communication

Investing in (Y)our Future

Caitie Leibman image

If you’ve been following along, you know my intent to work to age 92 dates a long way back. Therefore, I wanted a practice that would last that long.

The more we thought about sustainability, the more we realized that mere survival to a certain point in time was not fair to you—nor a sound plan for us. So the goal became building an enterprise that could thrive for decades.

If we automate everything that works better when automated and get human understudies for all the remaining activities, the organization will be more durable. It will work more smoothly day to day, and it will be more likely to last for the years and decades ahead.

The next phase is falling into place. Caitie Leibman has joined the team full-time as Director of Communications. We foresee three main benefits:

  • Caitie will take over some communications-related duties now performed by Greg and me. This will give me more time to work with you one-on-one on your plans and planning. Greg will have more time for investment research.
  • Our communications program could stand improvement in a dozen ways I know about and many more that I cannot now conceive of. Caitie will bring these to fruition. (I’m particularly excited about the blog collections she is weaving into book form. Stay tuned.)
  • In time, Caitie will be writing in her own voice for new audiences, introducing 228 Main to new generations. Making sound planning and timeless investing strategies available to more people is an exciting part of sustainability.

These last several years we’ve used digital communications to stay close when personal circumstances turned time and geography into challenges. The digital presence we built proved to be far more valuable to you and to us than we dreamed; it makes sense for Caitie to become involved in the enterprise in this area first.

I’ll still be writing, of course. Caitie, with her degrees and experiences in writing and a firm grasp of the philosophy of our family firm, will be a major resource.

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

canstockphoto17481499 (1)

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.

20/20 Foresight

© Can Stock Photo / leolintang

The New Year is upon us. Like Opening Day of baseball season, the first day of school, or any other beginning, it is a good time for plans and planning.

We’ve been able to focus on strategic issues in recent weeks, ones that will shape our work for you in the years to come. The general theme? Build an enterprise that will serve you well, and be durable enough to outlive me.

While we work ON the business, of course, we also need to work IN the business, taking care of things for you. Fortunately, we know exactly what the stock market and the economy are going to do: go up and down, same as always. Time tested principles and strategies will always be the foundation of our work with you. They do not eliminate the ups and downs, but they improve the odds we will survive them and come out on the other side.

The items on our list are wide ranging. The more significant ones: finding and developing more good people to join the team, figuring out office space, determining whether we need to form our own Registered Investment Advisor, guiding the evolution of our offerings, and building a more robust financial planning process.

But enough about us. What about your strategic issues? If you want to talk about retirement, changing where you live, sorting out who should get what after you are gone, or simply where to invest for the long run, email us or call.

Time and Space, Compressed

© Can Stock Photo / khunaspix

In his memoirs, Civil War general and president Ulysses S. Grant wrote about the first time he rode on a train. (When Grant was a young man, trains were a new technology.) Traveling overland at the unprecedented speed of 15 miles an hour, it seemed to him that time and space had been compressed.

In our age, one might have consecutive meals on opposite coasts. A journey that first took months, then weeks, then days, takes hours in the jet age.

Time is compressed in other ways, here in the 21st century.

• New forms of media let us interact at the speed of light with dozens or thousands of people, for less than the price of a stamp.

• Email and other forms of digital messaging allow communication between people who are never available at the same time. This represents quite a productivity boost over the days of telephone tag.

• Research begins with fingertips on keyboards, virtually everywhere, instead of with trips to the library.

Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. We had to effectively integrate these technologies into our business with you, and use them to maximum effect over the past few years.

21st century technologies have helped our old-fashioned conversations begin with more common ground, then go deeper into the topics in which you are interested. It seems to me we are closer now than ever before. This makes sense, if we are communicating more than we used to.

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

Enterprise In The 21st Century

© Can Stock Photo / Eraxion

A business can serve one of two basic functions: solve problems for customers, or exploit their vulnerabilities.

Haven’t we all had experience with both kinds of enterprises? Some bad apples will do anything to take advantage of you. One of our wise clients told us she runs when she hears a fear-based sales pitch, the hallmark of exploiters.

On the brighter side, we also find enterprises that deliver more value to us than they cost, and make it a pleasure to do business. Some act as if they know what you and we know: what goes around, comes around.

We believe the way the 21st century is unfolding will help the good ones and hurt the bad ones. There are three reasons we think this:

• We can get up to speed on any subject more quickly than ever before, with all the knowledge in the world at our fingertips. No longer does anyone have a monopoly on information: prices, specifications and other factors can be checked out.

• Reputations, good and bad, can spread like wildfire through social media and other new forms of communication. It is harder for poor business practices to survive, and easier to find the solid professionals.

• Successful businesses can provide information and perspective to clients and prospective customers at very little cost. This makes it easier for you to figure out whether they focus more on your welfare or their profit, before you get in business with them.

We are always working to get better, continually learning, striving to stay at the leading edge. We make mistakes, as all humans do—but we’re excited about the opportunities unfolding in the decades ahead.

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

Listen Consciously, Express Beautifully

© Can Stock Photo / kasto

Here in the 21st century, we all may be in the business of communication via social media, blogging, and other electronic formats. When we embarked on our 21st century communications, a friend pointed us to a helpful, useful TED talk by communications expert Julian Treasure. His life vision is the title of this essay.

His TED talk is ‘How to talk so that people want to listen.’ In an era of ubiquitous communication, isn’t this a key skill? What he had to say applies to Facebook posts and tweets as well as spoken communications—so we thought it might be useful to you, as well.

