Financial advisors are reminding clients one last time of last-minute steps they can take in the closing days of 2017 to save money on their taxes — steps that won't be invalidated for their 2017 returns by pending federal tax reform.
X Here are some of the most effective and practical last-minute tips that financial advisors recommend to their own clients, and which they shared with IBD. As Dave Du Val, chief customer advocacy officer at TaxAudit, in Folsom, Calif., points out, he makes recommendations to clients only after establishing a complete understanding of their tax and financial situation and determining that the specific tip would be beneficial to them.
Determine if clients will owe the AMT. Why? "To get a handle on last-minute moves, it's important to step back and project what your tax situation for 2017 will be," said EY's Greg Rosica, contributing author of the EY Tax Guide 2018, from the firm formerly known as Ernst & Young.
Since a client who is subject to the AMT can't use various deductions, last-minute tax-prep steps to maximize those deductions might not do him any good.
Harvest tax losses. Thomas Walsh, client service and portfolio manager with Palisades Hudson Financial Group's Atlanta office, advises clients to determine if they can harvest tax losses from mutual funds. Walsh told IBD that he advises clients, "If at the end of the year you're facing a large distribution from a mutual fund in which you have an unrealized loss, consider liquidating the position before the record date. In doing so, you will not only avoid taxable income, but also generate a capital loss. This capital loss can be used to offset other capital gains from the same tax year."
Walsh reminds clients that to the extent their loss exceeds their capital gains, that amount can be used to offset up to $3,000 in ordinary income. Any remainder can be carried forward indefinitely.
Beware of the wash-sale rule. This goes hand in hand with tax-loss harvesting, says Ben Barzideh, wealth advisor at Piershale Financial Group, in Crystal Lake, Ill. An investor might be able to book a loss now but still like the prospects of holding the security long term. The rule prevents investors from offsetting gains with losses if the securities sold at a loss are repurchased within 30 days.
But if that stock he likes was held by a mutual fund, he can avoid violating the wash-sale rule by investing in another fund within 30 days that holds the same stock but whose portfolio is otherwise substantially different from the original one.
Maximize retirement plan contributions. And self-employed clients must keep their deadlines for action straight, says Al Zdenek, president and CEO of New York City-based Traust Sollus Wealth Management.
If a client is self-employed, he must set up an individual 401(k) plan by his business' fiscal year-end, generally Dec. 31, Zdenek says. He tells clients that employer and profit-sharing contributions can be made up until the business' tax filing deadline, which is generally April 15, plus any extensions.
In his capacity as an employee of his own company, your client can make his own contributions to his account as late as his business' tax filing deadline (generally April 15 or March 15 for corporate entities), plus any extensions.
Put compounding to work for your clients. There's another reason for making retirement plan contributions by Dec. 31. EY's Rosica says it's important to remind clients to give their nest eggs as much time to grow as possible. "You want to contribute as soon as possible to give your money as much time as possible for tax-deferred build up of earnings," Rosica said.
Convert assets to a Roth IRA from a traditional IRA. The amount a client converts will be subject to income tax. But TaxAudit's Du Val points out that there nevertheless are several benefits to conversion.
First, when your client eventually withdraws money from the Roth, the withdrawal will be free from tax and penalty if he is at least 59-1/2 years old and the account is at least five years old.
Second, your client won't be required to start taking withdrawals when he reaches age 70-1/2. In contrast, he would be required to start withdrawals from a traditional IRA. So, with a Roth, his money can continue to grow tax-free.
Third, whoever inherits your client's Roth IRA will have to take annual withdrawals, but they won't have to pay federal income tax on the money if the account's been open for at least five years.
Since your client will owe income tax on any conversion amount, he might prefer to convert just part of his traditional IRA balance each year rather than all at once. If he converts some of it before Dec. 31, he won't lose a year.
Worse, if he doesn't act this year, he may lose out entirely. "This conversion may no longer be possible under the new tax bill," Du Val said.
Pay state income tax and local property tax. Even if the taxes are not due until some time next year, Du Val advises clients to pay them before Dec. 31 so they can take the deductions on their 2017 return.
Any trimming or killing of this deduction rule could take effect in 2018, Du Val says.
Contribute to charity. "Even if (a taxpayer) doesn't know which charity he wants to donate to, he should give to a donor-advised fund before year-end," Rosica said. That way, he qualifies for the deduction even though the money has not gone to its final recipient.
And urge charitably inclined clients to consider donating highly appreciated securities they've owned more than one year instead of cash. In addition to doing good, those clients will avoid paying capital gains tax they would have owed if they sold the securities to fund a cash donation.
Also, they'll be allowed to deduct the full market value of the securities, up to IRS limits.
Take a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). Remind charitable clients that if they are age 70-1/2 or older, they're allowed to give up to $100,000 a year from a traditional IRA to a qualified charity, Barzideh says.
In addition to doing good, this donation counts toward satisfying the amount of money they're required to withdraw from their IRA. Also, the withdrawal is not counted as part of their taxable income. That matters because the lower their adjusted gross income is, the less likely it is that they'll lose their income-based eligibility for various deductions and tax credits.
"This is great for people (who) regularly give to charity anyway," Barzideh said.
A QCD must be made directly to the charity. If clients take out money in the form of a check, they must make it payable to the charity, not to themselves, Barzideh warns.
Gladwell On Determination
Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for 22 minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after 30 seconds. Malcolm Gladwell, author
Hill On Action
Don't wait. The time will never be just right. Napoleon Hill, author
Brown On Confidence
Other people's opinion of you does not have to become your reality. Les Brown, motivational speaker
Brinkley On Adversity
A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him. David Brinkley, newscaster
Payton On Perseverance
It's OK to lose, to die, but don't die without trying, without giving it your best. Walter Payton, football player
Picture you're giving a presentation to an executive — and he keeps yawning and rubbing his temples. Your first thought is likely to be that he doesn't like what you're saying, rather than even considering he might just be tired or have a headache.
"We are hard-wired with five times as many neural networks for negative thinking than positive," she says. "Given that we experience about 60,000 thoughts a day, that's a lot of negativity. You can't stop thinking, but you can start to notice and then shift your thoughts."
Tips on conditioning yourself to see the bright side:
"Instead of trying to calm down," he says, "think about feeling excited." This technique is called reappraisal, and there's research in a variety of settings — such as public speaking, math exams and singing contests — that demonstrates how people who focus on being excited instead of nervous perform better.
Whisper to yourself. McGinn, also a senior editor at Harvard Business Review, says that at West Point athletes work with psychologists to create custom audio tracks in which a narrator recounts their most spectacular on-field performances. Then the athletes listen to these tracks to build confidence before practices and games.
Even without an elaborate audio track, "whatever your profession, you can learn to use the same technique of reflecting on your own greatest hits," McGinn says. "Specifically, find a way to focus on one of your past greatest performances — a time when you really crushed it at work — and reflect on this before you go into your next professional crucible."
Make a playlist. Since the advent of smartphones and streaming music, many athletes have created their own pregame music soundtracks to get them motivated and energized, McGinn says.
"More than 100 academic studies attest to the power of music to help people perform better," he continues.
"Every person's motivational songs will differ from others, but many people find songs from movies, think of 'Eye of the Tiger' from 'Rocky III,' as particularly effective when it comes to boosting energy before a performance," McGinn said.
Tame your thoughts. You can train yourself to be more positive, Green says.
She suggests practicing this exercise as you drive; at every red light and stop sign, take notice of whether you're having a negative thought about the delay.
Catch yourself and think about things you have gratitude for. If someone cuts you off in traffic, notice your initial thought and then shift to a more empathetic one, like perhaps they are running late to an important meeting or have some other type of emergency.
Feed your brain. Green recommends using an app called e-Catch the Feeling, which has a brain-training exercise. "Play a few rounds three times a week for a month, and you will notice a positive change in your thinking."
Create healthy relationships. Office politics is a huge source of stress. "We all know the feeling of discomfort, anxiety and exhaustion after encounters with challenging people," Green says.
She cites research that shows toxic relationships are bad for your health. "Limit your encounters with such people and ensure that you nurture relationships with people who you can be your best and most authentic self around," Green says. "Finally, notice your thoughts and actions toward others, and make sure you aren't creating toxic chemical reactions and stress in others."
Increasingly, advisors are doing more than advising clients. They're educating the public.
X Some planners seek to build their brand by sharing their investment philosophy or musings about the economy. Others want to empower investors to make smarter decisions or teach them about financial principles.
Regardless of their motive, financial advisors seem intent on disseminating their thoughts in writing. From blogs to books, they're producing content like never before.
If you're going to share your knowledge or opinions, what's the best vehicle to use? Posting short blogs from time to time on your firm's website is a low-cost, low-commitment endeavor. Writing a monthly or quarterly newsletter can strengthen your relationships with clients (and attract prospects), but it requires more time and effort. And completing a book can enhance your credibility and help you reach a wider audience.
"What works best is pairing your writing channel with the appropriate demographic that you're trying to reach," said Douglas Boneparth, a certified financial planner in New York City. "Reaching certain baby boomers through social media can be a bad idea, because they may prefer a newsletter. But for Generation X or Generation Y, more digital content can be effective."
Even if you deliver substantive content to your target audience, you need to convey your points clearly and succinctly. Pruning away extraneous detail — and presenting digestible nuggets of insight — raises the odds that readers will take notice.
It's also important to balance what you find fascinating with what your readers deem interesting and relevant to their lives. You may enjoy speculating about the inner workings of the Federal Reserve, while investors might simply want to know how the Fed's moves can impact their investments.
Target Your Audience
Savvy advisors don't just write stuff in a vacuum, hoping that people read it. Instead, they follow the numbers to determine whether their content hits the mark.
When Boneparth adds written material to his firm's website, he measures the results. Using tools such as MailChimp for email marketing, he tracks the number of readers, when they open a particular blog post or newsletter article, and how long they spend on it.
"If you don't measure it, it's harder to make adjustments," he said. "The analytics can show you if you're reaching whom you want to reach."
Boneparth, 33, wants to connect with readers from age 18 to 36. So he writes with them in mind, knowing that they tend to "digest information in two- to three-minute spurts." He also cites movies and other cultural touchstones that resonate with them.
Some advisors strive to reach a mass audience in the hope of positioning themselves as thought leaders. With limited time to devote to writing, they may figure that the more readers they attract, the better.
For the past three years, Jon Ten Haagen has written an article every other week for Long-Islander News, his regional newspaper. He's a certified financial planner in Huntington, N.Y.
He says each "Ask The Expert" article takes about two hours to research and write, and he invites readers to sign up for his e-newsletter. He plans to compile the articles for a book.
"I used to post my articles on my website, but that was a waste," he said. "I didn't get much of a response. Now that I'm in the newspaper, I reach a lot more people."
Begin By Blogging
For many advisors, the starting point for writing is launching a blog. They may lack grounding as writers, so blogging gives them a chance to polish their craft, find their voice and identify what topics trigger the most interest.
Blogging requires experimentation and patience. Advisors usually don't see instant results, as it takes time to build a following. Those who offer compelling facts, trenchant observations and eye-catching graphics tend to stand out.
Lauren Zangardi Haynes, a certified financial planner in Midlothian, Va., started a blog in 2016. Initially, she sought to help friends who posed questions about their personal finances.
It took many months for her readership to grow. But she now finds that the blog solidifies her standing among prospects.
"It's a way they can check me out before calling me," she said. "People want to hire a planner who's knowledgeable, but it can be hard to connect with someone on a typical website."
Having the blog has also opened doors for new writing outlets. She has started to submit articles to a local magazine aimed at families.
"I'm not sure I would have gotten that opportunity without having my blog in place," she said.
Glen W. Bell Jr. wasn't one to move with the rest of the pack in the nascent days of the fast-food industry.
While burgers were the standard fare at stands like McDonald's Drive-In in the early 1950s, Bell opted to introduce the American consumer to Mexican food.
"An innovative product will set you apart," said Bell (1923-2010), the founder of Taco Bell and pioneer of the Mexican chain fast-food segment, in "Taco Titan: The Glen Bell Story," a 1999 biography by Debra Lee Baldwin.
That was his goal when in 1951 he added homemade crisp-shelled tacos to the menu of his Bell's Burgers stand (it also served hot dogs) located in a Hispanic neighborhood in San Bernardino, Calif. — at 19 cents a pop.
Bell recalled the response of his first taco customer: " 'That was good. Gimme another.' Right then I knew we had a winner."
From those humble beginnings, Bell laid the groundwork for Taco Bell, which he started in 1962, serving what his customers called 'Tay-Kohs.'
Pioneered Mexican Quick-Service
Armed with determination, resourcefulness and a strong entrepreneurial spirit, Bell not only transformed Taco Bell into a restaurant dynamo, he also revolutionized the chain restaurant business by pioneering and popularizing a new category — the Mexican quick-service restaurant — which Taco Bell continues to dominate.
Today, Taco Bell is a subsidiary of Yum Brands ( YUM) and the No. 1 Mexican-inspired quick-service restaurant brand. Taco Bell represents approximately 30% of Yum's operating profit, according to Yum. Last year, system sales (includes results of company-owned and franchise restaurants) rose 6% to $9.66 billion, including the 53rd week.
"The Mexican chain fast-food market was Bell's creation," Darren Tristano, food service trend expert and advisor to Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm, told IBD. "He looked at the niche of tacos, which at the time wasn't a big mass food opportunity, and really built that business. He brought tacos (and Mexican fare) to the American consumer in the chain restaurant (venue)."
Taco Bell remains a giant in its field. The size of Taco Bell "dwarfs" every other Mexican fast-food chain in the category, which also includes Taco John's and Del Taco Restaurants, Tristano says.
Taco Bell's menu today includes various types of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos and other related items.
Bell began formulating his recipe for success as a leader as he ventured on the path to overcome financial woes as a youth and as he pursued his goal to start a restaurant business.
Recipes For Success
At every juncture, with every experiment, setback and win, Bell learned what he called his "recipes for success" — 60 lessons outlined in his biography.
His first two recipes were key ingredients for running his restaurant chains and important to his success:
"You build a business one customer at a time. In the early days, I never closed when there was a customer waiting even though I had put in 12 hours and was eager to go home. … One happy customer is worth his weight in gold.
"Find the right product, then find a way to mass-produce it. When I had my hamburger stand, similar takeout stands were spreading all over San Bernardino. If my business was to survive and grow, I would have to apply what I knew about quick service to a different product."
That's where the taco came in. Key to Bell's success was the way he ran Taco Bell's operations, says Dan Jones, who owns four Taco Bell franchises in California — two in Long Beach, one in Azusa and one in Montebello. Jones started at Taco Bell in 1965, running its original restaurant in Downey, Calif.
"He was really concerned about the quality of the food, the customer service and cleanliness of the restaurants," Jones told IBD. He was very strict on operations. (The franchisees) were motivated by that. We knew the standards by which Taco Bell was supposed to run."
Franchisees knew how to run a restaurant profitably by allocating certain food, payroll and other costs according to certain percentages set by these standards, Jones says.
If a franchisee was not following the standards, Bell would send troubleshooters to help them with their operational problems.
Jones, who worked in various posts at the Taco Bell corporate level for 11 years and has been a franchisee since 1976, describes Bell as a "mild-mannered and gentle man" who never raised his voice.
Bell Led By Example
Bell created a culture where he motivated by setting a good example.
"You wanted to work for him to grow the company," Jones said. "He was the most honorable person I ever met and an awesome guy to work for."
The franchisees put in 60 hours a week because they "loved being part of a dynamic company," Jones says.
In the early years, he was active in helping franchisees. For example, if someone had a low-volume store, Bell would do something like lower the rent or reduced the royalty.
Bell also hired people to whom he could delegate responsibility.
"Find people who know things you don't," he said in his biography. "I'm an entrepreneur, not an administrator. Taco Bell prospered because I recognized my limitations, hired professional managers to make up for them, and knew when to let go."
Another recipe for success: "Respect your competitors and learn from them. At first, no one, not even the McDonald brothers, fully recognized the potential of fast food. But we did know, because of the customers' response, we were onto something. We experimented and continually made changes. Our 'market research' was to observe our competitors and to borrow their best ideas."
Bell learned a lot eyeing other entrepreneurs and competitors, especially the McDonald brothers.
"One thing I learned from the McDonald brothers is don't sell everything your customers ask for," Bell said. "Decide what you're going to sell, then make it the best it can be."
When Bell came up with the idea to sell tacos at his Bell's Burgers in 1951, he needed to develop the recipe for the best taco — one that could be made and served quickly and was good to eat. At the time, tacos served in Mexican restaurants were made with soft tortillas. Bell wanted tortillas that were "delicately crisp" and ready to be filled. After weeks of experimentation, Bell developed a crisp-shelled taco that was quick to assemble and tasty.
Tapped Immigration Trends
Tristano calls Bell a visionary. "The biggest trend he recognized was that Mexicans were immigrating to this country, and there was an opportunity to feed them," he said. "More importantly, he Americanized Mexican food in a way he was able to create demand for his product from the American consumer."
Before Taco Bell started expanding throughout the country, no one knew what Mexican food was, says Jones, who was a franchisee consultant at the time the first Taco Bell in Florida opened.
At the time, people didn't know what they were eating or even how to pronounce the names of the food on the menu, Jones says. But that didn't stop the Florida eatery from being a success.
"The food was great,' Jones said. "We couldn't make tacos fast enough."
After Florida, Bell pushed Taco Bell's expansion across the country.
Bell was also a visionary in identifying the void in the market for more exotic multicultural fast food.
Bell developed Taco Bell during a time when the burger market was taking off with McDonald's ( MCD) and Burger King.
Bell focused on franchising. "This was his way of building an empire in a very short time span," Tristano said. "Franchising has proven to be a strong growth vehicle, especially in fast food. Access to capital wasn't as common back then. He was able to build stores without having to operate them or finance them."
The first Taco Bell franchise opened in Torrance, Calif., in 1965. Bell's first venture in the restaurant business was in 1948, when he opened Bell's Drive-In, in San Bernardino. The idea to build a restaurant came to him after he studied the success of the McDonald brothers and their namesake burger drive-ins first founded in San Bernardino.
Between 1954 and 1955, Bell and a business partner built three drive-thru taco stands in Southern California called Taco Tia. Bell's partner wasn't in favor of expanding Taco Tia into Los Angeles. Bell sold his interests in the taco stands. Later in the 1950s Bell and a new group of partners opened a chain called El Taco, which Bell also sold his interests in.
Taco Bell went public in 1970.
In 1978, Bell sold 868 Taco Bell restaurants to PepsiCo ( PEP). PepsiCo spun out Taco Bell and its other restaurant chains in late 1997 to Tricon Global Restaurants. With the purchase of two other chains, Tricon Global restaurants changed its name to Yum Brands in 2002.
Bell was born in Lynwood, Calif. At 16, with his family struggling financially, Bell "rode the rails" across America looking for work, according to his biography. Bell joined the Marine Corps in 1943, and served in the Pacific. While in Guadalcanal, his job was to serve meals to high-ranking officers.
That's where he gleaned one of his key recipes for success:
"Any job is an opportunity to learn. You would think that serving food to generals in Guadalcanal wouldn't have much relevance later on. But it taught me how to estimate how much food was needed based on the number of people served. That knowledge gave me confidence to start a restaurant."
Pioneered and popularized Mexican quick-service restaurant
Overcame: The competition from the burger-chain giants to convince American consumers to eat Mexican fast food
Lesson: Learn from your wins, setbacks and experiments.
Welch On Honesty
Be candid with everyone. Jack Welch, General Electric CEO
Jordan On Perseverance
Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it. Michael Jordan, basketball player
Thatcher On Persistence
I've got a woman's ability to stick to a job and get on with it when everyone else walks off and leaves it. Margaret Thatcher, British prime minister
Wright On Conviction
The thing always happens that you really believe in. And the belief in a thing makes it happen. And I think nothing will happen until you thoroughly and deeply believe in it. Frank Lloyd Wright, architect
Firestone On Consistency
Success is the sum of details. Harvey Firestone, tire entrepreneur
Character plays a vital role in successful leaders. Stand by your principles of integrity and hold others accountable to doing the same and you'll be way ahead of the game.
Here's how to do that.
See the value. When questions come up about a leader's core principles, it erodes trust, says Tim Irwin, an Atlanta-based organizational psychologist and consultant. That gets worse when challenges arise. Irwin compares it to a submarine that goes deep to test the hull's integrity. That stress reveals any flaws. The same goes for a business leader.
"Integrity determines the probability of success for a leader, more than anything else," said Irwin, who wrote a soon-to-be-released book about great leaders, "Extraordinary Influence."
Find your center. Clarify which principles are vital to you. These are your moral values that are nonnegotiable. Maybe they include treating people fairly and being honest with your customers.
"Then you have a personal Magna Carta that shows some things are not for sale," said Timothy Clark, founder and CEO of Alpine, Utah-based leadership consulting firm Leader Factor. "It doesn't matter what the highest bidder offers you. If you don't have that, then everything is for sale and you become a human vending machine."
Face tough issues. Your moral compass will be tested along the way by ethical dilemmas. Let your morals guide you in spots where temptations crop up, like the lure of a big contract that requires some wrongdoing on your part.
Follow the leader. Model the behavior you want to see. Act with integrity, be accountable and take responsibility. Those traits will spread across the organization.
"It's about creating an intentional culture," Irwin said.
Be positive. People often treat accountability as a negative, looking for someone to blame. Irwin says a phrase that's gaining popularity is to look for "one throat to choke," meaning one person responsible for a project. That doesn't show much confidence. Instead, look at it as a positive way to get something done.
"There's a harshness people attribute to accountability that doesn't serve us well," he said.
Team up. Hold people accountable by working with them to agree on a goal and providing the resources and support to get it done, Irwin says. That's better than using accountability as a means to show your power.
Stick to your guns. Follow your principles, even when it means paying a price. Clark is working with one Fortune 500 company that had major problems with one of the products it installed with a large group of customers. Its CEO without hesitation ordered the products replaced.
"He installs a do-the-right-thing mentality throughout the company," Clark said.
Focus on little things. Keep your word on seemingly minor promises. Submit your proposal by 3 p.m. if that's the deadline. Show up to that meeting on time. Your employees and customers will realize they can trust you. If you take shortcuts, that will become a pattern throughout the organization.
"Then it becomes a slippery slope," Clark said. "That's why you have to be tight and strict on small promises. You have to sweat the small stuff."
Principles rule. Accountability comes in two forms. Task accountability simply demands a result, such as a monthly sales quota. But personal accountability involves making sure that goal is accomplished while sticking to the company's values.
"When a senior leader charters work, they have to charter it with task accountability but also with personal accountability," Irwin said.
Stay humble. When people show hubris and arrogance, they become isolated, don't listen to others and make bad decisions, Clark says. Realize you don't know it all and get input from others.
"Lead through questions rather than answers and by asking more than telling," Clark said.
Can using Skype, a smartphone, CRM and the cloud for storing your office data help you extend your career even as you tour the world?
For decades, older advisors happily retired upon reaching a certain age. Perhaps they sold their practice or groomed a younger partner, thus allowing them to bow out.
Today, however, some aging advisors remain busier than ever. Rather than retire, they prefer to keep practicing well into their 70s and beyond.
Fortunately, they can take advantage of technologies that make life easier for them and afford them the flexibility to work from home — or abroad. And as tech tools grow increasingly user-friendly, the learning curve shrinks and new converts reap the benefits.
"It's a misconception that older advisors don't understand the latest technology or run their practices without it," said Dan Cuprill, a certified financial planner in Cincinnati, Ohio. "The new norm requires you to be technologically savvy."
Yet advisors who spent their early years in the pre-digital age may not realize how mobile apps and cloud-based solutions can help. Even if they want to continue working well past 65, administrative and operational hassles of managing a practice can prove overwhelming.
"You don't have to put in 60 hours a week if you have the right technology," Cuprill said.
He created a system to build a profitable advisory practice in part by harnessing automation to generate referrals and handle administrative and marketing tasks. The system, Advisor Architect, affords him the freedom to manage his business remotely.
Older advisors can differentiate themselves by sharing the wisdom they've gained from long careers in the business. Some clients gravitate to planners who can put roiling markets in the proper perspective and who articulate an investment philosophy built on decades of successful experience.
"Getting older actually helps you," Cuprill said. "You're viewed as learned, as a sage. But if you want to stay in the game in your 70s, you need an automated 24/7 marketing system."
He recommends that advisors post their educational content online — from e-books to white papers to newsletters — and use a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to produce an ongoing marketing campaign. With one click, prospects can read a compelling blog post — or watch an advisor's short video explanation of a financial strategy — and schedule an appointment.
Advisors who stay active in their 70s invariably find that going paperless helps them operate from anywhere. As a result, they can enjoy leisure travel without abandoning their clients for months at a time.
"I'm moving everything to the cloud so I'm not tied to an office," said Michael Fox, 74, an advisor in Cinnaminson, N.J.
Fox, who continues to work over 60 hours a week, uses Laserfiche to digitize and store documents. By snapping photos of documents with his smartphone, he no longer needs a physical file cabinet.
He tries to involve his clients' adult children in their family's financial planning. Using ShareFile, he invites the children to review what he discusses in meetings with their parents (after the clients give permission).
"I make the agenda and minutes of our meetings available to the children because I want to be the guy in place when they realize they're going to inherit money," Fox said. "I want to capture the next generation of clients."
Another tech tool that enables older advisors to remain productive is video chat software. It helps them communicate more effectively from afar so that they don't lose touch while on the road.
"Without videoconferencing technology like FaceTime, I couldn't live the way I live," said Russ Hill, 71, chief executive of Halbert Hargrove, an advisory firm in Long Beach, Calif. "I'm in Italy for two months a year and most people don't even know I'm gone."
Most mornings, Hill peruses a mix of blogs, financial journals and other online content such as Geopolitical Futures. He says his goal is to "extract what's most relevant to our clients and our business," even when he's traveling.
Hill, who serves on the advisory council for the Stanford Center on Longevity, tracks the latest research on aging and medical advances. He expects more seniors to maintain their health and live longer, more fulfilling lives.
Two years ago, he provided stand-up desks for all employees at his firm after he read studies about the risks of prolonged sitting during the workday. He proudly notes that about 75% of his staffers now choose to stand for much of the day.
"Taking steps to solve the aging challenge will upend how advisors talk to their clients in the next five years," Hill predicted. "If you look at financial planning software, they all have an end date. What if you're wrong by 10 years?"
Edward Raymer nearly died on his first dive to examine the USS Arizona, sunk during the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Raymer was the first to submerge to start the process of raising the battleship and retrieving what turned out to be 1,177 bodies, roughly half the total killed in the deadliest attack by foreigners in the United States before Sept. 11, 2001. The techniques and technology to do this were largely untested. Underwater, the fuel oil leaking from the ship made it impossible to see anything, and there was constant danger from falling and jagged objects and unexploded ordnance.
"An external survey of the Arizona revealed a hole presumably made by an unexploded torpedo or bomb," wrote Raymer in " Descent into Darkness." Raymer had to "find the missile and attach a lock on the propeller to prevent it from arming itself and exploding. No salvage work could begin until it was rendered safe."
Weighed down by a 196-pound diving suit, Raymer was feeling his way past corpses when his air supply tube got caught on a machine and cut off his oxygen. He had two minutes to retrace his steps to find the problem and be pulled up before the air in his helmet ran out. By the time he reached the surface, he had blacked out from carbon dioxide poisoning.
Removing the bodies on the Arizona was a particularly gruesome task. It had suffered too much damage, so the topside structure was cut off and a memorial was built over the hull. A marble wall is inscribed with the names of the men who died on the ship.
The work he directed would be nearly as fatal as front-line combat, made more hazardous as his men moved on to the battle sites of the Pacific War. The equipment and methods whose development Raymer headed are still used today.
A Dream Of Flying
Raymer was born in 1920, the youngest of three siblings, in Riverside, Calif., east of Los Angeles. After graduating from high school in 1939, there were few jobs, so he joined the Navy hoping to become a pilot, while learning welding in the ship repair unit in California and Hawaii.
After his dream of flying wasn't realized, he signed up to go to pilot school for the Royal Air Force after his discharge in July 1941. However, the program was canceled by the U.S. after pressure on Congress from Charles Lindbergh and his America First organization. Instead, Raymer was transferred in May to the destroyer base in San Diego, where he volunteered to take a one-month diving course.
"Diving school on the USS Ortolan, a submarine-rescue vessel, proved to be exciting and challenging to me and the other eight men in the class," Raymer wrote. "We learned how to ascend, descend and move through thick mud. We learned to use an underwater gas-cutting torch, a stud driver to fasten steel plates together, and how to dig trenches in the mud."
After a morning softball game, Raymer and his crew were relaxing when the news came over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. That night, the divers, ages 21 to 26, were flown to Hawaii.
Pearl Harbor Horror
The scene was a shock as they landed: Huge billowing clouds of black smoke from the burning oil and 30 ships sunk or badly damaged, while 347 aircraft were destroyed or unable to fly. The first task of the newly formed salvage unit was to help rescue efforts, and they put their equipment on a sampan and headed for the USS Nevada, which had not been fully sunk, unlike the other battleships. Raymer, a metalsmith first class, was made the chief machinist under the command of Lt. H.E. Haynes.
"The crusty old diving officer cautioned us that no one could identify all the dangers because few divers had experienced diving inside a battle-damaged ship strewn with wreckage," Raymer wrote. "Because of the floating oil, sediment and debris, underwater lights would be useless. … This would require us to develop a keen sense of feel, great manual dexterity with tools, and a high degree of hand-to-brain coordination. We would be required to devise our own safety precautions."
Working with civilian divers, salvage engineers and Naval Shipyard personnel, they began the first of innumerable 13-hour days hammering the sides of the USS Nevada, listening for responses, and occasionally finding someone alive. On Dec. 20, they started clearing out the ship's insides with the goal of returning it to duty as soon as possible. They quickly discovered how difficult it was to move ammunition and use welding tools without triggering explosions, with each new obstacle forcing them to rework traditional salvage methods and tools. Two members of the team were killed instantly when they opened a compartment filled with poison gas.
The Nevada was so badly damaged that the commander of the Pacific Fleet, Adm. Chester Nimitz, did not think its salvage possible. Yet the battleship was raised and repairs completed in October 1942. It would support the Normandy landings in June 1944 and play a role in the Pacific battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945.
The California was refloated in March 1942 and would win seven battle stars in the Pacific campaign, sinking a Japanese battleship at Surigao Strait, part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, the largest naval action of the war.
In August 1942, Raymer and six other salvors joined the 100-strong crew of the Navy fleet tug USS Seminole, bound for the Pacific war. They first dived at Tongatabu, Tonga, to retrieve equipment lost in a storm and were startled by what they could see in the crystal-clear water — including a new hazard, sharks. The damaged battleship South Dakota and carrier Saratoga soon arrived for repairs. In October, they were dispatched to Guadalcanal to pick up survivors of two sunken ships.
Before the end of the month, the Seminole itself was attacked and sunk, though it lost only one crew member. On Guadalcanal, Raymer and his team fought off crocodiles, snakes, bloodsucking leeches and malaria-carrying mosquitoes while enduring nightly shelling.
The salvors arrived back in Hawaii in April 1943 and Raymer was promoted to chief petty officer in January 1944. He spent his final two months in the field removing ammunition from the Utah (another team member was killed in the process) and helping to develop a way to replace ship propellers while they were in the water, so they did not have to be dry-docked.
The USS West Virginia's repairs and modernization were completed in July and it would lead the battle line at Leyte and fight at Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.
"One of the most effective traits of good leaders is example, but it is often difficult to achieve when the task at hand requires special skills or inordinate amounts of courage," Thomas J. Cutler, author of "The U.S. Naval Institute on Naval Leadership" and "The Parent's Guide to the U.S. Navy," told IBD. "Never one to shy away from challenging circumstances, Edward Raymer was both an important participant and exemplary leader, never asking his men to do things he himself would not do, leading them to impressive heights as they descended into the dangerous depths."
Raymer received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal from Nimitz for leading the salvage unit and went on to help secure ships at the bottom of the ocean as part of the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests in 1946. Four years later, on a visit to Riverside, he met his future wife, Marilyn, on a blind date and they would have three sons, Christopher, Marshall and Terry.
"He wanted to retire in 1966 to allow the boys to stay in high school, but because of the Vietnam War his request was turned down and we moved to the Philippines," Raymer's wife, Marilyn, told IBD. "That turned out to be a great experience for our family and our overseas experiences made us very patriotic."
Raymer retired with the rank of commander in 1969 and "Descent into Darkness" was published in 1996. He was working on his postwar memoir when he died a year later, Marilyn said.
"At times, leadership requires individuals to perform extraordinary acts under extraordinary circumstances," said Rear Adm. Terry McKnight (Ret.), author of " Pirate Alley: Commanding Task Force 151 Off Somalia." "After the Pearl Harbor attack, the Navy had to act quickly to salvage these ships and restore the armada to fight the Imperial Empire. It turned to Raymer to lead the team in some of the most demanding operations anyone could possibly face and to develop the strategies and techniques to return these battle wagons to full combat readiness. Without his exceptional leadership, the Navy's success in the Pacific theater might have taken another path."
Headed a team that raised battleships and recovered bodies at Pearl Harbor.
Overcame: Lack of equipment and experience to do complex recovery operations.
Lesson: Where there are new challenges, pioneers will think in innovative ways to create whatever is needed to overcome them.
"Divers marched to different drummers, but all of us were united by love of country and a desire to serve our nation."
The culture of an organization is a reflection of the values and beliefs of the leaders and how they communicate them to employees, Barrett says. "Organizational transformation begins with the personal transformation of the leaders."
Tips on creating a culture that communicates to employees what your company stands for and how you value them:
The game-changer is: "When you can offer your employees B.A.M.— belonging, affirmation and meaning — that's when you can see your culture skyrocket to success," he says.
Set the example. Core values are more than words. "Are you living your core values?" Patel asks.
He says to keep in mind that as a leader, "your smallest actions matter to your team. Your people need to see you as the shining example of what it means to follow your core values."
Engage with employees. As the leader of a growing company, it's easy to get disconnected from reality, Patel says.
Patel is also the founder of Digital-Tutors, an online training company that boasts clients such as Pixar ( PIXR), Apple ( AAPL) and NASA.
"The process of building and maintaining a successful culture means having some uncomfortable conversations along the way," he says. "That means an honest willingness to hear the truth — no matter what it is."
Highlight advancement. Ger Doyle, president of enterprise solutions at Modis, an information-technology staffing company, says its recent survey of decision-makers in the science, technology, engineering and medical fields found that opportunity for professional growth and a career pathway are the top benefits to attract candidates and keep the best talent engaged.
"Especially in highly competitive fields, leaders and managers need to regularly communicate potential opportunities," he says. "Most people don't want to wait until their annual review to hear that they're on the right track. Regular feedback and on-the-job coaching are vital for success and help improve engagement and commitment."
Also keep in mind that today workers have much greater access to compensation information than ever before, Doyle says. "Employers need to clearly communicate compensation structures and opportunity for wage and professional growth to candidates."
Clarify direction. Effective communicators always explain what's driving their decisions, says Mark Goodman, chief marketing officer of Vistage, a global executive coaching organization.
He says, "When people know the 'why' it's easier for them to understand the 'what' and the 'how.' "
Strive for inclusion. Consider using messaging apps for company group discussions because it "lets everyone see what you're doing, and what documents you're working on," suggests Rurik Bradbury, global head of communications and research at LivePerson ( LPSN), which provides companies with mobile and online messaging solutions for their customers.
He says the payoff is huge: "fewer misunderstandings, less duplicated effort and much faster results."
Pay attention. "One of the greatest tools every leader should learn for effective communication is to learn how to listen," Patel says
Most important, Patel states: Listening is "an act of affirmation."
"You'd be surprised how obvious it is when someone is actually listening or when someone is just waiting for you to be quiet so they can start talking," he says. "Left unchecked, this can lead to massive productivity loss, mismatched expectations and a deteriorating culture."
In addition to better communication and productivity, listening as an act of affirmation helps build a strong culture by giving people the "A" in B.A.M. — affirmation.
Ross On Excellence
The act of a pro is to make it look easy. Fred Astaire doesn't grunt when he dances to let you know how hard it is. If you're good at it, you leave no fingerprints. Lillian Ross,writer
Simons On Reflection
I like to ponder. And pondering things, just sort of thinking about it and thinking about it, turns out to be a pretty good approach. James Simons,businessman
Frankenthaler On Innovation
Go against the rules or ignore the rules; that is what invention is about. Helen Frankenthaler,artist
Morgan On Motivation
A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason. J.P. Morgan, banker
Eisenhower On Attitude
Never waste a minute thinking about people you don't like. Dwight D. Eisenhower,34th president of the U.S.
Regardless of their age, background or investment philosophy, advisors agree on one thing: Technology is changing the way they do business.
XAsk them about their client communication, back-office operations and workflow, and almost every advisor will start by marveling, "There have been so many advances in recent years," as one planner recently put it. Tech tools enable them to allocate their time better so that they can concentrate on listening to clients and helping them address current financial challenges as well as plan for the future.
One of the biggest challenges that individuals face, especially those under age 40, is saving for retirement. The trends are troubling.
Even childless couples struggle to save for retirement. Millennials — born in the 1980s and 1990s — often embrace entrepreneurial ventures. But self-employed go-getters tend to overlook retirement savings, only to find that they've missed out on a few extra decades of compounding on what could've been an initial, modest investment.
IBD's TAKE:One way to help clients save for retirement is by including highly rated stocks their portfolios. Such stocks often lead the stock market and produce big gains. Learn how to invest in them at IBD University.
Because they often lack predictable income or a traditional employer, entrepreneurs may not participate in company-sponsored retirement vehicles that encourage regular contributions. Startup culture and prudent retirement planning rarely go hand-in-hand.
Advisors harness technology to drill home the importance of saving for retirement. They wow clients with fancy graphics showing the power of compound interest or run a Monte Carlo simulation that projects the statistical likelihood of various investment outcomes far into the future.
Yet such technology has its limits.
"In my 15 years in the industry, I've seen technology play a much larger role in retirement planning," said Robert Finley, a Chicago-based certified financial planner. "But just because advisors have all this information that tech has given us, do we — and our clients — know what to do with all of it?"
For those who woefully underfund their retirement accounts — or bypass them entirely — mobile apps that encourage "micro-saving" are gaining steam. Examples include Acorns, Stash and Digit.
"It's hard to realize what saving $50 or $100 a month would be worth in 20 years," Finley said. But some digital tools can estimate the rising value of small chunks of savings over time, reinforcing the wisdom of setting aside even modest amounts every month.
Millennials with little or no retirement savings may figure that with minimal cash on hand, they can wait to engage in long-range financial planning. If they feel they aren't ready to save for their golden years, they may assume they cannot afford to hire an advisor.
In fact, this young population might benefit from a financial expert's input. Early in their careers, they may need to pay off student loans before they can shift their focus on saving for retirement — and an advisor can help them stick to a budget and pay down debt.
"You can find a fee-only advisor who can do a financial plan for a set amount," Finley said. "That can set you on a really good path."
More Client Control
Awareness of spending and saving patterns largely determines whether someone will stick with their financial plan. When individuals feel a sense of control over their money, they're more apt to stay on track to meet retirement goals.
Advisors who crunch the numbers and establish clear milestones for accumulating wealth in retirement can make the process more real — and less theoretical — to clients just starting to build a nest egg. But the process really kicks into high gear when clients get more involved.
Clients who are thinking of paying $10,000 for a vacation might call their advisor and ask, "What happens if I spend that money on a big trip? Will it throw off my retirement plan?"
New tech platforms can enable clients to tweak the numbers on their own and gauge to what extent a lavish spending spree would affect their long-term savings, says Elijah Kovar, an advisor in Minneapolis, Minn. He says that tech-savvy millennials "crave this kind of tool" to self-manage their plan.
"Some young people give up if they have no idea where the finish line is," Kovar added. "Technology is getting simpler every year and making retirement planning more accessible with a finish line so that people can see a plan in front of them all the time on their smartphone, not just when they meet with their advisor."
Looking to the near future, Kovar expects more mobile apps to provide ongoing progress reports on a client's retirement savings plan. Online features that track spending, pay bills and prod savers to adopt disciplined habits will become increasingly indispensable, he predicts.
"Imagine your client's retirement plan on an app that says they have a 90% probability of success based on numbers that are clearly and simply explained," Kovar said. "You'll have a client who trusts those numbers and understands how the software calculates those numbers. That kind of technology is right around the corner."
Where would financial advisors be without their gadgets — their smartphones, laptops, social media, CRM and even robo, or automation, tools?
Advisors in their 50s and 60s may not feel old, except when they consider how much technology has changed the way they do their job.
XJust two decades ago, for example, they spent significant time on paperwork — rifling through real paper documents. File cabinets lined their office. They largely kept in touch with clients — and everyone else — with a telephone.
To younger financial advisors who came of age playing online games and relying on social media, it seems quaint to imagine their elders trying to operate efficiently in a pre-internet world with limited software choices and automation tools. The new reality creates more opportunity, but it requires tech savvy as well.
Gary Anetsberger has enjoyed a front-row seat to these momentous changes.
Anetsberger, 62, is chief executive of Millennium Trust Co., which provides specialized custody and retirement solutions. He joined the firm in 2002 as chief operating officer and has run its client service, operations, information technology and administration teams. The company has over $23 billion in assets under custody and nearly 600,000 custodial accounts.
In this interview with IBD, Anetsberger, a certified public accountant, assessed the fast-moving technological landscape and how it affects financial advisors.
IBD: What's the biggest technological challenge that advisors will face in the coming years?
