communication

The Three Kinds of Performance

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In our recent reading, we came across another useful concept from Morgan Housel. He talks about the three kinds of investment performance:

1. Bad.

2. Overall good, but occasionally bad.

3. Always good but fraudulent.
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Many have had experience with the first one. The last one is obviously not a place to be. The key to the second one, according to Housel, is communication. Communication builds the trust required to get through the rough patches and down times.

Every day we are grateful for you, whom we believe to be the best clients in the world. You talk to us, you listen to us, we usually understand each other. We work to communicate in various ways, but it is a two-way street!

You know we won’t get mad if you ask a pointed question—if it is in your head, we want to hear it. You trust us enough to start a dialogue when you think we may not be on the same page. When there is something you think we should know, a development in your life or an investment idea, you tell us.

And we do you the honor of believing you can handle the truth. If we need to acquaint you with some aspect of changing reality as we see it, we do so.

Our mutual trust and straightforward communications seem very valuable. It is indeed the key to living with ups and downs. Our best guess is that things will turn out well, on balance, over the long haul. Of course, we can offer no guarantees.

Clients, if you would like to discuss this or anything else in more detail, please email us, call, or set an appointment.


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.

Enduring Value

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We think a lot about how to make things last. It is a key concept for your assets, our relationships, and the securities in which we invest.

But our enterprise here at 228 Main has to endure so we may continue to be of service. We therefore work diligently on its sustainability.

Thinker Morgan Housel wrote about the sources of sustainability in business. Relative to the competition, these attributes provide an enduring competitive advantage:

1. Learn faster.

2. Empathize more with your customers.

3. Communicate more effectively.

4. Be more patient.

These things resonated with us because they represent much of what we strive for. Patience is a prerequisite of successful investing. It is free, but not easy to practice. It also is what lets us be content to work with you at your pace, on your schedule, since we are talking about your money.

You know by now how highly we value effective communication! Listening to you and talking to you in various ways is one of our three core activities. We put a lot of effort into it.

Empathy—understanding what you are going through, where you want to go—is perhaps the key to being able to meet your needs.

We are surprised at how much we are still learning after so many years of experience. In this rapidly changing world, continuous learning is required in order to be able to survive and thrive.

Clients, we are not claiming perfection in any of this. But we are mindful of the things we must do in order to be a reliable partner for you through the years. If you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

The 5 W’s of Carl Braun

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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.

Flexible Tactics, Timeless Values

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In business, the things that change draw a lot of energy. New technology, new ways of doing things, and new ideas grab our attention. The new offers the promise of competitive advantage.

Less attention goes to the things that never change. The timeless things can compound over long periods. Successful enterprises may need to harness both the new and the timeless. At 228 Main, we need both to serve you well.

For example, Amazon is one of the most dynamic companies in the world. The growth and evolution of the company has been astonishing. Yet founder Jeff Bezos focuses most closely on the things that never change.

According to Bezos, his customers want low prices, vast selection, and fast delivery. They wanted those things twenty years ago, and they will want those same things twenty years from now. When you invest in meeting unchanging needs, the returns may roll in for many years.

Writer and thinker Morgan Housel wrote that every sustainable business relies on one or more timeless features. We believe the key features you would like us to deliver include close human interaction, confidence and trust, and transparency. (Transparency in this context means ‘what you see is what you get.’)

We have previously noted that 21st century communications allow us to be radically transparent and to connect more closely. When we improve our processes for research and trading and portfolio analysis, we generate more time to work with you one on one. Our sense is that all these things together may increase your confidence in us.

Amazon continuously improves methods and tactics to deliver on its timeless strategy. We seek to do the same. Clients, if you would like to offer your perspective (or discuss 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 performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

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

Amazon, Leibman Financial Services and LPL Financial are not affiliated.

Put it in Writing

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Life in the 21st century is producing some unanticipated, but welcome, byproducts.

In prior centuries, when a person wanted to clarify exactly what another person was saying, he or she might have said “Put it in writing.” Here in the 21st century, digital media enables everyone to put everything in writing—if they choose to. We so choose.

At 228 Main, we realized a long time ago that if we had one story, we could use our time more effectively. We began to focus on people who could best work with our philosophy and methods. When we all start on the same page, we can spend more time understanding the nuances of each person’s situation.

With one story, we can talk to all of you at once. If things are happening quickly, this focus gives us an advantage over talking to people one at a time. Our messages go out at the speed of light to your screens and phones, to be read or viewed at your leisure.

Putting things in writing has another effect. Author Morgan Housel wrote about turning gut feelings into useful ideas. “Writing crystallizes ideas in ways thinking on its own will never accomplish.” Writing is a way to think on paper, in a form that lasts.

