productivity

Work from Where?

woman at desk with feet up working with paper, pen, and a computer in a home office

Location, location, location—this real estate cliché is now dominating conversations about the changing world of work. Many businesses are learning a thing or two about the value of where work happens, and many leaders have said they intend to keep at least part of their workforce remote even after we’re through the limitations of COVID-19.

We’ve been thinking a lot about locale in recent years. I picked up a snowbird routine in 2010, and we launched our digital presence in earnest in 2015. Some of our “office” staff are rarely in the office—the one at 228 Main Street, at least.

From these experiences, we’ve learned a lesson that many business leaders are grappling with now: the fundamental question may not be where work needs to happen, but how it needs to happen. We’ve even shared with you about what we call the “URL–IRL connection,” the way our work online and our work in-person go together.

Yes, right now, the pandemic is putting some clear constraints on the question of location, but it would be a pity to come away from this challenging time with the wrong lesson. It’s not that WFH (“working from home”) is universally superior to working in a company office setting. It’s not that an office is superior to a WFH arrangement.

As Forbes contributor Laurel Farrer explained, what would happen if we focused on work as a thing we do and not a place we go? The short answer is that we make decisions based on the fundamentals. What do I need to get my work done?

Clients, we will continue to adapt—to changes in our lives, to changes in your needs, and to the world around us. Wherever life takes us, our work keeps us connected to you. And we are so grateful for that. Write or call anytime.

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.

The Right Stuff

© Can Stock Photo / LiaKoltyrina

Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book chronicled the elite test pilots from whose ranks the first astronauts were chosen. The title The Right Stuff referred to the combination of mental and physical characteristics required for their work.

According to author Charles Duhigg, the same words apply to people who have reached high levels of effectiveness in business. People who become much more productive do not necessarily get more done—they get the right stuff done. Thinking deeply about the work enables them to focus on the most important elements.

At 228 Main Street, we began focusing a long time ago on our three most important activities. Talking with you to collaborate on your plans and planning is at the heart of our work. Investment research and portfolio management are the other most valuable activities. These are the things that make the most difference—they are the right stuff for us.

We figured out that we needed to develop a staff to take care of the important details of service. Having the right beneficiaries, getting money out to you when needed, preparing the forms and maintaining the files we need simply to be in business—all of these things are vitally important, too.

There are about 10,000 minutes in a week. By focusing our work time on the right stuff, we have a better chance to understand what the right stuff is for you—your most important objectives, your most cherished goals—and help you strive to reach them.

Clients, if you want to talk about your ‘right stuff,’ 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.

Can Happiness Buy Money?

canstockphoto19181239

A very long time ago, I attended a convention and heard something worthwhile. In those days, a convention was mostly a rah-rah meeting to crank up insurance salespeople to get out there and sell more. Some of the content was not that great, as you might imagine.

But at this particular meeting, the featured speaker posed a pair of questions that resonated very deeply. Whether the incident changed my life or not would be hard to say. I may have been born this way.

The speaker started off by saying he wanted to ask two questions. “The first one, raise your hand to say yes—do you do more business and make more money when you are happy, as opposed to upset or mad?” Of course, everyone in the crowd raised a hand. Obviously, people dependent on making calls and taking the initiative would be more active when not upset—with an impact on their income.

The second question contained the hook. The speaker said, “No need to raise your hand on this question. Just think about it. Since we have all agreed that we do more business and make more money when we are happy, WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THAT?”

Friends, I cannot tell you where the meeting was, what year it occurred, or anything else about the agenda. But the notion that each of us is in charge of our own happiness is burned indelibly in my brain.

Life is not all puppy dogs and rainbows, of course. Some people are not happy, and none of us is in position to judge anyone else. Each of us has challenges. The pessimists among us are the ones doing the disaster planning, and pulling us back when our thinking goes too high up into the clouds.

We’ve written before about investing with the confidence that things work out even when they look bad. And it is easy to believe that our current challenges are the biggest yet, although history suggests otherwise. Perhaps happiness is a productive state.

We cannot prove that happiness brings money. But I will continue to act as if that is the case, since life is better when I do. Clients, you will each have to make up your own mind, but I will do my best to improve your happiness and your wealth—no guarantees on either. Please write or call with questions.


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