Anetsberger: I think digital experiences will accelerate over the next three to five years, impacting advisors in many ways along with their clients. From automatic account opening to tracking client holdings, there will be more client transparency in their accounts. Any transactions that impact their portfolios will be part of that digital experience.
IBD: So how will all that digital activity change the advisor's role?
Anetsberger: Advisors will be able to communicate digitally with clients in a more timely manner. With my account, I get email on any transactions and any important news and events via a digital portal. I think advisors will increasingly provide content digitally and then follow up with a call as needed.
IBD: What's the best way for advisors to capitalize on all this digital communication?
Anetsberger: Your mobile strategy has got to be at the top of your priority list. You need to have a multichannel strategy. Over the next 30 years, there will be a transfer of wealth from baby boomers to millennials. These younger investors grew up with mobile devices, and they'll expect their advisors to have everything geared for mobile.
IBD: What other tech trends do you see as important to advisors?
Anetsberger: More and more practice management software has the ability to aggregate other accounts. It brings in data from investment, banking and credit card accounts, giving the advisor a more holistic view of the client's overall situation. More aggregation tools will help with transparency in clients' accounts.
IBD: What about customer relationship management (CRM)? How will it evolve?
Anetsberger: CRM software tools help advisors, and you're starting to see (CRM providers) enable advisors to manage not just existing clients but also other groups such as family members of clients, attorneys, bankers, CPAs. The advisor will use CRM not just to manage the client relationship but also to help (coordinate) communication with others in their wider network.
IBD: Speaking of relationships, how will the growth of robo-advisors affect the relationship between human advisors and their clients?
Anetsberger: Automated platforms that help advisors construct a portfolio can streamline the investment management process. Human advisors can add value by having deeper conversations with clients about their retirement goals and objectives, and discussing the financial impact of life-changing events. Using robo platforms, advisors can free up their time to have the kind of client conversations that only a human advisor can provide.
IBD: So you don't see robo offerings as a threat to human advisors?
Anetsberger: Human advisors can add value beyond just doing allocation across asset classes. They can spend more time on higher-value relationships with their existing clients and then use a robo platform when the client says, "I'd like you to help my kids too." This is a good way to help them strengthen their relationships with clients' adult children.
IBD: Any suggestions on how advisors can maximize the quality of their digital outreach to prospects and clients?
Anetsberger: Be content-driven and make the content stand out. I get a lot of digital communication from financial firms that I work with. It's very valuable to me personally.
IBD: Can you give an example?
Anetsberger: I'll get email with their views on tax reform or the markets. I like to get a quick snapshot or summary, with highlights featured in an easy-to-digest way. Sometimes, less is more. More of these vehicles incorporate video. Lots of people prefer video (to reading an email).
IBD: Looking ahead, how can advisors ensure that they're delivering compelling digital content?
Anetsberger: With more people using mobile devices, a multichannel approach works best to communicate with clients. The real estate on an iPhone is smaller so you have to design content with bullets and videos to get your message out, along with links to deeper content.
IBD: What about the phone? Some advisors still prefer making calls.
Anetsberger: It depends on the person you're trying to reach. If I call my adult children, they don't answer. But if I text them, I get an immediate reply. Text messages and social media need to be part of your multichannel strategy.
IBD: Do you see any downside as advisors apply all these tech tools?
Anetsberger: Technology will increasingly help advisors be more efficient, but you can't lose touch with the human element. You're seeing more robo-advisors offering different levels of service so that you can talk to a human advisor if you'd like. Millennials will still want to talk to somebody about some financial issues. Establishing that trust and confidence in one-on-one relationships with clients will not go away.
Advisors often gush about the march of technology. That's especially true when they discuss their customer relationship management software and artificial intelligence.
XWhile admitting that they're still learning how to maximize CRM, they tend to rave about the ease with which they can stay close to clients. And the future holds even greater promise, as CRM software providers race to differentiate their offerings to stand out in a hotly competitive field.
Reflecting on her 16 years as an advisor, Jessica Peck Donnerstein traces the evolution of CRM systems. She recalls using yellow legal pads and rudimentary CRM products in the early 2000s. In 2011, she began using a more robust platform from Redtail Technology.
"We have two offices, and CRM allows all our advisors to see client information and work on client cases together so that we can all be on the same page," said Donnerstein, a certified financial planner in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Like many advisors, she looks forward to new features that accommodate clients' preferences. For example, she says that some clients communicate with her via text message but she has had to reply via email.
"When they ask me to text them back, I've had to explain the compliance side of things," she said. But Redtail recently launched "Speak" as a compliance-approved tool for advisors to communicate with clients via text messages.
Donnerstein seeks better integration between her CRM and phone system. Ideally, she'd like to have a record of incoming and outgoing voice mails.
"Now I have to type a note on what I just did, like leaving a voice mail with a client," she said.
With the surging popularity of virtual assistants such as Alexa and Siri, Donnerstein adds that voice-activated data entry could make CRM even more valuable. Using simple voice commands to enter a client note or update her calendar would save her from logging into the CRM system, finding the right file and typing a note, she says.
IBD'S TAKE:Not all financial advisors are experienced stock pickers or feel they need to be, but those that are can be of added service to well-heeled clients who are active in the stock market. See how you can strengthen your investing skills at investors.com.
In the coming years, more CRM platforms will allow users to map data graphically to a particular app, says Ryan Fickel, chief technology officer of Advisors Excel, a financial marketing organization in Topeka, Kan.
"More and more CRMs will work hand-in-hand to create more user-friendly ways to map data from one platform to another," he said. "If you're trying to pass data from one system to another, you need the ability to custom-tailor the connectivity between the systems."
For example, advisors who want to use DocuSign for electronic signatures or Calendly to schedule appointments will rely on a CRM system that more effectively integrates across applications.
"This will allow advisors to treat their CRM as the core system of record," Fickel said. "They will go from application fragmentation and data fragmentation to having all data and documents in one single system."
Less Sales, More Retention
Strides in artificial intelligence, or AI, create opportunities for CRM to help advisors cultivate more consultative relationships with clients. Instead of just focusing on selling — and converting prospects into clients through lead generation and follow-up — future CRM platforms can facilitate deeper interactions that heighten client retention.
"Rather than reinforce the traditional sales cycle, I'm hoping we see CRM break that cycle and branch out into multiple ways to integrate marketing automation tools and AI so that advisors better understand the depth of the relationships they are creating," said Tandi LeFranc, vice president of marketing at Shurwest, an independent distribution firm that supports advisors in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The next wave of CRM systems will provide easier and better customization, LeFranc says, to facilitate stronger relationships between advisor and client. For instance, they will help advisors answer questions such as, "How many people has a particular client introduced me to?" and "What is the client's level of engagement (in terms of reading our newsletter, attending our wine-tasting and other events, etc.)?"
Despite this bright future, new developments in CRM can test advisors' patience. The ever-increasing encroachment of technology, even if it's easy to learn and fun to use, can prove a distraction.
"You've got to find the right balance for you and your firm between working hands-on with CRM and other technology and focusing on clients," LeFranc said. "Some advisors feel that it keeps them from talking to clients. So you need to make sure that your time using technology, like entering CRM data, is well spent."
A rising generation of advisors grew up with cutting-edge technology. Now they're using it to reach their target market.
XAcross America, young, diverse advisors seek to win over communities that have rarely sought out financial planners. To market themselves, these advisors are harnessing social media and other technologies in new ways.
By definition, niche marketing involves narrowly focused outreach. Social media enables advisors to reach a small subset of the general population that they're ideally suited to serve.
Brian Thompson, a certified financial planner in Chicago, launched his firm in 2016 with an emphasis on advising gay professionals. He has sought to build visibility by designing a website geared to his audience.
"The website screams that this is the right place if you're looking for an advisor who looks like you and reflects what you're looking for," Thompson said. "I use very deliberate language to signal safety to the people I'm targeting."
To capitalize on content marketing, Thompson writes a blog and aims to add video and audio elements to his website. His goal is to make it easy for LGBTQ consumers to discover his firm online.
"People are very specific in what they're searching for (on the internet)," he said. "So I have to keep current on trends in social media and search engine optimization rather than get complacent."
Advisors are learning that they can use online content not just to showcase their expertise, but also to engage prospects and learn from them. By inviting comments on their blog posts, educational videos and podcasts, advisors can gain a better understanding of their followers and hone in on their needs.
Advisors who market themselves to underserved communities often expand their social media horizons. They may experiment with different tools and test the results.
Jiyao Xu, a Los Angeles-based certified financial planner, seeks to attract young Chinese professionals in the U.S. He recently created a profile of his newly opened firm using WeChat, and he shares it with his friends and online followers.
IBD'S TAKE:If you want to understand the state of the market, pay attention to the major averages and leading stocks. Read IBD's Stock Market Today columns throughout the market day, and the end-of-day The Big Picture (take a free trial) for timely market analysis and highlighted growth stocks breaking out of proper bases.
While he's still assessing WeChat's effectiveness in helping him gain clients, Xu is harnessing technology in other facets of his business. He uses MailChimp for his newsletter and Squarespace to design his firm's website.
"It's very hard to reach the people that I want to reach," Xu said. "I'd love more tools to help me reach Chinese professionals living in the U.S. of a certain age and income. So I'm doing lots of pro bono stuff like public education events" instead of relying solely on social media marketing.
To reach their target market, advisors like Xu combine high-tech and high-touch outreach strategies. In October, Xu volunteered to educate consumers at a "Financial Planning Day" event in Los Angeles.
Similarly, Mark Boujikian regularly conducts educational sessions at local libraries that are free and open to the public. A certified financial planner in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., Boujikian wants to raise consumers' financial literacy — and build his business in the process.
Advisors As Teachers
While Boujikian resides in a seemingly affluent area, he says that many locals are "property rich but have minimal retirement assets and low cash flow." He seeks to educate them about financial matters and win some of them as clients.
"They may need an advisor but either don't have the means to hire one or they're insulated by a language barrier," he said.
In 2017, he has led 18 sessions in nearby libraries. They consist of a 45-minute PowerPoint presentation followed by Q&A. The talks attract 35 to 40 attendees on average, he says, and he offers a free follow-up consultation.
"About 90% accept my offer so that can mean 30 or more meetings with each one lasting 90 minutes," Boujikian said. "It's a lot of time, but I typically get two to three clients out of it."
In tracing social media's evolution, Boujikian sees more opportunity to connect with people to educate rather than sell to them. He expects online resources to feature what he calls "more financial hacks — tips and tools to bring people together to learn and improve their financial literacy."
Like many advisors eager to teach and inform, Boujikian is passionate about spreading financial wisdom to a wider audience. That's especially important when certain segments of the population resist or express skepticism.
Miguel Gomez, a certified financial planner in El Paso, Texas, faces what he calls "an uphill battle" in convincing some members of the Hispanic community to hire an advisor. He says that many of them lack trust in financial institutions and stash cash at home.
"Technology has given me a voice to educate, to tell people it's OK to invest," Gomez said. His uses Facebook to post information and both Zoom and GoToMeeting to conduct remote conferences.
Gourmands know the name Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. Also known as Nobu, he's the founder of the internationally renowned Matsuhisa and Nobu restaurant chains as well as Nobu Hotels.
But fame didn't come easily. In fact, there was a time early on when if he didn't have bad luck, he had no luck at all.
Matsuhisa's father died when Nobu was just a schoolboy in Japan. As a young teen without a driver's license, he "borrowed" his older brother's car and got into an accident that resulted in his expulsion from school.
He apprenticed at a sushi restaurant where he spent three years washing dishes and making deliveries. Eventually, however, he learned about fish and sushi preparation, and became a favorite among the restaurant's clientele. When one regular, a Japanese-Peruvian, offered to help him open a restaurant in Peru, Nobu jumped at the chance.
You'd think finding his calling and someone to finance it might mean his luck had changed. But you'd be wrong.
The restaurant's success only fueled discord between the chef and his investor who, Matsuhisa writes in his newly published memoir, " Nobu," put "profit over quality."
There followed other stops, including a restaurant in Anchorage, Alaska, that burned to the ground 50 days after it opened. At the time, Matsuhisa was so upset that he contemplated suicide, a notion he rejected only because of thoughts about his family.
"(Without) my wife and two daughters, I would have taken my life," he told IBD. "My wife and two daughters gave me the energy to keep going. They saved my life."
Through a friend, Matsuhisa arranged a job in Los Angeles, where he worked for a decade at two sushi restaurants before, in 1987, opening his own, the eponymous Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills.
It was almost an immediate success, for a number of reasons. Perhaps foremost was Matsuhisa's desire to please. In part this is due to "omotenashi," the Japanese spirit of hospitality and service. He treats his customers "like a family." He'd greet them, ask what they liked and didn't like, and would explain the food to them as he made the rounds. He wasn't constrained by what was on the menu.
His thought process: What would I want if I was a customer? How would I like to be treated?
But his prime selling point, of course, was his food. His experiences in Peru (and Argentina, as well) led him to create distinctive dishes that combine Japanese style with South American ingredients such as jalapeno-accented yellowtail and Chilean sea bass with miso.
Some might call it fusion, but Matsuhisa disagrees. "My cooking is Japanese. Every dish has a Japanese taste."
Whatever it's called, the unique combination soon attracted excellent reviews and overflow crowds. Tom Cruise was once turned away and New Yorker Robert De Niro became a regular when in Los Angeles. In fact, De Niro liked the food so much that the actor offered to help Matsuhisa open a New York location.
Meir Teper, a film producer who became an investor, recalled that "Mr. De Niro asked Nobu if he ever wanted to do something with him — he would love to do it with him.
"In the beginning Nobu wasn't very excited. He was at Matsuhisa every night and he thought it would be too difficult to open another restaurant."
Four years later, De Niro tried again, this time getting a positive response. In 1994, Matsuhisa, Teper, De Niro and restaurateur Drew Nieporent opened the first Nobu restaurant, which are typically larger than Matsuhisa and less expensive, but based on the same concept of Japanese food with a helping of Latin American ingredients.
Teper was confident of its success. He understood that "the restaurant business is risky, but most business is risky. But the food (at Matsuhisa) was really special, and I thought there was really nothing like it in New York."
He was right. "It was such a big success people started calling (about opening another)," Teper said. "The first gentleman was from London."
Interestingly, the Londoner wanted to sign a deal that excluded De Niro, but for Matsuhisa loyalty is a must. "De Niro was a partner in the first Nobu. He's the one who invited me to New York. I can't go on without him."
The investor acquiesced, and once the deal was signed Matsuhisa spent a month in London sampling the food available at the city's sushi restaurants. What he found was uninspiring, he said, and fueled his confidence "and my passion to share the delights of good sushi with people in England."
Once Nobu opened, Matsuhisa spent a month in the restaurant kitchen training his chefs on how to meet his high standards. Personal oversight is a hallmark of his operation. He said that his style of management dictates that in "every country, every continent, food is prepared the same way" so that the restaurants are "familiar and like family to our customers."
To assure that, Matsuhisa spends virtually all his life on the road. At first, it was two weeks in Los Angeles, and a week each in New York and London. As the locations expanded, however, so did his travel schedule.
"I travel 10 months a year," he said. "I get to see all my kids (employees) around the world. I want the chefs to understand my style of cooking, my recipes.
"I remember how thrilled I was to see the dishes that I had invented at Matsuhisa being produced identically in New York and again in London."
When he visits one of his restaurants, it's not a one-way conversation, though. "I learn from them also. I travel to find something new, which is very important to the business."
Cross-pollination is also important to him. Chefs from London were sent to both Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills and Nobu in New York, while Nobu New York chefs were sent to London. The goal: to learn from each other.
Chef exchanges continues to this day.
Taking His Own Path
While Matsuhisa obviously likes uniformity of product, he doesn't necessarily believe that you have to go along with the herd. During his first December in London, his manager planned to close the restaurant during the holidays, apparently a common practice in the city. But Matsuhisa demurred. The restaurant was located in a hotel that he knew would be filled with tourists and, as it turned out, so was the restaurant.
"The experience confirmed my belief that while it's important to adapt to local ways, stepping outside convention is often just as good for business as it is for inspiring new recipes," he said.
One of the areas where Matsuhisa excels is in employee relations. He believes in second chances, in part because he remembers his own early failures. He prefers praise to scorn. In Japan, he says, there is a strong tendency to point out faults. In fact, there's a saying: "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down."
Matsuhisa prefers the way it's done here. "Americans are good at praising people," he observed. And he likes to see that up and down the ranks. In fact, when he visits a restaurant, he makes a point of stopping to greet the dishwasher.
"That's how I started. For three years I was a dishwasher and busboy. I understand how tough the work is. All day your hands are in hot soapy water, brushing dishes. If the plates are dirty, the chefs can't present the food."
His philosophy appears to be working. At last count, there were 47 Nobu and Matsuhisa restaurants and six Nobu Hotels around the world.
Built two international sushi restaurant chains and then added hotels to his empire.
Overcame: Need by some investors to increase profits.
Lesson: Stick to your principles, even if it means speaking truth to power.
Quote: "Drew (Nieporent) wanted more sales, more money. He wanted us to put in more tables. I spoke to him and said people aren't machines. We're not robots. If I hadn't confronted him, the spirit of Matsuhisa may never have been carried over to Nobu."
Even if you recruit the smartest people in the world to help you innovate within your organization, they won't have all the answers. Outsiders — from customers to suppliers to the general public — can offer fresh and valuable perspectives, a concept known as "open innovation."
To harness open innovation, leaders look to enlist business partners, consumers, vendors and anyone else to provide input on designing new products or services.
Replace internal politics with openness. If your employees vie for attention by hoarding ideas and hogging credit for team achievements, they probably won't welcome your efforts to solicit ideas from outside. In fact, they may quietly engage in sabotage.
"At a high level, leaders at larger companies need to be ready to incentivize their people to external innovation," said Tim Bernstein, chief executive of Yet2, a consulting firm in Newton, Mass.
Otherwise, employees may feel threatened by outsiders offering insights. Resentful staffers might think, "I was hired to come up with great ideas. Now I'm ignored and we listen to just about anyone out there."
Bernstein encourages leaders to create a culture of openness to outside input. Dangle rewards for employees who champion innovations from outside sources rather than just promoting their own proprietary ideas.
Minimize risks. Turning to the public for creative breakthroughs has a downside: It can lead to messy intellectual property disputes.
Say outsiders share details of an innovation with a company that's already well underway in testing the same concept. Once the new product appears, those outsiders might conclude that the company stole their idea.
"The solution is to have a single point of entry, like an online portal platform, for all submissions," Bernstein said. "Make sure all your employees reject all other points of entry or redirect submissions to that single portal."
Prepare to collaborate. Outsiders won't necessarily present you with a polished, ready-for-market innovation. In many cases, you'll want to tweak the idea or treat it as a springboard for further exploration.
"Open innovation doesn't come free," Bernstein said. "Be ready to commit resources. You'll need your research-and-development people freed up to work with the [external] solution provider."
Stay close to customers. As inventive employees devise new designs, excitement can mount within your organization. But the real measure of innovation is how consumers will respond.
"We'd rather build what other people think is cool, not what we think is cool," said Larry Portaro, director of FirstBuild, which seeks ideas for new appliances from outsiders. Based at the University of Louisville, FirstBuild connects with consumers through online outreach and even invites them to its Louisville, Ky., headquarters to develop prototypes at its micro-factory.
Portaro adds that bringing in consumers to devise new products "allows for collisions and interactions to happen" that spur innovation.
Let customers bond with each other. Because innovation often arises from group collaboration, it helps to give outsiders a forum for idea sharing. As they compare notes and combine forces, they might arrive at bolder, more ambitious breakthroughs.
Close the loop. Once you solicit input from outsiders, provide regular updates as you follow through. They'll gain more buy-in if they see that you're taking their ideas seriously and exploring ways to turn their suggestions into tangible products or services.
"Identify what next steps will be taken and then close that loop when those steps are taken," Rosecrans said. "Also document when you'll release" the prototype and how you'll measure its impact or effectiveness.
More than anything else, what differentiates people who live up to their potential from those who don't is a willingness to look at themselves and others objectively. Ray Dalio,hedge fund manager
With every player there's a certain point where it all starts to click. A lot of it is just learning yourself and what works for you. Roy Halladay,baseball pitcher
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled. Richard P. Feynman,physicist
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. Alice Walker,novelist
Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.,jurist
Leo Baekeland is the most important inventor you never heard of.
That will change if cultural influencers can convey their enthusiasm for a new documentary, " All Things Bakelite: The Age of Plastic," which is earning applause and awards at film festivals and science conferences across the globe. Director John Maher and his team bring alive the story of the man who invented the first synthetic material, with musical numbers, humor, interviews with excited chemists and product designers, and archival footage.
"My great-grandfather had the courage to take risks and not give up in the face of repeated failure," Hugh Karraker, the executive producer, told IBD. "The world changed one summer night in 1907 in his lab in Yonkers, when the first plastic settled to the bottom of a test tube. It has had a huge impact on our lives."
That form of synthetic plastic — known as Bakelite — was turned into 15,000 products that helped create the modern world, including electrical wire insulation, light bulb sockets, automobile parts, appliances, telephones, televisions and military gear. It is still used widely in everything from electronics to aerospace and led to the invention of other plastics.
Baekeland (1863-1944) grew up in Ghent, Belgium. His father, a shoemaker, and his mother, a maid, were poor and illiterate, but recognized Leo's potential. At 8, he read the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and wanted to emulate his dedication to self-improvement, curiosity about the natural world, and invention. He was drawn to photographic chemistry and at 17, won a scholarship to the University of Ghent, graduating maxima cum laude with a Ph.D. four years later.
At 24, while trying to develop a better photographic plate, Baekeland was offered an associate professorship of chemistry and physics at his alma mater under his former chemistry professor, Theodore Swarts. He also fell in love and eventually married Swarts' daughter, Celine. Feeling pressure from his father-in-law, who thought Baekeland's startup was a distraction from academic pursuits, he and his bride sailed for America.
Landing in New York City, Baekeland received a job offer from the firm that would become the photo giant Agfa Gevaert, which he accepted.
"America was a mobile, open society where people who could prove they had the moxie to accomplish something would win out," Jeffrey Meikle, author of " American Plastic: A Cultural History," said in the film.
Two years later, the restless entrepreneur left the company to become an independent chemical consultant.
By 1893, however, an economic depression had caused him to go broke and soon after he came down with appendicitis. While lying in bed near death, he rethought his plans and decided to concentrate on the one project most likely to bring him the best commercial results, an improved photographic paper for the small cameras being made by Eastman Kodak ( KODK). Baekeland's Nepera Chemical Co. developed Velox, which was sold to Eastman Kodak in 1899 for $750,000, of which Baekeland netted $215,000 (equal to $6.4 million today).
Inventing The Fourth Kingdom
The money allowed Baekeland to outfit a barn on the grounds of his Yonkers mansion as a research laboratory, where he began experimenting in 1902 to try to create a commercial plastic. Electrical wires had been painted with a natural shellac excreted by a beetle, but that could melt at high temperatures. Many scientists had tried to create an artificial version by combining phenol with formaldehyde, but were unable to control the reaction that would result in a gunk that could not be molded.
"He kept meticulous notes on each experiment and would try things again and again, even though everyone said what he was trying to do was impossible," Burkhard Wagner, a research chemist retired from Union Carbide, said in the film. "He was extremely stubborn and where others saw a wall, he leaned against it and discovered a door. His genius was to realize that he could interrupt the chain reaction."
The result was neither animal, vegetable nor mineral: a man-made fourth kingdom, said Karraker. Baekeland decided to have it mimic his name, calling it Bakelite (pronounced "bake-uh-lite") and received a patent in 1909, which he announced at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. (His discovery occurred when he was 43; since 1945, the ACS has biennially bestowed the Baekeland Medal to promising chemists under 40).
"Bakelite could be molded into anything, from automobile distributor caps and office equipment to toasters, cameras, tableware, and billiard balls, launching the era of industrial design and mass consumption from the 1920s to '50s," said Karraker. "It was valued because it resisted scratches and solvents and was used where it was needed to withstand extreme heat, such as heat shields on spacecraft."
Of course, competitors leapt into the arena, but found themselves up against the extraordinarily thorough 55 patent applications that Baekeland was awarded in the U.S., as well as those in other countries, which anticipated the range of uses for his inventions or anything like them, said Wagner. He won all of his lawsuits, but in one case, he invited rivals Condensite and Redmanol to join him to form the Bakelite Corp. in 1923. The following year he was on the cover of Time and in 1925 was on the cover of the first issue of Plastics.
"He was a good businessman, but had mixed feelings about being CEO because it was such a grind. Yet he preferred to manage his own affairs," said Karraker. "The workload increased when his patents expired in 1927, resulting in a return to competing products. Bakelite was a game-changer and equally important were the manufacturing processes he developed. His work helped lead chemists to other plastics, like polyesters, polyurethanes and polyamides."
Baekeland's son, George, however, had no interest in taking over the business, so it was sold to Union Carbide in 1939. (Baekeland's part of the sale earned him $23 million, equal to $397 million today.)
In 1984, Union Carbide was acquired by Dow Chemical and on Sept. 1, 2017, it merged with DuPont to become DowDuPont ( DWDP), the world's largest chemical company in terms of sales.
Leo Baekeland spent his remaining five years exploring botany to research the possibilities for new products, but he died at age 80 before he could achieve anything notable in that field.
The global plastics industry remains enormous and growing, with total shipments in 2015 valued at $418 billion, according to Louis Pilato, a researcher and consultant with expertise in phenolic resin technologies and bio-based materials, who appears in the film. "The cost of oil for plastic manufacturing, especially in the U.S., is low because of the use of fracking to fully extract it," he said.
Yet Bakelite and its children have been a double-edged sword, the film admits, as plastic has become all-pervasive — though researchers have been developing forms with less negative impact on the environment.
The 56-minute version of "All Things Bakelite" won the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival's Platinum Remi Award for documentary (named after Frederick Remington, whose art captured the spirit of the West). It has been screened at industry conferences from New Zealand to Norway, at the 200th anniversary of the founding of University of Ghent and the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., and will be featured at the Sixth Biannual Baekeland Thermoset Symposium in Shanghai in April 2018. The producers have also been showing a 21-minute version, designed especially for middle- and high-school classrooms, and hope to distribute it to universities and public libraries worldwide.
Everywhere you turn, you're asked to take an online survey. Maybe that's why many advisors seek feedback the old-fashioned way: by asking for it in casual conversation.
XLike many professional service providers, advisors want to satisfy customers and get alerted if something's amiss. They seek to retain clients and run a tight ship, and they crave feedback on how to continuously improve their operation.
So how do they solicit constructive feedback from clients and former clients? Better yet, how do they collect praise and share it with their team for some motivational uplift?
"We think feedback is important and we take it seriously," said Vince DiLeva, a certified financial planner in Redondo Beach, Calif. "We get input on how our reports look, interactions with our staff, and topics we include in our quarterly newsletter to clients."
Yet like many top financial advisors, DiLeva does not send out formal surveys. Instead, he and his colleagues at Signature Estate & Investment Advisors prefer to ask clients for feedback on an ongoing basis.
"If I'm in a meeting or on the phone with a client, I might ask what they thought of a recent change in our report," he said. "They might say the font is too small or the colors we use on our chart make it hard to read. Everyone has different ideas on what they like and don't like."
The benefits of asking for input in the course of everyday conversation are twofold. First, clients are more apt to open up when the topic is fresh in their mind. The immediacy of feedback enhances its richness; if you ask people to comment on something that occurred a month ago, they may have little to offer.
Second, seeking input works better when you come right out and ask for it. With so many consumers fending off constant requests to complete online questionnaires, it's refreshing when a service provider expresses a willingness to sit back and listen in real time to a client's critique.
Pounce On Opportunities
Part of the challenge when asking for feedback is evaluating its merits. Clients of different ages and backgrounds may express wildly different preferences.
"You have to take it all in and look for the most common things you hear," DiLeva said. "You home in on the couple of things that you hear consistently."
It helps when you adopt an opportunistic mindset. Recently, a client called DiLeva to praise two of his staffers for their efforts in tracking down an old 403(b) account.
"In thanking me, she also told me about the steps she and my two employees went through," he said. "It made me realize we could improve our processes to build efficiencies into the system."
In addition, DiLeva meets weekly with his team to share client feedback they've collected. In each meeting, they identify at least one idea that they can apply right away. Examples include steps to enhance record-keeping or facilitate communication with clients' accountants to coordinate required minimum distributions.
To close the loop, DiLeva will update clients on the status of their suggestions. He may need to explain why their idea cannot come to fruition due to, say, compliance rules or the limits of technology.
"When you follow up, they feel heard," he said.
Dangle An Incentive
While probing for feedback works well in informal conversations, you need to watch your wording. The way you frame your questions will largely determine the answers you get.
For example, it's better to ask, "Can you share your impressions of the materials we sent?" than, "Were you pleased with the materials we sent?" Respondents tend to give more revealing answers if they're addressing a neutrally worded, open-ended inquiry.
For those advisors who use online surveys, they learn that incentives count. Rewarding people for their time in filling out a questionnaire increases the response rate.
Dan Andrews, a certified financial planner in Greenwood Village, Colo., sends all clients a year-end survey using Wufoo.com. He poses three questions: What should we start doing? What should we stop doing? and What should we keep doing?
As a bonus, he invites respondents to vote on one of three nonprofits to receive 2% of his firm's top-line revenue for the year. This adds a feel-good element to the process and reinforces the theme of altruism — a key aspect of his practice.
"We try to inspire our clients to give back," Andrews said. "This 2% is a way to let them know that they're giving back just by being our client" and completing our survey.
Baseball wisdom ... investment opportunities ... advice about building a financial advisor practice ... what's not to like about the final day of the Schwab Impact conference for independent financial advisors this week in Chicago? The conclave enters its home stretch today, with a final day of educational sessions and a closing keynote speech.
XTheo Epstein is the scheduled keynote speaker. Epstein is on deck to discuss "What Losing Teaches about Winning." His credentials for transforming losers into winners is well-known to baseball fans, especially long-suffering fans in Chicago and Boston. He is President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, who had not won major league baseball's World Series since 1908 until their triumph in 2016.
Before taking the reins of the Cubs, Epstein was general manager of the Boston Red Sox, helping to steer them in 2004 to their first World Series title since 1918.
Before Epstein's presentation, educational sessions at the Schwab Impact conference will include a panel aimed at financial advisors who want to get a handle on whether Illinois's credit distress presents an opportunity for bond-investor clients or a pitfall to be avoided can attend a scheduled morning diagnosis of the conference host city's home state's fiscal dilemma. Panelists are slated to be Michael Johnson and John Humphrey of Gurtin Municipal Bond Management.
In another morning session, Tim Maurer of the BAM Alliance will about the value of explaining to clients not just what they should do but why. Maurer is slated to focus on how behavioral science can help advisors better motivate clients.
A third session at the Schwab conference is scheduled to discuss how to integrate responsible investing into client portfolios.
Two additional sessions are on tap to address how to build your practice. One session, featuring the Emotional Investor's James Mooreland, is due to focus on the importance of differentiating yourself from your rivals. A session featuring Michelle Donovan is slated to focus on how to maximize your referral process.
Yet another marketing session with will home in digital marketing.
Another morning session, featuring Dennis McCrary of Pantheon, will talk about why you should consider adding the private equity arrow to your client portfolio quiver.
On the next to last day of Thursday, Morningstar Inc. ( MORN) introduced its Office Cloud, which it describes as a new cloud-based practice and portfolio management platform for advisors, powered by more than 30 years of investment data and research.
The firm says that the platform combines Morningstar data, analytics, and research tools with capacity for integrating client data into a single, web-based experience that can replace multiple legacy systems.
Thursday afternoon's keynote session featured former Prime Minister of the U.K., David Cameron. One attendee commented on Twitter that Cameron's presentation confirmed how "everything sounds smarter when spoken with a British accent."
Schwab entertained its guests with a show by Leon Bridges, a Grammy Award-winning R&B singer and songwriter.
"It's estimated that almost half the resources that U.S. firms spend on product innovation is spent on failures, while only one new-product concept out of seven becomes a commercial winner," he said.
Cooper says extensive research shows there are proven ways for companies to move the odds of success and profitability more in their favor.
Create unquestioned value. One way to beat the one-in-seven odds of new-product success, Cooper wrote, is to "find big problems, then create big, bold solutions."
Most new products are "tired, ho-hum, or copycat efforts that lack a wow factor for the customers," he said.
A product that has unique benefits for users, he adds, has five times the success rate, four times the market share and four times the profitability of the ones that don't.
Understand your market. Not knowing the customer and the market remains the No. 1 cause of new-product failures, Cooper states. "Most people make too many assumptions about what the customer wants, needs or values, and many are wrong!"
Exercise detailed preparation. Cooper's studies reveal that the steps that precede the actual design and development of the product make the difference between success and failure.
The best innovators, he added, "do their homework and make the front end a lot less fuzzy."
Avoid loose definitions and vague assumptions. Cooper says to always keep at the forefront of your thinking the target market; the product concept in detail; and the benefits to be delivered to the user.
Experiment and learn. To better understand what consumers see as having value, constantly validate a new product by testing it with them regularly throughout development, Cooper says.
Get feedback and then revise your thinking, he says. "Do this early, often and cheaply."
Jay Goldman, co-founder of Sensei Labs, a developer of data-driven workflow solutions, suggests getting out there and talking to your prospective customers to learn what they really want. He references the book, " The Four Steps to the Epiphany," which says that when it comes to new products, no facts exist inside the building, only opinions.
Seek out new technologies. Erik Ritchie, vice president of e-commerce for Zenni Optical, a leading online eyewear brand, says build bridges between your various vendors so that they can collaboratively be part of your approach to job-flow automation. This is what allows a product to be produced at the highest rate while keeping costs to a minimum, he adds.
Goldman points out that utilizing technology to automate those common, repetitive product-launch tasks, when applicable, frees "your team up to focus on your core objective — getting your product into market!"
Keep listening. Companies should remain in constant communication with their customers via a network of phone, email, chat, SMS and social media, Ritchie said.
"This daily flow of information helps the organization to assist customers in the moment as well as to identify areas of improvement for every facet of the product or service," he said.
It's also a way to monitor the pulse of changing customer needs.
Capitalize on opportunities. Consumers looking for additional information about your new product or service are a built-in audience. By creating compelling and innovative informational content you have another chance to educate and sell them.
Ritchie recommends taking a tiered approach where content on a specific issue is available in short, medium and long forms. Doing so allows customers to quickly find easy-to-consume content that should resolve most issues and provide the option to learn more.
"It's also valuable to use multiple formats from written text to imagery to video in order to serve each customer's individual learning preference," he said.
Sherry Lansing was in for a surprise when she met her new boss, oil magnate Marvin Davis.
It was 1981 and Davis had just purchased 20th Century Fox ( FOXA). Lansing was the studio's president of production, the first woman to hold so lofty a post. When she stuck her head in to say hello, Davis replied:
"No, no honey, I don't want any coffee."
When she persisted and introduced herself, he said, no, "I want Jerry Lansing, the person who's running the studio."
She explained that she was the person running the studio, he said, "A girl?"
Yes, she replied, "a girl."
How did she deal with the slight? "By denial," Lansing said in a telephone interview with IBD. "It was a very different world, and I found that if I let all that noise bother me I couldn't do my job. So what I did was deny it, put my head down and work twice as hard. I learned to pick my battles.
"If I had gone to human resources, I would have been fired. Today, you can bring down a network.
"I'm not saying tolerating that behavior was better. Just that I learned to tolerate."
He was attracted to his subject, Galloway said, "because she was the single most important and influential woman of her time and an important role model."
"Her breakthrough in becoming president of Fox was one of the those watermark moments for women," he added. "I was very interested in how she had shifted in her career from model to actress to producer to studio executive, and finally out of the business into another career in philanthropy."
A Role-Model Mom
Lansing's career trajectory actually began while she was growing up in Chicago under the watchful eye of her role-model mom, Margot. Lansing was just 8 years old when her father died. She remembers two of the employees in the family's small real estate business telling Margot, "Don't worry. We'll run the business and take care of you."
Lansing remembers her mother's reply: "No you won't. You will teach me how to run the business and I will take care of my family."
"She without a doubt was the biggest influence in my life," Lansing says.
After graduating from college, Sherry moved to Los Angeles with her first husband and began a "career" as a high school teacher. She tolerated all the normal headaches of an educator — until, that is, a gang invaded the school, beat up one of her pupils, tied up teachers, and threw a Molotov cocktail into the principal's office.
But there was a Plan B. Lansing went out on auditions for modeling and acting jobs even while she taught. It wasn't easy, but she persevered through cattle calls and enjoyed a modicum of success:
A national shampoo commercial opposite a then-unknown Farrah Fawcett; TV guest spots ("Ironside," "Dan August"), films ("Loving," "Rio Lobo") and even 10 episodes as a background partyer on Hugh Hefner's jazz-infused series, "Playboy After Dark." While in her career Lansing had moments of fending off sexual aggression, Hefner treated her and the other actors with respect, and made sure they were all well fed.
"It was a great lesson to see a boss making sure that everyone was treated like a human being," Lansing told Galloway.
But while good Playboy victuals filled her stomach, there was still a void. "I was extraordinarily uncomfortable being an actress," she said in the phone interview. "First of all, I had no talent. Worse than having no talent — because you could always learn to act — was the pain of pretending to be someone other than yourself. I found it very difficult."
So she did a self-analysis. She had a good sense of story. An English major who always loved to read, she'd made suggestions on script changes when a problem arose on the set of "Loving."
"I guess the suggestion was a good one," she said, because they used it. Her producer on that film, Ray Wagner, saw her uncanny script judgment on the set. He offered her a job with his company as a part-time script reader, and Sherry jumped at it.
"I will be forever grateful to Ray," she said. "I had a tiny office where I could read scripts. I felt I was home. I loved reading scripts. I love writing the synopsis. I loved giving my opinion. Those were the happiest days of my life."
As important, it provided an alternate view of screenplays. Previously, all she'd been exposed to were shooting scripts, the supposedly finished product. Here she saw them in raw form and learned important lessons on how a screenplay was developed, from manuscript to screen.
She was so good that within six months Wagner hired her full time; 18 months she later was hired away by Leonard Stern Associates, a major TV producer; and in 1975 was named executive story editor at MGM.
Lansing immediately made changes in the way the system operates. Unlike her predecessors, she asked her subordinates for their opinions. Lansing concedes that "it's not a technique to use when you feel uncomfortable as an executive."
"This is who I am," she explained. "I like to hear what other people have to say. Sometimes it colors my opinion. Sometimes it makes me feel stronger about what I'd thought. I love input.
"I've gone through systems with many bosses who rule by fear, who pit people against each other. I can't exist in that kind of environment. I can only exist in an environment where there are no stupid ideas, and where everyone is comfortable and can say what they want."
When her boss was hired at Columbia, he asked her to come with him and named her, in November 1977, his vice president of production. In this high-level post she oversaw such major films as "The China Syndrome" and "Kramer vs. Kramer."
Such was her success that she fielded numerous offers from competitors, turning almost all of them down. In January 1980, she succumbed to an offer from Fox. Here she OK'd (greenlit in Hollywood parlance) "Quest for Fire," "Cannonball Run," "Zorro: The Gay Blade," the Al Pacino vehicle "Author! Author!" and "The Verdict" — all the while dealing with temperamental, now-I'm-in-the-movie-now-I'm-not talent.
It was a difficult, politics-filled job, and Lansing decided that she wanted to go back to basics. So she partnered with producer Stanley Jaffe and opened an office (or, again in Hollywood-speak, set up a shingle) at Paramount.
Her new job as producer required her to be on-set virtually full time. Not only was she happy to be far from office politics, she was equally pleased because she was learning again: about camera angles and lenses and how scenes are set up.
Sadly, her joy was mitigated by early flops. At one point, believing he was helping, her friend Michael Ovitz, then a powerful agent, offered to set the pair up with a commercial Eddie Murphy comedy.
To Change The World
But that wasn't the kind of movie Lansing wanted to make. She wanted to make films that would change the world, that led to discussions. "You have to be true to yourself," she said. "If we failed at a movie we didn't believe in, that would be awful. And we believed we had the thing you need in any career: resiliency."
Resiliency won. Hit after hit followed: "Fatal Attraction," "The Accused," "Black Rain" and "School Ties."
In March 1991, Jaffe left to become president of Paramount Communications, and in November of 1992 he hired his former partner as chair and CEO of Paramount Pictures. A wise choice, as it turned out. One of her first films: "Forrest Gump."
She also had enough faith in her tastes that she got Paramount a half interest in "Titanic" while other studios were running away because of the film's escalating cost overruns. "Titanic" became the second-highest grossing film of all time, earning almost $2.2 billion, and "Gump" was no slouch either, finishing with roughly $680 million in ticket sales.
Lansing kept her head on straight by weekly lunches with girlfriends and tried to see new releases at a local theater rather than at glamorous premieres.
But the business changed — and not for the better in her view. When she'd first started, it was the film that mattered. Now it was the marketing. Studios were looking for franchises and tent-pole movies, not adult fare. Lost in the shuffle were the kinds of movies she wanted to make.
She resigned in 2004 and decided to devote her energies to charities, particularly in finding a cure for cancer, from which her mother had died when she was just 63. In 2005, she started the Sherry Lansing Foundation to help find a cure. In addition, she was named a regent of the University of California, and sits on the board of a number of charities ranging from the American Red Cross to the Carter Center.
Her charitable activities have earned her numerous awards, most notably the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, presented to her by Tom Cruise at the 2007 Academy Awards.
First woman to head a Hollywood studio.
Overcame: resistance from industry unused to women bosses.
Lesson: If you build trust, you can win people over.
"As an executive, you have to do things that are financially responsible. But if the filmmakers see you as a suit, that you only care about money, they're not going to trust you. I made it a point to let the producers, the directors, the actors know that I was on their side and that all I wanted to do was make good movies."