Treasure outlines four cornerstones of powerful speech. There is an acronym for these things that spells HAIL, a word that means ‘to greet enthusiastically,’ which is how we would like our ideas received.

• H – Honesty, being straight and clear.
• A – Authenticity, standing in your own truth.
• I – Integrity, doing what you say and being true to your word.
• L – Love, not romantic love, but wishing others well.

There is a flip side to these cornerstones—the habits that one should avoid, if effective communication is the goal. Treasure talks about ‘the seven deadly sins of speaking.’

They are: gossip, judging, negativity, complaining, excuses, exaggeration, and dogmatism. We all know what these things are, right? You can look up Julian Treasure if you want more detail.

We have all seen cases where words or images or actions are recorded and spread around the world—go viral, as they say—with large consequences, good or bad. So paying attention to what we say and how we say it may be more important than ever before.

Clients, if you would like to talk about any aspect of our communications, 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.

Passion and Indifference

© Can Stock Photo / Vicheslav0

“Indifference is as important as passion.” Organizational expert and author Robert Sutton (no, not THAT Bob Sutton) included this on his list of 15 things he believes—his core principles.

In recent years, seeing the occasional life and death struggle up close, juggling time constraints and geographical complications, most of the non-essentials have been stripped from life. Time and energy must be focused on the things that really matter.

Health and family are at the top of the list. But business provides the resources for the necessities of health and the niceties that keep life worth living. So 228 Main is really integral to everything else. It is fair to say I am passionate about my work for you.

What makes room for our passions, our priorities, is indifference to many other things. If it has a spark plug in it, chances are good that I am indifferent to it. If it is on television, ditto. Worrying about my appearance? That would have to rise a thousand places to get on the bottom of my list. Yardwork, fine wine, dust, arguing with strangers on the internet, complaining about things beyond my control…we do not have enough space to list the things to which I am indifferent.

Connecting with you, time with family and those I love, attending to health, the economy and markets, striving to grow your buckets, building an effective organization, these are the things that matter to me now. It is an interrelated, integrated life.

We all have interests, preferences, and our own ways to regenerate. But we can’t focus on our passions unless we let go of a lot of things that really don’t make much difference. Wise clients, mastering the art of contented retirement, made this point to me recently. Many things that seemed important enough to worry about years ago don’t even appear on their radar anymore—indifference is the word.

Clients, if you would like to talk about your passions 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.

Magic Phrases

canstockphoto6643802.jpg

A fresh-faced youngster in a cheap suit, I began in business working for a life insurance company. Its agent training program included the sales tactics common to that era, full of scripts and one-liners.

The conventional wisdom was that you had to take seven “no’s” from a prospect to get to the “yes.” Have you ever dealt with a sales person like that?

I learned how to irritate people to no end. Business was difficult.

It took me a while to realize that simply talking to people was a better way. The product was decent and had its uses: connecting in a genuine way made it possible to see if there was a fit or not. Trust went up, pressure went down. And there was no need to memorize sales tracks and magic phrases.

These early memories came back to me recently at a conference. One session featured a consultant who had some good ideas and interesting perspectives, though a lot of their program was never going to apply to us, since it was aimed at finding new clients. We strive to grow your buckets; new clients find us.

But their formula for greeting a referral for the first time took me back to those early sales days: “I’m calling as a courtesy…” In truth, the caller’s goal is to get in business with this prospective client. You know, close the deal, make the sale. Courtesy doesn’t enter into it.

This is how it sounded to me: “I’d like to start our relationship by pretending to do you a favor so you owe me one back.” This logic may work like magic on some people, but we are not here to manipulate anyone. The real magic is created together, through trust.

Clients, if you believe you would be helping a friend by introducing us, we will fit them in if they call. Or you can bring them along if we are having breakfast or lunch together. But we are not going to call them, nor pretend to do them a courtesy by doing so.

The better off you all are, the better off we will be, sooner or later. What goes around, comes around. When that is your agenda and your belief, pretense is unnecessary. Life is good—thank you for being part of ours. Email us or call if you would like to talk.


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

Clients, What Are You Seeing?

© Can Stock Photo / carenas1

Clients, you represent a vast treasure of human capital, educated in every field of study, experienced in working at everything from farming to pharmaceuticals. We are seeking your help and perspective.

The world is awash in facts and data… about short-term factors. But we invest time in trying to understand longer-term trends because they may have a major impact on the world and our work with you. Slower-moving trends and concepts can be more difficult to spot, so here’s how you can help us help you with two goals.

Finding bargains. Hidden trends may produce mispriced investments. An example: our belief that the next energy revolution, solar plus batteries, will change the world. We may see many years of increased demand for the materials that go into solar cells and batteries and electrical equipment. Also, pipelines and conventional electricity generation might have less activity than anticipated. No guarantees on any of this, of course. But here we are, seeking to understand more about the future—as always:

• What is the coming thing in your area? What is just over the horizon but cannot yet be seen?
• What in today’s world is going away, but few have noticed yet?

Avoiding hype. Obvious trends with investment market implications may get overplayed, again producing mispriced investments. The tech boom of 1999–2000 is a good example. Some said the internet would change everything. It did. But internet-related stocks fell dramatically even as the story came true. So talk to us about what you see in your areas of interest:

• What is everybody talking about today that may be overhyped? What do you see that others don’t?

Clients, please comment, email, or call to talk about these topics or anything else. We look forward to learning to see what you see.


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 performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

The economic forecasts set forth in this material may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

Because of their narrow focus, sector investing will be subject to greater volatility than investing more broadly across many sectors and companies.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.