ is a concept first outlined by psychologist Shelley Taylor. It refers to the instinct to reach out to those around us, to strengthen our ties to others and to care for them when threats arise. This seems to us to be the opposite of fight or flight, and is a much more helpful concept.

We do not suffer threats from saber tooth tigers anymore, but volatility in the markets, scary headlines, and viral rumors may produce the appearance of threats and danger.

Back in the early part of my career, I envisioned having clients who, if I took care of them, they would take care of me. This evolved into the belief that the better off you are, the better off we will likely be. Now we read about ‘tend and befriend.’ This strikes me as a wonderful way to think about how we strive to work with you.

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

The Gong Show, Seminar Edition

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I spend most of my days working with you or for you on your investments and planning. A few days each year are spent at seminars and conferences, working to get better at working with you or for you.

It is great to find a new perspective or idea or tool that helps us with our work, especially delivered by an inspired and inspiring speaker. But sometimes things we see and hear are just not a good fit for our values and philosophies. The last seminar I attended had much that was helpful.

But the part that was not helpful was interesting. Reflecting on it, it had to do with a mismatch in philosophy.

One of the speakers was a consultant for a coaching outfit, one that works with financial advisors to help them grow their businesses. After the preliminaries, he began his presentation by asking attendees to visualize how much money they wanted to make, three years down the road, encouraging our ambitions. And then, write that number down in the notebook provided. Next, how many millions in client assets did we want, three years hence? Write that down.

Thinking about the future and setting goals is a familiar and valuable exercise. But it was what came next that made me think of The Gong Show.

(One of the first reality TV talent shows, The Gong Show featured amateur acts appearing before a panel of celebrity judges. A judge could end an audition by striking a loud gong.)

The next topic after the money exercise was about the importance of being client-focused. Before many words were said about how vital it is to be centered on clients, I heard the gong in my head and thought, “Too late. You already established that you are focused on money, not clients.”

We concluded long ago that the better off you are, the better off we are likely to be, down the road. So when I walk in the door of 228 Main each morning I think, “What can we do to grow the buckets?” Of course, that’s not the only thing. We also work on helping you use your resources in your real life, to spend well. It is all part of being better off. Our business objective is to improve your outcomes.

The better off you are, the better off we are likely to be. My income is a byproduct of how well or poorly we help you become better off. That fits the definition of client focus a lot more closely than having your results be a leftover effect of how much money I want to make.

There were other things in that seminar presentation that struck me as off, but if I had a gong I would not have heard them.

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

Warm and Fuzzy Productivity

© Can Stock Photo / arosoft

The last fifty years in business have seen the transformation from pencil and ledger to spreadsheet, the secretarial pool typing letters to email, research in the library replaced by internet services. Every process can be done exponentially better, faster, and cheaper than half a century ago.

With the incredible increase in productivity over this period, it is a wonder some believe that more increases in office productivity will fix the central issues we face. In our business, as in every business, cost pressures continually push us to do more with less.

It is the conceit of every industry that margin pressure is something that uniquely affects it. In fact, the whole history of human enterprise can be summed up in two words: shrinking margins. The first supermarkets had lower margins than the butcher, the baker and the dairy they replaced. The Sears catalogue had lower margins than the general store. Charles Schwab had lower margins than E.F. Hutton.

The way we see our work, honesty and competence are the entry requirements to the business arena. Beyond that, the productivity issues do not center around software and systems, but people and connections:

1. Do we have the empathy to put ourselves in your shoes and understand your heartfelt objectives, to learn what you can tell us about your needs and situation?

2. Do we have the creativity to collaborate with you on strategies and tactics that may get you closer to where you want to go, in light of all factors: market, economic, tax, everything?

3. Do we have the ability to communicate what you need to know in order to work effectively toward your goals?

‘Relationship’ is the word that sums up these points. Relationships are at the heart of whatever past success we’ve had with you, and whatever exciting future we may build. You, the best clients in the world, play a starring role.

In this view, the key technologies are not how fast some back-office process gets done nor the colors in the pie chart nor pages of dense calculations of statistical history. The key technologies are those things that enable you and us to communicate. When we get basic information to all of you at once, our one-on-one talks can start at a higher level and go farther.

Blog posts at 228Main.com, social media, videos, and our email newsletter are the ways we talk to everybody at once. (None of these existed fifty years ago!) Emails, phone calls, and meetings let us go one-on-one to work on your issues. We have worked diligently to master the technology that most matters to our mutual success: communications.

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.

For Those Close to Our Clients

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We believe there is an edge in playing the long game, and thinking long term. This applies to life and investing and planning, in our view.

In our work for clients, there is often a legacy aspect to it. Financially independent people tend to leave assets behind for loved ones or subsequent generations. This means that from time to time we find it necessary to work with a trustee or executor or beneficiaries or heirs of a client.

So those left behind face a lot of new things, and often need to try to gain a feel for what we are all about here at 228 Main – decide whether we are trustworthy – at the same time. Clients sometimes tell us they hope their children will listen to our counsel, and hope that we will be there to work with heirs.