I relish risk. Risk is extra life. Jeremy Irons, actor
People say that money is not the key to happiness, but I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made. Joan Rivers,comedian
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw,playwright
After all, why sacrifice something you have if you can't imagine the even greater gain that this will provide? Max Tegmark, physicist
The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on. Walter Lippmann,journalist
Parents of a gifted young athlete face a tough decision.
Do they go all in and spend what it takes to give their kid a fighting chance of sports success? Or do they earmark their limited funds for other priorities such as their retirement and their child's education?
XSome parents invest in their child like a stock, banking on a budding sports star to grow into a highly paid athlete. But cashing in is a longshot.
For financial advisors, the challenge is to accommodate clients' wishes to support their child's dream. At the same time, however, advisors might need to rein in parents' runaway spending on sports-related expenses (for travel, equipment, private coaches, etc.).
"The question is what can you afford," said Mike Trombley, an advisor in Wilbraham, Mass. "Every advisor needs to look at the percentages of (a client's kid) playing professionally or even getting a full college scholarship based on athletic ability. It can be a terrible investment."
A former Major League Baseball player who spent 11 years with the Minnesota Twins, Trombley treads with care when advising parents of talented athletes. He starts with a budgeting exercise, calculating what clients must save for retirement and other vital needs.
Then he might say, "With what's left, here's what you can spend on your kid's sports expenses."
"You've got to be a little careful about giving an opinion like 'Oh, that'll never happen,' " he said. "You don't want to squash a kid's dream, even if it's often the parents who want it. But you also want to be realistic."
Advisors need to separate rational planning from some parents' irrational attitudes that can undermine their best intentions. They may express love for their child by overspending on sports accessories or devoting countless weekends to drive their kid hundreds of miles to and from tournaments.
When advising clients with talented offspring, Trombley looks for trouble signs. Examples include parents who get caught up trying to spend as much as their peers — or who lose sight of what's most important in life.
"Some parents think they need to keep up with the Joneses and spend more on their kids' sports than what other parents are spending," he said. "Or I see parents thinking, 'The higher my kid goes in sports, the more successful I am as a parent.' "
Such destructive beliefs can cause parents to berate coaches and put undue pressure on their kid to outperform. Parents with tunnel vision may wind up thinking, "I don't care if the team wins as long as my kid does well," Trombley said.
By engaging in comprehensive financial planning with clients and helping them set long-range goals, advisors can put a family's sports-related costs in perspective. It's easier to pay for elite sports camps if parents know it's factored into the overall plan.
"It helps to constantly remind them of previous financial goals they've agreed to," said Charles Princiotto, a certified financial planner in New York City. "We have to explain, 'This may affect your financial plan and it makes sense to set some spending limits on this.' Hopefully, they take it well."
Pros And Cons
Advisors also caution parents about setting a costly precedent. If they spend freely for their oldest child to pursue sports, younger siblings may expect the same.
"You have to look at the big picture and consider the future," Princiotto said. "If you're providing all this attention and training for the first kid, you may have to do this for the second and third kid."
If parents sacrifice to fund a child's athletic aspirations, it can place a psychological burden on the youngster. As the costs soar, so can expectations for a payoff.
"Parents' behavior changes as they spend more on their kids," said C. Ryan Dunn, an assistant professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies at Weber State University's Moyes College of Education in Ogden, Utah. "We find that parents spend as much as 10%-plus of their gross annual income on sports, and as they spend more on their kids, the kids sense parental pressure to excel."
Dunn urges advisors walk clients through the pros and cons of spending significant amounts on a child's sports. He suggests kicking off the conversation by saying, "There are ways this can work to your benefit or ways it might not."
On the pro side, examples include investing in a priceless experience for the kid, strengthening family bonds and building the youth's character. Negatives include the extremely low probability of gaining a full college scholarship (much less joining the professional ranks), the possibility of a life-altering injury and the pressure that can rupture familial relationships.
It's lonely at the top. And the more power you wield, the less honest feedback you tend to get from those around you.
Some organizations provide structured programs, such as 360-degree feedback, to assure that leaders collect input on their behavior and performance. But it's even better to gather informal feedback from trusted colleagues.
To extract valuable input from your peers:
Seek specifics. Many leaders refrain from asking peers for blunt feedback. Why? They don't want to appear vulnerable, they may compete with their colleagues rather than view them as supportive allies, or they may not welcome criticism.
"But your peers are often in the best position to help you improve," said Karin Hurt, chief executive of Let's Grow Leaders, a Baltimore-based consultancy.
She suggests asking a peer, "My intent is to make a greater contribution to the team. Would you tell me one thing I can do to be more effective on this team?" That's better than a vague inquiry such as, "Do you have any feedback for me?"
Or you can ask, "I'm seeking to improve my communication skills. What's one thing I can do to communicate better?"
"The first sentence grounds it in positive intent," said Hurt, co-author of "Winning Well." That ups the odds you'll get more substantive input.
Ask now, not later. You're more apt to get meaningful input if you ask for it in a timely manner. Seek feedback as soon as possible after the event in question.
"If you wait too long and say, 'Remember last week at that meeting? …' it's not going to be as fresh in their mind," Hurt said.
Withhold judgment. You need not render an instant verdict on the validity of the feedback. Instead, confirm your understanding — and then say something neutral and express your gratitude.
"If you disagree with it, just say 'that's interesting' and 'thank you,' " she said.
Watch your mood. If you fish for feedback when you're feeling anxious or angry, you invite trouble. It's smarter to solicit input when you're ready to listen with an open mind.
"You want to ask for it when you're calm and in a position to hear it objectively," Hurt said.
Model what you want. Make a habit of offering constructive feedback to your peers. If you're generous with input, especially positive observations, you set an example for them to emulate.
"Otherwise, they may think why should they do it for you if you don't do it for them," Hurt said.
Frame your question positively. Beware of asking, "What am I doing wrong?" or "I'm unhappy with my performance. Can you help me get back on track?"
Lacing your request with negativity can impair the quality of feedback you receive, warns Bill Hoberecht, vice president of operations at OnPoint Medical Group in Denver. Asking for ways that you can be more effective works better because it encourages peers to offer helpful input.
Follow through. Once you hear sensible feedback, act on it.
As a manager at a telecom firm in the 1990s, Hoberecht recalls a colleague telling him, "Bill, here's what I've observed about your performance." But Hoberecht didn't listen.
"I was arrogant and figured I knew what I was doing," Hoberecht admitted. "I did not recognize the value of what he said, so I ignored it. Months later, my boss nearly disciplined me for that area of my performance."
In retrospect, Hoberecht wishes he had treated his peer's input more seriously instead of disregarding it. But he says the incident served as "a wake-up call" to follow through when colleagues offer constructive feedback.
For Sgt. Maj. Daniel Daly, the Marine Corps was essentially his life.
There is little record of his personal one. Daly never married. Nearly everything that's known about him relates to his three decades in the Marines.
And what a life it was.
Daly (1873-1937) is one of only 19 members of the U.S. military, and only two Marines, to have received the Medal of Honor twice, the nation's highest military decoration. He was also a recipient of the Navy Cross, the nation's second-highest military honor.
Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, Daly's friend and coincidentally the other Marine who received two Medals of Honor, is said to have described Daly as "the fightingest Marine I ever knew" and "it was an object lesson to have served with him."
Maj. Gen. John Lejeune, commandant of the Marine Corps in the 1920s and who himself was called the "greatest of all leathernecks," judged Daly to be "the outstanding Marine of all time."
Daly's shout of "Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?" has been immortalized in accounts of America's participation in World War I, though Daly himself is far less well known. (And Daly insisted that what he actually said was "Come on, fellas, do you want to live forever?")
In addition to Daly's Medals of Honor and Navy Cross, he also received the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star. The USS Daly, a Fletcher-class destroyer, was named in his honor in 1942. In 2005, Daly was furthered honored on a U.S. postage stamp.
"Daly epitomized all that is finest in the humble servant-leader," Patrick Mooney, a historian with the National Museum of the Marine Corps, told IBD
"Although a `natural' for publicity, (Daly) disdained it and disliked all the fuss made over him," it goes on to say, adding that Daly considered medals "a lot of foolishness."
"For myself, I don't care for all this publicity," he's quoted as saying. "All I ask is to be left alone."
Daly reportedly didn't drink and was a strict disciplinarian. He was also "fair-minded and very popular among both officers and enlisted men," the USMC site says. "He was noted not only for his … daring, but also for his constant attention to the needs of his men. Offered a commission on several occasions, he is said to have declined on the grounds that he would rather be `an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.' "
A Born Fighter
Daly was described by the Brooklyn Eagle in a February 1919 article as a "quiet-mannered, modest and unobtrusive" man.
Born in Glen Cove, N.Y., Daly "survived a rough and tumble childhood on the streets of New York City," according to the website TogetherWeServed.
He was a newsboy and eventually a talented amateur boxer.
Perhaps inspired by America's victory in the Spanish-American War just months earlier, Daly enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1899, and was assigned to the Asiatic Fleet aboard the USS Newark.
Daly wouldn't have to wait long to see his first combat. In 1900, Pvt. Daly was deployed during the Boxer Rebellion in China. In May of that year Daly was part of a small contingent of Marines whose mission was to protect American diplomatic personnel and installations and other foreign legations in Beijing (then known as Peking).
By mid-August, Daly and his comrades had been driven back and forced to make a last stand of their defensive positions around the old city wall.
"Along with a certain Captain N.H. Hall, Daly undertook to defend a solid position on top of the wall between the Ch'ien Men and Hata Men gates, armed only with a rifle and a bayonet," according to TogetherWeServed. On Aug. 14, Hall left the position to gather reinforcements, which put Daly alone on what was known as the Tartar Wall. That night, under constant sniper fire, Daly single-handedly held off several enemy charges, reportedly inflicting some 200 casualties, until Hall returned with the reinforcements in the morning. For that Daly received his first Medal of Honor.
Daly's career saw him assigned to numerous ships and tours at sea. In addition to the action in China, he saw combat in several other countries and conflicts, including leading a platoon of Marines ashore during the invasion of Veracruz, Mexico, in 1914. He was also stationed at eight posts in the U.S.
He gained recognition for more than his actions in combat, though. While serving on USS Springfield in 1911, Daly is credited with saving the ship when he spotted a gasoline fire near its primary powder magazine and extinguished it.
In 1915, Daly was deployed in Haiti in support of that government's battle against insurgent guerrilla fighters known as Cacos.
During the Battle of Fort Dipitie on the night of Oct. 24, 1915, now Gunnery Sgt. Daly was part of a mounted force of 38 men from the 15th Company of Marines. They were ambushed from three sides, by a force of 400 Cacos, while crossing a river in a deep ravine.
The Marines fought their way to high ground and, while they didn't lose any men, 12 horses were lost along with a mule carrying their only machine gun. Although they were under a continuous barrage of fire, Daly volunteered to return to the ravine to get the machine gun that was still strapped to the dead mule.
"Reaching the riverbank, Daly slipped into the water and repeatedly dove to find the patrol's machine gun," Zabecki wrote. "Working in the dark and under Cacos fire, Daly finally located the dead mule, detached the machine gun and ammunition, and brought the load ashore in several trips." He then picked up the extremely heavy load and "returned through the jungle past more Cacos to the Marine position."
The next morning those Marines, in three squads, attacked the enemy from three different directions. They surprised the Cacos, inflicting 75 casualties and dispersing the rest. Daly was awarded his second Medal of Honor for this action, with the citation crediting him with "extraordinary heroism" and "exceptional gallantry against heavy odds throughout this action."
Historian Mooney lauds Daly's "concern for his junior Marines, his calmness in the face of battle, a spirit of self-sacrifice," and for "living a life of example."
Annette Amerman, branch head and historian for the Marine Corps History Division, told IBD that Daly's men "respected his abilities, they respected his courage, they respected that he wasn't going to let them down. It's simple, if you know your leader is going to be right there with you in the fight, and knows how to bring you through it, you'll follow."
His Legendary Charge
With two Medals of Honor to his credit, Daly wasn't done yet. After the U.S. entry into World War I in April 1917, the 44-year-old Daly was deployed in France.
On June 5, 1918, Daly risked his life to extinguish a fire in an ammunition dump at Lucy-le-Bocage, nicknamed "Lucy Birdcage" by the American Expeditionary Forces.
On June 10, 1918, following an unsuccessful attack against enemy positions in nearby Belleau Wood four days earlier, Daly, the acting 1st sergeant of 73rd Company, 6th Marines, was overseeing the employment of his heavy-machine-gun company. It was to be in support of another attack by the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, in the Battle of Belleau Wood, considered one of the key engagements of the war, and the first significant U.S. victory in that conflict.
The battalion became pinned down due to the withering fire of massed German machine guns on the outskirts of Lucy-le-Bocage. Daly and his men were badly outnumbered and outgunned.
Then, Daly acted. "Sensing the critical moment was rapidly approaching, Daly raised his rifle over his head and said `Come on, fellas, you want to live forever?' " Mooney said. "With that Daly charged off the hill where his guns were emplaced, followed by his company of 200 men. Like a magnet through iron filings, Marines in the wheat field joined him as he charged."
Then upon entering the wood, "Daly pulled his Colt automatic pistol and leapt into an enemy machine-gun emplacement unassisted and captured it by use of hand grenades and his automatic pistol," Mooney said.
Later that day, during a German counterattack on the town of Bouresches, Daly was brought in wounded under fire. He was also wounded the following October.
For his June exploits, Daly was recommended to receive another Medal of Honor, but that was rejected by AEF headquarters, where it was believed no one should receive three Medals of Honor, Mooney said.
Instead, Daly was given the Navy Cross. Its accompanying citation could also have described Daly's entire military career:
"For repeated deeds of heroism and great service."
Received the Medal of Honor twice and the Navy Cross once. Gave the famed battle cry of "Come on fellas, do you want to live forever."
Overcame: Being outnumbered and outgunned often.
Lesson: Tenacity develops courage under fire.
"If you're going through hell, keep going. Daly did." — Annette Amerman, branch head and historian for the Marine Corps History Division
Top advisors excel at listening. They crave information and love to learn about clients' lives.
XBut sometimes they learn too much.
It's great when clients open up about their money-related fears and concerns. And when they share their career goals, family dynamics and health scares, it can help advisors gain a better understanding of their overall situation.
Yet when clients get too personal, it makes some advisors antsy. Opening up about their religious or political views — or admitting marital infidelities or other indiscretions — can put advisors in a bind.
IBD'S TAKE:Not all financial advisors are experienced stock pickers or feel they need to be, but those who are can be of added service to well-heeled clients who are active in the stock market. See how you can strengthen your investing skills at investors.com.
"They may not have a psychiatrist, so we may be the next best thing," said Ryan Marshall, a certified financial planner in Wyckoff, N.J. "It can get uncomfortable as you think, 'I don't know how to handle going down this road.'"
Advisors apply different strategies for clients who disclose boatloads of irrelevant, private information. Some planners take it all in, listening attentively and staying silent.
Others pounce on the first opportunity to get back to business. While remaining polite and respectful, they will gently urge the client to stick to more pressing issues rather than veer off course.
For many advisors, the key is whether a client's over-disclosure has any bearing on their finances. When someone rants about politics or proselytizes about religion, that's far afield. But mention of, say, a possible divorce can impact one's long-term financial plan.
Compliance And Confidentiality
Rumblings of marital friction pose a particularly thorny challenge for advisors. Hearing intimate details about a couple's travails may lead advisors to want to cover their ears. But the gist of the conversation has relevance as they weigh the best financial moves to make in the client's best interest.
"It's a delicate balance," said Matt Cosgriff, a Minneapolis-based certified financial planner. "It's especially tricky if you have a couple signed up as the client and, in a pending divorce, one of them does not want the other to get access to an account."
In such situations, advisors must navigate among a thicket of compliance requirements and client confidentiality rules. Seeking guidance from a compliance expert or attorney can help.
For Cosgriff, careful preparation reduces the likelihood of clients engaging in unrelated, overly personal disclosure. He likes to distribute an agenda beforehand that outlines topics for discussion.
"Setting clear expectations at the beginning of the meeting and getting the client's buy-in" creates a more productive, structured session, he says. Individuals are less apt to raise inappropriate topics if they've acknowledged the importance of covering higher-priority items and extracting the most value from the advisor's time.
Advisors also try to find a tactful way to exert conversational control, without appearing insensitive or domineering. They know that interrupting clients who stray off-topic can be perceived as rude.
Stick To The Agenda
Cosgriff tries to dignify his clients' comments, even if they occasionally fall outside the scope of the agenda. Rather than cut them off, he might say, "Let's come back to that issue, maybe over lunch."
"Listening is our most important job," he said. "But it also comes back to an advisor's ability to manage a meeting and stay on task."
While few clients might take him up on his lunch offer, it signals that he's receptive to listening to them — in another setting.
"It's a way to recognize the validity of their viewpoint, particularly if it's personal and not part of the agenda," he said.
An agenda also serves as a silent reminder to stay on track. Cosgriff likes to kick off a meeting by asking, "What do you want to accomplish today?" He then incorporates the client's answer into the list of items to discuss.
"That way, if they veer off, we can bring them back" by referring to what they said they sought to achieve in the meeting, he says.
Like Cosgriff, Marshall drafts an agenda for client meetings and uses it to direct the dialogue. He highlights the printed agenda if they venture off track for too long.
Marshall recalls a divorcee who expressed anger about her former husband. Her feelings remained raw and she needed to vent.
When Marshall discovered that her ex-husband was still listed as a beneficiary on one of her retirement accounts, she urged him to change it right away. And that led to a mini-tirade as she reflected on her years of marriage.
"She started in with 'he did this' and 'he did that' and it got into too much information for me," Marshall said. "I assured her I'd get the change in beneficiary taken care of for her and added, 'Let's go to the next item on the agenda.'"
We all fail. But how do you overcome that to get back on track — and even rise above your previous level?
Here are some tips:
Take the long view. Don't overly fret when you hit an obstacle in your professional path.
"When you suffer a setback, it's a speed bump," Bill Treasurer, founder and "chief encouragement officer" at Asheville, N.C.-based courage-building company Giant Leap Consulting, told IBD. "Your career is a journey and you have to take a longer-term perspective."
Realize you're not alone. Recognize that failure happens to everyone. When asked what to say to someone who has faltered, Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle told Treasurer, "Good — and welcome to the club. Who are you not to have any setbacks?" It's how you respond that's key.
Make it a positive. Treat failure as a necessary step in ultimately achieving success. It's all about how you adapt.
"The bend in the road is not the end of the road, unless you fail to make the turn," said Eileen McDargh, "chief energy officer" at Dana Point, Calif.-based management consulting organization The Resiliency Group. "All failure, if positioned right, can be the next step to success."
Raise your expectations. Resiliency isn't just bouncing back from a failure, McDargh says. It's about growing through that misstep. The city of San Antonio was told in the 1990s that it would have to cut back on the amount of water it drew from an aquifer. Instead of trying something else to get back to its prior level, it decided to make itself the most water-efficient city around.
"You don't want to just go back to your previous state," McDargh said. "Grow through failure and you'll be wiser, happier or more profitable on the other side. Look at this as a growth step."
Let it out. Right after you suffer a failure — whether it's losing a job, getting passed over for a promotion or losing a vital client — start by sulking, Treasurer says. Let yourself feel terrible. It's natural.
"Purge all that negative emotionality so you can create a clean slate," Treasurer said. "If you ignore it, it's like pushing a beach ball underwater. It's going to come popping out somewhere else."
Lay out a plan. Once you've gotten the self-pity out of your system — "Make sure you're no longer emotionally inebriated," Treasurer said — it's time to figure out what's next. Talk to a coach or mentor. Write down what your contribution was to the situation. You can learn from it so you don't repeat the scenario.
"There's a saying, 'If you don't learn the lesson, you have to repeat the class,' " Treasurer said. "Capitalize on the lesson so it doesn't happen again."
Take responsibility. It's vital that leaders admit their own mistakes. That builds trust and makes others willing to face up to their failures. Then people can overcome those problems.
"When you as a leader are able to take responsibility when you screw up, imagine what that says to the people around you," McDargh said.
Practice. McDargh works with people to learn that growing through failure is a life skill, not just something you think about when trouble arises. She works with people ahead of time so they're ready to handle failure when it pops up. She calls it "pre-silience."
"It's pre-emptive resilience," she said. "It's like getting a booster shot or a flu shot."
Celebrate failure. Sara Blakely, founder of apparel maker Spanx, has told Treasurer when someone makes a mistake, especially if it leads to useful information, she gives them a high-five.
"Think about the last best mistake you made," Treasurer said. "Maybe an acquisition or a product failed. It takes two peaks to make a valley, but that valley is important."
Advisors are experts at money matters. So you'd think they'd have no trouble setting their fees — and communicating what they charge.
XYet some advisors struggle to educate clients about fees. Despite their best efforts, they may confuse clients with an assortment of charges.
Misunderstandings can arise if clients do not understand an advisor's fee structure. In rare cases, clients might terminate a relationship over what they deem to be exorbitant costs — or a perceived lack of value.
"The longer you've been in the business, the easier it gets to discuss fees," said Kyle Mast, a certified financial planner in Wilsonville, Ore. "Early on, I wasn't in the industry long enough to communicate all the value one gets from an advisor."
IBD'S TAKE:Not all financial advisors are experienced stock pickers or feel they need to be, but those who are can be of added service to well-heeled clients who are active in the stock market. See how you can strengthen your investing skills at investors.com.
Mast, 32, charged a percentage of assets under management in his first year running his own firm. When clients questioned his fee, he says he "found it hard to articulate the value I was providing."
Ultimately, Mast decided to overhaul his pricing. He started charging a monthly retainer. In addition, clients can choose whether to pay him a percentage of their assets for investment management — or handle their investment accounts on their own.
A Clear Price Tag
Mast posts his fees on his firm's website, emphasizing "fee-only transparency." He says the new approach has proved successful and clients appreciate the clear breakdown of charges.
In 2016, he raised his standard monthly retainer from $100 to $125 — and added a lower-cost second level to attract what he calls "the underserved middle class" who might otherwise forgo a financial planner's expertise. They pay a monthly rate of $40.
"It's good to have different fee levels," he said. "In my free introductory meeting, I suggest which level works for them based on my perception of the complexity of their situation."
Like Mast, Charles Malsbury provides a detailed rundown of his retainer fees on his website. A certified financial planner in Daly City, Calif., Malsbury used to work at a firm that charged a traditional 1% of assets under management.
"Even longtime clients didn't know how much they were paying," Malsbury recalled. "Every so often, they'd have to sign a (renewal) contract with us indicating the percentage they paid, and they'd start asking questions."
When Malsbury launched his own firm in 2016, he knew that robo-advisory firms promoted their low fees. So he says he calculated his costs and "backed into what I needed to make" to compete with virtual business models.
By clearly listing what's included in his retainer arrangement, Malsbury finds that clients gain peace of mind. They know they can pose questions on a range of financial issues, such as whether to buy or lease a car, without triggering an additional charge.
"I feel the trust level is higher because they see I'm the type of person who's not trying to hide my fees," he said. "Before a prospect contacts me, they know exactly what I'll charge. The feedback I get is they appreciate my honesty in having it all right there" on the website.
Advisors who serve a narrow niche of clients can estimate with relative ease how much time they'll need to devote to provide good service. But the process gets trickier if they wish to attract a broad swath of clients with wide-ranging needs.
Ryan McPherson, an Atlanta-based certified financial planner, launched his own firm earlier this year. Eager to hit the ground running, he welcomed all types of clients. But that meant finding a way to calibrate his fee to match their needs.
His solution? Complexity-based pricing in which he aligns his fee with the level of complexity his clients present.
When meeting prospects, he'll determine their marital status, number of dependents, employment (business owner or salaried?), and other variables before arriving at a fee. Individuals with simpler finances (single, all earnings generated from salary, no ex-spouses, etc.) pay less.
"When clients pay you directly, I find they're more engaged than if they pay a percentage of assets under management," he said. "By charging one fee for the entire arrangement, clients' attention tends to focus on the more holistic set of services I provide."
Scott Smith, a certified financial planner in Rochester Hills, Mich., also sets fees that reflect the complexity of a client's account. Individuals with high student loan debt, stock options or collectibles (such as art or cars) might incur a higher charge.
"I use a fee calculator and show it to the client," Smith said. "I calculate it based on a combination of their adjusted gross income and their net worth, adding anything out of the ordinary" to arrive at the final price.
John Paul DeJoria was the most improbable kid to become a billionaire.
His father abandoned the family when he was 2 and they barely had enough to eat, living in poor neighborhoods near downtown Los Angeles. He and his older brother had to stay in a foster home during the week while their mother worked. They bought scrap wood to build flower boxes that they sold to waitresses for 50 cents. The struggle gave him the determination to succeed against all odds.
In a recent documentary, " Good Fortune: The John Paul DeJoria Story," he talked about the time he was caught passing notes to Michelle Gilliam in a high school business class. Tired of their goofing off, the teacher announced that the two "would never amount to anything."
Michelle Gilliam became one quarter of the music group The Mamas and the Papas. DeJoria owns John Paul Mitchell Systems, the hair care products giant, and Patron Spirits, which has 82% of the world market for ultrapremium tequila. Worth an estimated $5 billion, according to Bloomberg, DeJoria spends more than half his time helping and elevating those in need.
"The principal message of the movie is that the rags-to-riches stories still work, no matter what the challenges are, and they work better if you can help other people along the way," DeJoria told IBD. "I hope entire families will watch this on iTunes or Amazon because people need to believe in themselves and many don't anymore. I'm giving this to every homeless center and high school I can."
DeJoria, 73, recounted in "Getting There: A Book of Mentors" by Gillian Zoe Segal, that his family was once down to 25 cents, but mom gave her boys a dime to put in the Salvation Army's holiday pot, exhorting them to remember that there will always be someone less fortunate they can help.
DeJoria sold Christmas cards door-to-door and got a paper route. When he graduated from L.A.'s John Marshall High School he didn't have good enough grades to get a college scholarship, he says, so he joined the Navy for two years.
A Lot Of Different Jobs
Returning, he married and had a son, but his wife left with their only good car. Within 24 hours, he found out that she hadn't been paying the rent and DeJoria and his son were evicted. Living out of his car, he began picking up soda bottles to recycle for two to five cents each. A friend in a biker gang invited him to live in one of his rooms, and while staying there DeJoria developed his lifelong love of motorcycles, which includes staging ride events to raise money for charities and to celebrate military veterans.
DeJoria says he'd tried a lot of different jobs, from janitor to tow truck driver, but the one that he learned the most from was selling encyclopedias door-to-door. Walking from morning to late night, he didn't get his first sale for a week and it was no wonder that most who tried this dropped out after a few days.
He stayed at it for 3-1/2 years.
"In sales, you need to be as enthusiastic when you talk with potential customer No. 100 as you were with the first one," DeJoria said.
At 26, he landed a job as circulation manager at Time ( TIME), but DeJoria says that when the boss told him he'd have to wait nine years to become a vice president because he didn't have a degree, he left. A friend tipped him to the potential in the booming beauty industry, and DeJoria got hired as a salesman at Redken. Within 18 months, he was national manager for two divisions, but he says that because he wouldn't socialize with executives and complained about their testing products on animals, he was fired.
DeJoria trained another firm's sales force, but again didn't fit in with the suits and was canned. As vice president of sales for a third firm, he says that he tripled its revenue in a year, but its CEO decided that he could have someone else get the same results for less pay.
John Paul Mitchell
In 1980, DeJoria met innovative hairdresser Paul Mitchell, who was having trouble launching a product line to salons, so DeJoria lined up an investor for $500,000, he recalls. The day the money was to arrive, DeJoria gave his wife all his cash and moved out, only to have the investor back out. DeJoria asked his mother for $350, without telling her that he was living out of his car again, and with Mitchell's $350, they ordered their first four John Paul Mitchell Systems products — with black-and-white bottles because they couldn't afford color.
DeJoria and his son were eating at restaurants with 99-cent specials until an actress whom he knew offered to let them stay in her home. Meanwhile, he was able to place the hair-care products by offering a money-back satisfaction guarantee.
DeJoria and Mitchell barely paid the bills for the next two years, but in the third their company's sales took off.
Women would normally go to their hairdressers once a week and not wash their hair in between visits to retain the style. DeJoria and Mitchell's company revolutionized hair care by offering salons innovative products that enabled customers to restyle their hair at home. They earned hairdressers' devotion by pledging that they would make their line exclusively available in salons, no matter how successful it became. John Paul Mitchell Systems runs over 100 schools to train hairdressers in the best ways to use the products.
"Only a hairdresser knows what product will work best to create your hairstyle," explained DeJoria.
Then in 1989, Mitchell died of cancer at 53 and some in the industry doubted that the company would last. But DeJoria took up the role of spokesman and it continued to grow, with it now bringing in $1 billion a year at the salon retail level from 103 countries.
Expanding The Empire, Sharing Success
DeJoria's personal life has also improved, with his marriage to Eloise Broady of Austin in 1993, and DeJoria says they are close to the six children from their combined marriages.
DeJoria's Patron Spirits sells more than 30 million bottles of ultrapremium tequila a year. He has branched out into other industries, such as Marquis Yachts in Pulaski, Wis., which builds luxury and sports vessels. Another is the ROK smartphone.
One of his smallest but most high-profile investments came about when he appeared as a guest investor on ABC's hit reality show "Shark Tank" in 2013. The other Sharks were skeptical about the profitability of Tree T-Pee, which makes water conservation products. DeJoria saw a chance to keep the price low enough to help tree farmers and still make money. Inventor Johnny Georges said in the documentary that he's learned more about business working with him than from everyone else put together.
"Even though J.P. is so busy and has so many businesses, it constantly amazes me that he always makes everyone in the room feel special and valued," said Jason Yates, VP of sales and marketing for John Paul Mitchell Systems.
"He's also a man of his word, so loyal to his staff, distributors, and customers that once he makes a commitment, he never wavers. People all around him trust him immensely, which strengthens his leadership even further."
But DeJoria says that his real passion is philanthropy. He currently supports over 100 nonprofits, including the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which tries to stop illegal whaling, and A Walk on Water, which has top surfers take special-needs children surfing to give them "the true stoke" of the sport "and a sense of accomplishment." Another favorite is SafePlace in Austin, Texas, where he and Eloise provide ongoing support for Eloise House, a clinic for survivors of sexual assault.
Co-founder of hairstyling products maker John Paul Mitchell Systems and owner of ultrapremium tequila leader Patron Spirits.
Overcame: Childhood poverty and later homelessness.
Lesson: Hard work, persistence, enthusiasm, and a smile can overcome any disadvantage.
"You don't want to be in the business of selling. You want to be in the business of reorders."
For starters, let's assume we're not talking about abusive bosses of the kind Harvey Weinstein's alleged to be. If you're ever in a situation even remotely as serious as the assaults he's been accused of, you need to report it immediately to your human resources department and/or get top-notch legal help.
That said, dealing with challenging bosses can help you learn how to cope with a range of difficult people and situations.
"It's the tough experiences in your career that make you stronger," said Karyn Schoenbart, author of " MOM B.A." and CEO of The NPD Group, a global provider of information and advisory services. "You learn more from bad experiences than good ones."
Consider the bad experiences you survive as "notches on your belt" on your way to a more "well-rounded career," Schoenbart added. "If everything were great all the time, you wouldn't learn coping skills."
Bonus: Having a variety of bosses and managers helps you decide what kind of manager you want to be eventually.
Micromanager vs. hands-off. Having a mentor supervisor guiding you every step of the way is a double-edge sword.
"Most people early on in their careers do very well with a nurturing boss who gives a lot of feedback and direction," Schoenbart said. "But that kind of boss can be stifling and not let you grow to your potential."
On the other hand, a completely absent manager can leave a new employee feeling rudderless. The silver lining in this situation is that you learn to make your own decisions and be responsible for the outcome.
Ideally, you work your way to a balanced relationship. One way to do this is to assess your situation and carefully plan a discussion with your boss.
"You want to be the best you can be in any situation," Schoenbart said. "Write down your talking points — and practice."
Come to an agreement about work expectations and roles, says Pamela Slim, a Mesa, Ariz.-based business coach. "Standards should be clearly defined to minimize micromanaging," she said. "Ask what is the best way to get feedback and set aside a time for it."
In the absence of direction, "create a plan on your own and check in to see if you're on the right track," Slim added. "Try to have a meeting. Email your request. Document your effort; this shows great initiative and gives you a foundation for having a discussion in the future."
If you still don't get feedback, talk to others on the management team for guidance or feedback. Figure out your boss's preferred method of communication. If they don't like email, maybe they want a quick text?
"Find out what you need to do when you really do need a reply," Slim said. "Work out an agreement that makes it clear that when your email subject line says 'URGENT' or 'decision needed by 5 p.m.,' a reply is truly needed."
The ladder-climber. When a boss takes credit for your success, find out what is motivating them to do it.
"Maybe they are more scared than overly ambitious," Slim said. "What has their journey been and what is their vision?"
Talk with people who have worked with that person before, Slim says. The boss's actions could be based on insecurity and fear. The way to handle this is to "do things that make them look good and still get credit."
To protect yourself, copy others on emails with your ideas, when appropriate, Slim adds.
Know when to fold. When you've done all you can to deal with your boss's bad behavior, it's time to make more drastic changes. Leaving the company really should be a last resort, however, especially if you enjoy other co-workers and believe in the company's products or services.
Consider first if you can quit your boss but not your company. Network with others at work. Volunteer to pitch in on projects with other managers. Go above and beyond to buddy up with other employees, Schoenbart says.
"You don't want to become disgruntled or a bad egg; that's a career-killer," she said. "Let people know you are dedicated, but it's just an issue with this particular manager."
Tucked away in a factory in Brooklyn, the brothers Ben and Nat Cooper helped transform Halloween into a magical event for generations of "trick-or-treaters" by making costumes fashioned after the hottest pop culture characters of their time.
Batman, Darth Vader, Superman, Spider-Man, Six Million Dollar Man, Mickey Mouse. Name the popular superhero, comic book, cartoon or TV character and the brothers' iconic company, Ben Cooper Inc., likely had the license to produce a costume based on that character.
Every year, the brothers brought Halloween to millions of kids, who wore their vinyl masks and plastic costumes adorned with characters' names and action scenes.
From their humble beginnings acquiring the license to produce costumes based on Mickey Mouse from what is now Walt Disney ( DIS) in 1937, the brothers saw the licensing of pop-culture icons as a powerful marketing tool and opportunity to gain an edge over their rivals.
With their licensing model, which was innovative at the time, the brothers helped create a new era in Halloween costuming and a booming business.
Thanks to the brothers' constant innovation in manufacturing and design, a knack for staying one step ahead of the next pop-culture trend, and a business model that catered to retailers and consumers with high-quality products that were affordable to the mass market, Ben Cooper Inc. became the market leader — and claimed that it controlled as much as 80% of the character-costume segment.
The family-owned-and-operated company dominated the Halloween costume market in terms of shelf space and total dollars for 55 years, Ira J. Cooper, Nat Cooper's son, told IBD.
Cooper, who worked in the family business in various capacities, says it's difficult to "pin down" the brothers' keys to dominating the market for so long.
"One reason is they were highly ethical," he said. "It was imbued in them to never be unfair to anybody. They didn't make deals that disadvantaged someone else, and they paid people more than minimum wage. Nat would always say, 'We don't swindle anybody.' ... They lived by that ethic."
The brothers shared a business philosophy that was key to their staying competitive, said Ira J. Cooper: "Give your customers what they want and then 2% better, whether it was a department store or five-and-dime. It was Ben and Nat's philosophy to give them what they wanted and to give them a little better quality. So when the consumer handles the product they can see the difference between you and the competition."
The brothers started their Halloween costume business in 1937 after reevaluating what they were doing previously, which was making theater costumes. "My dad would talk about the fact that one of the frustrations he had was they were making theater costumes one at a time," Cooper recalled. "Everything was piecework."
The cost of doing "garment-quality" piecework and theater-costume-quality designs in the very early days was one factor that led them to assess other business options and mass production, Ira J. Cooper said.
Several changes were occurring in the market that motivated them to move into the consumer costume market and licensing. Companies were making children's "dress-up" and Mickey Mouse was gaining in popularity as a choice for dress-up.
"So there was the idea that there's a costume market out there they could get involved in and Mickey Mouse became the vehicle," Cooper said. "They eventually got the license for Mickey Mouse and other emerging Disney characters, which became the seed that grew the business.
"The question was: Can you make something that was more accessible to more people? That's where they saw the potential."
The answer lay in the manufacturing process and creating more efficiencies. They saw efficiencies in the mechanization of sewing, which would serve them well in making larger volumes of ready-to-wear merchandise for department stores, which were expanding at the time.
"The genius of the Cooper brothers is they were able to mass-market the costumes based on their knowledge of working in vaudeville for so many years," said Jon Miller, who co-owns a new entity called Ben Cooper LLC with Ira J. Cooper. "With their experience in fabrication they built a model where they could secure a license cheaply and fabricate the costume at such a low price point — parents couldn't deny their kids the costume."
They mechanized the way they made masks by using vacuum forming vs. making masks from stiff cloth known as buckram, which was a handmade operation. This way, they were able to make 100 masks from vacuum forming vs. one buckram mask, Cooper says. And by decorating costumes using silk-screening, he adds, they were able to move a lot more merchandise than if everything was embroidered.
Cooper says that by speeding up the manufacturing process and making it more efficient, they were able to supply a bigger retail base.
"They were retail- and customer-driven," said Cooper. "If there were more costumes to ship in a shorter time, that drove the design and manufacturing process."
They were focused on serving the broadest market by appealing to consumers with affordable products that stood out. That's where licensing came in. At first, it was only Mickey Mouse that had "mass appeal," says Cooper. "But it seems they were on the trail of the other (Disney) characters right away," he added.
Cooper says that while he doesn't know the costume-production dates for the title character in "Snow White," a film which came along in January 1938, there was reason to produce the other characters very fast. A Donald Duck costume came out between the appearances of Mickey Mouse and Snow White. So the "franchise" was growing.
"Once they saw the power of Mickey Mouse and then they saw Snow White as another Disney character license, they knew that licensing was going to be a powerhouse," Cooper added.
"In my estimation the secret to their success was the licensing," said Miller. "Nat and Ben had a knack for identifying trends in pop culture before they became trends. The Disney characters licensing was genius. Once that hit with kids, it was off to the races with anything and everything."
In the years to follow, their licensed characters ranged from classic movie monsters like Frankenstein and the Wolf Man to superheroes such as Green Lantern and Flash, as well as cartoon characters like Huckleberry Hound, and even the Beatles.
"Ben and Nat were arbiters of pop culture," said Miller. "They kept their eyes on what was popping — anything to do with kids. They secured the Batman character license from DC Comics when the character was on its last legs in 1964. But somehow they were producing costumes at the time Adam West started to play Batman on TV (in 1966).
"So suddenly they were ahead of the pop-culture trends again. They did this over and over."
In early 1977 they scored another major coup by acquiring the license to produce character costumes based on a then-unknown, yet-to-be-released movie called "Star Wars."
Born on Manhattan's Lower East Side, Ben Cooper (1907-1984) and Nat Cooper (1912-1996) were first-generation Americans of a Jewish-immigrant family. Their background influenced them in that their parents gave them the freedom to do something different, says Cooper.
Ben was "naturally artistic" and Nat was an "intellectual," says Cooper. So they had a combination of skills as business partners.
They learned about entrepreneurship and leadership as they watched their father grow a business from one bakery to a well-known restaurant. "He had this way of giving customers what they wanted. He ran a restaurant for the common man," said Cooper.
The brothers each had a distinct leadership style, but they both had the same ethics, he says, though Nat was more "strategic."
"And dealing with people, he held cards more closely to his vest," said Cooper. "He was circumspect."
"Ben had an aura of joy around him," he added. "He was a beloved kind of a person. They worked well as a team because they left each other alone in their expertise and they came together to fulfill each other's needs. And they traded off each other's needs."
Along with their genius for licensing and manufacturing, the brothers were innovative in their approach to the business on other fronts, as well. Having "pioneered" the plastic costume, says Cooper, theirs was also the first Halloween costume company to outsource overseas — to Asia.
Outsourcing was "imperative to give the growing discount chains what they demand," he said.
"There was a constant desire to find a way to make manufacturing more efficient and make higher-quality items at close to the same price," said Cooper.
For example, if the competition had three colors in a costume, Ben Cooper's costume would have five. It also used a plastic glitter after coming up with a process to make it to stick to a costume.
But the company's reign was not without challenges.
"A large obstacle was rampant anti-Semitism in post-World War II in America," said Miller. "The Coopers overcame that by being professional and market leaders. They had good relations with Kresge's stores back in the day (a discount chain that existed from 1867 to 1966) and (getting) the 'Star Wars' license in 1977 was a huge turning point."
The company's dominance in the market ended in the 1990s upon a second bankruptcy. The company suffered from financial problems due to increasingly intense competition, a fire at a facility in Georgia, changing tastes for Halloween costumes and management issues under a second generation of leaders.
"The company still dominated the market even when operating under Chapter 11 (their first bankruptcy) and until a few years before the second bankruptcy," said Cooper.
It filed for the second bankruptcy in 1992 and a year or so later rival Rubie's Costume bought Ben Cooper Inc. and absorbed the licenses, but did not continue with the brand itself.
"Rubie's recognized adults and teens were willing to pay a higher price point for quality, but Ben Cooper Inc. was at a lower price point," Ira J. Cooper said.
But the iconic brand, whose vintage costumes are very collectible, is poised to live on in a different form in Ben Cooper LLC.