We believe thinking is a critical element in collaborating with you on your plans and planning. It also helps us run our business. If writing improves our thinking, it is good for you and for us.

Because we seek the best clients in the world, we have adopted radical transparency—clarity—as a core philosophy. We do ‘put it in writing:’ our philosophy, strategy, methods, tactics, everything, including our fees.

Having the same story for everyone lets us be more effective in communicating the story. The practice of writing helps us clarify our thoughts and feelings into solid ideas and plans. And you can more easily get a handle on what we are about.

Clients, if you would like to discuss this or any other topic in more detail, 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 performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

Eternal Truths and Changing Times

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228 Main Street, the real-world inspiration for 228Main.com, sits in the middle of beautiful downtown Louisville, Nebraska. The village was platted out just after the Civil War; some descendants of its founders are reading these words.

The building, a typical commercial Victorian structure of the kind that dots small town Main Streets through much of the country, was built at the end of the 19th century. It housed The Louisville Courier newspaper and print shop. More than a century later, it is the center of the business universe for our 21st century digital communications, descended one might say from those earlier forms of media.

When The Louisville Courier began publishing, there was no traffic on the roads to neighboring towns during much of the winter and spring. Horses and wagons could not navigate the muddy roads, especially along the Platte River bottom. The newspaper could only serve the village, and little else.

228Main.com was similarly conceived as a way to communicate with a small community: you who are our friends or clients or both. We provide answers to the questions you ask us, tell the stories that we used to tell only one or two people at a time, and a lot more. 228Main.com is a way to keep our community informed, people who share an understanding about life and investing that we believe is special.

Unlike The Louisville Courier, 228Main is not limited geographically. Since it began in 2015, 26,000 views of its pages came from the United States, and another 3,000 from all over the world—103 other countries. We really do not have time to concern ourselves with anyone but you; the interest of others is perhaps a sign that our work is on the right track.

We recite this history to illustrate that some things are fundamental and unchanging—principles, values, community, human nature. But methods and tactics and the routines of daily life and other things evolve and change. Our object is two-fold: to understand and apply the universal truths, and also keep abreast of the changing times. This seems to be working for you and for us.

Clients, two way communication is vital to get you to your goals. If you would like to discuss any pertinent topic, or update us on your life and objectives, please call us or email.


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.

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

It Really Is All About You

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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.

It’s the Journey, Not the Destination

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When we think about our lives and plans, milestones are a useful concept to help organize our thoughts. In ages past, the mile markers on the roads of the Roman Empire let travelers know of the progress of their journey.

The same is true of the milestones in our lives: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and retirements are points on the journey, not the destination. The road continues on, after we reach each milestone. They are memorable accomplishments worthy of celebrating, a natural time to reflect and take stock… but not the destination.

Thus it is with our business anniversaries. We’ve been at 228 Main in beautiful downtown Louisville for fifteen years, as of November 1st. Larry is wrapping up one year in our shop already; Greg will soon mark his sixth anniversary. Next year, our firm marks twenty years in its current form.

But we measure our progress by the people we’ve helped. The staff, systems, experience and resources we put together to do our work for you more effectively are our true milestones. Hiring a third member of the team, having a dedicated staffer to help with the technology clients use, building out our 24/7 communications in the New Media, allocating more time to research and portfolio management: these are the recent milestones we care about.

In other words, our true milestones are the ones that help us help you make sense of your journey.

Why Life in the 21st Century is So Grand

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People know why financial advisors invest time and effort studying the economy, markets and specific opportunities. The case for commenting and writing and posting in the 21st century media may be less clear. But there is a compelling reason why we are so engaged, one that has to do with your financial wellbeing.

One of the biggest factors in investment outcomes is investor behavior. The average investor (and some advisors) behave in counterproductive ways. They tend to buy at high prices in times of euphoria and sell at low prices in times of general despair or panic. We believe our clients are far from average, however, and we would like to keep it that way.

Our theory is that more communication leads to understanding, understanding leads to effective behavior, which in turn usually results in better outcomes. We have no guarantees about the future, but we are pretty sure the wealthier our clients are, the better off we will be.

If we take time to write down one or two of our stories every week, we can post them for any client to read any time, 24/7, at their convenience. There aren’t enough hours in the day to tell a story a hundred times in a week, but a hundred people can read the story at the same time here in the 21st century.

More communication is better communication, and there is a terrific side effect. Since some fraction of clients get some fraction of their information from our new media efforts, we have more time to talk one-on-one when that is needed. Whether you follow on Facebook or Twitter or subscribe to the blog, we have more time to talk.

More communication, more time, potentially better investment outcomes….life in the 21st century is incredibly grand. We’re glad you are with 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.

Investing involves risk including loss of principal.