Recently a client expressed these kinds of wishes, and the hope that her children would get engaged with us, and perhaps use their inheritance wisely.

This makes sense. We all want the best things to happen. Our work is not finished until we have done what we can to make the best things more likely.

Here’s an idea that can help you and us improve the odds of success in this legacy work. Provide us with the email addresses of your children, heirs, trustees, executors, and other interested parties. We will add them to our weekly email newsletter list. By reading the blogs and watching the videos, others can gain a sense for what we are about. Convenient, on their schedule, people have told us it is a great way to get acquainted.

We don’t have time to bug people on our list, and it is very simple to unsubscribe. Nobody will get unsolicited spam or phone calls as a result of being on the subscriber list.

So if you are a client wishing to acquaint others with our work, please get us names and email addresses so we can add them to the list. If you are receiving emails from us and don’t know why, this is it. Unsubscribe if you would like, you’ll get no hassle from us. We are busy trying to grow the buckets entrusted to our care.

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

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.

The Golden Business Rule

© Can Stock Photo / czany

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.

The URL – IRL Connection

© Can Stock Photo / Bialasiewicz

… or, where the virtual world and the real world meet. We often talk about these two places as if we must choose one or the other. The reality is that the two work together in many ways.

Fans in stadiums root for their favorite team IRL (“in real life”), but they may also have a source for instant replays or play-by-play through a browser on their smartphones.

IRL, a grandparent plays with a grandbaby. But that grandparent may also enjoy seeing that baby between visits on social media or a photo-sharing site or some other URL—the address that connects them to a website.

And we see you at 228 Main in beautiful downtown Louisville, B’s Diner, or Round The Bend live and in person. But we’re also reaching you here at 228Main.com, plus social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

In other words, we lead integrated lives that combine the real world and a variety of virtual venues. It is not an either/or deal: we benefit when our lives have a home in both places!

It is worthwhile thinking about the advantages we derive from life in the 21st century. When we started communicating in new media, one client told us they would talk to us every day if they could, being interested in planning and investing. They knew that couldn’t happen. But they were delighted to find what we most wanted to say each day was online, plus in these three-minute essays twice each week.

A key advantage of these virtual venues: they do not require each of us to be available at exactly the same time. Nobody plays “phone tag” on Twitter. We frequently post updates early in the morning, but you can read them at your leisure or even on another day. And each of you may choose how much or how little you want.

That client and I still meet; we still have lunch together. And our real-world conversations start warmer and go deeper and farther than before—because of all we share in the virtual world.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this in any world, 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.

Peak Experience

© Can Stock Photo / Nejron

You know we are endlessly fascinated by the search for investment bargains, the interplay of human behavior and the markets, and economic cycles. We enjoy talking with you, and collaborating on your plans and planning. But the pinnacle of our work is in a whole different category.

Once, a life-long friend of a close client had not been able to solve the question, “Can I afford to retire?” Mrs. S had raised two children on her own after being widowed at a young age, and was working at a job that had become onerous as she approached retirement age. For two years she had pursued the answer, but could not find it.

She needed to gain the confidence that she could retire. The resources were there, through her lifetime of diligent saving. We were able to explain the meaning of her wealth, how it could help her work toward where she wanted to go, in terms she could understand.

A year and a half after that, she called to ask another question. Would it be possible for her to own a home, or was that a pipe dream? She had spent thirty years in a modest rental duplex. Some time later she began her home search.

These questions, and others like them, are the reason we are in business. Our real work is not about making money. It is about helping clients make decisions that could change their lives.

Mrs. S was never our largest client. She never paid us the highest fees. But the personal satisfaction we felt from our work was vast.

Many will never need that much help. They come to a comfortable understanding of the meaning of their wealth without our context and perspective. We are still very happy to play a role investing their resources, and answering those financial planning questions that do arise.

Clients, if you would like to talk about these things 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.

 

Our Exorbitant Privilege

© Can Stock Photo / yanc

Financial firm founder Barry Ritholz says that the vast majority of people in the investment business spend most of their time chasing new business. Finding clients or trades consumes most days and a lot of nights—it is their main job.

Dialing the phone, putting on seminars, networking, joining boards, sending spam email…there are a lot of ways to meet people.

That Ritholz Wealth Management needs to do none of these things is what he calls “our exorbitant privilege.” We feel the same way.

My vision when I was forty was to find and retain a circle of clients who, if I took care of them, would take care of me. I did NOT want to wake up at sixty, needing to run up and down the highways to find a deal to pay my bills. The vision became reality.

You know our business objective is to strive to grow your buckets, and have them serve you as you need. The interesting paradox is that we have grown since we stopped looking for new business.

We frequently mention how important you are to the process. You saved the money to begin with, you share our philosophy of investing, you do the right thing even when it is difficult to do so. Clients may not be retaining nearly as much money if they routinely sold out in panic or insisted on buying into fads.

Now we have a better way to express our appreciation for you. It is our exorbitant privilege to serve you as we do.

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.