"With Ben Cooper LLC, Ira J. Cooper is taking his cue from his dad and uncle's famous Halloween line and taking it into a different area of fashion and design," said Miller.
Cooper says it was Miller's "vision" to bring it back, adding that Miller saw the potential because he is also a fan.
The collection is fashion based — be it "fashion is retro art" on T-shirts or retro art applied to ready-to-wear and accessories, says Cooper. The collection, which is being introduced on an ongoing basis, includes fashion, home decor and novelty items both by "us and by those we license whose lines and sense of style match our vision," said Cooper.
He says they do not plan to make Halloween costumes and masks, per se. But there might be "ready-to-wear" items that could be used in conjunction with "cosplay," which mixes costuming with play.
Ben And Nat Cooper's Keys
Their company dominated the Halloween costume market in terms of shelf space and total dollars for 55 years.
Overcame their competition and positioned themselves to gain the premier product-licensing deals.
Lesson: Exceed customers' expectations.
"You have to pay a fair price for what you buy from others, including labor, and charge a fair price for what you sell," said Nat Cooper, as quoted by Ira J. Cooper.
Clients often say they learn so much from their advisor. But sometimes, the reverse occurs.
XWhen advisors gain wisdom from their clients, it tends to stick. Many financial planners can cite lessons they've taken away from a client whose offhand comment left a lasting mark.
Learning from clients requires attentive listening. By letting them steer the conversation — from raising questions to expressing their emotions to making random observations — you come away with a heightened understanding of how they see things.
Their outlook can prove refreshing and even enlightening. Occasionally, their comments can shake an advisor's deeply held assumptions about money — and life in general.
IBD'S TAKE:Not all financial advisors are experienced stock pickers or feel they need to be, but those that are can be of added service to well-heeled clients who are active in the stock market. See how you can strengthen your investing skills at investors.com.
Powerful lessons emerge from volatile times. In late 2008, for example, Jeff Snodgrass sought to rebalance client portfolios as stocks plunged in value.
An advisor in Du Quoin, Ill., Snodgrass recalls the anxiety that many clients felt as their wealth decreased. But one client, a retiree in his 60s, saw a silver lining as Snodgrass diligently sold fixed income to buy equities on the cheap.
"This is so painful," he told Snodgrass. "But at least I now own more shares of stock funds than I did before all of this mess."
Snodgrass realized that even though the market was in free fall, his client took solace from owning more shares in equity mutual funds. Choosing to focus on a long-term positive — the increase in his share holdings — improved his attitude.
"He knew the market would come back," Snodgrass said. "And knowing we were buying more shares to increase his equity allocation gave him peace and the fortitude to wait for the market to bounce back."
Thanks to his levelheaded client, Snodgrass realized that once clients see that they are accumulating more shares at bargain prices, it takes some of the sting out of a steep market decline.
"He was thinking it through rather than just reacting emotionally," Snodgrass said.
In addition to learning lessons from clients about principles of investing, advisors sometimes gain insights on how to live a fuller life from the people they serve.
Jessica Iorio, a New York City-based advisor, counts many millennials as clients. She emphasizes the importance of achieving financial goals in a disciplined manner — and avoiding unnecessarily extravagant spending.
Rather than lecture people to spend less, Iorio cites a case study featuring one of her early clients, an up-and-coming actor then in his 20s. Over a two-month period, this actor lived in his car in the New York City area while racing to as many auditions as he could.
"He'd stop at a friend's house to shower and clean up," she recalled. "But he didn't want to impose on people, and he wanted to be able to get to every audition."
Even though he lacked sizable assets, he became Iorio's client during that time because he impressed her with his long-term focus on goal attainment. And she figured his assets would grow in the coming years, which is exactly what's happened as his career has taken off.
An Inspiring Comment
For Iorio, the lesson she learned from this client is the role frugality plays in opening career doors. Undergoing a short period of austerity helped him survive on limited funds so that he could pursue his dream of becoming an actor.
"He has helped me tell a story to a younger generation that gets them more comfortable living within their means," she said. "When he walked in, he didn't know he'd ever be able to invest. But now I can say, 'Because you make the right decision at 25, you can be better off at 35 or 45.'"
In rare cases, advisors gain life lessons from their clients that transcend money matters. That's what happened to Mark Wilson.
A certified financial planner in Irvine, Calif., Wilson fondly recalls an introductory meeting with a prospective client about 17 years ago. Wilson was moved as the prospect mentioned that his daughter bravely battled multiple sclerosis on a daily basis.
"My daughter was chosen because she's the only one in our family who could handle this with such strength," the father told Wilson.
Struck by the father's positive attitude, Wilson never forgot that comment. In fact, it inspired Wilson three years later when his 5-year-old son was diagnosed with diabetes.
"That father's positive attitude jumped immediately into my mind," Wilson said. "And it has been strangely comforting to me over the last 13 years. Life throws us all curveballs. I think of this father who refused to be woe-is-me or a victim in his own mind."
Keep your business fresh by taking advantage of — and even creating — opportunities to make every day an event.
For example, Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland says they target and tie seasonal and cultural opportunities into their marketing plan.
Tips to adapt to and adopt:
Create new experiences. This past summer the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame offered 60 days of live music and opened "The Power of Rock Experience," which takes fans inside the last 30 years of induction ceremonies as told by the late Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme. It also launched retrospectives on the 50-year anniversaries of Rolling Stone magazine and the Summer of Love.
Harris says his team works to keep the Rock Hall experience fresh by focusing on cultural relevancy. He's found that's a formula for attracting visitors and turning them into repeat ones.
Transform. While the Disney ( DIS) theme parks are unique, their approach to holidays might be worth imitating.
As Halloween approaches, the Disneyland Resort not only goes all-in with character-themed pumpkins throughout the Disneyland Park, and Halloween-themed merchandise in its window displays, but some of the attractions transform too.
The Haunted Mansion becomes Haunted Mansion Holiday. Space Mountain becomes Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy. And California Adventure's Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout! becomes Guardians of the Galaxy — Monsters After Dark.
Dave Caranci, manager of creative development at Walt Disney Imagineering, shaped the seasonal makeover at Disney California Adventure this year, the first in which Halloween Time was extended to that part of the resort.
Caranci says that besides celebrating the holiday, it's incorporated a story into the experience. "As you walk into Cars Land, it's an immersive experience for Halloween, and then there are lots of surprises, so you've got to look around every corner."
The experience extends to the menu, where park chefs have created Halloween-theme treats, says Michele Himmelberg of Disneyland Resort public relations.
Leave lasting impressions. The Rock Hall has experienced its biggest transformation in its 21-year history and what they've learned from that, Harris says, is that people respond best when their visit feels like an event or a festival.
Among the ways they do that is through live bands on stages and memorable signage such as the 7-foot-tall letters in their plaza that spell "Long Live Rock."
The Rock Hall also provides exclusive film showings and music education classes for children as a way to engage guests and prompt return visits.
Reach consumers. Take your guests on a journey. "The best brand experiences are structured deliberately, like a novel or a play," says Christian Lachel, executive creative director at BRC Imagination Arts, an agency that creates guest experiences for brands and cultural attractions.
"Destinations remain relevant and attract repeat visitors when they take guests on an emotional journey," he says. "Compel people to think and feel, and they'll come back time after time."
Create theater. Become dynamic and alive.
Lachel says that at the Jameson Distillery Bow St. in Dublin, Ireland, guests can get the Whiskey Makers experience, a "master class" in the making of Jameson's spirits in which guests "engage in sensory nosing, tasting and blending activities that barrelmen have been doing for centuries."
Connect and bond. Doing so is an incredibly powerful driver of fan engagement and loyalty, Lachel said. "When creating a brand experience, it's important to orchestrate opportunities for guests to interact with the staff and each other — whether it's sharing a communal toast over a pint at the Guinness Storehouse or being overwhelmed with pride alongside other music fans at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame."
He says those moments "make brand experiences unforgettable and keep people coming back for more."
For some advisors, picking a name for their firm is a fun, creative exercise. For others, it's a stressful slog.
XThere's no single roadmap that advisors can follow to come up with the perfect name. Some hire marketing consultants to help them forge a brand identity. Others start with a logo and then devise a name that complements the image. In rare cases, advisors simply stumble upon a word or phrase that resonates with them.
Choosing a name works best when advisors begin with a clear goal in mind. Usually, they want to differentiate their business and convey lofty concepts from fulfillment to stability to wisdom.
The task is often a double-edged sword for advisors. If they take the easy path and use their own name ("Smith Wealth Management"), they may miss a chance to attract clients with an evocative or intriguing moniker. But if they select a name that's too confusing or obscure, they can distance themselves from the very people they're trying to win over.
IBD'S TAKE:Not all financial advisors are experienced stock pickers or feel they need to be, but those that are can be of added service to well-heeled clients who are active in the stock market. See how you can strengthen your investing skills at investors.com.
"I don't know if a name always accomplishes what an advisor thinks it does," said David Nash, a certified financial planner in San Antonio, Texas. A name that strikes one person as clever can leave others befuddled and unsure what to think.
Like many advisors, Nash enlisted a branding specialist to guide the process. After defining Nash's brand differentiation, they drafted a list of 10 possible names. Nash narrowed it down to five finalists.
From that point, they each chose their top three. When they compared notes, they found that they agreed on their favorite: Magister Wealth. Magister means teacher in Latin, and Nash wanted to emphasize his role in educating clients.
A Relaxing Image
Nash, who started his firm in 2014, sought a name that would connect with clients of all ages.
"Older clients want an advisor who's really current," he said. "For younger clients, they might also look for the coolness factor."
He acknowledges that some clients don't readily understand the origin of the firm's name, but they eventually catch on. And he likes that the name "has a permanence and can grow with me over the years."
Nash isn't the only advisor to admit that a name may not make sense to everyone — at least at first. But sometimes, the a-ha moment can prove so enticing that it's hard to resist picking an initially cryptic name.
Igor Tiguy notes that his firm's co-founder, Dave Clayman, chose Twelve Points as a tribute to the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law. Once people realize the meaning behind the name — and how it connotes trustworthiness — the payoff is worth it for the Concord, Mass.-based firm.
While some names offer an intellectual appeal, others are more visually alluring. Advisors may prefer to paint a picture of what they hope to achieve for their clients.
In 2013, Eric Roberge chose Beyond Your Hammock for his Boston-based firm's name. He liked the image of a hammock dangling between two trees as a symbol for how he'd assist clients in enjoying relaxation from their hard work.
"I also love the word 'beyond' because it makes me think outside societal norms," he said. "Within the madness of crowds is no place to plan your financial future."
In some cases, the search for a name can take on a life of its own. What begins as a simple brainstorming session can turn into a protracted process.
Randy Bruns and his two colleagues have spent 13 months exploring a new name for their firm in Downers Grove, Ill. They selected a logo — an image of a tree's underground root system — but have not yet settled on a name that goes with it.
A certified financial planner, Bruns seeks to avoid what he deems "overused" words such as "arbor", "compass" and "lighthouse." Unable to find the right name after soliciting advice from clients, industry contacts and other advisors, he wound up staging an online contest at SquadHelp.com.
Despite receiving 222 submissions from around the world during the one-week competition, Bruns remains unsure how to proceed. He awarded the prize — $150 — to a woman who suggested "Wealth Root," but Bruns does not intend to use it.
"We're dragging our feet because I'm a perfectionist," he said with a laugh. "I'd love it if we found a name. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy" the search.
Part of the problem, Bruns admits, involves the high bar he has set. Plus, he and his colleagues have considered many viable choices that are already taken.
Ulysses S. Grant's rank among American heroes rivaled Lincoln's while he lived, but after the Civil War general and 18th president died in 1885 his reputation declined.
Grant had experienced great adversity during his life, much of it spent as a failed businessman and an alcoholic who suffered from many illnesses — and after leaving public life that adversity continued until his death.
And even though Grant had led the Union to victory on the battlefield, he was criticized as needlessly sacrificing soldiers in bloody assaults. Then, after becoming president four years after the war's end, he was faulted for leading an administration rife with corruption.
But after long being regarded by many historians as one of America's worst presidents, some have recently restored Grant to greatness — not only for victory in the Civil War, but in preserving its result.
"However brilliant Robert E. Lee was as a tactician, Grant surpassed him in grand strategy, crafting the plan that defeated the Confederacy," Ron Chernow, author of the new biography " Grant," told IBD. "He was the single most important figure behind the Reconstruction process in the South and presided over the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave blacks the right to vote, and landmark civil rights legislation outlawing discrimination in public accommodation. The imperishable story of Grant's presidency was his campaign to crush the Ku Klux Klan, which tried to overturn the Civil War's outcome and restore the prior status quo."
Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, in 1822 to a tanner and his wife. As a boy, he developed remarkable skills in handling horses, which would serve him as a soldier.
He was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point despite a lack of enthusiasm for a military career and academics. He graduated as a brevet second lieutenant in 1843, ranked 21 out of 39, but he planned to resign his commission after four years, hoping to become a teacher. At his first assignment in St. Louis, he met Julia Dent and they married, but his family refused to attend the wedding because the Dents owned slaves.
In 1846, Grant fought in the Mexican-American War under major generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, who became his role models. In the course of the war, Grant demonstrated courage and innovative thinking and decided to remain with the Army. But as he was posted around the country, he needed to supplement his military salary and tried several ventures which failed. In 1860, he accepted a position at his father's leather goods store in Galena, Ill., and paid off his debts.
Confronting The Enemy
After the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, Southern states began to secede from the U.S. and form the Confederate States of America. Grant raised a company of volunteers to fight for the Union and was soon promoted to brigadier general.
The Union's first major victory came in February 1862, when Grant's forces captured 13,000 Confederates at Fort Donelson, Tenn. But although he held off a rebel attack at Shiloh in April, the battle's high number of casualties aided his political enemies in having him relieved of field command. Lincoln, however, was impressed by Grant's willingness to confront the enemy and in July, Grant was back on the front lines to successfully defend Corinth, Miss.
The Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Miss., with seven miles of big guns along a 200-foot-high cliff overlooking a bend in the Mississippi River, kept Union vessels from using the waterway. Union General-in-Chief Henry Halleck told Grant that its capture "would be worth 40 Richmonds."
Grant prepared to march 40,000 men south to Vicksburg in November 1862, while Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman was to sail down the river with another 32,000. But everything went wrong, as raiders stole supplies and cut communications between the commanders, assaults on the fortification were repulsed, there was endless rain, and disease spread.
Grant was undaunted and came up with a daring scheme in April 1863. A group of fast Union vessels loaded up with troops was able to get past the rebel guns at night and then downstream, where it took the attackers to the eastern side, from which Vicksburg was more vulnerable. The Union force lived off the land, battled enemy armies, and put the rebel fortress under siege until July 4, the day after the Union victory at Gettysburg, when it surrendered, cutting the Confederacy in two.
"The campaign for Vicksburg was the most impressive military operation on American soil," wrote Grant biographer Ronald C. White in " American Ulysses." "In 17 days, Grant led his hard-marching army 130 miles and won five victories against surprised opponents. Grant put in place a psychology of behavior that the army that would be victorious would never dwell on past mistakes, never wallow in its wounds, never pause to refresh and refit. … The Confederate forces were as large, but he was determined to fight their divisions separately and never let them combine. His battle plan would be studied in 1986 in an Army Operations Field Manual, stating that the characteristics of a modern Air-Land Battle should be 'surprise, concentration, speed, flexibility, and audacity.' "
Lincoln promoted Grant to major general soon after, and Grant masterminded another key victory — taking the railway hub of Chattanooga, Tenn., in August. He was given charge of all Union forces and the rank of lieutenant general in March 1864, and began a relentless campaign two months later against the South's general-in-chief, Lee, and Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Lee's surrender to Grant in April 1865 effectively ended the war.
Facing Fierce Resentment
Grant entered his first term as a Republican president in 1869 facing not only fierce resentment in the Democratic South, but the need to implement Reconstruction policies to enforce African American rights and reform state governments. He generally sided with the Radical Republicans, who desired aggressive action, while Southern leaders resisted any change. Despite these obstacles, Alvin Felzenberg, author of " The Leaders We Deserved and a Few We Didn't — Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game," puts Grant in seventh place, tied with Truman, Kennedy and McKinley. Only Grant, Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson earn the top score for preserving and extending liberty.
"Grant had to cope with a complete collapse of evenhanded law enforcement in the erstwhile Confederate states," Chernow argues in "Grant."
"Grant actively worked to have the Fifteenth Amendment for universal male suffrage ratified during his first year in office, to enforce that and the Fourteenth, which made former slaves citizens, and worked with Congress to establish the Department of Justice," said Felzenberg. "When white vigilantes used terrorism and intimidation to keep likely Republican voters away from polls in the South, Grant sent federal troops to arrest the leaders and police elections. Despite brutal intimidation, federal officials won 600 convictions."
"By 1872 the monster had been slain," Chernow writes of the Klan's defeat, "although its spirit resurfaced as the nation retreated from Reconstruction's lofty aims."
Still, the Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. poll of presidential historians that ran in Life magazine in 1948 put Harding and Grant in last place, where Grant stayed until recently.
"So-called political reformers depicted Reconstruction as the means through which Northern bosses might perpetuate their power southward," explained Felzenberg, "while historians sympathetic to the Confederacy's view of the war as a noble cause for states' rights depicted the end of Reconstruction as a milestone in the restoration of white 'liberties.' "
Though not generally viewed as a skilled politician, Grant was re-elected for a second term in 1872 despite many Republicans having turned against black suffrage, thus becoming "the only president to serve two full consecutive terms between Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson," writes Chernow.
His critics revived rumors that he had been drunk during much of his career (though most historians agree that drinking never affected his judgment). There was an economic panic in 1873, and the next year the Democratic Party took control of the House of Representatives and launched investigations into allegations of corruption in his administration, though Grant himself was considered above reproach.
"While scandals unquestionably sullied his presidency," Chernow says in the new biography, "they eclipsed a far more notable achievement — safeguarding the civil rights of African Americans."
In retirement, Grant entrusted his savings to someone who stole everything through fraud. Penniless, Grant wanted only to leave something for his wife, having been diagnosed with cancer of the throat and tongue and plagued with other health problems. Hating the bragging that was the hallmark of Civil War memoirs, he'd resisted writing his own until Mark Twain made a generous offer to publish them. Working night and day in constant pain, Grant wrote 336,000 words to fill two volumes, finishing the work just days before his death. " Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant" is considered not only the greatest of all presidential autobiographies, but a literary masterpiece. Over 300,000 copies sold, paying a royalty of $450,000 (equivalent to $11.4 million today).
"In the long run every great nation instinctively recognizes the men who peculiarly and pre-eminently represent its own type of greatness," said Theodore Roosevelt on a visit to Galena. "... As through the clearing air we look back with keener wisdom into the nation's past, mightiest among the mighty dead loom the three great figures of Washington, Lincoln, and Grant."
He won the Civil War as the North's supreme commander and as president enforced African-American civil rights.
Overcame: Personal failure in business to resume a military career at his country's greatest moment of crisis, and as president subdued the Ku Klux Klan.
Lesson: A big challenge requires relentless focus on the ultimate goal.
"If men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail."
Study after study shows that Americans waste countless hours in meetings. But we continue to strategize, dissect problems and give status updates — in overlong, aimless gatherings.
If you're going to host a meeting, how can you stay on track? It starts by knowing your goal — and then devising a roadmap to get there.
To lead a highly focused, goal-driven meeting:
Calculate the payback. Before convening a meeting, identify what's to gain. Weigh the investment of time and energy for everyone involved against the probable benefit or measurable output of assembling a group.
"Don't take people away from their jobs if the meeting is not likely to produce a return on investment (ROI)," said Eli Mina, a board-effectiveness consultant in Vancouver, Canada. "With many meetings, there's no sense of purpose and no ROI."
Tie macro to micro. When you set the proper context for a meeting, participants are better able to focus on what matters most. They understand the stakes and what you expect from them.
To establish context, convey the big picture. Examples include the competitive forces shaping your industry, your organization's long-term mission, or how social, economic or political trends might shape your business.
Then shift to the details of the meeting. Use phrases such as, "Given the larger changes affecting our industry, what we can accomplish here today is … ."
"It's important to begin with the macro," said Mina, author of " 101 Boardroom Problems and How to Solve Them." "It takes 30 seconds to summarize the big picture, to say, 'We're in year one of our five-year mission.' Then address the micro: What are we doing here today?"
Number your priorities. Let everyone know in advance what you want to achieve in the meeting. Publicize your priorities so that there's no ambiguity among attendees about what comes first and what outcomes matter most.
If ancillary issues arise, set aside such topics for another meeting or invite relevant parties to pursue those subjects on their own.
"You want to separate the green bananas from higher-priority, backbone issues in which the group is ready for discussion and decision-making," Mina said.
Leave time for debate. If you're a stickler for short meetings, you might reach your goal but miss valuable group input. Reserve sufficient time for all participants to recommend a course of action — or share their experience and expertise.
"If you just have a half-hour, don't overpack that half-hour," Mina said. "Allow available knowledge to flow from everyone so that you can make good decisions."
Move experts in and out. To advance toward the goal while maximizing everyone's presence, invite key people to arrive at a specified time for a specified purpose. That way, they can contribute their insights, learn from the group and then leave.
"Keep everyone engaged by having them be there only when they need to be there," said Dennis Collins, senior director of marketing at West's Unified Communications Services, a unit of West Corp. ( WSTC). "Let accounting or marketing come in and out at certain points as needed."
Take the group's pulse. To stay on track, periodically ask, "Are we addressing our top priorities?" or "Are we moving toward our goal?"
Collins cites an executive at his company who randomly asks attendees, "What's your takeaway so far?"
Peppering the group with such questions in the midst of the meeting keeps everyone on their toes, Collins says. It also serves as an alert system if you're veering off course.
Led by tech innovators like Betterment, SigFig and Wealthfront, the more than 200 current U.S. robo-advisors in existence collectively boast some $53 billion in assets under management, with global robo assets poised to surpass $2.2 trillion by 2020. With such explosive growth in this space, many traditional full-service financial advisors feel compelled to beat their drums louder, when meeting prospects and onboarding new clients.
XOften referred to as "digital advice", robo technology offers do-it-yourself investors a cheaper way to build, monitor and rebalance portfolios, using algorithmic programming to attain low-cost products through mobile and web-based platforms. And as more people grow accustomed to the instant gratification of ride-sharing apps like Lyft, and e-tailers like Amazon, they likewise crave the quick and easy investment advice robo technologies can provide.
But traditionalists like Elliot Weissbluth, founder and CEO of Chicago-based registered investment advisor HighTower Advisors, aren't shy about reinforcing the virtues of human interaction.
"First of all, the term 'digital advice' is oxymoronic, because by definition, advice has to involve some kind of human component, " saidWeissbluth. "No software in the world can pick up on the furrowed brow of client who just lost his job, and guide him through the financial repercussions of a crisis in an otherwise stable market."
Same Tool Kit
That's not to say Weissbluth shuns the use of automated technology, altogether. In fact, he zealously points out that advisors have been using proprietary technology similar to robo platforms for years.
"Robo technology fundamentally uses the same tool kit that every financial advisor, custodian and wirehouse in the entire industry has been using for decades," Weissbluth asserted. "A cute little app on your phone may seem like a sexier presentation, but the technology behind it isn't unique or novel."
But not all advisors are as unimpressed by robo tech. Stephen Rischall, co-founder of Los Angeles-based advisory firm 1080 Financial Group, believes robo technology can augment his role as an investment advisor, by complementing the software he already uses, rather than competing with it.
"I'm an advisor who embraces what the robos are doing," Rischall said. "The key is blending personal service with smart technology."
And by combining robo technology with his existing software for client relationship management, Rischall says he's better equipped to track data that's specific to a given client's finances. For example, automated computerized triggers remind him to make sure his clients over 70-1/2 take their required minimum distributions.
Robo pioneer Bo Lu, the co-founder and CEO of the digital platform FutureAdvisor, says he created the technology with exactly those types of B2B applications in mind.
"A person-to-person conversation is still a better way to handle moments of crisis — in the markets or in a person's life. But digital advice technology can help with portfolio optimization, tax-aware asset placement and tax-loss harvesting on a daily, hourly, and minute-by-minute basis," said Lu.
"If an investor needs liquidity for an emergency purchase, tax-loss optimization mathematics will help achieve a cash raid with the least impact on the client's overall asset allocation, and with the lowest tax bill," Lu added. "The software allows advisors to scale their attention when it comes to managing portfolios, because it's not efficient for a human to be doing these calculations on a spreadsheet."
Despite the robo phenomenon, studies show that most individuals still value human interaction over technology. According to a survey conducted by online student loan marketplace LendEDU, 46.41% of millennials are working with a financial advisor, while only 24.30% have used a robo-advisor.
Furthermore, of the three-quarters of millennials who have yet to take the robo plunge, 61.58% say they're reluctant to do so because they've never heard of robo-advisors, suggesting that general awareness still has a way to go. Finally, 68.92% of those polled said they believe financial advisors are more likely to yield greater returns on their investments.
Rischall has observed this firsthand, noting: "I've had millennials come in and say, 'I've tried Betterment or Wealthfront online, and I feel better talking to a person about my situation.' " But Rischall hastens to add that investors who are determined to take the DIY investment route should opt for pure-play robo advice, rather than attempt to go it alone. "A robo is better than randomly picking a handful of stocks and hoping they do well."
Regardless of how popular robo platforms become, Rischall has no fears of his own obsolescence.
"The most relevant example we can draw from in recent history is the accounting industry," says Rischall. "Accountants haven't gone out of business after people began doing their own tax returns with TurboTax and other software, and I don't see robos threatening my business. We're embracing the technology that's helping us grow."
Rich Frank was the newly appointed head of television at Paramount Studios when he attended one of his first table reads. That's where the writers, actors, directors and producers sit around a large table — hence the name — and for the first time collectively read the new script out loud.
In this case it was for an episode of "Laverne & Shirley," and when it was over, producer/writer/creator Garry Marshall announced: "The big boss is here." He turned to Frank, and asked if he had "any comments."
Frank said he liked the script, but "on page eight, I think there's a joke that doesn't work."
No one said anything until Marshall broke the ice: "Then we're going to sit here until Rich gets a better joke."
It was, Frank recalls, "an awkward moment."
"Then Garry came up to me privately and said, 'You're welcome here. But don't just criticize.'
"That was a great lesson."
It was, in fact, a lesson he continued to use at Paramount Television, where he helped shepherd such hit shows as "Cheers," "Taxi" and "Family Ties" to success and then a decadelong career at Walt Disney ( DIS), where he served as president of Walt Disney Studios and oversaw the development of the Disney Channel.
He then went on to a second career as a vintner, building what became known as the Frank Family Vineyards from a 200-case-a-year operation to one that currently sells 100,000 cases annually.
All of which is not bad for a guy from Brooklyn who really didn't know what he wanted to do when he grew up. He attended the University of Illinois, starting out in the school of architecture and moving to the school of engineering before, in 1965, getting his B.A. in marketing with a minor in journalism.
"I finally found something I could do that everybody else wasn't better at," Frank said in one of two telephone interviews with IBD.
When he graduated in 1965, he went to work at an ad agency in the media department, planning where to place and buy ads. Then he "switched sides," selling ads for a couple of rep firms (who sell ads for media that don't have their own sales force in a particular area). He became sales manager for a Los Angeles television station and ultimately was hired by Chris-Craft Industries to run its television division.
The company — better known for its mahogany-hulled boats — owned several TV stations — and placed Frank in charge. The television landscape was much different then — with no cable and only three major networks. The independent stations that existed were mostly limited to repeating shows that had already run on one of the Big Three networks.
Frank contacted Michael Eisner, then president of Paramount Studios, to see if he'd be interested in creating original content for Chris-Craft and presumably other independent outlets.
Eisner "called me and invited me to lunch," Frank remembered. "He said, 'I really don't like your idea, but I want you to come here and help us start a fourth network.' "
Frank joined Paramount, and while the launch of the new network did not work out, he was named president of television at the company, where he was responsible for launching numerous successful shows.
After a shake-up at Paramount parent Gulf + Western Industries, Frank followed Eisner to Disney, where he was named head of Walt Disney Studios. There his winning streak continued.
Asked what he attributes his success to, and one word pops up regularly in his reply: learn.
"I think I understood the television business, having first started buying time at (ad agency) BBDO and then selling time at multiple stations around the country. You learn what works in different markets. And then when I went to be a sales manager at an independent station, I learned how that worked — and again at Paramount. I never stopped learning."
His management philosophy is equally simple: "I'm responsible for overall strategy; (the people I hire) are responsible for how to get it done. I believe in hiring the right people and allowing them to do their job.
"I also believe that they should have the right to make mistakes. The people I protect the most are those who've tried something that didn't work, rather than those that just sit there and are complacent."
Certainly complacent is not an adjective ever applied to Frank, who often took sizable risks in his career. He OK'd "The Golden Girls" TV series when the conventional wisdom — and the advice of almost everyone around him — said America wasn't interested in a show about four, uh, mature women living in a Florida retirement community.
Similarly, he had an idea for a daily syndicated entertainment news program that everyone said was unfeasible. Remember, that was 37 years ago, when computers had less power than an early iPhone and many if not most television stations didn't have the satellite equipment necessary to receive a daily feed.
Undeterred, Frank explained, "We financed stations to install satellites." One seemed a bit reluctant, "so we had a kid every day after we shot the show drive the tape to Bakersfield."
The concept of the show was so new and foreign to the TV playing field that Frank had to negotiate new union rules — so that movie industry regulations concerning the number of lighting and sound people that went out on shoots could be modified.
That show, of course, was "Entertainment Tonight," which, he said, "changed the industry and changed the entire world of TV now."
His willingness to push the boundaries of technology doesn't surprise Bob Gazzale, the president and CEO of the American Film Institute. Frank joined the AFI board in 1991 and serves as its vice chair even today, a volunteer position. Frank was also the longest-serving president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the organization responsible for the Emmy Awards.
Gazzale said that despite Frank's "extraordinarily busy schedule, if and when I need Rich he's always there."
"Perhaps his greatest contribution," Gazzale added, "aside from the generosity of time, spirit and resources — is his visionary take on the art form that AFI celebrates. ... From movies to television to streaming to gaming to VR ... Rich has always carried the flag for what's next."
Ironically, a portion of his success also can be attributed to Frank's past — that he never strayed far from his Brooklyn Everyman roots.
"I think I have the same taste as most Americans," he said. "I think I know what people want to see, who they want to see and what they want to see them in. I'm good at picking talent and have a crazy sense of humor. In a nutshell, I have commercial tastes."
Perhaps the best example of that occurred when he spotted an unknown comedian named Tim Allen at a comedy club doing his grunting male routine. Although Frank concedes that there are "so many people involved in so many projects," it was that sighting that led Disney to produce the show "Home Improvement," starring Allen, which ran eight seasons on ABC.
Turning To Wine
Even shows as successful as that one have shelf lives, and so do jobs. Following the untimely death of Disney corporate president Frank Wells in a 1994 helicopter crash, the vibe at the company changed.
So Rich Frank left, content to do some consulting work and spend more time at his weekend vacation property in California's Napa Valley. That home started as a respite from work and included eight acres of grapes, which he allowed a neighbor to harvest in return for a few cases of wine that Frank could share with friends.
But Frank got a call from a buddy — winemaker Koerner Rombauer (nephew of "The Joy of Cooking" author, Irma Rombauer) — that a nearby vineyard was for sale. Frank and Koerner decided to partner on what was initially known as Frank-Rombauer. (Around 2000, for a number of reasons including estate planning, Rich bought out Rombauer's interest and renamed the winery Frank Family Vineyards.)
As Frank recalls, the winery he purchased, Kornell Champagne Cellars, was producing 100,000 cases and losing $3 a bottle. You didn't have to be a genius to realize that was an unsustainable business model. So he and Rombauer, who spent much of his time at his own winery, immediately cut production to 200 barrels a year.
Frank understood the old wine industry axiom that the quickest way to make a small fortune in the business is to start with a large one. He quickly — and here's that word again — learned the major ins and outs of the business and realized that he had to use the same principles in the wine business that he used in the entertainment industry that made him sufficiently wealthy to buy a Napa Valley winery in the first place.
So he made a point to hire a quality GM and winemaker, Todd Graff, to guide him through the morass. He understood the difficulty of distribution, with 50 states each having its own liquor laws. So he expanded territories very slowly, always keeping the bottom line in mind. And he understood the importance of a good and popular tasting room, the only place he received full value for his wines.
Ultimately, though, he understood that more than anything, the bottom line depended on the quality of grapes in the wine. "I compare a bottle of wine to a movie script: If you don't have a good script, you don't have a chance of success."
So he decided to go beyond the law. According to state regulations, you have to lay a bottle of sparkling wine down a year before it can be sold. He laid his down for three years to enhance the flavor. And his new Lady Edythe brand (named after his mom), he lays down for five years.
It delays his return on investment, but ultimately he virtually assures one.
After a successful career as a top Hollywood executive, he chucked the limos and private jets to become a vintner.
Overcame: The need to apply what he learned in corporate life to life on the farm.
Lesson: Sometimes the answer is simple.
Quote: "I wasn't sure we ever would make money, but I was pretty sure I knew how to make money. In its simplest form it was make good wine and sell it for more than it cost you."
By making simple changes, you can increase mental capacity and the potential to achieve more to become your best self.
That's from Dave Asprey, author of " Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster — in Just Two Weeks."
Asprey is a tech entrepreneur who also founded the popular Bulletproof Radio podcast that boasts 50 million downloads.
"When you upgrade your body's ability to make energy, your brain turns on all the way," he adds.
Tips on doing so:
Schedule downtime. To counter living in our hurry-up-and-go society that's wired us to always have to be "on," Asprey recommends to set up time every day to tune out and go offline — and put it on your calendar.
He notes that every one of the highest-performing scientists and executives he's coached or interviewed uses some form of mindfulness practice that slows the brain down.
"Consider taking up yoga or the breathing exercises," Asprey said. "In just 20 minutes you can significantly boost working memory" and, with regular practice, improve brain function.
Terraform your bedroom. Most people don't get good quality sleep, Asprey says. "Multiple studies have shown that it's quality, not quantity that matters most."
Poor sleep quality causes brain function to plummet and reduces your body's ability to manage your blood sugar, he says.
The most important sleep factors in a physical bedroom are darkness, noise and temperature, Asprey says. By making small changes, such as installing blackout curtains, blocking LED lights on electronic devices, and reducing your bedroom's temperature you can significantly improve your rest. "A pitch-black sleeping environment pays dividends every night."
Fuel your mind. Eat more wild caught fish, coconut oil, nut butters, and other healthy fats, Asprey advises. These kinds of foods power your brain and body.
Peter Shankman, author of " Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity and Success With the Secrets of the ADHD Brain," points out that pizza and other types of junk food are all counterproductive to optimum brain performance.
Shankman, who has ADHD, is a tech entrepreneur who has started and sold three companies, an Ironman triathlete, and a corporate keynote speaker.
Junk food has lots of fat and carbs, and usually just requires you to eat more next time to get the same high, he says. Focus on healthy food instead; get your needed natural chemicals from exercise and other, more-beneficial options.
Train your body. There are two types of exercise that can help you to grow more energy production in your brain and muscles, Asprey says. The first is to go for a walk every day for at least 20 minutes — "no jogging required!"
The second is to push yourself really hard for only 15 minutes once or twice a week. The most effective forms of this kind of exercise are short sprints or lifting really heavy things. "It saves a ton of time and allows your body to be ready for making lots of energy at any time," he said.
To add a little extra focus for your next meeting, Shankman has found the simple act of walking up a few flights of stairs or doing jumping jacks or pushups is enough to "physically change your brain for an hour, by providing dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline — the three key brain chemicals that keep you alert and on the ball."
Prepare. To focus on changing up brain chemistry first thing each day, Shankman starts his morning being ready to exercise.
To fight the stay-in-bed-and-hit-the-snooze mentality, he has automated lighting that turns on just before he wakes up. Furthermore, Shankman sleeps in his gym clothes. By the time his alarm goes off early in the morning, he's ready to go.
"The first two hours of my day are spent exercising," he said. "This drastically ups my dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline, and gives me the focus, mental acuity and preparedness I need to be the most productive I can."
Part of a financial advisor's job is to alleviate a client's anxiety about money. Now more than ever, a related anxiety involves losing money to fraudsters.
XAdvisors who serve as anti-fraud advocates find an entirely new way to add value to their client relationships. Steering individuals away from potentially costly scams affords peace of mind to harried consumers, especially seniors who may fall prey to cyberattacks or other deceptive schemes.
"Today, more people understand that we as advisors can help prevent fraud," said Christian Cordoba, a certified financial planner in El Segundo, Calif. "It can be a big differentiator. We can get out ahead of it through discussions, education and awareness-raising."
The scourge of fraud hit home for Cordoba in 2014, when a single client in his 80s fell victim to a scam. Informed that he won the lottery, the elderly man wired over $3,000 to the caller.
When the fraudster requested more money before releasing the supposed lottery winnings, Cordoba's client maxed out his credit cards. Only when he sought to withdraw funds from his investment account did he alert Cordoba of the situation.
"We managed the rest of his assets so we got involved when he called us," he said. "Coupled with the frequency and amounts being requested, it created a pattern that concerned us."
Today, Cordoba cites the scam as a cautionary tale in his public seminars — and highlights his role in helping clients avoid massive fraud losses.
"A lot of people think, 'It'll never happen to me,' " he said. "Then they hear this story" and other examples of elder fraud and identity theft, and they join forces with their advisor to become more vigilant.
Fight Online Scams
Over the past year, Cordoba highlights two new types of fraud. First, he's hearing about scammers pretending to represent the Internal Revenue Service over the phone or via email. And he's warning clients not to wire money to anyone based on an email plea, even if it appears to come from someone they know, such as a grandchild.
"It's always better to call to confirm rather than rely solely on an email request," he said.
For advisors who gain expertise in fraud prevention, the challenge often becomes increasing their client outreach. Knowing how to stop scams is only half the battle.
"We tell clients that you need to talk to us when you're making major financial decisions," said Matt Archer, an advisor in Raleigh, N.C.
As an example, he recalls a client — a widow in her 70s — who met someone through online dating who repeatedly asked her for money. She wound up wiring over $100,000 and took out a loan to send even more funds.
"She had a hard time telling me about it," Archer said. "This was over 18 months ago and she's still paying back the loan."
To prevent fraud, Archer now communicates more frequently with clients whenever they request a wire transfer. He also alerts them about the dangers of social media and how some online networking sites geared for seniors are often targets for tricksters.
As part of his efforts to help clients combat fraud, Archer updates them about best practices in cybersecurity and shares steps to ward off threats. He emails clients about illegal schemes and forwards Better Business Bureau scam alerts.
"We overcommunicate with clients via newsletters, emails and social media," he said. "We want to stay top of mind, and educating clients on how to fight fraud helps us do that."
In order for advisors to offer fraud prevention tips, they need to sharpen their knowledge of a rapidly evolving field. That requires a commitment to learning about the latest scams — and how their clients can guard against them.
Archer participates in online training programs sponsored by his firm's broker-dealer. A recent session covered cyberhacking and installing firewalls.
Similarly, John McCafferty takes classes on fraud prevention measures offered by his firm, Edelman Financial Services in Alexandria, Va. He has learned how to spot warning signs of money laundering and phishing (emails that lure people to reveal personal data).
"There are savvy fraudsters and they're getting savvier as time goes on," McCafferty said. "That's why we differentiate ourselves by taking the time to talk about all this. Clients are often pleasantly surprised when I suggest they take anti-fraud action steps."
McCafferty tailors his fraud prevention advice to address each client's needs. For instance, he might urge midcareer professionals to get their aging parents an unpublished phone number to minimize junk calls. Or he might propose that an entrepreneur who runs a business from home use a paper shredder to dispose of credit-card mailers and other unwanted material that contains personal data.
Mark Cuban isn't afraid to make waves on "Shark Tank," ABC-TV's hit reality series about investing in startups. It isn't simply that he's the big fish — with a net worth of $3.3 billion, according to Forbes — he also isn't afraid to criticize what he regards as other Sharks' foolish investments or the lack of preparation by many of the show's contestants.
A study by Forbes of the Tank's first seven seasons (its eighth just ended) showed that Cuban was the best at closing deals in three industries: entertainment, food/drink, and exercise equipment. His biggest single investment was $2 million in Ten Thirty-One Productions, which produces the Haunted Hayride and other live events. So what's surprised him the most about the Shark experience?
"How many families watch the show together and how proud parents are when their kids are excited about business," Cuban told IBD. "I never expected it to have the impact on them that it has."
Cuban, 59, was born in Pittsburgh's working class suburb of Mount Lebanon. At 12, he caught the entrepreneur bug, going door-to-door to sell plastic garbage bags in order to buy some expensive athletic shoes.
He sold stamps and coins in high school and during a strike by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette workers, brought newspapers from the printer in Cleveland to Pittsburgh. He took his high school GED a year early and became a full-time student at the University of Pittsburgh. While there, he worked as a bartender, taught disco dancing and promoted parties to pay his bills. After his first year of college, he transferred to Indiana University in Bloomington because it had the lowest costs of any business school in the top 10. There, he continued to make money as a dance instructor while also operating the most popular bar in town.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in business in 1981, he got a job at a Pittsburgh bank, helping it convert from a manual operation to an automated computer system. In the process, he says, he not only learned about systems, but how big companies operate and middle managers think.
His next gig involved trying to convince TV repair shops to join a franchise. And though he only sold one, he says there was a lot of value in learning about cold-calling and franchising.
He moved to Dallas in 1982 in search of more fun and sun. He had little money, so became the sixth roommate in an apartment where he had to sleep on the floor or a couch. He got a job as a salesman at the city's first PC software retailer and learned the business by reading manuals every night. He went from living on bar food to making large commissions and doing consulting work outside regular hours, splitting his fees with the owners of the software business. But nine months into this, after asking another employee to open up for him so he could meet a potential client, he was fired for being absent from his job — even though he'd brought back a check from that meeting.
