transparency

Magic Phrases

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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.

Laying the Foundation

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Burt White, one of the great thinkers of our age, presented at the recent LPL Financial annual conference. His observation? “Adaptability is the new superpower. The faster change happens, the quicker our experience expires.”

It is daunting to think about everything changing all the time. But as we pondered Burt White’s thoughts, we realized that while many things do change, some things do not. We see this in our framework of values, principles, strategy, and tactics.

Start with unchanging values, which give rise to the principles by which we live and work. Then you have a strong foundation from which you can adapt strategy and tactics to changing times, new opportunities, and developing threats. The unchanging things provide congruence and stability even (especially!) in the midst of change.

If what we do needs to change, where do we begin? Our principles, rising from our values, guide us at all times, in every condition. Strategy needs to adapt; tactics change even more frequently. But they are shaped and guided by the bedrock on which they are built.

And Burt White might have it: it may be that stable values and principles are more important than ever before. In the 19th century, a saddle-maker or blacksmith might have practiced the same trade the same way for an entire career. If there is no change, the process of adapting is unnecessary.

But if strategy expires more frequently today, then the values and principles that drive strategy are more important. Therefore, authenticity—being genuine regarding those values and principles, as consistently and openly as possible—might also be more important than ever before.

People may need a clear understanding of who we are, what makes us tick, in order to have faith that we will be able to adapt and thrive in a changing world.

Could straightforwardness—“what you see is what you get”—be the most valuable business skill of the 21st century?

We believe life is too short to spend any time trying to kid you. Our energy is finite, and we focus it on striving to be of value to you, not trying to maintain some pretense or other. We aren’t perfect, we make mistakes, we can offer no guarantees. But we are excited about the way the future is unfolding.

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 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.

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.

What We Learned at the Big Conference

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I have gone to many conferences over a long period of time. Each has provided some perspective, insight or connection that proved to be quite valuable. Our quest to improve your financial position, being a human endeavor, is always susceptible to improvement. The conferences serve to expose us to ideas, concepts and tools that can help.

LPL Financial’s Focus17 event was perhaps the most consequential ever. The social media and blog presence we started at http://www.228Main.com two years ago has a far greater reach than we realized. We have relationships with top executives at LPL Financial and senior management that we did not know we had. This is turning out to be vitally important to you and to us.

Regulation creates change, and encourages standardization. You know we are contrarian; we dislike conventional wisdom, so we aren’t big on doing what everyone else is doing. As the company sorts out how to get to the future, our voice is in the conversation. Our proposals, the ones that will let us keep serving you as we have been, are being reviewed at the highest levels. If we didn’t have the new media presence, we would still be trying to let the brass know who we are and what we want.

Our communication strategy is to be radically transparent. We share our fundamental beliefs, our strategies, our methods and our views. So when we introduce ourselves to a policy-maker and say “this is what we are about,” the policy-maker says “Oh, I know, I read your blog. What do we need to do?”

Clients, understand, we put this all in place for you, not them. If there were three of me, none of us would have time for ego-stroking with big shots. But the fact is, these good people are going to help us shape the future in a way that might work out for everyone.

The highlight of the program was Bert Jacobs, Chief Executive Optimist of the Life Is Good Company. (You may have seen their T-shirts or coffee cups.) You have to know, the message that ‘life isn’t easy, life isn’t perfect, but life is good” certainly rang my bell. The idea that optimism is a tree trunk from which authenticity and empathy and humor and generosity etc. can branch is very powerful. Bert learned that ‘life is good’ resonated most deeply with people who had big challenges, not those who had easy lives.

I’ll summarize the rest by saying LPL Financial has a great culture carried by incredibly talented people. The firm is paying attention and taking care of business. You and we could not ask for more. Please call or email us with questions or to have a longer conversation.


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