From MicroSolutions To Mavericks
In 1982, Cuban started MicroSolutions, a software reseller and system integrator — though he didn't own a computer. One of his first clients was Martin Woodall, who sold multi-user systems, and he offered Cuban office space and to pay him for attracting clients. Two years later, MicroSolutions had $85,000 in the bank — or so Cuban thought: His secretary had cleaned out all but $2,000 before disappearing.
"What was done was done," Cuban wrote in " How to Win at the Sport of Business," figuring that "worrying about revenge" and venting his anger at the bank were just "a waste of energy."
Instead, his effort went into getting smarter. "I would continually search for new ideas in books and magazines available to anyone," he wrote, "but most people won't put the time in to get a knowledge advantage."
In 1990, he sold MicroSolutions for $6 million. His next venture, with partners Todd Wagner and Chris Jaeb, was AudioNet, which began with webcasting college basketball games. In 1998, they renamed it Broadcast.com, went public, and the next year sold it to Yahoo for $5.6 billion in stock.
Cuban purchased the Mavericks in 2000 from H. Ross Perot Jr. for $285 million. The Mavericks had been longtime losers, but after Cuban revamped its player roster and built the team a new stadium, its fortunes revived. The Mavs qualified for the playoffs in 2001, then made it to their first NBA Finals in 2006. And although they lost to the Miami Heat that year, the Mavs came back to beat the Heat in 2011's finals to become NBA champs.
What has Cuban learned from this experience that might apply to other businesses (other than the publicity that comes from being fined $2 million for arguing with officials)?
"Good businesses are personal and the best are very personal," he said. "Sports bring out emotions, as a great business should."
In 2001, Cuban joined Philip Garvin to launch HDNet, a high-definition network that eventually became AXS TV. And Todd Wagner has been Cuban's partner in other ventures, including 2929, which produces and distributes movies and TV content, owns Landmark Theatres, and has a stake in Lions Gate Entertainment.
"As an investor, he has an intricate portfolio of organizations across a wide range of industries," said Michael Parrish DuDell, chief strategy officer of CouponFollow.com, who interviewed Cuban for his book " Shark Tank: Jump Start Your Business." "He learned early on how critical it was to develop a keen eye for talent and empower that talent to share in the responsibility of leadership. It's no surprise he's helped so many people build extraordinary businesses."
Into The 'Shark Tank'
Cuban replaced an original member of the "Shark Tank" panel in 2011, joining Kevin O'Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Lori Greiner, and Robert Herjavec. Broadcast on Friday nights, the series has had an average audience ranging from 5 million to 9 million in its eight seasons, and it was renewed for a ninth, and moved to Sunday nights, starting Oct. 1. It won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Structured or Competition Reality Program in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
The power of "Shark Tank" to immediately impact tiny companies can be illustrated by the $100,000 that Cuban invested for 30% of Simple Sugars in season four. Owner Lani Lazzari had created a line of cosmetics as a teen to clear up her eczema and began selling it to others who had problems related to sensitive skin. She arranged to take off her senior year of high school for independent study so she could focus on growing her business. In the year leading up to her appearance on "Shark Tank," she had 1,300 orders; within three days after the broadcast, she received 15,000.
Mark Cuban's "Rules for Startups" from some of his most popular posts at www.markcuban.com and his real-time engagement platform, Cyber Dust, under +MCuban:
Don't start a company unless it's an obsession.
Hire people who you think will love working there.
Know how your company will make money and actually make sales.
Let people use the technology they know.
Know your core competencies and focus on being great at them. Pay up for people in those competencies, but hire cheap for those who fit your culture and have other competencies.
Keep the organization flat and have open offices to keep everyone in tune with what is going on and keep the energy up.
Cuban says he used to be preoccupied with work 24/7, but by managing his time smartly, he's now able to put his family first. (He married Tiffany Stewart in 2002 and they have three children).
"Mark Cuban has mastered the very thing most entrepreneurs struggle with the most — delegation," said DuDell.
"Time is the most valuable asset you own," Cuban said. "How you use it is the best indication of where your future is going to take you. Sell in the morning, keep your customers happy the rest of the workday, and push the envelope at night.
"I used to be in the middle of everything, but I hire people I can build trust in, then let them take the ball and run with it."
Owner of NBA Dallas Mavericks and one of the investors on the hit TV program "Shark Tank."
Overcame: Boring, poor-paying jobs with no future; he decided to learn something from each one.
Lesson: Be brutally honest with yourself about the quality of your ideas, products, and services and why customers buy and at what price.
"Passion for a particular business is overrated. It's really about where you put your effort. If you're willing to work hard at something, a passion will naturally develop."
When a leader acts authentically, plenty of good things happen. Be open, honest and match your actions with your words. Others will trust you.
"If people trust, then they'll engage," Kevin Cashman, a senior partner at the executive search and recruiting firm Korn Ferry, told IBD. "If you show up with authenticity, others trust that and then you can marshal people."
Here's how to build that authenticity.
Make it bigger. It's vital to not just be true to yourself but to serve others while doing it, says Cashman, who wrote " Leadership From the Inside Out" and leads his company's CEO and executive development group.
"The test is if we're creating value for others too," Cashman said.
Show vulnerability. David MacLennan, CEO of food and agriculture company Cargill, told Cashman it's vital to own up to your mistakes and shortcomings. It builds trust, encourages communication and creates powerful teamwork.
"Those are the leaders who earn the right to leadership, and it's irresistible to follow them," Cashman said.
Be the model. Leaders can transform an organization when they display traits that others strive to achieve, says Robert Quinn, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan's Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business. They display the honesty, integrity and openness that others want to have. He worked with a Fortune 100 company that had 1,600 executives. Only a small group truly led the company, though.
"The people who identified those leaders said, 'I know it because when I'm with them, I want to be like them,' " Quinn said.
Do the right thing. You'll be viewed as a true leader once you adjust your behavior to become more moral, Quinn says. Show your people that you care about them and make it clear how their role fits in the organization's future.
"The motor of leadership is moral power," Quinn said.
Tell tales. When leaders share stories about their values and use examples of their own struggles to illustrate them, it has a powerful effect on their teams. Cashman worked with two CEOs who spoke to their people about company values. One dryly ran through them, with no discernible impact on his employees. The other showed what the values meant by using examples, such as the serious illness of his son, to illustrate the importance of relationships, and suffering a career failure, to show the role of continuous learning. His people were fully engaged.
"The group was not only inspired, but the values became real for them," Cashman said.
Gain the edge. If you're good at what you do, that will take you a long way. But if you're honest and open enough to admit mistakes, it puts you over the top, Cashman says.
"Competency gets us to the doorway of leadership," Cashman said. "But it's character and authenticity that gets us through the doorway and sustains leadership."
Be brave. It takes courage to be authentic, Quinn says. If your boss makes a presentation about a new strategy that clearly won't work, it's not easy to confront him. But it's in the group's best interests if you do.
"It takes courage to act in that way, despite circumstance to the contrary," Quinn said.
Listen. Get feedback from others to gauge whether you're truly being authentic. You can tell by how open they are. MacLennan called it an "authenticity audit." They'll be open to you if you're transparent with them.
Get results. It pays to be honest with your people, even if it means highlighting your shortcomings. Quinn mentioned a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor's study in which he met with business leaders a week before they made presentations, to gauge how authentic they appeared. He predicted the best presenter 90% of the time — based on their display of authenticity.
"We know it when we see it," Quinn said, "and we can trust it."
Many financial advisors seek to provide comprehensive financial planning — with the emphasis on "comprehensive." Some prefer to say that they adopt a "holistic" approach.
XRegardless of which word they use, these advisors analyze myriad elements of a client's financial life. Along with managing investments, they can assist with taxes, insurance, retirement planning, and saving and spending habits.
Why do financial advisors take pains to highlight their wide-ranging service offerings and eagerness to wear so many hats?
Blame the robots.
The growth in automated portfolio management platforms over the last decade has led independent advisors to set themselves apart. Algorithm-driven asset allocation models may take the emotion out of investing, but human experts strive to fill a wider array of financial needs while delivering customized service and, when appropriate, a bit of hand-holding or a shoulder to cry on if tragedy strikes.
As robo-advisors proliferate, savvy financial planners know that they must add value. Underscoring their commitment to navigate virtually all aspects of a client's financial future helps distinguish them from their digital rivals.
"It's a differentiator in that we offer this expandable service to fit the client's needs," said Andrew Crowell, a Los Angeles-based advisor. "It's not one-size-fits-all. Clients' needs are different, and our offerings have to be malleable enough to accommodate all of them."
Positioning your practice as "comprehensive" or "holistic" presents a series of challenges. For starters, you need to explain what that means. After all, some people assume that an advisor's primary job is to steer them into market-beating investments.
"It's rare that a client walks in on Day One and says, 'I'm looking for a holistic advisor,' " Crowell said. "In the first meeting, we'll frame the discussion. If they come in with a narrow focus, I'll tell them we can help with that, but I'll also want them to know we offer our own suite of services."
For enterprising financial advisors, that suite of services keeps growing. They may couple their investment advice with estate planning, insurance, and risk management, and even life coaching, fraud prevention and grief support.
Advisor As Quarterback
Simple, eye-catching graphics double as an educational tool for some advisors. At Signature Estate & Investment Advisors, advisors show clients an eight-tiered pyramid diagram that represents what the firm calls its "holistic wealth management process." With investment management at its base, upper levels include business advisory services and wealth counseling.
"A lot of us went to UCLA and we subscribe to (former basketball coach) John Wooden's pyramid of success," said Theodore Saade, a certified financial planner at the firm's Los Angeles office. "It's the framework we use to say, 'This is what we do.' "
Along with educating clients, financial advisors who promote their comprehensive approach need to acquire the in-house expertise to follow through. If you're going to market your firm's long list of services, you must possess the specialized knowledge to deliver — or partner with outsiders with a shared interest in serving your clients.
Willie Schuette, an advisor in Avon, Ohio, views his role as a "quarterback" who guides clients forward in their financial lives. He works closely with estate planning attorneys and tax specialists to round out his practice.
To expand his financial acumen, Schuette joined a firm that provided a mentor program. Paired with senior advisors at the firm, Schuette picked their brains as they coached him on different technical topics, from taxes to practice management.
"It was a kind of finishing school for me," he said. "It polished my skills. As my needs changed and I wanted to learn something new, I got a different mentor."
In recent years, Schuette has added Medicare-related financial planning to his repertoire. He helps clients manage their health care costs while they're still in their early 60s — before they qualify for Medicare — to determine whether they should buy Medicare supplement insurance policies. His interest in Medicare piqued when clients kept fretting, "How am I going to afford health care in my retirement?"
"It's all about continual learning," he said. "If I didn't develop Medicare expertise, I'd have to partner with an outside expert."
Invest In Knowledge
In some cases, financial advisors build on their investment know-how to branch off into more-esoteric areas. This can prove both intellectually stimulating and beneficial for their clients.
After more than 25 years as an advisor, Anthony LoCascio decided in the late 2000s to delve more deeply into tax planning. A certified financial planner in Clinton, N.J., he became an enrolled agent with the IRS and grew especially interested in charitable lead trusts and other philanthropic-planning vehicles.
"It sets me apart from other advisors," said LoCascio, who burnished his tax credentials after making two key observations.
First, he says that many high-net-worth individuals "have an inherent anxiety about taxes." He figured that as their longtime advisor, he could alleviate their tax concerns while continuing to manage their investments.
Second, he noticed that even when his clients conferred with their accountants, they didn't necessarily come away with what he calls "in-depth, proactive tax planning" strategies. He concluded that he could further differentiate his firm by filling the void.
LoCascio's efforts to strengthen his tax knowledge have not come cheap. He estimates that he spends an average of about $20,000 a year to stay current on tax rules and strategies, which includes traveling to tax seminars and paying membership dues to professional groups.
Because new clients may not understand the nature of holistic financial planning, advisors often follow a formal onboarding process. They may start by asking newcomers to complete a detailed questionnaire about their attitudes about money, financial goals and family dynamics.
From there, they may craft a multipage financial plan that they present to clients in a thick binder with a long list of action steps and recommendations. Ideally, clients are impressed with the extensiveness of the process and the scope of subjects — from elder-care costs to health-and-wellness tips — covered in the plan.
But not all advisors follow the same playbook.
"Having a client on Day One sit down and go through a three-hour discovery process won't work for everybody," Crowell said. "If you go to the doctor with foot pain and that's your initial need, the doctor has to address that need first. If the doctor is effective, the relationship naturally expands over time."
Last year, tennis great Venus Williams made news by becoming one of the financial backers of Ellevest, a new robo-advisor aimed at women. And more good news for the digital company followed: An SEC filing in August showed that Ellevest, which became fully operational last year, had raised a hefty $32.5 million in its latest round of funding.
XImpressive? Most certainly. But evidently, no cause for alarm among traditional financial advisors who court women clients. To many of them, the new women-focused digital advisors, including Ellevest and WorthFM (SheCapital folded last year), still aren't a threat to their target market of typically upscale women, 50 or older, who prefer the human touch.
Where the hunt for women clients is intensifying: Among traditional FAs themselves, who increasingly eye the long underserved but now hot market for women clients. And as more FAs zero in on this opportunity — advising women who control anywhere from $5 trillion to $14 trillion of wealth — they're creating new ways to tap into this perceived gold.
"Financial advisors are strengthening their marketing, not because of robo-advisors, but because these traditional advisors are aggressively competing. And they believe they have a strong value proposition for women," says Dan Sondhelm, CEO of Sondhelm Partners, a growth strategist for financial advisors and asset managers.
Among the steps financial advisors are taking, Sondhelm says: 1) spending more time with clients, either in-person or via videoconferences; 2) seeking more media exposure to build credibility and visibility; 3) creating more content, via blogs and social media, such as LinkedIn and Facebook; 4) seeking partnerships with influential women, such as lawyers and accountants; and 5) considering adding their own robo-service to accommodate smaller accounts and clients needing less personal attention.
Financial advisor Ellen Jordan, of Bryn Mawr Trust, about 16 months ago designed a program called Inspired Women's Wealth. It became Bryn Mawr Trust's first focused appeal to women as potential clients. To start, Jordan and associates compiled a list of women to contact, and early this year, began emailing them informational items of interest to women. Jordan also posted these items on social media. This September, Jordan will launch a series of free luncheons, featuring speakers on topics aimed to help women gain more sense of control over their finances. The results so far: The new program already landed the firm several new clients, says Jordan, senior vice president and women's wealth advisor at Bryn Mawr Trust.
Resource Consulting Group, in Orlando, Fla., boasts an advisory team that's now 50% women — a fact that the firm is publicizing in local media, says Kimberly Sterling, vice president, shareholder and wealth advisor at the firm. This summer, Sterling was a presenter at a Minneapolis forum aimed at helping other firms better attract women clients and advisors. In addition, over the past two years, Resource Consulting has created events, including luncheons and workshops, with themes that address the issues of higher net worth women, among them, work-life balance and informing children about how to handle their expected inheritance. And that's not all: For the past eight years, the firm has been sponsoring a quarterly networking program for area professional women, called Intimate, Intelligent and Intentional, where participants can make business contacts, Sterling says.
About two years ago, Kathy Fish, of Fish & Associates Financial Services, in Memphis, Tenn., began offering a free class entitled, Savvy Social Security for Women, that's now available four times a year. And last year she began teaching a seven-week, $400 course, called Wild Money (based on the book by that title), which Fish describes as a "money coach," covering a gamut of personal finance issues for women. Since last year, the firm also has been sponsoring free Wine and Words get-togethers, featuring wine-tasting and a speaker addressing a financial topic.
What's more, Fish's daughter, Kerry Jackson, who is an advisor at the firm, recently launched a young professionals' networking group for women — to help them meet each other and learn about financial planning issues. Says Fish, "My daughter is targeting 25- to 40-year olds. And even she hasn't yet come up against robo-advisors."
But Barbara Friedberg, a freelance writer who publishes the website, Robo-Advisor Pros, points out that "women are a huge market. There's room for women-focused robo-advisors in the marketplace."
Among the pluses of women-focused robos: Besides lower cost vs. fees charged by traditional advisors, experts cite ease-of-use and systems that factor in women's financial situations. Among the fortes of Ellevest, co-founded by Sallie Krawcheck, are broadly its goals-based investing and algorithms that take into account women's typically longer life spans than men's and earnings that on average peak earlier than men's.
In turn, WorthFM's digital investing platform includes such features as an integrated Money Type (personality) assessment tool and financial education. Indeed, "a core part of us is education," says Amanda Steinberg, founder and CEO of Worth Financial, the parent of WorthFM and Daily Worth.
But Lauren Klein, of Klein Financial Advisors, evidently isn't awed. "Women-focused or not, robos are not sufficient," holds Klein, of Newport Beach, Calif. "At their kernel, robos focus particularly on the tech side of money. But that is not where decisions are made, comfort levels achieved and knowledge owned. The essence of a robo is what can be mapped. But a map," she says, "doesn't always describe the territory."
Donating to charity seems like a slam-dunk of positivity. You support a worthwhile cause, feel good about it and perhaps gain a tax deduction and expressions of gratitude from those who sought your gift.
XBut for high-net-worth individuals, philanthropy and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. Deciding how much to give and where to give it can prove vexing.
"Many of our clients are looking for guidance in their charitable giving," said Steven Wittenberg, director of legacy planning at SEI Private Wealth Management in Oaks, Pa. "They may be anxious about whether their money is being wasted or if it's making an impact."
Developing expertise in charitable giving can separate advisors from their competitors by helping them become holistic financial advisors. By treating philanthropy as a central part of financial planning, advisors can suggest ways to enhance a client's retirement or estate plan.
It's often a win-win proposal. Clients who lack a deep grounding in giving away money may appreciate their advisor's input and understanding of the charitable landscape. And advisors wind up attracting and retaining more clients thanks to their specialized knowledge of the nonprofit world and how to make the most of donated funds.
"Advisors should recognize that it's an issue that many clients are worried about and position themselves as a go-to source for philanthropic advice," Wittenberg said. "Some clients may not verbalize this need until we educate them."
A Deeper Bond
For advisors who view charitable giving as a core part of their service, they raise the topic early and often with clients. When onboarding newcomers, they routinely ask about their charitable priorities.
Even for those individuals inclined to donate generously, they may not make the most tax-efficient moves or conduct proper due diligence in allocating their gifts. Advisors can provide tools and resources to identify worthy causes while maximizing the tax benefits of giving.
For clients with more ambitious plans to donate funds, financial advisors may partner with attorneys, accountants and philanthropic consultants to map out a detailed strategy. Through this team approach, the advisor-client relationship grows stronger and more lasting.
"Getting specialized third-party providers involved can help identify options beyond checkbook philanthropy," Wittenberg said. He cites examples such as donor-advised funds and family foundations.
Donor-advised funds offer a simple way for individuals to direct their giving by making a tax-deductible gift to the fund. The investment firm or community foundation that manages the fund aims to generate positive returns on the assets while distributing some of the money to charities per the donor's instructions.
Of course, it's up to advisors to embrace charitable giving as part of their practice. Clients may not necessarily realize all the benefits — from tax savings to emotional gratification — unless their financial planner educates them and offers practical guidance.
As more financial advisors provide comprehensive financial planning and seek ways to differentiate themselves, advice on charitable contributions has gained popularity as a value-added service.
"Philanthropy was a side topic 20 years ago," said Kim Laughton, president of Schwab Charitable, a San Francisco-based donor-advised fund provider established with the support of Charles Schwab ( SCHW). "Over the last 10 years, we've found that the more advisors bring it up, the more clients appreciate it and want help with it."
From a business perspective, financial advisors who provide guidance on charitable giving can boost their client retention rates. It's harder for clients to leave when they've opened up about their desire to give back to their community — or the larger society — and their advisor paves the way for them to follow through.
"When an advisor is supportive of a client's philanthropy, you can forge an emotional tie with the client as a passionate helper," Laughton said.
Providing tools and information to clients can reinforce your role as an expert on giving. For example, Schwab Charitable offers white papers to individuals who want to learn more about charitable-giving strategies.
"Our most popular white paper is on donating more complex, appreciated assets to charity, such as privately traded securities, real estate and collectibles," Laughton said.
The trickiest challenge for many financial advisors is raising the issue of charitable giving in the first place. If clients don't initiate the conversation, what's the best way to broach the subject without sounding preachy or pushy?
"There's a real fear among some advisors of how to bring it up if a client isn't very philanthropic," Laughton said. "It may feel like you're prying or the topic may seem out of bounds."
Mentioning charitable-giving options as part of a larger discussion of tax strategy can make sense. If you're searching for possible tax deductions, you can ask clients if they support any charities on a regular basis.
When Steve Pomeranz launched his career as an advisor in 1981, he never imagined that he'd host a radio show with thousands of listeners around the country. But he's found that educating people about personal finance — and interviewing guests on a range of topics — has propelled his business growth.
XA certified financial planner in Boca Raton, Fla., Pomeranz set up shop in 1996 after working at big firms such as Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. To attract clients, he led public seminars in South Florida.
Dissatisfied with the results, Pomeranz heeded the advice of a public relations consultant and ventured into talk radio. What began as a marketing experiment in 2001 has blossomed into a thriving brand-building enterprise. And along the way he's expanded his business into a more comprehensive financial advisory practice.
"Differentiating my business has been a vital part of my success," said Pomeranz, 65. "And the radio show has been a big part of that."
For many years, his show was heard primarily in Florida. But he can now be heard on stations in over 20 states. He's also chairman emeritus of the Financial Planning Association.
IBD: When you launched your firm in 1996, how did you market yourself?
Pomeranz: I starting doing seminars, but that didn't get me very far. They weren't a good way to market because so many advisors were doing the same thing. And there were a lot of 'plate lickers' who came to my seminars for the free food.
IBD: What else did you do to gain visibility?
Pomeranz: I did what other advisors did. I joined groups like the Rotary Club or the Chamber of Commerce. It wasn't fun and it was inefficient. I really didn't do anything to differentiate myself. And my business didn't increase as quickly, that's for sure.
IBD: What led you to talk radio?
Pomeranz: After I started writing articles on financial topics, I hired a PR guy to get them published and he did. Then I asked him, "What should I do next?" And he said, "Host a radio show."
IBD: How did you react?
Pomeranz: At first, I gulped. But I'm a risk-taker. I like to try new things. As a kid growing up in Queens, N.Y., I listened to talk radio. When I was 8, I called into one of those shows. I can't remember what I said, but I remember the host saying, "It's nice you called in."
IBD: Who taught you how to host a radio show?
Pomeranz: For the first two years, the PR guy co-anchored it with me. It helped having him there.
IBD: To what extent did your show set you apart from other advisors? Some of them host shows too.
Pomeranz: To be different, I wanted to be on NPR (National Public Radio). I'd never met an advisor who had a show on an NPR station. I had to differentiate myself, and I thought, "NPR is totally noncommercial. They respect their audience's intelligence."
IBD: Was it hard to get on NPR?
Pomeranz: Well, it took some convincing to get on that first station in Florida. But once they saw what I wanted to do, they agreed. And it was a very good fit and remains a very good fit for me.
IBD: What makes it a good fit? Doesn't a weekly show require lots of work?
Pomeranz: It's a very efficient way to reach a lot of people with minimal effort. I have a producer, a web editor and a team who creates our output.
IBD: On your website, you call yourself "The Investor's Advocate." How did that come about?
Pomeranz: After we started the show, my PR guy asked, "What makes you different?" That led to the idea of being "The Investor's Advocate." As you said, there are many advisors who have radio shows. I didn't want a show just promoting my business. The advisors who impress me — people like Ric Edelman and Dave Ramsey — get in the media and really try to educate. I wanted a platform to do that kind of thing.
IBD: What's an example of how you educate your listeners?
Pomeranz: If I can teach them how to find a good advisor, which we've done many times, people get it.
IBD: How did you choose a name for the show?
Pomeranz: I named the show "On the Money! with Steve Pomeranz." I thought that was clever in 2001. But it became less clever when CNBC started its "On the Money" show. So I changed the name about two years ago to "The Steve Pomeranz Show."
IBD: Do you see yourself as a performer? Do you need to be "on" to host a radio show?
Pomeranz: I'm actually kind of an introvert. Being in a room alone when I'm doing the show solves that.
IBD: Would you advise other advisors to host a radio show?
Pomeranz: I'd advise them to develop a point of view. People are looking for direction. They may not want to know all the technical details. When you see a doctor, you don't need to know the molecular structure of the medicine you're told to take. You just want to know it will make you better. So know and understand what creates wealth. Once you internalize that and invest your own money that way, you can communicate that to the public.
IBD: What lessons have you learned about differentiating your business?
Pomeranz: Marketing isn't fun. But if you do it constantly over time, it works. Most advisors do it a little bit and then give up when they don't see quick results. We didn't get any clients for the first two years of the show. And I was paying for the PR guy and the production. But we kept priming the pump. To truly differentiate yourself, you've got to find something that works and stick with it.
IBD: Has the show helped grow your business?
Pomeranz: Since 2001 when we started the show, the size of my business has increased tenfold. It has been steady growth. The beauty of it is: There I am, on the air, week after week. So if a prospect comes in, they have already been presold. They know me, thanks to the show.
As robo advisors proliferate, there's one quality that algorithms and rebalancing software can never replace: the ability to empathize and connect on a human level with clients.
XAdvisors who enhance their speaking and listening skills stand apart from even the most advanced, engaging robo platforms. When clients need a shoulder to cry on — or a wise sounding board — an attentive advisor can fit the bill.
"Being able to be compassionate and sympathetic is something that robos will never have," said Justin Halverson, an advisor in Minneapolis, Minn.
He cites a distraught client who recently called with upsetting news: Her husband had unexpectedly left her.
"She was crying and soon I was tearing up too," he said. "I let her know she's not alone, we will be there for her and she has someone there on her side."
Halverson, 38, understands the importance of soft skills and other elements of holistic financial advice. Whether clients need to vent, share personal news or open up about their hopes and fears, he knows that his role is to keep quiet and listen.
Only when a client feels ready to talk business should an advisor bring up investments and other account-related issues. It can take 30 minutes or more — or even multiple conversations — for someone to work through their personal travails and focus on their account.
Advisors can get into trouble if they begin every meeting by plunging into business. Failing to notice a client's anxious or distracted nonverbal cues can create a distance that's tough to bridge.
Talk Less, Listen More
Perhaps the greatest gift that advisors can give clients is their full attention. But rapt listening is actually a learned skill.
David MacLeod, a certified financial planner in Fullerton, Calif., credits mentors for modeling the kind of behavior that builds closer client relationships. He has learned to concentrate on what someone is saying in that moment, rather than plan what he's going to say next.
"Also, getting in the habit of paraphrasing what they're saying really helps," said MacLeod, 32. This signals to others that you're listening while minimizing the odds of misunderstanding what you're hearing.
In one-on-one meetings, MacLeod strives to limit his speaking to roughly 30% of the conversation. By posing lots of questions, he's able to capture more information from clients and avoid rambling.
"Advisors can go on and on," he said. "But overexplanations can come across as trying to prove something you don't have to prove."
One of the best ways that advisors can respond to clients is to say, "Tell me more." Inviting them to elaborate on their points achieves two goals: It enhances your reputation as a keen listener and helps you dig to uncover their underlying concerns.
Good listeners also avoid interrupting. Even if you think a client has finished speaking, it's often smart to pause an extra second or two before you start responding.
Advisors who differentiate themselves as particularly strong conversationalists are laser-focused on listening and learning. They know they will have a chance to impress clients later by demonstrating their expertise, but rushing to pontificate can stifle a meaningful dialogue.
Pose Great Questions
In his seven years as an advisor, Halverson says he has refined his listening skills to the point where he's comfortable asking a series of succinct questions. He prefers to pose open-ended queries and grant clients ample time to reply.
He cites the example of a banker in his late 50s who saved well for retirement without spending lavishly on cars or fancy trips. A few minutes into their first meeting, Halverson could've concluded, "He's frugal — a saver, not a spender. Let's move on."
Instead, Halverson asked, "What does money mean to you?"
"Only then did I sense his pride when he started talking about his two daughters," Halverson said. "His eyes lit up. He's a single dad, and he has a specific goal of leaving each of them $1.25 million upon his death."
Thanks to that question, Halverson forged a stronger bond with the banker. "(Clients) will never have that emotional connection with a robo," he added.
A fan of Dale Carnegie, Halverson first read the 1936 book "How To Win Friends & Influence People" in college. He still follows Carnegie's advice to shine the spotlight on others' interests rather than rattle on about your favorite topics.
"You don't want to turn a conversation into what you want to talk about or go on and on about yourself," Halverson said. "You want to find out what others think rather than always tell them what you think."
Advisors gain expertise in many areas. But one of their toughest challenges is almost impossible to learn except through hard experience: how to help clients address end-of-life issues.
XSeasoned advisors may offer practical and even moral input during the harrowing weeks and months when clients — and their families — confront difficult end-of-life decisions. As clients plan for imminent death, a host of issues arise, from confirming accurate beneficiary designations to comforting grieving loved ones.
Advisors with high emotional intelligence can differentiate themselves from less empathetic planners. That can strengthen already strong bonds that these advisors have established with clients as well as their family and friends.
"I don't think we as advisors are well trained in grief management," said Tom West, an advisor in Tysons Corner, Va. "I don't remember learning from my Series 7 (exam) how to talk to a sobbing person."
Adding such skills helps in becoming more a holistic financial advisor, which can help differentiate your practice from other FAs as well as robo-advisors.
Over his 22 years as an advisor, West has developed expertise in helping families face uncertainty due to disability, illness or death. He works with trust and estate attorneys, geriatric-care managers and others who assist individuals with health-related dependency.
"It's a huge, stark differentiator," he said.
Initially, West's interest in end-of-life issues stemmed from his experience selling long-term-care insurance in the early 1990s. He found that some potential buyers couldn't qualify for the policies because of early-stage dementia or other medical conditions. Then West and his wife served as caregivers for her ailing parents.
"I learned that decisions people make about money at this point in their lives aren't always about money," he said. "They're about making people more comfortable and not introducing any more unwelcome change."
Talk It Out
From a business perspective, West says his area of focus leads to referrals from physicians, elder-law attorneys and others who advise individuals and their families on end-of-life matters. He recently added a full-time employee with grounding in these issues to beef up his outreach efforts and in-house knowledge.
"She helps me anticipate what's likely to be clinically recommended so that I can help clients plan financially and define their options," he said. "That way, I'm ahead of the game and not reacting."
Just as West's devotion to his specialty intensified after he became a caregiver for his in-laws, some advisors delve into end-of-life counseling after undergoing a searing personal experience.
Hans Scheil, a certified financial planner in Cary, N.C., had a long-standing interest in advising aging clients to grapple with end-of-life health care costs. Then his mother was diagnosed with dementia in 2011, and he gained a fresh appreciation for handling such fraught situations.
"Lots of parents don't talk to their adult children about their (end-of-life) wishes or communicate different things to different children," Scheil said. "That can lead to sibling rivalry, which can lead to trust issues within families."
For Scheil and other advisors, opening channels of communication for terminally ill clients and their loved ones can prove gratifying. Knowledgeable planners also make practical suggestions such as how clients can connect with hospice programs.
Plan Now, Not Later
End-of-life dilemmas involve painful decisions, often under duress, for clients and their families. They may not even realize that their financial advisor can help.
"There aren't a lot of advisors interested in this topic and who can help clients deal with grief," Scheil said. "Advisors tend to be technical and numbers-oriented. We need to listen and be available to people" who may not have other trusted professionals in their corner.
Even for their healthy, vibrant clients, some advisors add value by integrating end-of-life discussions into the financial planning process. They may confirm the correct beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and retirement plans, review legal and estate documents and offer guidance in choosing continuing-care retirement communities, nursing homes and funeral options.
"We're in the right place to help," Scheil said.
Perhaps the hardest part is initiating the "let's talk about your death" discussion with an unsuspecting client. Sometimes a gentle but firm appeal works best.
"It's problematic if you avoid it," said John Abraham, author of "How To Get The Death You Want." He encourages advisors to broach the subject by telling clients, "There are important decisions that will be made by someone. It's better they be made by you."
An Episcopal priest based in Tucson, Ariz., Abraham warns that "there's no good time to talk about it, so do it now." And if clients raise the prospect of their deaths, even in passing, use that as an opening to make prudent preparations.
"If a client brings it up, don't brush it off," he said. "Don't say, 'Oh, you'll live forever.' "
Actress Jane Seymour doesn't mind being known as "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," the hero of the hit 1990s TV Western that earned her a Golden Globe Award.
Asked whether she thinks Hollywood's infamous sexism and ageism is holding her back, she makes it clear she hasn't ridden off into the sunset.
"More and more women are coming into their own," Seymour told IBD from her home in Malibu, Calif. "So many are brilliant at leading people, but life isn't fair and at times navigating the changed but not yet fully equitable workplace is still a challenge. But at 66, I see that the key is showing up every day with a positive mindset and pushing things forward as much as possible.
"We are pitching a reality show, a comedy series and a drama series. I'm hoping to take our documentary on the late Glen Campbell's last tour and struggle with Alzheimer's and turn it into a feature film on his entire career. I've just finished a film, 'The War With Grandpa,' opposite Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken and Uma Thurman. ... I've wrapped others that will come out later this year and in 2018, including 'Villa Capri' with Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones, 'Little Italy' with Emma Roberts and Hayden Christensen, and 'High Strung Free Dance.' "
She has also been building a lifestyle brand with products that have contributed to her estimated net worth of $70 million.
Seymour was born Joyce Frankenberg in Hillingdon, southeast England, to a Jewish obstetrician and his wife, a Dutch Protestant who lived in Indonesia. Seymour had her sights set on a career as a ballerina while at Arts Educational School in London. However, an early injury caused her to switch to acting, and after graduation an agent suggested she take a stage name.
At 18, she appeared in her first film, "Oh! What a Lovely War," directed by Richard Attenborough (she was married to his son, Michael, 1971-73, followed by marriage to Geoffrey Planer, 1977-78). She skyrocketed to international renown in 1973 as Solitaire in the James Bond film "Live and Let Die." She also starred in 1980's science fiction romance "Somewhere in Time" with Christopher Reeve, who became a lifelong friend.
The same year, she also debuted on Broadway opposite Ian McKellan in "Amadeus," playing Mozart's wife, Constanze, which ran for 1,181 performances. Seymour won her first Golden Globe for 1981's "East of Eden," and in 1988 she was the female lead in the 12-part miniseries "War and Remembrance."
Finding Purpose In Adversity
But the decade was not so kind to her personal life. Her third marriage, to David Flynn, in 1981 ended when, as her business manager, his investments in the housing market crashed, resulting in bankruptcy and divorce in 1992. Later, she wed actor James Keach, but despite their long and close relationship, they split in 2015. As part of her healing, she wrote a book, " The Road Ahead," about developing the resilience to overcome adversity, which will be released in December.
"My mother was a prisoner in a Japanese internment camp and had many terrible experiences, but nothing brought her down. She never complained in her 92 years, even when she lost her eyesight and had arthritis, and she never missed a party, so she was an inspiration," Seymour said. "She encouraged my career as a ballerina even though I had flat feet, and this lesson helped me overcome a speech impediment to the point that I am able to do accents and speak other languages. I taught my six children that your challenges can become your opportunity and the struggle can give you a purpose in life that others who have it easier don't get."
She had taken up painting in 1991 to soothe her soul during the personal turmoil and her art is now sold through galleries around the world and on her website, JaneSeymour.com. This has blossomed into many lines of lifestyle products which she has designed or formulated with partners, including furniture with Michael Amini at AICO, Guthy-Renker for skin-care, and custom art frames for Fotiou.
Building Her Brand
Her Open Hearts line for Kay Jewelers now has more than 400 products in more than 1,400 stores, as well as in another 1,000 owned by its parent company, Signet Jewelers ( SIG), including Jared: The Galleria of Jewelry and Zales.
"Signet and Kay have been tremendous partners and I so enjoy the creative process of introducing tokens of love to everyone committed to leading an openhearted life," she said.
Potential brand partners are given a 28-page book which documents the value she can bring to any partnership or licensing deal (noting that she is known in the 150 countries where her films have been distributed, and her lifestyle and entertainment products have brought in retail sales of $5 billion).
"I'm not just putting my name on things; I design the image and then tell the story behind it," Seymour said. "Before the war, my mother created her own perfume and skin-care line and when I was growing up we would grow our own roses and lavender. My fragrances were developed with Simon James London, recently launched on HSN, from the real flowers in my garden and authenticity is central to my brand."
"People respond to Jane's Open Hearts and Jane Seymour Design brands because her positive messages of universal love and generosity of spirit speak to everyone," said Mark Matheny, founder of Licensing Matters Global, an international brand-management and licensing agency. "Her products are labors of love and she is personally involved, infusing each with meaning and her artistic flair, and she's a consummate professional to work with. We also aim to reasonably price her products, consistent with her philosophy of inclusiveness."
Seymour read for the part of Dr. Quinn the day before it went into production and it was a hit from the start, with audiences during its six seasons averaging 8.5 to 13.5 million, despite airing on Sunday nights. Dr. Michaela Quinn was portrayed as a physician from a wealthy Boston family who decides to move to Colorado when her father dies. Guest stars included Johnny and June Cash, Willie Nelson, and Trisha Yearwood.
The uproar from its fans when it was canceled in 1998 recalled the reaction when the original "Star Trek" was ended three decades earlier, and her series has been in continual worldwide syndication since then. Made-for-TV "Dr. Quinn" movies appeared in 1999 and 2001.
Since then, she's guest-starred on series like "Smallville," "How I Met Your Mother," and "Jane the Virgin," appeared in many made-for-TV movies, and in 2007 was a contestant on season five of "Dancing With the Stars." Her most high-profile motion picture role was as the wife of Christopher Walken in the 2005 comedy hit "Wedding Crashers," and that same year she was a producer on the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line."
Philanthropy has always been an important part of Seymour's life. She is a member of the Celebrity Cabinet of the American Red Cross, is a celebrity ambassador for Childhelp, which aids victims of child abuse and neglect, and is the spokesperson for Camp Soaring Eagle in Sedona, Ariz., for children suffering from serious illnesses. Her Open Hearts Foundation is a "social impact accelerator," which means it evaluates and raises awareness of the best nonprofit organizations, providing expertise, resources, and tools to further their goals.
No matter the setback, she sets her mind and heart to bounce back right away.
Overcame: Turmoil in her personal life, from which she drew lessons to help others.
Lesson: Worldly success brings with it an obligation to share the good fortune.
"Once you find your passion, you have found out who you are."
Research shows that 60% to 80% of all difficulties in organizations stem from strained relationships between employees rather than factors like deficits in an individual employee's skill or motivation.
That's from Van Moody, author of " The People Factor: How Building Great Relationships and Ending Bad Ones Unlocks Your God-Given Purpose." Moody is a pastor who is also an associate trainer for Dr. John Maxwell's EQUIP leadership organization
"When we mismanage relationships, the fallout affects productivity and quite possibly our ability to advance," he said. There are also work-environment situations where healthy relationships with unhealthy people are necessary and those need to be managed too.
Overall, Moody said, "your success at work depends on your ability to set the kinds of boundaries that encourage mutual respect and keep the focus on productivity."
Tips on creating that dynamic:
Live transparently. Being authentic and honest with others, and even allowing yourself to show vulnerabilities at times "can foster tremendous emotional connections, including all-important trust" in your personal and professional relationships, Moody says.
Conversely, even slightly altering the truth is one of the most destructive forces that can permanently damage a relationship, he adds.
Give of yourself. Be cognizant that you're not a taker when it comes to dealing with people.
When we think about what we can do for others instead of what they can do for us, Moody said, "we get to the very heart of healthy, successful interactions. In a strong relationship both people willingly give far more than they take."
Follow through. One of the best ways to really get to know and evaluate yourself is to focus on your behavior rather than your words, Moody says.
"People of integrity do what they say they will do; the substance of their hearts is expressed through their actions," he added.
"By signing up as a leader, you have signaled your capacity to create positive futures for others," she said. Deliver your message effectively through personal qualities such as being friendly, astute, helpful and approachable.
The content message enables you to do things like make requests, give facts, share vision, provide direction, delegate tasks, and outline context and expectations, she says.
The relationship message conveys how you think and feel about those who receive it. Jones says that's comprised this way: Your choice of words, 7%, the tone of your voice, 38%, and 55% by your facial expressions.
Strategically choose words. Use language to talk to people instead of about them, Jones says. Use pronouns "I, you, and we" wisely to create personal relationships.
Jones offered as an example: " 'I welcome the group here,' vs. 'I welcome each and every one of you here.' The first is impersonal, the second personal and relational."
Another example from her: " 'We have to buckle down and work together,' is vague and a statement vs. 'I want you to work together until our task is competed,' which is a clear direction."
Change the conversation. Working in close quarters or for long hours can blur the line between business and the personal, Moody says.
For example, to help stay focused on the project and away from nonproductive behavior, he suggested trying something like: "Let's focus on finishing the quarterly projections instead of the latest gossip about the CEO."
Make visual connections. Looking people gently in the eye when you are talking with them shows you care.
Jones adds that when people speak while reading, or while looking at the ceiling or floor, they lose impact. "They are conveying a relationship message at odds with their words. Their relationship message is interpreted as: Your work and ideas are more important than us. The value of having people together is lost."
Be consistent. Build your reputation, Moody says.
"It's important that your co-workers know what you stand for and what to expect from you," he said. "Then, don't waiver."
Wise advisors don't try to time the market. They know better than to guess how stocks will move in the days and weeks ahead.
XBut that doesn't stop them from predicting the future.
Farsighted advisors look beyond their workaday lives to envision how their business might change over time. They keep one eye on their daily responsibilities — preparing for client meetings, managing their team — while pondering how new products, consumer trends and evolving technologies will affect their practice for decades to come.
"To think that you can continue with your same business model for the next generation, that's a fallacy," said Richard Brownstein, a certified financial planner in Fairfield, N.J. He urges advisors to embrace technology and anticipate the needs of tomorrow's investors.
IBD'S TAKE:Do your clients expect you to know more about the stock market than just what the Dow did today? If you want to understand the state of the market, pay attention to the major averages and leading stocks. Read IBD's Stock Market Today columns throughout the market day, and the end-of-day The Big Picture (take a free trial) for timely market analysis and highlighted growth stocks breaking out of proper bases.
Brownstein hears pundits discuss the transfer of wealth from baby boomers to their adult children. But he rejects the idea that advisors can survive solely as asset managers for the rising generation.
"If your value proposition is you can manage assets better than the other guys, you'll be out of business in five years," he declared. "The next generation of investors is so computer-savvy, and the bots will get so good, that the asset management world will become commoditized."
To prepare for this new world, Brownstein took an online course in 2016 offered by MIT on emerging trends in financial technology (also known as "fintech"). It proved an eye-opener.
The 12-week "Future Commerce" class heightened Brownstein's awareness of what he calls "the soft issues" that advisors need to address to deepen their client relationships. Examples include long-term-care planning, insurance expertise and estate planning.
Annuities For Tomorrow
Brownstein foresees advances in fintech reshaping retirement planning. While annuities are popular today, he thinks a different product — called tontines — will soon gain traction.
Tontines consist of a group of participants who pay into an investment pool run by an issuer that provides a designated amount every year to all the members as long as they live. When one of the participants dies, the surviving members receive higher payouts.
For Brownstein, the true benefit of tontines flows from the convergence of artificial intelligence and fintech. He predicts that tontines will thrive as issuers adopt blockchains — verifiable, ever-growing digital records of transactions — along with peer-to-peer "smart contracts" that bypass traditional providers of financial services.
"Tontines will be an important part of creating income streams without intermediaries like legacy insurance companies with their brick-and-mortar structure," he said. "Tontines will help people better than annuities do today. With tontines, the risk is borne by the pool of investors, not an insurance company. Because of the blockchain, that pool is very transparent. And you have the potential for lower costs because the management of all required information and the distribution of funds can be implemented through self-executing smart contracts."
Time To Think
Seeing the future requires diligent research. Advisors must resist getting mired in their day-to-day business so that they step back and ponder their industry from a lofty perch.
"You have to set aside dedicated time to work on the business, not in the business," said Chris Kerckhoff, a certified financial planner and president of Plancorp in St. Louis, Mo.
To crane his neck into the future, Kerckhoff tracks authors and speakers with compelling messages about how businesses need to change. For example, he watched Salim Ismail's presentation on how "exponential organizations" harness technologies to spur growth.
For over 20 years, Kerckhoff's firm has participated in Zero Alpha Group, a professional support network of wealth management providers. The eight firms in the national network share business ideas and help each other strategize for the future.
In addition, Kerckhoff huddles with five Plancorp colleagues on a quarterly basis for a full-day discussion of their firm's direction. Every three or four years, Kerckhoff says they hire a facilitator "to help us visualize the future on a long-term basis."
"We're looking at what we can do in the next one to two years to set us up for the long term," he said. "The focus is on our clients. Who are they today and who will they be? And how can we support them now and in the future?"
Like Brownstein, Kerckhoff envisions the advisor's role as evolving to serve younger clients with a wider set of needs than simply asset management. They will pepper their advisor with questions ranging from paying off debt to spending on vacations.
"Tomorrow's clients, especially younger clients, will want feedback on their entire financial life," Kerckhoff said. "They'll want a game plan. That means we need to be more responsive and offer an engaging digital platform with more real-time interactive" features.
I'm always doubtful. Everything I do is always doubtful. If you're not having doubt, then you're not pushing it hard enough, or you're not looking at the details close enough. Tony Fadell,founder, Nest
"Success seems to be connected to action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit." Conrad Hilton, hotelier
There's no luck in business. There's only drive, determination, and more drive. Sophie Kinsella,novelist
The tough consequence of giving feedback is that we can't choose for the other person how they choose to hear our words. More importantly, we can't choose for others what they choose to do with them. Angela Sebaly,author and consultant
Budd Friedman may be the person most responsible for the way you laugh. Friedman, 85, is the founder of the Improv, a nightclub that changed the face of comedy.
Ask Jay Leno. The former "Tonight Show" host told IBD: "Comedy would have been different (than it is today) because a lot of people would not have had the opportunity (Budd gave them).
In addition to Leno, whom Friedman briefly managed, Richard Lewis, Larry David, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield and many others first honed their stand-up skills at the comedy club when there was nowhere else for them to go. Those early days are the subject of Friedman's new book (with Tripp Whetsell), an oral history appropriately titled " The Improv."
Ironically, as Friedman notes, "It was a fluke." Starting a comedy club was the furthest thing from his mind when he first opened the place.
Friedman grew up in New York a self-described middling student. However, when he came back from service in the Korean War — he was wounded in the famous battle of Pork Chop Hill — he took advantage of the GI Bill to get a degree in advertising from New York University. There followed a succession of ad-agency-related jobs in New York and Boston. But when he returned to the Big Apple in 1962 he had another goal in mind: He wanted to be a Broadway producer.
He'd been enamored of show business since he was a kid. "I'd always wanted to be in the theater," he said in a phone interview with IBD. "But I was 30 years old when I came back (to New York) and I thought it was too late in life to start acting. Also, I was too middle class to starve. So I thought I'd become a producer."
Wanting to become a producer and actually becoming one are two different things. While he figured things out, he did everything from waiting tables at his brother-in-law's luncheonette to selling magazine subscriptions. At the time Friedman was dating his wife-to-be, Silver Saundors, whom he describes as a Broadway "chorus cutie."
Saundors was in the musical "Fiorello!" at the time (and later in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying") and when Friedman picked her up after the final curtain and hung around with her buddies, he'd hear them talk about places in road cities like Chicago and Philadelphia where they could gather after a show — where the food was cheap and they could get up and perform for their peers.
"There weren't places like that in New York. Theater hangouts in New York like Downey's and Sardi's weren't really affordable for the chorus kids."
Friedman immediately sensed an opportunity — sort of. He decided to open exactly that kind of club he'd heard described, but he thought of it only as a part-time venture. "I started this with the idea that I would expand my theater contacts," he said. He was still set on becoming a Broadway producer.
He spent about five months looking for suitable space in the city's theater district, unsuccessfully. He literally gave up, and agreed to buy a relative's profitable Greenwich Village pet shop.
But on the day he was to sign the papers he passed the storefront of a Vietnamese restaurant that had just gone out of business and had a For Rent sign in the window.
The location was perfect, in the city's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. It was in a gritty section not far from Times Square, conveniently close to theaters and where rents were low, just $250 a month, he said.
"I had $500 I borrowed from my mother and $500 from friends," Friedman said, and he made the move. He was handy and did much of the renovation work himself.
Though his financial situation was precarious at best, he spent money when he had to. He knew the Broadway actors whom he wanted to attract didn't want to sing a cappella, so he hired a pianist at an extravagant $50 a week. "That was the extent of my spending over budget. I had to get someone who could play for the players."
Among the pianists who took the job were Barry Manilow and a young out-of-work actor named Dustin Hoffman. Actor Danny Aiello was the longtime doorman/bouncer.
Where Friedman could, however, he made due with what he had. The brick wall that has become an almost iconic feature of comedy clubs wasn't a fashion statement — Friedman didn't have sufficient funds to put up drywall.
In fact, so much was done by the seat of his pants that Friedman named the club after his approach. "It was all the way it came together — improvising," he said. He called it the Improvisation, later shortened to the Improv.
Even after the club opened in February 1963, Friedman was still winging it. He didn't know what to charge and initially asked for only a 50-cent minimum. Unaware even that there were food suppliers whose business was delivering to restaurants, he'd go to an area supermarket every afternoon to purchase (at full retail) victuals for the evening.
It's not surprising that he learned how to operate the club via on-the-job training. There was no blueprint for him to follow. Again, Boston native Jay Leno, describing the difficulties he had finding places to perform: "I used to have to go into bars, put a $50 bill on the table and say (to the owner), 'If people leave, keep my fifty; if they laugh give it back.' I lost a few bucks, but most of the time people were nice.
"The Improv gave me a home. I'd drive down (from Boston to New York) two or three times a week to get to meet people with similar interests and work out in a comedy environment."
Word of mouth spread quickly. The first night, Saundors brought castmates from "How to Succeed in Business," including Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee, and they returned the following nights and brought their friends.
Friedman wasn't shy. If a celeb came in and sat down, Budd always asked them to perform, and often they did. One memorable night toward the end of 1963 or '64 (Friedman isn't certain), a young Tuesday Weld — who'd just won a Golden Globe for best new actress — and Albert Finney got up to sing. Around the same time, so did a young Liza Minnelli.
It soon became clear that Friedman had a potential gold mine within his grasp. He hearkened back to his advertising and marketing background, hired a publicist and after business took off the famous New York night life columnist Earl Wilson wrote about the place.
But it faced one obstacle: The crowds only came after 11:30 p.m., when Broadway shows had closed and its stars left the theaters to join the nightclub crowd. To address this issue Budd hired singing waitresses, so that there'd be some entertainment throughout the evening.
The Lure Of The Open Mic
While Friedman had originally envisioned the Improv as a venue for Broadway singers, it wasn't long before word of its open door — and open mic — policy spread to stand-up comedians.
Soon the club was the place for comics to be, and there was an endless line to audition for Friedman. Asked what he looked for, Friedman claims he wasn't sure. "I had an instinct then and very good taste it turned out. The audience went along with and liked my decisions."
"I'm sure there are people who didn't like Budd, who didn't get on for one reason or other," Leno said. "Yes, Budd ran a tight ship. I think he understood comics, and he understood their needs. It's not something I can explain, but you know it when you don't see it.
"There are people who don't know how to handle talent. Budd was never like that."
In fact, it was all about the funny. There was one comedian (who shall remain unnamed) in particular, "I didn't like him," Friedman said. "He was arrogant." But he was also funny, and soon became an Improv regular.
Not that Friedman was all business. In his memoir, a waitress recalls Friedman saying that she needed singing lessons. "Your voice brings me joy," he told her. "But you don't always hit the high notes right." Flabbergasted, she said she couldn't afford lessons, and he immediately offered to pay half.
It soon became clear that Friedman was an entrepreneurial surfer riding the comedy-club wave to success. In 1975 he opened a second club, in Los Angeles. And using his marketing skills, Friedman garnered scads of additional publicity between 1982-96 with the TV show "An Evening at the Improv."
That's not to say this surfer didn't occasionally wipe out. Increased competition cut into his trade. A club he opened in Las Vegas failed. And there was a major fire at the L.A. location that almost forced him out of business there.
But in each case he fought back. The fire is a good example. Staff and friends returned his loyalty and helped in the rebuilding as soon as the fire department let them back in. Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman hosted a series of benefits called "Up From the Ashes," and in just a couple of days the Improv was partly back in business.
In 1987, he franchised his first Improv, in San Diego, and in 2014 he sold the business to Levity Entertainment Group, which now runs 22 Improvs around the country.
Levity is privately held and never released how much it paid Friedman for the business, though someone close to him suggested it was in the seven figures. And that is no laughing matter.
Started the comedy club revolution and changed the way we're exposed to comedy.
Overcame: All the problems associated with starting a new business in a new industry.
Lesson: Persevere if you believe in what you're doing — and don't be afraid to improvise.
"It was pretty experimental and maybe I should have known more, but once I got going there was no turning back."
When you think of great innovators such as Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, humility rarely pops to mind. The most driven, imaginative types tend to insist they're changing the world.
Should you follow their lead and adopt lofty language to spur your team to innovate? Or is there room for modesty — or even doubt?
To calibrate your communication to strike the right tone:
Credit the customer. Rather than call attention to yourself and your determination to produce breakthroughs, shine the spotlight on those who will use what you seek to develop. De-emphasize what you want; instead, focus on what they want.
"Good leaders are humble about their ability to predict innovative success," said David Robertson, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. "If good leaders are asked about a great idea, they'll say, 'Don't ask me. It's up to the customer.' "
Admit what you don't know. Claiming that you have all the answers can stifle innovation. Others may defer to you and hesitate to take risks if you loom as too large a presence.
"Be humble about your ability to understand the problem you're trying to solve," said Robertson, author of " The Power of Little Ideas." Acknowledge gaps in your knowledge and welcome wide-ranging input.
Withhold your views. To encourage innovation, let people run freely with their ideas. Create a culture where everyone can stage experiments without fear of exposing the leader's notions as misguided.
Better yet, state your goal and then give people the autonomy to engage in trial and error. Keep your opinions to yourself about what you deem the best approach.
Robertson urges leaders "to be skeptical scientists" who examine evidence with rigor rather than "HIPPOs" [highest paid person's opinion] who impose their biases on others.
Shift from why to how. To inspire innovation, leaders set the stage with big, bold ideas. They must address the question, "Why does this matter?"
From there, they hand off the follow-through to their team. And that requires dialing down the bombast.
"Humility comes into play in the 'how' part — how teams effectively collaborate to hone the idea, iterate the idea through experimentation and implement the idea," said Edward Hess, a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. "Humility helps one minimize the two big personal inhibitors of innovation: ego and fears of failure."
Aim for incremental gains. If you inflate the significance of your pursuit, you risk setting yourself up for a letdown. And your employees may feel deflated if they cannot live up to your grand promises.
"Evolutionary changes can be every bit as powerful as revolutionary changes," said Scott Steinberg, a New York City-based professional speaker.
Embrace "we," not "I." Top leaders invite their team to join them on an innovative mission. Everyone feels they're in it together rather than blindly following a visionary.
"It's better if you create a team of stars and give them the resources and tools along with a sense of passion and purpose," said Steinberg, author of " Make Change Work for You." "You want to make it more of a 'we' discussion than an 'I' discussion."
Gird for setbacks. Along with a dose of humility, present your innovative goal as a challenge that will require perseverance in the face of roadblocks. People are more apt to buy into your initiative if you warn them that it won't be easy and will test their mettle.
"Recognize there will be bumps along the way," Steinberg said. "A key to whether innovation will succeed is persistence and grit. Who's going to stick with it during bad times?"
Moira Smith was selfless in the line of duty. Whether sprinting several levels of New York City's subway system to aid victims of a terrible derailment, or chasing down an armed-robbery suspect on her lunch break, or racing to the World Trade Center on 9/11, she was fulfilling a childhood goal of helping others by becoming a police officer.
As an officer in the New York Police Department, Smith was doing just that on 9/11 — helping to evacuate people from the World Trade Center's south tower — when it collapsed.
In all, nearly 3,000 people died on Sept. 11, 2001, in the attacks carried out by 19 al-Qaida terrorists who hijacked four commercial jets. Two of the jets smashed into the 110-story twin towers of the World Trade Center. Another was flown into the Pentagon and the last one crashed in Shanksville, Pa., when heroic passengers, aware of what had transpired with the other flights, fought the hijackers.
Along with 343 firefighters who were killed, Smith, 38, was among 72 law enforcement personnel who died in the attacks.
"(Moira) was so compassionate, so serious about her work," said NYPD Sgt. Mary Young in the book, "Women at Ground Zero," by Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba. "Nothing could have stopped her from running into that building to help save lives on September 11. Nothing."
Smith left behind her husband, Jim Smith, also a police officer, and their then-2-year-old daughter Patricia.
"What Moira did on Sept. 11 wasn't a one-time thing," Jim Smith said. "That's who Moira was. That's what Moira did every day. She wasn't reckless, but she never backed down."
It's estimated that New York firefighters, with support from the police, were able to evacuate 30,000 people from the twin towers.
Moira Smith alone was credited with saving hundreds of lives. Three months after her death she was posthumously awarded NYPD's Medal of Honor, and in 2012 a playground in Madison Square Park, where Smith regularly patrolled, was officially named "PO Moira Smith Playground."
"Moira was a terrific cop," Jim Smith told IBD. "She did her job and she had fun while she did it. She was brave and honest. Moira loved her daughter; Patricia was her whole world, her biggest joy in life. She was a great mom and wife."
Kathleen Conaghan, a close friend of Moira Smith since they were 5 years old, said she "valued life so much and she enjoyed hers so much. She walked into a room and the lights went on. She filled a room with fun and love and laughter. "
A Young Hero
Moira Smith was born Moira Reddy on Valentine's Day 1963 in the Bay Ridge section of New York's borough of Brooklyn.
Since her last name was pronounced "ready," Moira liked to say she was "Reddy for anything," Conaghan said.
As a seventh-grader, Moira rescued a young girl from drowning in a camp pool during a swimming test. She'd spotted her even before a lifeguard had.
"My mother was very selfless, nothing could get in her way when it came to helping someone else," Patricia Smith, now 18, said to IBD. "And that started before she was a police officer, that was throughout her entire life."
Moira attended Niagara University in upstate New York and majored in criminal justice. When her mother became ill, she helped care for her until her death. After college, Moira attended the New York Police Academy and became an NYPD officer in December 1988.
It was there she met Jim Smith. The colleagues became friends, then fell in love and married. They enjoyed sporting events, taking road trips and traveling abroad.
Moira and Jim Smith eventually became members of the transit police. On Aug. 28, 1991, Jim was waiting on a subway platform for the train home after his shift ended when Moira, who'd already worked a full day, raced by him. He ran after her.
There had been a horrific train derailment at Union Station caused by a drunken motorman, and Moira Smith may have well been the first officer on the scene.
For the next 12 hours, the Smiths and their colleagues rescued passengers from the mangled four-car train, and administered first aid. Of its 216 passengers, five died in the crash and 161 were injured.
After working 24 straight hours, Moira Smith herself had to go to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
The Smiths were awarded Distinguished Duty Medals from the NYPD for their lifesaving efforts.
The last day of Smith's life began at 5 a.m. Assigned to a community policing unit, she was stationed at Sixth Avenue and 17th Street in Manhattan, covering a labor protest. Jim Smith was at home, taking care of Patricia, with his shift scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
The clear New York City morning was suddenly interrupted by the piercing sound of a jet traveling far too fast for how low it was flying.
At 8:46 a.m. Smith witnessed American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 commandeered by five terrorists, slam into the north tower of the World Trade Center, between the 93rd and 97th floors. The jet's 10,000 gallons of fuel ignited on impact, creating an inferno.
Smith is credited with being the first police officer to report what she saw; calling the Communications Division so it could notify others. Next she took witnesses to the 13th Precinct for statements and to be interviewed.
After dropping the witnesses off, Smith was joined by a couple of other police officers as she got into a van racing to the World Trade Center.
"She could have stayed at the precinct," Hagen wrote, "but that wasn't Moira's way."
The World Trade Center was teaming with firefighters in the midst of horrendous chaos. Bodies, blood and debris were in the plaza, where people trapped above the north tower's impact zone were jumping to their deaths rather than be burned alive.
Smith went to the underground concourse to help evacuate people and direct them to safety.
Then at 9:01 a.m. United Airlines Flight 175, another Boeing 767, seized by five other terrorists, slammed into the south tower between floors 77 and 85, igniting that aircraft's 10,000 gallons of fuel.
"We knew something enormous had happened because the building shook and the temperature rose by 10 degrees in an instant," south tower survivor Martin Glynn wrote on moirasmith.com. He and others in a panicked crowd tediously made their way down the building.
Smith now ran into the south tower lobby and started helping people evacuate the stricken tower. As they moved to its lower level, its occupants could see from large atrium windows that the north tower was engulfed in flames and smoke above the impact zone.
"A slow-moving line progressed along the ramp to a down escalator which connected to the underground passageway being used to exit the compound," Glynn wrote.
Smith was trying to keep people moving out of the building in an urgent-but-orderly fashion, and prevent mass hysteria that could cause a stampede or bottleneck. People looking through the windows at the terrible scene caused a shocked standstill.
"Moira stood at the end of the ramp directing the traffic down the escalator," Glynn said. "She had her flashlight in her right hand and she was waving it. … She was repeating over and over: `Don't look! Keep moving.'
"I came to the end of the ramp and I was standing squarely in front of Moira. I leaned to the left to try to look past her to see the plaza. She quickly matched my motion and blocked my vision saying `don't look.' "
Glynn said the mass of people trying to exit the building felt a calm assurance from Smith, "that they were being directed by someone in authority who was in control of the situation. … She insulated the evacuees from the awareness of the dangerous situation they were in, with the result that everything (proceeded) smoothly."
When Smith learned that a woman was having an asthma attack, she made her way up the building to aid her, reaching the second or third floor before the south tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. At 10:28 a.m., the north tower followed.
The New York Daily News published a now-famous photo of Smith helping a bloodied and battered man, Edward Nicholls, to a triage center at some point before she went back inside.
As quoted in " Women in Blue," by Cheryl Mullenbach, he said of Smith: "No words are appropriate. She showed tremendous courage — and made the ultimate sacrifice. A heart of gold."
Glynn said several of his colleagues in the south tower remember Smith directing traffic at the escalator landing.
"Until every person was out, I knew Moira would be there," said her longtime friend, Conaghan.
"She just really wanted to help people, that's what she was about," Patricia Smith said.
In March 2002, Moira Smith's remains were recovered. Her NYPD shield is preserved in the National 9/11 Museum at the World Trade Center.
"I never saw Moira as a victim," Jim Smith said. "She was someone who wanted to go there, who knew what she was doing, who made a choice. I don't see it as a tragedy as much as I see it as a sacrifice."
NYPD officer, 1988-2001. Awarded Distinguished Duty Medal, 1991. Credited with helping to save hundreds on 9/11. Posthumously awarded the NYPD Medal of Honor, 2001.
Overcame: Danger and the possibility of losing her life.
Lesson: Dedication and commitment to duty lessens fear.
"Moira always wanted to be where the action was. If she could get there, she would get there. She wanted to make a difference. She wanted to be out on patrol doing her job." — Jim Smith, her husband.
The last thing advisors want to do is nag their clients to spend less. But sometimes, it's temping.
XWhen expensive hobbies take hold, it's like turning on a cash spigot. As the costs add up for their clients, advisors might weigh to what extent they should intervene.
On one hand, advisors don't want to overstep their bounds and dictate how their clients should — and should not — spend their money. Yet even high-net-worth clients can deplete huge chunks of their savings on art collections, horse farms and other passions.
"Our job is to help clients stay on track for their retirement goals and help them forecast what they may not have thought about," said Tim McGrath, a Chicago-based certified financial planner. "Their goals can blow up if they aren't prepared, so I'll walk them through the cost [of an expensive hobby] and how it will impact them."
Over his 27 years as an advisor, McGrath has found that what begins for clients as a mild diversion can mushroom into much more. Someone who enjoys hiking can wind up buying a vacation home in the mountains. Or a fishing enthusiast can decide to buy a boat.
Before that happens, McGrath might pose questions such as, "Are you willing to cut back on other expenses if you're going to make that purchase?" and "Does it make sense to rent rather than buy?"
"I may try to suggest a better alternative before they go to the next step and spend all that money," he said.
These conversations can get awkward. Facing resistance, McGrath might tell a client, "I realize it's important to you to pursue your passion. But you're paying me to protect you and I may tell you things that you don't want to hear but need to hear."
When clients sense that their advisor may not approve of their lavish spending on a hobby, they may make high-ticket purchases on their own. As a result, they may dread the next meeting with their advisor.
When McGrath learns that a client has forked over a large amount without conferring with him first, he remains calm and engaged. He might say, "We can't reverse that, and that means we might need to change the plan we're on. But I'm still on your side."
"I'm not offended that they buy something big without telling me," he said. "They want it so badly that they've already made the decision in their mind. Even if they call me first, they've already decided."
For wealthier clients, even expensive indulgences will not endanger their retirement savings. In fact, advisors may get caught up in their client's excitement over their hobby.
McGrath cites the example of a longtime client who loves to collect cars and bought a storage facility in Naperville, Ill., to house his six vehicles.
"It's a gated community where car collectors buy these amazing garages that are nicer than most homes," McGrath said. "It may not make the most financial sense, but he argues some of the cars will appreciate in value."
A Rich Retirement
When clients retire with significant assets, advisors may focus less on reining in costly hobbies than encouraging them to stay active mentally and physically. As long as retirees have ample money to spend, the challenge becomes finding meaning and fulfillment after a successful professional career.
Matt Chancey, a certified financial planner on Orlando, Fla., has two retired clients who build open-cockpit classic airplanes for fun. After crunching the numbers, Chancey concluded that his clients — who are good friends — can afford their pricey hobby.
"I don't see it as a reckless spending habit because not only do they enjoy it, but it gives them something productive to work on in retirement," he said. "It's about their overall health and well-being so that they don't go stir crazy."
But that doesn't mean Chancey is unconditionally supportive when clients dive into expensive hobbies. For instance, a client in his 60s makes significant investments in fine art and antiques.
"I don't monitor all of his transactions," he said. "It would feel like I'm baby-sitting him if I did that."
Nevertheless, Chancey notices that his client frequently spends heavily on certain items. And that begets other expenses such as storing the ever-growing collection.
While the client intends to sell each item at a profit, Chancey wonders what would happen if the client had to liquidate his inventory under duress — and whether he'd receive fair market value.
"He assures me the items will appreciate in value," Chancey said. "That could be true. But it's a substantial investment at this point. Will there by liquidity when he needs it the most?"
"Selling isn't something you do to someone; instead, it is something you do for someone and with someone."
That's from Anthony Iannarino, author of "The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the Ten Commitments That Drive Sales." He also speaks to sales organizations around the word and is the founder of the popular " The Sales Blog."
Iannarino adds that "no part of the sales process can be about you or what you need."
Tips on driving it:
Offer the sizzle. The reason it can be so difficult for a salesperson to get an appointment with their prospective client is they aren't trading enough value for that meeting, Iannarino said.
"If you can't promise to share some new insight or new idea, then your prospect is going to do something better with their limited time," he adds.
Expect resistance. Iannarino's "Commitment for Time" can be the most difficult commitment to gain. Most companies likely already have a working business relationship with someone or some company selling what you are.
Further, the prospect's time is limited and may have been wasted in the past by other salespeople.
The way to overcome this, he says, is to promise the prospect you're not asking them to make a decision about changing suppliers and you'll be sharing valuable information with them "whether we ever work together or not."
Iannarino says to close with: "If you ever need anything in the future, I want to be the first person you think of. I promise it's 20 minutes. … What works for you in the next couple of weeks? I won't waste your time."
See their perspective. Iannarino suggested asking this question from a potential client's point of view: "What would concern you when considering what the salesperson is offering?
"What would the value proposition need to be for you to agree to spend your limited time meeting with someone you know is going to try to sell you something?" he wrote. "What might make you want to jump ship and start buying from another salesperson or company?"
Sell yourself first. Great salespeople are passionate about their product or service, says Kate Grasso, vice president of Operations for Cortland Partners, a residential real estate development company.
"You can sell only if you yourself are convinced or believe in the value of what you are offering," she said. "It's important to demonstrate your passion, energy and knowledge in every sales presentation."
Prepare to present. Jon Wolken, senior vice president of sales at Kespry, a maker of industrial drones, said that when speaking to customers and prospects, "I coach my team to focus on how we can help them solve a business problem or improve their situation.
"You have to do your homework and learn about the prospect's business with a goal of aligning the appropriate resources and solution to help them be more productive and successful. It's not just trying to sell a product to them but delivering value that's worth paying for."
"It's all about the presentation," Grasso said.
Target technology. An effective way to sell to consumers "is when they are out and about, going about their daily activities and when they are more likely to be receptive to the messaging," said Barry Frey, CEO of the Digital Place Based Advertising Association, a trade group/business accelerator for digital advertising.
For example, health and wellness brands advertise on screens in gyms. Iced coffee ads appear in elevators during summer. Movie ads appear in screens at the mall, when you might be deciding what to do next.
"The exciting world of digital out-of-home advertising reaches consumers at the right time, right place, and in their right context," Frey said.
Follow through. Let you customer know that you want and value their business, Grasso says, adding, "The more follow-up that is conducted, the higher the likelihood for a sale to occur."
Bill Cowher relied on three guiding principles for himself and for his teams.
They came from his father, an insurance auditor, and were a product of growing up in the steel-tough city of Pittsburgh.
Cowher wound up coaching his hometown Steelers from 1992 to 2006, winning over 60% of his games and capturing a Super Bowl title. In the process he amassed Hall of Fame-worthy coaching credentials.
"No. 1: Never quit; finish whatever you start," Cowher, 60, told IBD. "Don't ever quit, because if you quit once, you'll quit again. ... Even (those) players finishing a running test — it may not be the time they want, but just learn to finish. Finish things, finish anything.
"The second thing is you have to work harder than the other person. Your work ethic is really defined by what you do when no one is watching. What sacrifices are you making? Are you putting in the extra time and study?
"And the third thing is never be intimidated by anyone or anything — self-confidence. Because if you don't have confidence in yourself, how can others have confidence in you?"
Respectful but unfazed by taking over for the legendary Chuck Noll, Cowher's NFL regular season head-coaching record in 15 seasons was 149-90-1 — good for a .623 winning percentage. And good enough to put him 25th on the all-time list, even though most in that top echelon coached for fewer than Cowher's 15 seasons and many for far fewer. His 149 wins puts him 20th among all NFL head coaches in history, and all those ahead of him coached more than Cowher's 15 seasons.
Cowher led the Steelers to the playoffs 10 times, for a 12-9 record and a .571 winning percentage. Under Cowher the Steelers reached the Super Bowl twice, winning Super Bowl XL in 2006 vs. the Seattle Seahawks.
"Coaching is about teaching," Cowher said. "You have to be able to motivate to teach, and surround yourself with assistant coaches who are also very good teachers. You have to surround yourself with a lot of people that think the way you think. You have to be patient, but yet demanding. You have to have structure, but be flexible.
"You have to keep your team focused. Continue to make the changes that you have to make as long as the changes allow you to grow collectively. And the biggest thing you have to do is hold people accountable."
"He was one of the most competitive people I've ever been around," said former NFL head coach Chan Gailey, who was an assistant under Cowher from 1994-97. "He wanted to win and he conveyed that to everyone in the organization.
"He was tough but fair. He coached the game the way he played the game — he was all in."
"Cowher did a wonderful job of making that personal connection with his players by consistently showing us that he cared and wanted all of his players to be successful on and off the football field," said former Steelers star running back Barry Foster. "He would offer coaching advice about football specifics, but he also asked about your family, where you grew up. ..."
Gailey said Cowher gave his assistant coaches autonomy and respect. "He made us feel like our job was really important. He had suggestions, he had things he wanted done, but he wasn't one that interfered with what you were trying to do."
After Cowher retired he became a studio analyst for the CBS pregame show, " The NFL Today," This season will be Cowher's 11th, as the show celebrates its 50th anniversary. He's also part of the network's "Thursday Night Football" team.
"I see so many similarities in the way the (Rooney family) ran the Steelers and the way Les Moonves, Sean McManus, David Berson run CBS," Cowher said. "It's very family oriented, but still holding people very accountable. It's forward-thinking in the things they want to do, along with great respect for the product that they have."
Cowher's performance as the public face of the Steelers for 15 years might have impressed TV executives. "Cowher showed great professionalism during TV interviews while praising opposing teams, coaches and players," Foster said. "When I would see him in the Pittsburgh community, he was always approachable and friendly with the fans ... a very genuine guy."
Persistence Pays Off
Born in Crafton, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh, Cower attended North Carolina State University from 1974 to 1978, where he played linebacker, first under legendary coach Lou Holtz and then Bo Rein. He was the team captain and named its Most Valuable Player in his senior year.
Cowher then tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent and didn't make the team. He returned to N.C. State and earned his degree in 1979 while also becoming a graduate assistant for the football team.
He also determinedly pursued his goal of playing in the NFL, and in 1980 Cowher was signed by the Cleveland Browns. He made a name for himself in the league as a special-teams player while also being a backup linebacker for three years under defensive coordinator Marty Schottenheimer.
After Schottenheimer became the Browns' head coach, he offered Cowher the position of special teams coach in 1985. Cowher was then with the Eagles and decided he'd have a better future in coaching than playing, and took the opportunity.
Steadily moving up in coaching responsibilities, Cowher was the Browns' special teams coach for two years and then coached their defensive backfield. When Schottenheimer became the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1989, Cowher went with him, promoted to defensive coordinator.
When the Steelers were looking for a new head coach in 1992 to replace four-time Super Bowl champ Chuck Noll, Cowher was hired at 34 years old. He was taking over a Steelers team that had only been to the playoffs one time in the previous seven years.
Cowher took stock of what he'd learned from observing successful coaches like Holtz, Dick Vermeil, and Schottenheimer, one of only seven coaches in NFL history with 200 or more career wins.
"The big thing I learned from all those guys is they were genuine," Cowher said. "They all were uniquely different, but they all were very good teachers. They all had an ability to communicate with everybody on the team and they had a good pulse for their team."
"He wasn't trying to go in there and mimic Chuck Noll," said Gailey. "He was going in there to be Bill Cowher."
"You have to be yourself," Cowher said. "When you're standing up in front of people and you start talking about things that don't really resonate with you, I think players are very perceptive."
The Steelers responded to Cowher by posting an 11-5 record and won the AFC Central Division before losing to the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs.
Right from the start, Foster recalled, Cowher "worked hard to create togetherness."
"Win as a team, lose as a team and be there for one another," Foster added, "and like Bill Cowher used to always tell us, `Don't get too high with the highs and don't get too low with lows, but keep an even keel. Be consistent.' "
Cowher built on that first year to become only the second coach in NFL history to lead his team to the playoffs in his first six seasons.
"A coach's job every year is to manage expectations," Cowher said. "Obviously you're measured by wins and losses, but to me also it's: What direction is your team going? Are they growing as a team? Are the expectations becoming a little bit higher? That is the job of the coach, to understand each team and to have a plan in place where you can continue to grow, but do it with having sustainability."
From 1998-2000 the Steelers missed the playoffs and had losing records in the first two years of that slide. Cowher says understanding the pulse of a team might require a coach to be different in some ways year to year.
"I'm going to treat a veteran team a lot differently than if I have a young team that's coming off a disappointing year," he said. "I need to re-create a degree of confidence, a degree of toughness, a degree of disciple that may be different from when I had a team that was 15-1 or one coming off a championship season."
A Super Path
The 2004 Steelers were 15-1 but lost in the Conference Championship game to the 14-2 New England Patriots, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
Cowher had higher expectations for his 2005 Steelers and was more demanding. The team went 11-5 and qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card team. That Steeler team then won three road games to get to and win Super Bowl XL.
Cowher was a hallmark of consistency during his career and with his approach.
"The naysayers will be out there, but you got to work," he says. "It's not going to come overnight. You're not going to be measured by how many times you get knocked down; you're going to be measured by how many times you get back up."
Coached Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992-2006, for a record as an NFL head coach of 149-90-1 in regular-season play, a .623 winning percentage. Led the Steelers to the playoffs 10 times and won Super Bowl XL.
Overcame: The challenge of replacing a legendary coach and created his own winning legacy.
Lesson: Focus on who you are and what you believe in.
"I tried to get my players feel comfortable, to feel confident, to take ownership in the locker room, to walk onto the field with a swagger, but also to have a great respect for anything that you accomplish, great respect for the opponent, great respect for those that came before you."
For financial planners, a minor mistake can cause major headaches. One small slip-up can prove costly.
XBecause small mistakes often trigger large problems, advisors adopt processes and systems to prevent mishaps. They harness technology, provide staff training and create procedural safeguards to ensure accuracy and manage compliance tasks.
Despite their best efforts, however, many advisors recall the sting of a simple error — and its lasting repercussions. To avoid a recurrence, they learn to identify operational red flags and deploy resources to run a tighter ship.
"My experience is (that) little mistakes can balloon into big problems," said Steve Branton, a certified financial planner in San Francisco. "Having a structure in place to make sure you check all the details" can minimize the odds of errors, omissions or oversights.
Branton has taken a series of steps to reduce the likelihood of small mistakes. Like many advisors, he uses customer relationship management (CRM) software to capture client data, track account activity and prompt action items such as submitting documentation on a timely basis.
He also prepares for client meetings by drafting all the necessary paperwork and asking account holders to confirm accuracy. To facilitate communication among third parties, he has clients sign release authorization forms.
"That way, we can speak to their CPA, attorneys and other professionals," he said. "An accountant or attorney cannot share certain information with us without a signed authorization from a client, due to privacy rules. With that authorization in place, we can be much more proactive" on the client's behalf.
Who's The Beneficiary?
Early in his career, Branton saw firsthand how a tiny mistake could mushroom into a mess. Inheriting an aging client with a $1 million IRA, he realized upon the client's death that the primary beneficiary was a trust.
"The surviving spouse faced a very tax-inefficient situation," he said. "She should've been listed as the primary beneficiary."
To save the widow a hefty tax bill, Branton spent four months working with the custodian to orchestrate a spousal rollover. He had to enlist every potential beneficiary of the trust — including the couple's adult children — to notarize that they approved of transferring the IRA directly to the surviving spouse.
Since then, Branton has conducted annual client reviews of all listed beneficiaries. He checks account titling and transfer capabilities, especially between tax-deferred retirement accounts and trusts. He also participates in monthly meetings with nine other advisors at his firm, Mosaic Financial Partners, to review best practices, assess processes and propose new ways to improve operations.
Clear client communication keeps everyone on the same page. Advisors often find that completing documents (such as change requests on insurance polices or updates to beneficiary arrangements or property records) requires close coordination with clients.
Pat Renn, an Atlanta-based certified financial planner, holds monthly client meetings by phone that usually run 20 to 40 minutes. The agenda largely flows from a customized checklist that his aide prepares for each call.
"With this 'client roadmap' we can review everything to make sure we have current information," Renn said. "When my assistant makes the appointment, she has the checklist in front of her and goes over what's on the list" so that the client comes prepared.
Lots Of Lists
Experienced advisors know that the potential for mistakes increases when clients face tight deadlines or try to execute transactions that involve third parties. A seemingly innocent misunderstanding can lead to severe unintended consequences.
"The biggest errors occur when money is in motion," said Scott Bishop, a Houston-based certified financial planner. "So I'm always telling my team that we need to double-check and communicate, communicate, communicate when money is moving."
Like Renn, Bishop is a fan of using checklists as error-prevention tools. He has developed action items for many scenarios including a sequence of to-do steps after a client dies.
"Every time we make a little mistake, we learn from it and I make another checklist for our operations manual," Bishop said.
After nearly two decades as an advisor, Bishop has learned that asking the right questions — and getting accurate answers — goes a long way toward eliminating errors. When clients seek to sell a mutual fund, for example, Bishop will ask, "What's your tax basis on that fund so that I can compute your capital gain?"
Documenting client responses in a consistent manner adds another layer of protection to ward off snafus. Renn and his team take detailed notes of all client conversations and highlight any pending actions.
"I'll dictate into an iPhone what we agreed to do," Renn said. "It's all very specific with the time, date and next steps."
As any savvy merchant knows, retail is detail. Developing keen observational skills helps leading retailers stay one step ahead of the competition.
To capture easy-to-miss signals, take your cue from retail experts. Follow these steps to sharpen your command of details:
Take it all in. Highly observant leaders constantly scan their surroundings. Rather than rush to judge what they see, they strive to absorb as much as they can in data-gathering mode.
"I walk a client's stores looking for all kinds of things," said Rod Sides, who leads the U.S. retail and distribution practice at Deloitte, a global consulting firm. "How many associates are stocking the shelves? How many associates are talking to customers? What questions are customers asking?"
Jog your memory. Gathering information is only as valuable as your ability to retain it. That's why retail pros make an extra effort to remember whatever they happen to notice — and record those details so that they can draw accurate conclusions.
"I'll take digital photos to refresh my memory," said Sides, a Deloitte vice chairman based in Charlotte, N.C. "I also take notes, but I usually do that after I leave the store."
If you look down to jot notes in real time, you can miss what's going on around you. It's smarter to sponge up as much as you can and then capture it soon after, while your memories are still fresh.
Link cause and effect. Sift through details in order to determine which actions trigger a corresponding reaction. For example, retailers experiment with different types of signage (color, letter-size and font, etc.) to assess which design attracts the most browsers.
"It's important to slow down and look at cause and effect," Sides said. "Stop to understand why the consumer is there and how they're navigating the shopping journey."
Get ready. Careful observation doesn't happen by accident. You need to activate all your senses, maintain steely focus and rid your mind of distractions.
"Being detail-oriented is all about being prepared," Sides said. "Part of that is being attuned to listen and not just demonstrate your expertise."
Set aside time. It takes sustained concentration to detect subtle details. If you're racing around and multitasking, you will overlook what more-careful people notice.
"Block off time during the workday to think and observe," Sides said. "Be a master of your own calendar."
Combine micro and macro. Leaders often articulate a bold vision. But if you're too attached to the big picture, you can miss the small-but-vital stuff.
Borrow a tip from retail experts: Rivet your eyes on both the sweeping backdrop — the overall organizational mission — as well as the minute details that dot the landscape.
"Those who fail stay at the 50,000-foot level," warned Bob Phibbs, chief executive of the Retail Doctor, a New York City-based consultancy. "They don't look at the details as well."
Track a sequence of events. Mastering detail goes hand-in-hand with curiosity. Once you detect something that draws your attention, stick with it until you uncover deeper truths.
When Phibbs trains retail employees, he often encourages them to share observations about customer behavior. If a trainee mentions a shopper pausing in a certain aisle, Phibbs will ask, "What were they doing?" If the shopper was "checking out the merchandise," Phibbs might drill down and ask, "How exactly was the customer handling it?"
"She was turning it over and over," a trainee might reply.
Then Phibbs asks, "Why?" As participants scrutinize the situation more closely, they realize that the item lacked a price tag and the shopper grew frustrated and walked away.
Cal Ripken's business is baseball. He powered through 21 years as a Baltimore Oriole. Now he empowers young players with the Ripken Experience, one of his fields of dreams.
As a major leaguer, Ripken played in 2,632 straight games, a streak through 17 seasons that landed him a tag for the ages: Iron Man.
Now he runs a minor league team in his hometown of Aberdeen, Md., that links his nickname to that of his old club: the IronBirds.
Plenty of Ripken's other honors come in metal: two American League Most Valuable Player trophies, including one from the world champion 1983 season; two Gold Gloves for top fielding at shortstop; and a plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y., after entering the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
"I really break my career moments into two categories: personal moments and baseball moments," Ripken, 57, told IBD. "My favorite baseball moment, for sure, was catching the final out of the 1983 World Series. It was a simple little humpback line drive, but it represented the culmination of an incredible season for the team and was a wonderful celebration.
"My favorite personal moment was (game No. 2,131, setting the consecutive-game record). It was such a buildup during the season, but when the actual night came, it became very personal with friends, family and so many familiar faces in the crowd."
Jeff Idelson got to know Ripken while working in public relations with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees before becoming president of the Hall of Fame. "For Cal, the streak was about perseverance," he said. "He didn't play baseball with a thought of the streak. It was about going to work every day without taking time off.
"You go back to Rick Sutcliffe's comment while pitching for the Orioles: 'When I'm pitching I need the best shortstop behind me.' Cal wanted to be there for him and his other teammates. He was great at being prepared with his job. Like anyone who stands out in an organization, he was laser-focused, about being the best in the field."
Standing Tall At Shortstop
At 6-foot-4, Ripken towers among all-time shortstops, a position name that fits, since so many have been of shorter stature — for agility. He's ranked second among shortstops only to Honus Wagner by AXS, Athlon Sports, CBS Sports and Bleacher Report. "He may have had the strongest arm ever at the position," says CBS Sports, while Bleacher Report comments: "Because (the streak) is so utterly incomprehensible, it actually overshadows Ripken's performance exploits. That's a difficult thing to do, especially given that he smacked 3,184 hits and smashed 431 home runs to go with 1,647 runs and 1,695 runs batted in. Among shortstops, Ripken ranks first or second in all four of those categories."
Said Idelson: "When you look at defense, offense, leadership, longevity, Cal is probably in a class of his own at shortstop."
Ripken's streak is all the more stunning considering Major League Baseball's injury epidemic. The Los Angeles Dodgers led all teams with 7,169 games missed, from 2010 to 2016, due to hurt players. And this season alone, the New York Mets have been dragged down by 20 wounded warriors on the disabled list, from fireballer Noah Syndergaard to slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
That's now. During Ripken's streak, other players made 5,045 trips to the disabled list.
"I had good genes, that's for sure," Ripken said. "I always recovered really well from the day-to-day grind of the season and, in several cases, from more significant injuries. The streak was really born out of a very simple and honest approach. Dad always taught me to show up at the ballpark each and every day ready to play, and if the manager believes you are one of the nine guys who can help the team win that day, he knows he can count on you and will put you in the lineup. That's simply how the streak started and grew over the years."
Maybe a game on May 30, 1982, didn't seem so crucial. But after sitting one out, he played that day — and wouldn't miss another one until Sept. 20, 1998.
He stayed on course despite playing in the middle infield, home to serious foot traffic. Take the 444th game of the streak. It came on April 10, 1985, and while covering on a pickoff play, Ripken turned his ankle when his spikes caught on the bag. The ankle ballooned and pained him, but couldn't bench him.
A few years later, Ripken charged into a fight on the mound and twisted his knee. This almost killed the streak at 1,790 games, but he bounced back the next day.
"He had to overcome game injuries that he managed to work through," Idelson said. "He managed the pain, had some luck and stayed on top of a position where he had to see the base runner coming at him."
Cal played through a hospital ward's worth of other wounds: slipped disk, hyperextended elbows, dislocated fingers, head-jarring from bean balls.
Like Father, Like Son
That toughness came from his dad, Cal Ripken Sr., a minor league catcher who wouldn't let wounds like a bloody finger sideline him. "Nothing could get him out of there," recalled Earl Weaver, the Orioles' Hall of Fame manager. "He was like the hardest piece of stone on the planet."
Noted Cal Jr. in his book " Get in the Game": "You'd think that, by playing all out all the time, I would have increased my chances of sustaining a serious injury. In fact, the opposite was true. That approach actually helped me persevere through every moment, every game, every season."
Injuries weren't all that tested Cal Ripken Jr. Just five years after winning it all, the Orioles sank to the depths. They started a record-low 0-21, amid which Cal Sr. got the ax as manager. And yet "I never missed a game in 1988," wrote his son, "even though it would have been easy to ask for a day off. We lost 107 games that year and finished dead last. But you know what? I was still playing baseball. And I loved it."
Ripken grew up in Maryland and in the early 1970s sped on and off the field beside Cal Sr., manager of the minor league team in Asheville, N.C.
Major In The Minors
When summers ended, Cal Jr. would return to school in Aberdeen. Then in 1978 the Orioles drafted him. Off to Bluefield, W.Va., he went to play in the rookie-level Appalachian League.
Now he's back in the minors as a major player. He bought the IronBirds, an Orioles affiliate of the Class A New York-Penn League, for $3 million and moved it from Utica, N.Y., to Aberdeen's new Ripken Stadium in time for the 2002 season.
That's just part of the business lineup for the man who's built a fortune of $75 million, according to CelebrityNetWorth.com.
His Ripken Baseball is a privately held company, the revenue of which he declines to broadcast, although he points to 575 seasonal and 75 full-time employees. The firm runs complexes for weekend kids' tournaments and longer baseball camps.
With his emphasis on youth, it's no wonder that the baseball loop named for another Maryland giant — the Babe Ruth League — honors him with a Cal Ripken Division, for kids 4 to 12.
"We are very interested in growing in the youth baseball space," Ripken said. "The three tournament destination sites that we call the Ripken Experience are in our hometown of Aberdeen; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and Pigeon Forge, Tenn. This is where our passion is and where the future of the company is, and we are actively looking for investment partners and other locations for these significant complexes across the country.
"As for minor league baseball, we began to divest from that business several years ago. Today the only team we own is the IronBirds. We are looking for a partner there as well to take over the majority interest in the club. We will maintain a minority interest because Aberdeen is our home and it is important we stay involved."
Such maneuvers keep Ripken on a more mental path than when he ran out grounders. "There are ups and downs in business," he said, "and you need to keep plugging away and learning in order to improve and get it right. Also, being a good teammate and building a good team around you are essential in business and baseball.
"I was a novice in the business world, and literally the day after I played my last game in 2001 I had to put on a suit and find a team to play at Ripken Stadium. Over the years I have gotten much more comfortable as a business owner and I really enjoy the role. I try to surround myself with smart people who I can trust.
"It seems like you never stop learning or facing challenges in business, and I find that energizing."
Idelson is impressed with Ripken's grasp of business: "He strikes me as special, with a unique ability to listen. He's more intent on listening than speaking. When you think of the great businessmen or women and their top traits, listening is one of them. As Bill Veeck, the old baseball owner who is one of my heroes, said, 'You can learn a lot from listening.'
"Cal has the makeup of someone who can run an organization, whether as a manager or executive, like Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Earl Weaver, John Schuerholz. Cal led on the ball field and translates that into the business world — much like Joe Morgan and Bob Feller, both pretty good at business."
In 1987, five years into the streak, Ripken married Kelly Greer on the way to having two children, Rachel and Ryan, before divorcing in 2016.
In 1992, Ripken was honored — for helping Baltimore's community — with awards named for Roberto Clemente and Lou Gehrig. "Being a real part of my hometown, as opposed to being an outsider, pulled my personal and business aspects of my life together in a way that made them virtually indistinguishable," Ripken wrote.
He cracked the "Iron Man" mark on Sept. 6, 1995, in full drama. With 50,000 fans at Camden Yards and a national TV crowd looking on, he blasted a home run in fourth inning. The next inning made the game official, giving Cal the streak record at 2,131. Right after the Orioles finished off the California Angels 4-2, the party shifted into high gear, with Joe DiMaggio taking the microphone: "Wherever my former teammate Lou Gehrig is today, I'm sure he's tipping his cap to you, Cal Ripken."
Amid the celebration, the Major League Baseball Players Association awarded Ripken $75,000 for setting the record. "I looked at it as an opportunity to go back to Aberdeen and parlay the gift into a small baseball complex that my hometown and I could be proud of."
Over the next decade, his field of Aberdreams turned into Cal Sr.'s Yard, a top youth-baseball facility funded by the Cal Sr. Foundation for disadvantaged kids, and Ripken Stadium.
Played in 2,632 straight games from 1982 to 1998, amassed 3,184 hits and swatted 431 home runs on the way to entering the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
Overcame: Injuries that threatened the streak.
Lesson: Keep swinging.
"If people believe you have strong principles, are sound in mind and body and are incorruptible, they'll chose to work with you over others."
Almost every advisor has a website. That makes it tough to stand out.
XAdvisors usually want a website that reinforces their brand identity. Whether through easy navigation, snazzy design or captivating content, they seek to introduce themselves to potential clients by presenting their best side.
Because many advisors lack the desire and technical skills to build their own websites, they may enlist outsiders such as digital marketing firms to help. Web design and development consultants construct and maintain sites — and some specialize in working with financial planners.
"There are web designers who focus on advisors, but I wanted to hire someone who had a broader client mix," said Kay Dee Cole, a certified financial planner in Corvallis, Ore. "Designers who focus on advisors tend to use the same format with a photo, a menu of services and a mission statement" on the home page.
Cole did not want her firm's website (www.claritywealthdevelopment.com) to look like all the rest. To set herself apart, she wanted to offer engaging video content.
She wound up retaining a web designer who crafted websites for a wide range of businesses. She also hired a videographer who interviewed her on camera and then used the footage to create Cole's personal greeting on her website's homepage.
Prospects who watched the video were often predisposed to like Cole, she says. It also eased the onboarding process.
"People came in for the first time saying they felt more comfortable knowing me already from the video," Cole said. "Being in a trust business, it can take awhile to establish trust. Seeing the video speeds up them getting to know me."
Some advisors embrace the challenge of developing their own website. Even if they lack tech savvy, the appeal of controlling every aspect of the content — and being able to make changes and updates on their own — can outweigh the considerable learning curve and time commitment.
Tyler Reeves, a certified financial planner in Birmingham, Ala., used Squarespace as a starting point. The Web-based platform offers design templates to help do-it-yourselfers get up and running.
To add a distinctive visual element, Reeves laced his website (www.plimsollfp.com) with drawings by Carl Richards, a certified financial planner who created the "Sketch Guy" column for the New York Times. Reeves pounced on a now-expired offer on Richards' website (www.behaviorgap.com) letting others use a limited number of sketches for free.
"The sketches blend in well with the simple, plain design I'm looking for," Reeves said.
When launching his firm in March 2017, Reeves paid special attention to one aspect of his website: the fee summary.
Rather than just list fees for different service levels, Reeves went a step further and cited four specific examples of how much each client would pay. He also invites visitors to send fee questions with one click.
"Clients appreciate that I'm transparent with fees," he said. "But even when you're transparent, fees can still be confusing to some people. So that's why I added those four scenarios."
The goal for many advisors in creating their website is to present a clear, consistent image and interface. If prospects feel overwhelmed by clutter — or face too many options — they can give up and abandon the site for good.
Noah Schwartz, a certified financial planner in Fairfield County, Conn., developed his own website (www.blueprintplanning.org) when he launched his firm in late 2016. From the outset, he knew that he would favor evidence-based, academic strategies — and he wanted his website to reflect that.
"You want to profess your philosophy quickly," Schwartz said. "Applied academic investing differentiates us, so we wanted to build around that with our web design."
After people visit his website for the first time, he likes to ask, "What's the first thing you noticed?" He incorporates their feedback into design tweaks.
Over the past year, Schwartz says he has revamped the website six times and he's "always making improvements." He estimates that only one-third of the original content remains on the current iteration of the site.
"We'd post market updates, academic research and lots of other stuff," he said. "But people told me they didn't know where to go or what to click on. So we ended up with six icons to click."
To encourage prospects to request a meeting, Schwartz inserted a "Schedule time with us" option on the lower right corner of every page. The blue button is unobtrusive but hard to miss.
"I wanted to avoid those annoying 'chat now' pop-ups that appear as soon as you start browsing an e-commerce website," he said. "That's not how I wanted to engage people."
It's obvious that keeping at a task typically improves your chances of achieving it. But it's not always easy to know when your persistence becomes stubbornness and if you're headed down the wrong path — unless you change course.
Here's how to recognize that fine line while trying to make perseverance part of your firm's culture.
Know its value. One study showed that the average grade-point average of American millionaires is just 2.9. That's not what sets them apart. It's their attitude.
"Their quality that was praised the most was grit and persistence," Eric Barker, a Los Angeles-based author who wrote "Barking up the Wrong Tree," told IBD. "That makes sense. If you give things a try only once, you're not likely to succeed."
Take small steps. It's tough to know when you should be dogged and when you're simply being stubborn. Barker suggests starting with small steps that don't take a lot of resources. If you're starting yoga, don't immediately sign up for a year of classes. Try one or two first.
"Test stuff to see what's worth putting grit and persistence behind," Barker said.
It's everywhere. Persistence isn't necessary just for the big projects. It comes into play all the time, says Renee Hale, lead consultant with Chicago-based management consulting group Wellspirit Consulting Group.
"You know you need to pull different pieces together, even if it seems impossible," she said. "Every decision you make is intentional. It takes some persistence to achieve the outcome you want."
Practice. Build perseverance into your DNA, Hale says, by doing it for short-term tasks. She works on a special task force that deals with clients. She persists in not only completing her part but asking others how they're progressing toward the monthly deadline.
"That builds perseverance into a habit," Hale said.
Make sure it's realistic. New York University psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen found that fantasizing about a dream goal doesn't help you accomplish it. It actually hurts your chances. She came up with a system to turn those dreams into reality. She calls it WOOP: wish, outcome, obstacle, plan. Once you know your wish — maybe it's getting a great job — crystallize the outcome: Become a vice president at Google. Then consider the obstacles to doing that, such as education or experience. Finally, plan how you'll overcome those obstacles. That adds a strong dose of reality to your dreams. If people felt energized after that process, it meant those plans felt realistic, Barker says. If they weren't energized, they probably had no chance.
"It became a litmus test of when to apply grit or to apply quit," Barker said.
Look inside. Struggling to keep going with a seemingly stalled project? Hale suggests asking yourself what you can do to move it forward rather than passively waiting for others to finish their parts. It might mean contacting the person holding it up, in order to get it moving again.
"That way you can at least do something to keep it moving forward with momentum," Hale said.
Get help. Enlist some of your trusted mentors to help you decide if you're being persistent — or being intractable and heading down the wrong path, Hale says. They'll help you see the big picture.
"You'll find out if you're being stubborn or if it's just a difficult decision," Hale said.
Be optimistic. The U.S. Navy found that the key trait for people to pass SEAL training wasn't being strong or tough. It was positive self-talk. Telling yourself you can do it keeps you driving forward.
"When good things happen you feel they're permanent and they're due to you," Barker said. "You think, 'When I apply myself, things always work out.' Believing in yourself can keep you going."
Seek involvement. Ask others what they think, Hale says. That empowers them and shows them your persistent attitude toward decision-making, so they'll be more inclined to adopt it themselves.
"Perseverance is leading to the best decision for the company," Hale said. "Stubbornness is about what the leader wants."
For many advisors, building client relationships means getting to know their family. Their spouse, children and perhaps even parents become part of the mix.
XBut what if the client is single?
Advisors with a significant number of single clients shift their focus. Instead of ensuring that couples — and key family members — are on the same page, the challenge becomes crafting a financial plan tailored for an individual's needs.
Solo clients come in many forms. Some have lost a spouse or undergone a divorce. Others are unmarried, either by choice or because they haven't found a mate.
Regardless of the reason, single people often face special considerations when saving for retirement, buying insurance and weighing everything from estate planning to their housing options. Advisors help them create their own safety net to secure their financial future.
Yet advisors often see their role as essentially the same whether they're working with couples or singles.
"I tend to treat single people like all my other clients," said Spuds Powell, a Los Angeles-based advisor. "You have to communicate with them in a way that makes them feel comfortable."
He estimates that about 25% of his clients are widows. These women often must manage their finances for the first time in their life.
With widows and other single clients, Powell seeks to boost their confidence about money. They may lack the knowledge and tools to make sound financial decisions, so he doubles as a teacher.
Rebound From Adversity
To educate widows, Powell created what he calls a "surviving spouse checklist" about nine years ago. The three-page document includes a series of to-do items such as completing legal forms and other paperwork.
"Normally, I give it to them two to four weeks after their spouse passes," he said. "I have to be sensitive to the timing."
Several variables affect when he gives widows the checklist. For example, he might wait longer if their spouse's death was unexpected or if they don't have a family member to help.
Providing widows with a detailed list of prioritized action steps gives them direction when they feel adrift, Powell says. He also stays involved, asking supportive questions such as, "What information would you find most useful?" and "What are you most concerned about?"
Clients who are single by choice may embrace their independence and work closely and enthusiastically with their advisor. But for those who suddenly find themselves on their own — whether through divorce or a spouse's death — the trauma can leave them immobilized and fearful.
Janice Cackowski, a certified financial planner in Wickliffe, Ohio, says that about 60% of her clients are single professionals. Many are accustomed to having a spouse or partner — and are adjusting to their newfound status as singles.
When advising the freshly divorced, Cackowski has learned to rivet the discussion on the client's finances. She does not want their meetings to turn into gripe sessions.
"In divorce, it doesn't matter who did what to whom," she said. "I don't want to hear it. You can't get in the middle of it."
If someone starts bashing a former spouse, Cackowski will politely say, "Let's focus on what we can control."
Ask Delicate Questions
When advising widows, Cackowski asks thoughtful questions about a client's deceased spouse. Some advisors hesitate to inquire about a client's past for fear of causing pain, she says.
But posing queries such as, "What about your marriage to Chris are you missing now?" can help Cackowski gain a better understanding of her client. For new widows, she might invite them to "tell me about Joe."
"To build a relationship, you need to ask open questions, let people talk and listen," she said. "Ignoring what has happened and never bringing it up won't help you understand their needs."
Cackowski finds that some singles assume they will not benefit from a comprehensive financial plan. "It's only me," they might say. "I don't need much help."
But that attitude can cause them to overlook prudent steps such as drafting a will and even purchasing life insurance.
When getting to know single clients, she probes to determine the type of legacy they want to leave and if there are family members, friends or charities they want to support. They may seek to set aside funds for a relative with special needs — or ensure that an estranged sibling does not receive any of their inheritance.
"You're hurting the people that you leave behind by not planning," she said. "After your death, they may have to spend your money to resolve your estate transfer. And your money may land in the lap of someone you don't want to get it."
Jack O'Neill wanted to surf longer in the frigid waters of Northern California. Sea lions — well-insulated with fat and fur — frolic in the numbing sea with ease. With a little help, why not humans?
O'Neill, who died on June 2 at the age of 94, was determined to find a solution. It was the early 50s, and he was donning soggy wool sweaters and other makeshift gear to try to stay warm and catch more waves at Ocean Beach in San Francisco — so O'Neill started experimenting with materials.
He'd moved to California after a stint in the U.S. Navy in World War II, and after completing a business degree from University of Portland in Oregon. He said in a 2015 profile in the San Francisco Chronicle that the breakthrough came in 1952 when his friend and fellow bodysurfer Harry Hind told him about neoprene, a spongy compound developed by DuPont ( DD) in 1930. O'Neill obtained some neoprene and started sewing it into vests.
Thus, O'Neill's very first commercial wetsuits were born. O'Neill had tried to get surfboard shops to carry his vests, then started his own small surf shop near Ocean Beach. But he moved his business to Santa Cruz because it had better surf and a bigger community of surfers.
Fast-forward to today, and privately held O'Neill Wetsuits is still the No. 1 maker of wetsuits in the world, with more than 50% market share, according to the company. But it now has plenty of competition, among them Body Glove (an early competitor), Billabong, Hurley, Quiksilver, Rip Curl, Roxy, Volcom and Xcel.
Though O'Neill's son Pat took over as CEO of the company in 1985, Jack stayed involved until 2005, when he suffered a stroke. Jack O'Neill then stepped back from the business but reportedly maintained his curiosity and creative spirit. "He was an innovator and inventor all the way to his last days on earth," said Brian Kilpatrick, vice president of marketing communications at O'Neill Wetsuits.
On The Crest Of A Market
Surfers wanted to try O'Neill's wetsuits from their inception, but board shops reportedly thought Jack O'Neill was full of himself when he told them they'd eventually sell more wetsuits than boards.
His foresight was spot on. Wetsuits enabled surfers to take on cold-water surf locations that no one dared try before. Thus, the suits helped expand surfing across the globe and were instrumental in building the market for surfing equipment and accessories.
His company has stayed on the crest of the wetsuit market thanks to continuous innovation, a hallmark of Jack O'Neill's leadership and his personality.
"Innovation was his most comfortable place to be. He liked to use his brain to find new stuff," said Peter Mel, a former pro surfer and neighbor to the O'Neill family, who's now a broadcaster for the World Surf League Championship Tour.
O'Neill was a bit of a loner and loved to tinker in his home shop with wetsuit designs and other things, says Mel. Purchased in 1973, O'Neill's house is perched on the cliffs at a well-known surfing spot, Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz. He constantly modified the house, too — removing posts in the living room that obstructed his ocean view, digging out a basement for a sauna and shower, and putting in a door from a World War II-era submarine.
Surfing and the ocean were O'Neill's passions, even after a surfing accident in the early 1970s damaged his left eye and resulted in his wearing what came to be his iconic black eye-patch. O'Neill would often say "the three most important things in life are surf, surf and surf," said Kilpatrick, who has worked at the company since 1999. However, O'Neill was also an airplane and balloon pilot, an avid sailor, a fisherman and an adventurer.
And he took business risks, too. The company led the way with unusual entries into wetsuits (some through a neck/shoulder opening instead of a back zipper), along with new zipper designs and new seam construction. It also took chances with its advertising. Jack's face, with his beard and eye-patch, has long been an O'Neill logo. An ad campaign with the company's now-famous slogan, "It's always summer on the inside," pushed boundaries in 1970 by featuring a topless woman in a partly zipped wetsuit. And the company uses unusual product names — a current wetsuit line is called "Psycho-Freak."
From Innovation To Production
Turning an innovation into a product has never been a solo ride at O'Neill. Jack sought input from a variety of sources: his employees, surfers and friends. "He'd come up with an innovation and test it and test it and test it and bounce it off of a lot of people," said Mel.
At the company, big design meetings have always been important for discussing new innovations and products, said Kilpatrick. "Jack wanted input from everyone; he wanted to see an idea from every possible perspective to make sure it was good and to make sure it would work," he said.
He also challenged employees on their plans and ideas. "He would ask the most obscure questions. … You just had to be ready for whatever," said Kilpatrick.
"Jack could be a harsh critic if something wasn't done right," he added. "The company was his baby and he was very passionate about his creation."
Intellectual Property, Patents
Patents and secrecy have also enabled the O'Neill brand to ride the wave to business success. They'd start with "innovation at the forefront and then they'd make sure they had patents," said Mel.
The company patented zipper designs, seam construction, wetsuit entry systems, and materials, said Kilpatrick, explaining that "wetsuits are a lot more technical than you would think." Jack O'Neill obtained his first wetsuit patent back in 1964, for a "foam rubber wetsuit shirt." The company has gone on to patent 12 other innovations.
And the company hasn't shied away from letting competitors know that its designs are protected. "We've sent plenty of cease-and-desist letters," said Kilpatrick.
Many of the company's innovations eventually have become industry standards. "Then we move on to the next thing," said Kilpatrick.
Beyond wetsuits, O'Neill also developed many other firsts for surfing, including the first surfboard leash, the first board bag, the first surf boot and more, says Kilpatrick. Even the term "Surf Shop," coined by O'Neill, was later registered as a U.S. Trademark.
To allow the company to focus on wetsuits and other technical products, Jack O'Neill sold the iconic brand-licensing and trademark portfolio for nontechnical products — such as clothing and fashion accessories — to Logo International, a Dutch company, back in 2007. "Prior to that, we handled all licensing out of Santa Cruz, which was really fun, but a beast to manage," explained Kilpatrick. Farming out the licensing "has allowed us to focus on our core competency: building the best wetsuits in the world."
The company also kept its four surf shops, two in Capitola, one in downtown Santa Cruz and one at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
"For the last half-century, our family has taken great pride in designing and manufacturing the world's best wetsuits and related products," Jack O'Neill said when the sale was announced. "Nothing will change on that front."
No financial details of the transaction were made public.
Sailing And Science
By the 1990s, O'Neill was also turning his attention to philanthropy and the stewardship of the ocean. He was a financial supporter of the nonprofit Save Our Shores, but he wanted to do more and get schoolchildren involved in caring for the ocean. He loved to sail and had a catamaran in the harbor at Santa Cruz.
"Jack said he would like to have schoolchildren on the boat and have them learn about protecting the ocean," said Dan Haifley, who at the time was executive director of Save Our Shores and in 1999 became executive director of O'Neill Sea Odyssey.
As was his way, O'Neill chewed on the idea of a sailing/science program for kids for quite a while before he launched it in 1996. And he sought input from Haifley, educators and his son Tim O'Neill, who is skipper of the Team O'Neill catamaran.
The O'Neill Sea Odyssey program now takes about 5,000 students out on the catamaran yearly to learn about the ocean and environmental protection. It has served 94,200 students thus far, said Haifley, and the program is entirely free. Additionally, each class that participates in the program also completes a community environmental project. Student projects have included a creek restoration, building a community garden, and a beach cleanup.
O'Neill, who was married twice, fathered seven children and had six grandchildren, came out on the boat with students countless times, Haifley said, instructing them that "the ocean is alive and we've got to take care of it."
"Because he was a thinker and because he believed in the process of intellectual discovery, he believed students would become stewards of the ocean through a science-based program," said Haifley.
"There's no doubt in my mind," O'Neill said, "that the O'Neill Sea Odyssey is the best thing I've ever done."
The surfing community in Santa Cruz came together to honor O'Neill on July 9 with a massive "paddle-out" ceremony. It's a memorial tradition among surfers, in which a group paddles out and forms a circle in the ocean to say prayers, throw flowers and splash in honor of a fellow surfer's passing.
The paddle-out circle for O'Neill stretched a half-mile across and included 4,000 paddlers and 83 vessels, said Kilpatrick. And an additional 6,000 people lined the cliffs at Pleasure Point to pay their respects to the surfer, adventurer and wetsuit pioneer.
A pioneer in designing wetsuits and other products that made surfing safer and more comfortable to pursue, even year-round and in cool climates.
Overcame: Criticism from skeptics, who thought his product was a novelty, to build the wetsuit market. Wetsuits expanded surfing into new, previously untried locations and thus greatly expanded the market for surf products.
Lesson: Keep ahead of the competition with constant innovation and protect your intellectual property with a patent or trademark.
"I'm just a surfer who wanted to build something that would allow me to surf longer."
First-time entrepreneurs often pour a lot of time and energy — not to mention money — into getting their ideas off the ground. By the time those who survived the initial stages of launching a business face the next hurdle of raising more money, many hope they can hit the jackpot with an angel investor and be off to the races. But that's not how it usually goes, says Patrick Henry, a San Diego-based business consultant and author of " Plan Commit Win: 90 Days To Creating A Fundable Startup." Securing funds for a startup is seldom quick and easy.
"Raising money is a process, not an event," Henry told IBD.
Here are steps that could help you find long-term funding for your startup.
Refine your idea. Move beyond the back-of-the-envelope jottings and get lots of market feedback. Retool your idea based on what you hear. You have to provide a product with a price — that people are willing to pay — that exceeds what it costs to make, Henry writes.
"You have to be solving an important problem for your customer," he said. "And it has to be something that someone else can't come in and duplicate easily."
Create a roadmap. A business plan is more than a one-page guide to running your business. It's a detailed, month-by-month plan by which you can track key milestones and accomplishments, Henry says.
"Know your market, the competitive landscape and your business model — how you make money," Henry said. "From that, you develop an annual plan."
Your business plan is, in effect, a marketing document that will eventually help you raise capital. The key: Your business plan must articulate your progress and future plans.
"Investors will ask you: What are you going to accomplish over the next three months?" Henry said.
You must be ready to show them where you've been and how you will get to where you want to be.
Build a great team. Ideally, you want people who work well together and share goals and values, Henry says. Investors shy away from companies mired in chaos.
And team-building goes both ways, Henry says. You want to attract the right kind of investors. When tech experts launch startups, the focus is often on finding investors who have expertise in other aspects of running a business.
"Take a long-term vision of what kind of company you're building," Henry said. "You're most likely giving up board seats to these investors. Are you going to be able to work with them? Will they be open to bringing other expert people to the board?"
Get ready to launch. Equity investors look for an investor pitch deck, a 5- to 30-slide PowerPoint presentation.
"It is a marketing tool, though it has to have good content, too," said Hal Shelton, a mentor at Score, a nonprofit association that helps small businesses get off the ground.
Be precise with outreach. "Angel investors tend to invest in what they know, so for example if you have a biotech product, don't go to an angel group that focuses on clean energy," Shelton said. "Do your research or you won't hear back from them."
Shelton suggests looking at the Halo Report at the Angel Capital Association ( angelcapitalassociation.org) to find out what angel investors are pouring their money into, by geographical area and industry.
Finally, angel investors only make money when they exit an investment. So you must show them that you are willing to sell your business at the right time and for the right price, Shelton says. He suggests reading " Early Exits" by Basil Peters to build your knowledge on what angel investors look for.
Psychologists counsel patients on their mental baggage. Advisors sometimes do the same, especially when it comes to money.
XClients of all ages can bring long-held yet misguided beliefs into their financial planning conversations. While some advisors might look past an individual's hang-ups, others dig deep to try to reset their attitudes, expectations and perceptions.
Indulging a client's distorted views about money might make sense in the short run. After all, most advisors aren't trained as psychologists and lack the specialized skills to address potentially self-destructive behavior.
At the same time, advisors may conclude that doing nothing — and allowing clients to cling to false or irrational thoughts about money — can stymie their ability to save and spend in a fulfilling, productive manner.
"It's about what stresses them out and what keeps them up at night," said Rachel Gottlieb, a certified financial planner in New York City.
Separating real concerns about, say, budgeting and investment returns from rampant fears can test an advisor's mettle. Listening without judgment, probing gently and providing a reliably calm, steady hand can help stabilize a client's misplaced anxiety and emotions.
Seasoned advisors confront many psychological challenges that can afflict their clients. Examples include people who dread any kind of investing ("I'll lose all my money!"), feel they don't deserve so much money ("It's just not right!") or equate their net worth with their self-worth ("I've got to keep getting richer or else I'm a loser.").
To free clients from such self-imposed chokeholds, advisors must exercise patience. Like therapists, they launch a voyage of self-discovery in the hope that clients will eventually decide to uproot their deeply held assumptions.
Involve The Family
Our life experience influences how we treat money. Those who experienced hard times in their youth may find those early hardships lodge themselves in their psyche for decades.
"Some clients who grew up in the Depression (in the 1930s) feel that they will never have enough wealth," Gottlieb said. "So they spend well below their means."
She cites an example of a wealthy widow in her 80s who, despite her substantial holdings, constantly fears running out of money and not being able to pay her bills.
Bringing in the widow's three adult children for a heart-to-heart meeting helped. They repeatedly assured her, "Mom, you're going to have enough money."
Younger investors are not immune from a Depression-era mindset. They may harbor such a strong aversion to the markets that they refuse to engage.
"Some of my millennial clients are scarred from the (2007-08) financial crisis," said Brad Bernstein, a certified financial planner in Philadelphia, Pa. "They just have this short, disastrous experience" that undermined their faith in investing.
Bernstein, who studied psychology in college, seeks to educate young professionals by discussing historical returns over time. He finds that they often overcome their investing phobia once they understand long-term market trends.
In some cases, Bernstein accepts an individual's baggage and works around it. He recalls meeting a couple in which the wife had "some kind of horrible experience with an advisor."
As a result, she refused to be in the same room with him. So Bernstein wound up advising her husband — and he remains a client seven years later.
Ask For Permission
In order for advisors to double as therapists, they need to listen well. That can prove difficult because of their eagerness to solve clients' problems.
"It takes discipline not to interrupt a client," said Nick Strain, a certified financial planner in Long Beach, Calif. Instead of jumping in to recommend an action or give his opinion, he prefers to keep quiet and let people direct the conversation.
When he senses that clients have covered everything on their mind, Strain replies, "Is there anything else you're thinking about?"
If they say no, Strain still resists shifting into advice-giving mode. First, he reviews each of the main points they made and says, "Tell me more about that."
By giving clients ample opportunities to open up, Strain positions himself as an attentive, nonjudgmental listener. He takes notes and stays silent.
"It works so well," he said. "If you interrupt and dive into the first point you hear them make, you can miss the five or six other topics they're thinking about."
He has also learned to ask permission before he proposes a solution or dishes out advice. Even if he's certain that he can provide constructive input or a practical tip to help a client overcome a money-related psychological barrier, he withholds his comment until he receives an affirmative response to his question, "Would you like some help in solving that problem?"
When Leland Melvin turned 8 years old, his parents gave him a chemistry set for his birthday. He recalls that he used the chemicals to mix a concoction that burned a hole in a carpet and sent smoke throughout the house.
But, as it turns out, the good that gift did far outweighed the cost of a dozen carpets. In a telephone interview with IBD, Melvin said:
"That chemistry set was the thing that activated my brain and told me I could be a scientist. As a child, I could see scientists in white lab coats [on TV or in the movies], but I never saw one that looked like me. When I speak to educators, I talk about brain activation in kids, something that stimulates a young mind into action. That chemistry set did it for me."
In fact, it stimulated him all the way into space, as one of only 14 African-Americans — of more than 360 astronauts — who've made it into earth's orbit. His two missions to the International Space Station, one each in 2008 and 2009, lasted a total of almost 24 days.
Along the way, he also came close to a career as a wide receiver, making him the only NFL draftee ever to be launched into the outer atmosphere.
Melvin, 53, grew up in Lynchburg, Va., the son of two educators. He credits his parents with instilling in him a life view that led to his success.
In his newly published memoir, " Chasing Space," he remembers an old bread truck that his dad purchased. To the young Melvin, it was simply an old bread truck. But to his father, who installed bunk beds, a pullout couch, a table and a camping stove, it was a vacation home on wheels.
That bread truck/camper imbued in Melvin the sense that life is not just what you see, but what can-be, the possibilities. "If you can visualize a goal and keep that in your mind, you're already halfway toward winning, whether it's flying in space or catching a football," he said.
A Gift Of Confidence
But probably the most important gifts his parents gave him were confidence that he could succeed and the ability to ignore the low expectations many of his and his parents' generation had of black people.
"They always told me to believe in myself. That started with 'The Little Engine That Could,' which was read to me it seems almost every night. I remember: 'I think I can. I think I can,' even when the bigger engines didn't believe.
"Once you get that inside you, you can beat the haters putting their hate on you, (people) willing to hurt someone else's future because of their low expectations (saying), 'You can't be good in math because you're not supposed to be good in math.' "
Melvin ignored the disbelievers, and excelled academically (a B.S. in chemistry in 1986) and on the athletic field. A wide receiver, he set multiple records at the University of Richmond, where he caught at least one pass in each of the 39 games he played.
He attracted the attention of the Detroit Lions, which selected him in the 11th round of the 1986 draft, but dropped him in training camp when he injured his hamstring. The Dallas Cowboys subsequently signed him with orders to report to training the following spring.
What to do while he waited? A friend sent him to see Professor Glenn Stoner of the University of Virginia's materials engineering department, who offered him a position as a research associate. It was supposed to be a temporary job, something to tide him over until he reported to Dallas.
But the field — which combined chemistry and engineering — engrossed Melvin. And his work impressed Stoner sufficiently that he urged him to apply for the school's graduate program. He did, even though he understood days that combined academics — even remote academics via computer link — and daily (and lengthy) workouts would be beyond mentally and physically exhausting.
Bad luck and bad hamstrings struck again, and he was dropped from the team. His first reaction was a sense of betrayal. He didn't feel he'd been given a legitimate opportunity. At first he considered other NFL options. But he soon concluded that it made no sense to wallow in self-pity or self-doubt.
"We always talk about how we shouldn't fail (at anything)," he said. "But failure does a number of [positive] things. It builds character. It teaches you how to be successful. Look at all the rockets we launched on the pad and in the air before we got one that really worked.
"What if Edison had given up on the lightbulb. ... What if he said after 50 (tries), 'I can't do this'?"
Private Industry Beckons
So Melvin returned to graduate school full-time and in 1989 received a masters in engineering. He'd met with reps from large corporations and was all set for a job in private industry when he was cornered by a representative of NASA.
"I was going to go to DuPont or Dow, but then I met this woman, Rosa Webster. She wanted me to work at NASA and she was tenacious. NASA wanted to hire more women and minorities and she listed all the things that NASA could do for me. I listened to her and it just felt right."
He took a series of increasingly responsible jobs with the NASA's Langley Research Center in Langley, Va. — first measuring the ability of various metallic and composite components of the shuttle to stand the stress of the launch, space travel and re-entry, including variations in temperature and chemical damage, and ultimately designing and monitoring a system that produced fiber-optic sensors.
But while Melvin's head was filled with science his heart was in the stars. So in 1998 he applied for the astronaut program, an arduous process in which the powers-that-be winnow down 2,500 applicants to a manageable 120 and then down to class size. It involved both an exhaustive physical as well as a lengthy interview.
Candidates also had to write an essay about what they brought to the dance. Melvin wrote about the values his parents instilled in him, including his background in sports with its emphasis on teamwork.
"My parents never said: 'Get yours. I want you to be the leading batter or leading scorer.' They always told me to have fun, play hard and share the ball."
It worked. In June 1998, back at Langley, Melvin got the call. He'd made the cut. But his joy was relatively short-lived.
Training for extravehicular activity (EVA) — that is, exiting the Space Shuttle to work outside it — Melvin was being lowered into a large pool, to a submerged model of the International Space Station. The idea was to simulate making repairs while on a spacewalk.
On his way down, something went wrong. Pressure built up in his ears and he lost his hearing. He was raised and lowered several times hoping to correct the situation, but nothing seemed to help.
When he finally got out of the pool, he still couldn't hear and one ear was bleeding. He was immediately given treatment — but also placed on the unqualified-to-fly list.
"They never definitely figured out what happened," he said. "They said it's something in the inner ear. They thought in trying to clear my inner ear I might have overpressurized a membrane."
Most but not all of his hearing eventually returned, but lying in a Houston hospital he relied on the grit that he developed growing up, doing double duty as a scholar-athlete, and determined to fly again.
Although he could not do a spacewalk — that would have required getting back in the pool, which NASA wouldn't allow — he worked to master other skills needed in flight, becoming the go-to expert in operating a robotic arm.
According to fellow astronaut Robert Satcher, Melvin succeeded:
"One of my memories of Leland was his tremendous expertise with the robotic arm and the robotic systems on board. There wasn't anything he didn't know about them. I would occasionally ask him some esoteric question just to see if he knew it, but I was unable to exceed his knowledge base."
Another memory: "I could not ask for a better crew mate. ... He was a great mentor for me as it (STS129 in November 2009) was my first and only space flight and he had previously flown.
"He was the consummate teammate — always thinking about the team, while simultaneously paying attention to individuals and setting a great example for all to follow."
After his flying days were over, he took on several jobs in NASA's education department, traveling the country addressing students and teachers about the importance of science and science education. He retired in February 2014 and continues to travel the world speaking about science education.
Of course, the experiences he remembers most are his days in space, which he says "fundamentally changed me."
"Traveling around the globe every 90 minutes, seeing the planet from the vantage point of space, such a beautiful blue marble, it is just overwhelming," he said. "It makes you wonder why we all can't get along."
One of only 14 African-Americans to make it into space.
Overcame: Temptations of private industry in order to pursue public service.
Lesson: There's more to life than a big bank account.
"If I'd gone to DuPont or Dow, maybe I would have more money in the bank. But the richness the NASA experience has given me is worth far more."
Bend technology. In our efforts to seize the day something else is competing with us for it, seducing our time away, seemingly benignly.
Process this: the average person checks their phone 110 times a day, according to Krznaric.
"While we like to think this helps us at work — we're keeping on top of things and staying connected — the habit of digital distraction can pull us away from doing really good work, where we are focused on a task, thinking through new strategies, and giving people we work with the attention they deserve," he pointed out.
Krznaric recommends downloading an app like Checky, which records how often you check your phone. "You'll be shocked by the result," he promised. Also, apps like Freedom or AntiSocial switch off your internet access completely or to particular sites for a specified time period.
"You'll be amazed by how much quality work you get done if you aren't constantly plugged into the online universe," Krznaric added.
Challenge yourself daily.Apple ( AAPL) co-founder Steve Jobs said every morning he would ask himself if today were his last, would he want to spend it doing what he was about to do?
"If the answer was no for too many days in a row, he realized that he knew he had to change something," Krznaric said.
This was Job's way of ensuring he was "staying true to his passions and values, and focusing on what really mattered," Krznaric said. "Whether you're a tech entrepreneur or managing a sales team, you can follow Jobs' example and make sure you retain that big-picture perspective on your job."
Aim for the summit. To excel at your work, you must be motivated, creative and engaged.
Krznaric cites psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who says people can get into the zone or "flow state" by focusing on those tasks that are challenging and creative, yet not so difficult that they feel anxious about potentially failing.
"Make sure you keep challenging yourself enough so you can enter the flow state," Krznaric said. Keep track of the kinds of work activities that get you into one "and try to do them more often."
An inspired worker is 125% more productive than a merely satisfied one, added Michael Mankins, co-author with Eric Garton of " Time Talent Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag & Unleash Your Team's Productive Power.
Simplify. The root cause of unhealthy company collaboration is a company culture that requires more interactions than necessary to get work done, Mankins, also a partner with consulting titan Bain & Company's San Francisco office, says.
A company culture that confuses inclusion with collaboration, he adds, encourages "managers and employees to include more people in decision-making and execution without getting the benefits of collaboration on productive output."
Some ideas that Mankins offers to lighten loads:
Treat every meeting you schedule like it occurs at 6:30 a.m. Saturday. "Keep them short, keep them focused, keep the audience to a minimum."
He also recommends not always responding to emails that don't require a response, and "don't copy people on emails that don't need to know."
Leap. It's believed that around 15%-20% of adults are chronic procrastinators, 95% of whom wish they could reduce that tendency, Krznaric said.
"Act first, think later," he advised. "That's how we know what really works for us, and can give us the courage to embark on substantive change.
"This is a lesson that applies to all areas of business life. Sometimes you've got to stop thinking and planning, and (as Nike ( NKE) says) 'Just Do It.' We forge who we are, and who we want to be, in the white heat of experiential learning."
William Harley and his best friend Arthur Davidson wanted to make their bicycles go faster with less effort by attaching a small motor.
Their prototype wasn't powerful enough, so they asked Arthur's brother, Walter, who was a machinist, for help. Another Davidson brother, Bill, surreptitiously made other parts at the machine shop where he worked and from 1903 to 1904 they built and sold their first three motorcycles.
It was the humble beginnings of what would become Harley-Davidson ( HOG), which last year had $6 billion in revenues and net income of $692 million and remains one of the world's most iconic brands.
"Harley-Davidson is associated with freedom, rebelliousness, adventure, and flirting with danger — racing our Hogs," said Oliver Shokouh, owner since 1976 of Harley-Davidson of Glendale, Calif. "It's also a brand identified with patriotism, since Harleys played an important role in all our 20th century conflicts, starting with the effort to stop Pancho Villa's raids from Mexico."
"As you read through the history of our founders, you'll see key business themes that are still pillars of our business today," Katie Whitmore, the company's manager of corporate reputation, told IBD. "They worked tirelessly to build great motorcycles, establish a strong dealer network and expand the company's global presence. Our founders showed great passion and forward-thinking in new product development."
The founders were all born in Milwaukee: Bill Davidson in 1870, Walter in 1876, Arthur in 1881 and William Harley in 1880.
Arthur, who created wooden models of mining equipment for a manufacturer, and co-worker Harley, a draftsman with experience at a bike factory, attended a stage show featuring a three-wheeled bike with a single-cylinder motor. Inspired, Arthur designed an air-cooled motor, while Harley invented a bike with a loop frame strong enough to carry it on the rough local roads.
But in 1903, frustrated by two years of technical problems, they wrote Walter, a self-taught electrician and machinist who was working for a railroad in Kansas. An enthusiastic bicycle racer, he returned to help them build their first production model, which was sold to a friend, and they moved out of the Davidson basement into a 10-foot-by-15-foot shed in the backyard.
In 1905 they hired their first full-time employee, and five more were added the next year when they moved to a new factory on Chester Street, a single-story building 600 feet by 40 feet wide (renamed Juneau Avenue, where the corporate headquarters is today). They turned out 50 motorcycles in 1906 and 150 the following year, according to the company historian.
A Turning Point
1907 was a turning point in many ways, as they incorporated and Bill joined them to oversee the manufacturing process. He would always remain in close touch with the workers on the floor, no matter how big the company got, using their insights to make constant improvements.
Harley, who had taken time out to go to the University of Wisconsin's engineering school, graduated the same year and agreed to take charge of product development, eventually receiving 67 patents.
Arthur's outgoing personality made him the natural general sales manager — traveling the country, and later the world, recruiting dealers. He masterminded advertising, became an early proponent of sales on an installment plan, and foresaw the need for training specialist mechanics and the development of the Harley-Davidson Service School, according to his biography on the company's website.
Walter was the company's first general manager and president, with responsibility for relations with the growing number of investors.
For many years they worked together seven days a week until at least 10 p.m. and remained lifelong friends.
Race To The Top
Walter transferred his love for racing bikes to motorcycles and earned the company some publicity by competing in races. The other founders weren't sure that was a good idea, since they viewed races as dangerous. They preferred to have their cycles associated with pleasant leisure activities, like going fishing or on a romantic picnic.
But in 1908, Walter won a major motorcycle endurance contest, the Federation of American Motorcyclists' 175-mile ride through New York's Catskill Mountains, and everyone was caught up in the excitement at beating their archrival, Indian Motorcycle, according to the company's official history.
The same year, Harley-Davidson sold its first cycles to law enforcement, based on the company's rising reputation for consistent quality. It would also increasingly be viewed as the industry's leading innovator, with such inventions as the first clutch, the three-speed transmission, the carburetor choke, and the step-starter, Harley-Davidson's historian said.
In 1913, a new five-story plant covering 300,000 square feet opened, with a workforce of 1,500, and Arthur lined up their first overseas distributor, in Japan.
Four years later, the United States entered World War I and Harley-Davidson modified its products for military use, turning out 15,000 for the Allies.
In 1920, the company had become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, making nearly 28,000 bikes for dealers in 67 countries. But as cars became less expensive and competed for daily transportation, sales declined, and with the stock market crash in October 1929, the year ended with just 21,000 sold. Those figures hit bottom in 1933, with sales of only 3,703.
But Harley-Davidson responded with major innovations, including the Flathead and Knucklehead OHV engines, and by the end of the 1930s, Indian Motorcycle was its only serious American competitor. Then World War II brought demand for over 70,000 of the H-D military model.
By the end of the war, the leadership of the company had dramatically changed. Bill Davidson had died in 1937 at 66. Walter was next, in 1942 at 65, and William Harley passed a year later at 62. Arthur was killed in a car accident in 1950 at age 69.
After The Founders
The following generations of Davidsons and Harleys helped keep the brand on course to become a global icon, but there were plenty of big bumps in the road along the way.
In 1969, American Machine and Foundry (AMF) bought the company, streamlining production and slashing the workforce. This resulted in a labor strike, after which quality declined and sales tanked — so much so that Harley-Davidson was on the verge of bankruptcy when it was bought out in 1981 by a group of its executives for $81.5 million. One of them was Jeffrey Bleustein, the vice president of engineering, who became CEO in 1997 until he stepped down in 2005.
"We realized that management and the unions had many more things we agreed on than areas where we had differences and learned to respect each other's views on the areas of difference and to work around those to achieve our mutual goals," Bleustein told IBD in 2009. "People throughout the company know more about the work they do in their area than the bosses do, so they are the best people to figure out what needs to be done if you want to improve performance, increase quality, reduce cost, etc. Moreover, people will work smarter and harder on their own ideas."
The motorcycle industry has been soft recently, but in the 2016 letter to shareholders, Harley-Davidson's CEO, Matt Levatich, noted strong overseas growth and a plan to add 2 million more riders in the U.S. "As stewards of the most powerful motorcycle brand in the world, we are called to grow our sport by engaging and inspiring new riders just as our founders did 114 years ago," he wrote.
"It's the great equalizer," Harley-Davidson dealer Shokouh said of the bikes. "Your gender, race, education, or job don't matter and every generation of Americans since the company's inception has been influenced by its mystique."
Blogger Hydar Saharudin at ReferralCandy recently explained customers' loyalty this way: "The Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) has been a resounding marketing success, with more than a million members in 25 countries, and half of them regularly attend Harley-Davidson events. Members are encouraged to provide direct input into how Harley creates new products and improves current ones and because of H.O.G. and its push for greater customer engagement and ownership, Harley-Davidson spends less than a million dollars on advertising each year."
One of the most successful of those sponsored events, the annual Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D., celebrates its 77th year beginning Aug. 4, and is expected to draw over half a million enthusiasts.
Harley and Davidson Keys
They committed to continuing cutting-edge excellence in making Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Overcame: No experience running a company.
Lesson: Innovation can always make the "perfect" product even better.
"Personal service is really the keynote of our organization … and that service has been proven a good investment is evidenced by the fact that the company has been successful from the start."—Walter Davidson
Years ago, few looked to their financial advisor for ways to harness technology to gain financial savvy. But the spread of smartphones has turned many advisors into early adopters.
XWith an increasing number of people using mobile apps, advisors often position themselves as tech-smart guides. Depending on a client's need, they may recommend everything from budgeting software to interactive programs that teach children how to spend and save.
The tricky part is gauging a client's receptivity to technology. During the onboarding process, advisors can assess a newcomer's interest in establishing online accounts, downloading new apps and tracking their portfolio while on the go.
While many individuals want to take advantage of the latest tech platforms and products to simplify their financial lives, others resist. Worries about security and cyberhacking — or a desire to conduct business face-to-face — can signal a client's preference for old-fashioned communication.
"My clients range in age," said Samuel Boyd, a certified financial planner in Washington, D.C. "Across all age spectrums, I'm finding that people are mostly receptive to technology. For younger clients who grew up with it, it's not time-intensive to learn and use it. For others, it can require some trial-and-error at first."
One of the most popular personal finance tools that advisors share with clients is Mint. Acquired by Intuit ( INTU) in 2009, Mint provides budgeting, bill-paying and other money management features.
Boyd, who has used Mint with his clients for about six years, finds that the Web-based service complements his role as an advisor. Planners can integrate Mint into client reviews and encourage cash flow tracking on an ongoing basis.
"It helps you understand where your cash is going," he said. "A lot of clients will say, 'I didn't know I spent so much on restaurants.' It opens their eyes to where their money is being spent."
To add value, some advisors help clients engage their children in money matters. They may use technology to improve the entire family's financial literacy.
With many teens wedded to their smartphones, Boyd makes his clients aware of mobile apps such as Acorns. He urges parents to share these online resources with their kids.
"I use Acorns with clients who want to educate their children about investing," Boyd said. It provides an easy way to invest spare change, gain familiarity with diversified portfolios and see the benefits of compound interest.
Boyd arranged for a client's two teenage daughters to sign up for Acorns. Now they are steadily contributing small amounts of money in exchange traded funds.
"Investing can be scary to young adults," Boyd said. "If you can introduce them to investments early, the fear isn't there. And if you meet them where they are as digital natives, chances are you'll get them to pay attention."
Advisors scout out mobile apps that appeal to preteens as well.
Kari Jean Glosser, a certified financial planner in Santa Monica, Calif., recently discovered Motion Math (www.motionmathgames.com) that offers online games for youngsters.
"I played its Pizza app for 10 minutes and loved it," she said. "Kids are already on their phones. Why not teach them something valuable about money management and the economics of how a business works."
Many digital budgeting and saving tools offer free or low cost services. Some charge a monthly fee or a percentage of assets based on account size.
Many advisors look to digital technology to simplify clients' lives. Their favorite mobile apps streamline processes and create default options that promote speedy, sensible financial decisions.
Glosser uses DocuSign so that clients can complete documents with electronic signatures. This helps her practice go paperless and boost efficiency when executing legal and financial transactions.
"Clients love the ease of it," she said. "It presets those fields they need to fill out and advances them to the next field. And they can complete their paperwork — like opening an account or setting up different distributions — while on vacation."
Boyd favors Digit (www.digit.co) to enable clients to engage in disciplined saving with minimal effort. Linked to a checking account, the app tracks the user's balance and automatically sweeps small amounts of cash into a Digit savings vehicle.
"One of my core principles is you need to set up a life hack so that you can save without having to think about it," Boyd said. "That's how Digit works."
Boyd's firm, Capital Asset Management Group, hosts "Tech Tuesdays" to educate clients and the general public about mobile apps and other platforms they can use to manage their finances. Attendees bring their laptops and sample different money management tools.
Setting ambitious but realistic goals for your team always requires care. But managing millennials — born in the 1980s and 1990s — might require a fresh approach.
To devise goals that might hold particular appeal to younger employees:
Establish a two-way process. Traditional bosses declare a goal and then expect staffers to work hard to attain it. That approach might not be as effective with millennials.
"You want to be a transformational leader, not a transactional one," said Jesse Calloway, a leadership consultant in Chesterfield, Va. That means turning young employees into participants who help shape their own performance goals, as opposed to setting a high bar and threatening to punish them if they fail to meet your standard.
Stay involved. It may not be enough to explain a goal and then walk away. Millennials are perceived by some as craving coaching and interaction.
Author of " All the Way to the Top," Calloway suggests that you set up checkpoints to meet with millennials to gauge their progress as they march toward a goal.
"It's important to follow up so they know you want to coach them along the way," he said. "So say, 'We'll get together next week to check in.' And when you do check in, celebrate the small, successful steps" that the individual has achieved.
Think sooner, not later. Regardless of the age of your team members, set goals that motivate them to excel. But be aware that millennials might be more inclined to push themselves harder if they face a tight time frame.
"They grew up in an instant-gratification culture," said Rachel Ernst, director of employee success at Reflektive, a San Francisco-based firm that makes performance-management software. "They tend to have less patience and want goals that they can attain over the short term, say eight to 12 weeks instead of one year."
Emphasize professional development. Goals might resonate more forcefully with millennials if they are tied to advancement opportunities. Young staffers may want reassurance that if they meet or exceed the objectives you've set, they will reap career rewards.
"After six to nine months in a role, they want to know what's new," said Ernst, who manages many millennials. "So I'll say to them, 'Here's how these goals will help you enter a new role or function.' "
Focus on outcome, not process. Even if you encourage millennials to craft their own goals, you might still need to refine how they think about their contribution to the organization's success. Left on their own, they might confuse process with outcome.
Say a young go-getter proposes making 100 sales calls a week. Rather than just nod approvingly, translate those calls into broader, more impactful goals.
"When I let millennials take a first shot at drafting their goals, they often start with process goals," Ernst said. "Their mindset is more task-oriented: I have to make these calls, do these things, etc. Then I ask questions so they think more deeply about outcome goals" that strengthen the company.
For example, Ernst might redirect a millennial from narrowly concentrating on certain tasks by asking, "If you think about your role more broadly, what can you do to build community and impact our organization as a whole?"
Embrace transparency. Because they likely were raised in a sea of social media, millennials are probably accustomed to open, unfiltered online sharing. They may respond well to collaborative leaders who combine goal-setting with personal disclosure and information-sharing.
For instance, in her book " Option B," co-written with Adam Grant, Facebook ( FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg notes that Facebook executive Carolyn Everson shares her own performance reviews with 2,400 employees — many of whom are millennials.
Writes Sandberg: "She wants her entire team to see how she's working to improve."
Just as critics were sounding the death knell for Best Buy ( BBY), Hubert Joly embraced the opportunity to breathe new life into the consumer electronics retail giant.
Joly, who joined Best Buy as CEO in September 2012, knew he would have a lot on his plate when he was recruited for the job by search firm Spencer Stuart.
"When I was approached in the spring of 2012, Best Buy was facing an all-you-can-eat menu of challenges," Joly told IBD. "It was facing the threat of online competition."
In addition, it had leadership challenges. Joly's predecessor, Brian J. Dunn, was ousted. And the company's founder and top shareholder, Richard Schulze, was considering taking the company private.
But Joly, who has a reputation as a turnaround and transformation expert, was drawn to Best Buy's tough times: "I love challenges," said Joly.
A major challenge was competing with the wrath of the mighty Amazon.com ( AMZN).
"From the outside looking in, there was the existential threat of Best Buy being killed by Amazon and being transformed into a showroom," Joly said. "People would visit Best Buy stores, check out products and prices, and then buy them online. People thought we were dying."
Drawing on leadership principles shaped by his work as a consultant at McKinsey & Co. and by philosophical and spiritual work he did with monks at the Congregation of St. John, Joly has proved the naysayers wrong.
Thanks to a transformation strategy called "Renew Blue," Joly introduced in November 2012, Best Buy, the No. 1 consumer electronics retailer, has witnessed a strong financial revival. Joly declared Renew Blue over at the end of fiscal 2017. The company is moving into a new phase titled, "Best Buy 2020: Building the New Blue."
"As a result of the turnaround we've implemented, we're thriving," said Joly, who added the title chairman to his post in 2015. "If anyone asks who killed 'showrooming' in the U.S., that's us."
During the Renew Blue time period, same-store sales have been stabilized and Best Buy has grown earnings per share each year at an average rate of 9% per year, and it's topped Wall Street expectations for earnings per share in each of the past 17 quarters.
"When I joined, we had only two problems — declining revenue and margins," said Joly. "In the last four years, we've improved the top line in the U.S. incrementally and we've improved our profit margin by about 100 basis points. We've improved our return on invested capital by about 900 basis points from roughly 10% to 19%. And we've been one of the best performing shares in the market over the last five years, going from a low of 11 to mid-50s now, really five times since then."
Joly and his team have not only resuscitated Best Buy on the financial front, they've transformed it into a mighty competitor in its space.
"Best Buy is the revenue market share leader for consumer electronics, and they are likely to remain in that position for many years to come," said Stephen Baker, vice president, industry analysis, at the NPD Group.
Joly, 57 (he turns 58 on Aug. 11), grew up in France. He holds degrees from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Paris and the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris.
He began his career at McKinsey, where he was a partner. He worked there from 1983 to 1996. He left McKinsey to become president of one of his clients — the French business of Electronic Data Systems (now part of HP Inc. ( HPQ)). There, he staged his first turnaround as a corporate executive, boosting flagging revenue and increasing the profit margin.
Improving Struggling Companies
Joly has a track record of improving struggling companies. That also includes hospitality and travel company Carlson, where he was president and CEO from 2008 to 2012.
He says he learned a lot about leadership while he worked as a consultant at McKinsey — also learned a lot from clients.
Joly also spent quite a bit of time with a couple of friends who were monks in the Congregation of St. John. He worked together with them and published a couple of articles roughly 20 years ago. One article was in a theology journal and the other was in a philosophy journal about the purpose of work and the purpose of corporate organizations.
"I also did the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuit, to find my purpose in life," said Joly. "There's a deep philosophical and spiritual underpinning to all this."
Such experiences led to what Joly calls the five "Be's" of leadership.
Here are excerpts on the five Be's from a 2016 speech Joly gave at the French-American Chamber of Commerce Foundation gala:
Beware of seduction. And be clear about your purpose. It is very easy to be seduced by power, by money, by fame.
Be clear about who you are serving as a leader. If you believe that you are serving me as the head of the company, that you are serving your boss, you are so wrong. If you believe that you are serving yourself and your advancement, as a leader, you are equally wrong. My vision is that as a leader we are the servant of the servants. At Best Buy, the servants are the people in the front line — the blue shirts (sales associates) or the Geek Squad agents. And we executives are their servants.
Be clear about your role. IQ is highly overrated. The role of the leader is not to be the smartest person in the room. The role of a leader is at least two things. One is to build a team. And two is to create an environment in which others can thrive — in which others can find and pursue their purpose.
Be values-driven. Integrity is a key foundation. The other value is diversity and inclusion. McKinsey has done studies that management teams or boards that are diverse — from either a gender standpoint or an ethnicity standpoint — are more effective in that their performance is better than (the) performance of teams that are not diverse. One of the things I'm very proud of at Best Buy is that 50% of my direct reporters are women and 40% of our board members are women.
Be authentic as a leader. An authentic leader is someone who is purposeful, mission-driven and values-driven and who lives an integrated life. You are not a hard-nosed business leader and a nice parent and a generous donor. You live an integrated life and you try to live all these values in all these circumstances.
Joly says his philosophy of leadership is "rooted in the metaphysics" of work: Why do we work? What is the purpose of a corporation?
"The best companies excel simultaneously on the three dimensions of people, business and finance," said Joly. "But from a philosophical standpoint, the purpose is not financial, it's about contributing to the common good and contributing (to) the development of the individuals who work at the company and are touched by the company. And it's about developing positive relationships. It's a human purpose."
The Art Of The Turnaround
Joly takes a disciplined approach to improving companies, drawing on a type of "manual" he's developed on principles that underlie a turnaround.
"In the context of turnaround leadership, my leadership philosophy was about working together with management to turn around and transform Best Buy," said Joly. "We worked together to develop a diagnosis of the situation and develop a framework of how to turn around Best Buy."
The purpose of the diagnosis is to uncover the main issues and performance drivers.
"The most important thing is to build the right team and to do it very quickly," he added. "Typically in a turnaround you have to change a significant part of the team. And you start at the top."
At Best Buy, Joly removed three leaders, promoted a few from within, and recruited from the outside.
In his manual there are four drivers to a turnaround:
Increase the revenue.
Reduce nonsalary costs.
Try to manage benefits in a creative fashion.
"If 1+2+3 is not sufficient, you may have to cut jobs. But you do it as a last resort and you don't make it a trophy accomplishment," said Joly. "You, as the CEO, aren't about taking heads out, you're about growing the revenue and taking costs out that don't impact the people."
Joly drew on his principles and philosophy to turn around Best Buy.
Thirty days into the job, Joly and his team made a key decision: "We decided we were going to be price competitive and we implemented a price-matching policy online," said Joly. "People were coming to our stores looking for help (from sales associates). By being price competitive and matching prices and then leveraging our unit assets, there was no reason to leave the store without buying. This was a bold move."
So far, Best Buy has taken out $1.4 billion in costs. Joly says that's allowed Best Buy to make the investments in price competitiveness and improving the customer experience.
To enhance the in-store experience, Best Buy has invested in adding many shop-in-shops developed in partnership with some of the world's foremost tech companies. These shops help vendors showcase the use of their technology and innovations.
Best Buy has added shop-in-shops for such companies as Samsung, Microsoft ( MSFT), Sony ( SNE), Alphabet's ( GOOGL) Google.
Best Buy has also invested in improving the customer shopping experience online. The result: Its online business has grown more than 20% a year, says Joly.
Among other things, the team also improved the supply chain by leveraging Best Buy's store base to offer ship-from-store. Joly says Best Buy is shipping as fast as Amazon.
Piper Jaffray analyst Peter Keith says Best Buy is winning share in the e-commerce space vs. Amazon.
"If you look at the value proposition, it's equal and more likely even better to buy from Best Buy vs. Amazon," said Keith. "You get the same prices and shipping terms — you can pick up (online orders) in stores and return items to stores. And you also get after market support. Their value proposition is arguably better than Amazon's for shopping for consumer electronics, which is allowing Best Buy to take back share."
Joly moved quickly to set Best Buy on the turnaround path and has continued to build momentum as it's taken shape.
"If you try to ride a bike while standing still, you fall," said Joly. "But if the bike is moving and not going in the right direction, you can adjust the course. In a turnaround, what's critical is to get things moving and build the momentum, and not worry about being too precise."
Helped turn around Best Buy, the revenue market share leader for consumer electronics.
Overcame: The wrath of Amazon and positioned Best Buy to win share in the e-commerce space.
Lesson: Follow spiritual and philosophical leadership principles.
"There's a deep philosophical and spiritual underpinning to all this."
Rising stars at big companies often accept an overseas assignment to gain a global perspective. Their foreign stint proves a career-propelling, eye-opening experience.
XSimilarly, advisors who have spent time abroad can position their clients to thrive in a global economy and help broaden their outlooks. The lessons that globetrotting advisors glean from their travels can also shape their investment strategy, enhance their understanding of international relations and strengthen their bonds with clients.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson advisors take away from their travels is the importance of maintaining an open mind when meeting strangers. Rather than resort to biases, they seek to learn and build rapport.
IBD'S TAKE:Looking to book travel to get some experience abroad? Might as well check to see which travel stocks, like Priceline, are on a roll. Click on the Leisure group at investors.com.
Tom Connaghan, an advisor in San Francisco, spent a summer in Tokyo during his college years. Living with an extended family in Tokyo, he benefited from a close-up look at daily life in a vastly different culture.
"It was hard to figure out the signs to get around," he recalled. "I had to rely on kind individuals to communicate. Now when I meet clients from all walks of life, I never presume to guess what they're thinking about" or draw conclusions based on their backgrounds.
When he meets someone with a foreign accent, for example, he refrains from taking a stab at the speaker's homeland. If he asks, "Are you from Australia?" and they answer, "No, I'm a Kiwi," the conversation can grind to a halt.
"I try not to make assumptions," he said. "I've learned from my travels that you never know what people think of Americans and how you're perceived, so it's better to listen" without judgment.
A Big Bag Of Bills
Advisors with a rich travel history can draw upon their faraway journeys to convey points that hit close to home. Their overseas adventures and observations add color to their routine chats with clients.
David Rosell, an advisor in Bend, Ore., spent a big chunk of his 20s backpacking through 65 countries. He ran his driveway seal-coating business for six months a year — and hit the road for the other half.
When obtaining local currency in Vietnam in 1994, he says he wound up "with 1,200-dong bills stuffed in a big bag as I walked down a street in Saigon." He shares this experience with clients to illustrate how soaring inflation can affect investments.
"I use this story to take a boring concept like inflation and make my point come alive," said Rosell, 48, author of "Keep Climbing." As a result, his clients are more apt to appreciate how high inflation can eat away at their savings over time.
Thanks to his extensive time abroad, Rosell looks for opportunities to celebrate foreign cultures. He likes to host client gatherings that revolve around a particular country.
When he returned from Cuba, for instance, he threw a party for clients and handed out cigars. Another event featured Spain; Rosell served Spanish wines, paired them with the country's cuisine and showed slides from his trip.
Rosell started as an advisor in 2000. He has found over the last 17 years that his travels help solidify his client relationships.
"My clients see my international breadth of knowledge and it enables them to open up to me more about life," he said. "They might also ask if I've been somewhere and what I thought of that place. It helps me forge a stronger bond with them."
Thanks to his extensive travels through Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, Rosell met locals who persevered despite meager earnings. He was struck by their warmth and good cheer — and their sunny attitude has stayed with him two decades later.
"I met people in places like Malawi and Uganda who lived on dirt floors but seemed much happier than many (Westerners)," he said. "So now the first question I ask a new client is, 'What's important about money to you?' I want to peel the onion to see if it's the inner things they really want or just external things like boats and cars."
In some cases, advisors' travels can expand their investment horizons. A firsthand glimpse of another culture can expose them to an economy on the brink of a breakout.
Ryan Payne, a New York City-based advisor, spent three weeks in Poland last year recording an album with his rock band. Working closely with studio hands, he marveled at their work ethic.
"You could see a rising middle class buying more amenities," he recalled. "The trip reaffirmed our belief that places like Poland and other emerging markets can offer great opportunities, and that globalization is happening at a faster pace with (their access to) technology."
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati found that an astounding 85% of the things people worry about never even happen, and 90% of our fears are considered to be about insignificant issues.
That's from Adam Kirk Smith, author of " The Bravest You: 5 Steps to Fight Your Biggest Fears, Find Your Passion, and Unlock Your Extraordinary Life."
"Know that the odds are in your favor when you repeatedly take smarter risks and try new things," he said. "Commit to trying one new thing every week to increase your creativity, to set yourself apart from everyone else, and to begin building a better future."
Tips on tearing down mental walls:
Meditate. It's the best way to examine our triumphs and setbacks along with the world around us, Smith says.
"The good news about meditation is that it doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out process, but it is something that can be as short as five minutes every day," he said. "As long as you are habitually fitting it in your busy schedule, the length of time doesn't matter. But we all need to realize the importance of silence and meditation in our lives."
Be thankful. Simply taking the time each day "to be grateful has shown to raise your baseline happiness by as much as 25%," wrote Friederike Fabritius and Hans Hagemann, authors of " The Leading Brain: Powerful Science-Based Strategies for Achieving Peak Performance."
A sunny disposition has also shown to directly correlate to your effectiveness and maximum efficiency, the authors add.
Reclassify setbacks. The reason Smith says you shouldn't label something you do as a failure is because each mishap and mistake serves as a steppingstone to success.
"If you find yourself wishing that you would have done something differently, the past is there to learn from, not to dwell on," he said.
Cut the fat. It actually takes courage to stop doing some things. Maybe in your mind you consider that to be quitting or you're concerned what others may think, so you trudge down an unproductive track.
Smith suggests determining two unimportant commitments that you can quit and replace them in your schedule with one more-productive item. "You can repeat this practice as often as needed in order to unlock the life you are looking for."
Regulate your emotions. Do this to get back in control, says Hagemann.
He states that 75% to 95% of all visits to the doctor in the U.S. are for stress-related conditions. "The No. 1 reason for stress: inhibition."
Hagemann says rein in your emotions by:
Describing them aloud or in writing. Just labeling a stressful response helps disarm it.
Take a deep breath that you can feel in your belly, not just your chest. Exhale slowly.
Turn lemons into lemonade by asking yourself: "What is the positive aspect of what just had happened? Somebody might have given you valuable feedback but chose the wrong words or a threatening posture. Or an unexpected opportunity might have emerged. "Dig for what's really important!"
Laser in. You can be five times more productive in an average working situation if you reach a "subjective state where you are completely involved in something to the expense of everything else," Hagemann said.
You need three things to accomplish this, he said: "A clearly defined goal which you might visualize for best effects, a clear timeline, and immediate feedback on your activities."
Search. When you simply pose questions to yourself about what you want, you trigger your mind to look for answers.
For example, Smith says, suppose it's applicable to ask yourself: "How can I learn to fall in love with my work and my life?"
"When we find the answer to this question," he said, "the only thing we are worried about is having more of what we love, and embracing every opportunity that comes our way — ultimately the fulfillment we were looking for."
"Fear is the biggest obstacle you will ever face on your way to reaching success," Smith said, "but bravery is obtainable when you find passion — the fuel behind not giving up."
Bill Marriott is still very active at 85, as the executive chairman and chairman of the board of Marriott International ( MAR), the world's largest hotel company. He stepped down as CEO in 2012, after four decades in that position.
"I've visited 70 hotels so far in 2017 and I'll get to more than 100 by the end of the year," Marriott told IBD from his vacation home on Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H., near those of his children and their kids. That's his relaxed schedule: As CEO, twice that would receive his perfectionist inspections. He's been all over the world, yet he says, "I love every minute of it right here on the lake."
Travel is important because it "provides an understanding of how other people live," he added. "My wife and I went with my parents to China in 1979 and there were Mao suits and bicycles everywhere, with everything under tight control. We've watched China emerge to become the second largest economy in the world and it's now a major focus of our expansion and marketing.
"People come to America from all over the world with questions and they almost always go away with a better feeling about our country and the great opportunities it provides."
He was born John Willard Marriott Jr. in 1932 in Washington, D.C., where his father and mother, Alice, had opened an A&W Root Beer franchise five years before. They soon added food service and renamed it The Hot Shoppe, where Bill did every kind of job during high school.
Marriott graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in finance in 1954. The next year, he married Donna Garff and served as a supply officer on an aircraft carrier to fulfill his ROTC commitment.
When he returned in 1956, The Hot Shoppes were expanding and the family was about to open its first hotel in Arlington, Va. It had an ideal location near the airport, but no one understood how to run it, so Bill volunteered. They opened another nearby in 1959, when company sales reached $46 million, and Bill kept pushing to add hotels, while his father resisted taking on more debt.
"We were just smart enough to know we had something fresh to offer and just naive enough to go at it with the wide-eyed enthusiasm and energy of a bunch of kids who knew nothing about the business," he wrote in his memoir, " Without Reservations: How a Family Root Beer Stand Grew Into a Global Hotel Company."
Bill was named president in 1964, when sales hit $84 million and they had 9,600 employees and four hotels. Five years later, the publicly held and renamed Marriott Corp. had 11 hotels — including the first foreign one in Acapulco, Mexico — with sales totaling $257 million. It began franchising in 1970 and Bill was made CEO two years later.
Over the next decade, the company diversified into cruise ships, theme parks and travel agencies, with $1.5 billion in sales in 1979. Given the size and scope the company had reached, he then put in place a strategic planning unit that helped them focus on hotels and improved the management of change.
In 1983, the company had grown to include 131 hotels in 79 cities, before opening the first two Courtyard by Marriott hotels, which Marriott says he considers one of the most important innovations he's overseen. (Forbes magazine ranks the company No. 1 for innovation in the industry.)
"We were the first big chain to go down-market, with a moderate-priced offering with nice rooms — with no frills and fewer staff. And everybody told us we were crazy," he said. "Today, we have over 1,000 Courtyard hotels."
Two years later, his father died and Bill was elected chairman of the board.
"He took his father's legacy and led it into a modern era by focusing on innovations that the industry has tried to copy, defining the direction of the business and the guest experience of hospitality," said Arne Sorenson, president and CEO at the Bethesda, Md., headquarters, where two of Marriott's children are executives (another left to invest in startups).
In 1987, the company acquired the Residence Inn chain and opened its first Fairfield Inn, an economy-priced, limited-service line. Two years later, the company went through major restructuring, as debt reached $3.3 billion, selling off its airline-catering and restaurant divisions.
In 1993, he implemented the most important innovation of his career, splitting the company into Marriott International, which he would run as an asset-light management firm, and Host Marriott, run by his brother, Richard, which would own real estate and operate concessions. (The concessions business was acquired by Italy-based Autogrill in 1999.)
"We didn't invent the management contract, but we created the company that was able to exit from real estate ownership, while our competitors stayed in it," he said. "We expect to use the cash from selling the final couple of dozen properties obtained from the Starwood acquisition over the next few years, to grow the business and enhance shareholder value through dividends and share repurchases."
Marriott's operating margins are around an enviable 50%. For managed hotels, the company is reimbursed for all staffing costs and provides marketing, reservations, and the loyalty platform (Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest) at cost, in return for management fees on total revenues. Franchisees generally pay a royalty on room revenue only, a marketing fee, and the cost for reservations and the loyalty program. (They either operate the hotels themselves or contract that to others).
Loyal Customers And Workers
"We were the first hotel to develop a frequent-guest stay program in 1984, and everyone said we were crazy — again," said Marriott. "The president of Hyatt said, 'I'll bury you in advertising.' Today, our loyalty programs have 100 million members and we are adding 1 million a month."
One of the keys to Bill Marriott's success has been to follow his father's advice: "Take care of the associate and the associate will take care of the guest, so the guest will return again and again." There is a generous benefit program and no limit to advancement, so high retention results in more highly skilled personnel who provide better service (with 675,000 currently wearing the Marriott name tag). Half the general managers came from the hourly ranks, says Marriott, and on average they've been managers for 25 years. (According to Hilton Hotels ( HLT), its managers average 15 years in that role). Part of the company's hiring philosophy has been to screen for those with a friendly personality and dependability, since technical skills can be trained. (Marriott International regularly makes Fortune's list of " 100 Best Companies to Work For.")
"Mr. Marriott is more than my boss," said Sorenson. "He's a mentor and a friend."
Last year, the company acquired Starwood Hotel & Resorts Worldwide for $13.6 billion, bringing total properties today to over 6,100 in 124 countries and territories. To Marriott's other top brands, including Ritz-Carlton and Renaissance, Starwood added such high-end names as W Hotels, Westin, Sheraton, Le Meridien, and St. Regis. Marriott International now has 1.2 million rooms, with 430,000 in the development pipeline, and last year reported revenues of $17.1 billion and net income of $780 million (including Starwood numbers from Sept. 23, 2016).
Since the 1993 split that created Marriott International, the adjusted stock price has risen from $5 to a recent $100, a 1,900% increase, and it regularly makes Fortune's Most Admired Companies list.
Making sure that there are opportunities for workers at the bottom to rise to the top.
Overcame: Disasters that challenged the company's ability to retain customers and employees, including 9/11 and the Great Recession.
Lesson: Anticipate your customers' needs.
"The four most important words in the English language are: 'What do you think?' "
Many advisors treat their clients as family. What happens when some of them really are family?
A mix of emotions often swirls around money issues. Couple those feelings with familial attachments and you've got the makings of a potentially volatile client relationship.
XYet advisors who count family members as clients often rave about the arrangement. They welcome the opportunity to serve those closest to them, although they acknowledge that tensions can arise.
"I'm supersensitive about insuring that they all have a good experience," said Drew Rigby, an advisor in Salt Lake City, Utah. He works with many family members including his parents, siblings, and aunts and uncles. "Even with family, you still need to prove to them that you're worthy of overseeing their assets."
Advisors who set high expectations for themselves — and who take pride in providing superior service — strive to please all their clients. But special considerations can come into play when relatives sign on.
Family dynamics can affect an advisor's actions and decisions. If arguments erupt within large clans, and groups of relatives take opposing sides (over an estranged sibling, an eldercare crisis, etc.), the feud can carry over into the advisor-client relationship.
What's more, nonfamily clients may perceive favoritism if they sense that their advisor prioritizes close relatives. And advisors might make faulty assumptions about serving family, such as skipping the on-boarding process because they figure relatives don't need the same level of education.
Negotiating fees can introduce discomfort as well. Family members may expect to pay less — or even zero — for an advisor's service. Experienced financial planners might grant certain relatives a discount, but draw the line at giving away their expertise.
Despite these concerns, advisors often enjoy bringing family aboard. Rigby, 33, has a large extended family and estimates that 5% to 7% of his clients are relatives.
"Don't be scared to work with your family," he said. "They can be the best clients over time. Just make sure to follow through with everything you promise."
Setting boundaries poses an occasional challenge for Rigby. Most advisors don't routinely see their clients outside of work, but Rigby does.
At family gatherings, someone might ask him, "How's work?" He knows that the questioner is referring to the personal side rather than inquiring about wild swings in their portfolio.
"It can be awkward at times," he conceded. "If I'm dealing with stress from day-to-day operations of the business, I might withhold something" to avoid burdening them with internal issues.
For some advisors, taking on family members as clients is a natural outgrowth of their close relationships. For example, parents who raise their kids to manage money responsibly may wind up advising those children through adulthood.
Sallie Mullins Thompson, a New York City-based certified financial planner, taught her daughter about budgeting and saving from a young age. Today, the daughter is 42 and her mother's client.
"It's different in that you worry a little more," she said about having her daughter and her daughter's husband as clients. "I cannot treat them any differently, but I may question myself a little more."
Similarly, Rigby admits that he "might be a little more self-critical" in serving his family because he's so eager to excel on their behalf. The pressure to please family members can create what Rigby calls "a sense of urgency."
Newly minted advisors might recruit family members as early clients. Rigby recalls accumulating assets from family and friends when he entered the business.
Many seasoned advisors prefer to tread lightly in marketing their services to relatives. While they will share informal advice and financial knowledge with family, they may hesitate to woo them as clients.
"I think it's better to wait for them to ask you," Thompson said. "I'd never ask them if I could be their advisor. But I would provide education to them and give them different ideas, and then they might say, 'Oh, will you do that for me?'"
Like many advisors who work with family, Thompson discounts her fees for her daughter. She notes that other planners weigh different factors in evaluating whether — and how much — to charge relatives.
"Some advisors have more overhead than I do, so they might charge more in general," she said. "I work out of my home. I have a virtual assistant. So I have a tendency to charge less" across the board.
Because Thompson has schooled her daughter on financial matters for 30 years, she delights in having a client who understands principles of investing and shares her mother's sensibilities.
"When the market goes down, my daughter says, 'Mom, you told me that markets go down,' " Thompson said. "She's prepared. She knows that's the kind of thing that happens."
It's important to stand by your principles and lead based on your morals in order to maintain the culture you want in your organization. But it's often easier said than done.
"I often find that stated values crumble in the face of declining profits," said Jim Autry, a Des Moines, Iowa-based leadership consultant and former president of Meredith's ( MDP) magazine group.
Here's how to avoid falling into that trap.
Match words and action. Start by defining your values. Once you're clear on that, make sure you act accordingly.
"Values don't mean anything without action," said Autry, who wrote " The Servant Leader." "It's about behavior that's appropriate to the situation and applying values equally."
Connect. Leading with a moral compass is directly tied to the relationships you build with others on your team, says David Chanoff, a Marlborough, Mass.-based writer who co-authored " From Crisis to Calling" with his son Sasha.
"CEOs who have a strong sense of not just business purpose but moral purpose are most able to build the kinds of relationships that are conducive to making tough decisions," Chanoff said. "Do you accord people dignity and treat them right? If you just treat people as a subordinate, they won't stay."
Set the tone. The leader needs to show others how to base decisions on his or her moral center every day.
"It's not about being a nice guy," Autry said. "The question is, 'What kind of person do I want to be?' "
Make tough calls. Say an employee is falling short at his job, but if he's fired will lose health insurance that's vital to get care for a sick child. Autry suggests starting by telling the employee that he's hurting the company. Ask what the problem is and whether you can help. Explain why the employee's work is a problem and ask what he would do if he were in your spot. You might settle on a paid leave of absence or short-term loan.
"You have to understand it's not just about him but his friends and co-workers," Autry said. "How you treat this person has a profound effect on those around him."
Find your center. Sasha Chanoff went to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2000 to rescue survivors of massacres. They were quickly confronted with a moral dilemma. There was space to evacuate 112 people. But many more needed to escape. If they tried to get more people out of there, the whole mission could be canceled with no one being able to escape. They finally worked out a plan to take another 32 widows and orphans and succeeded.
"Most business leaders have been through some kind of transformative experience that enabled them to define their own values," David Chanoff said. "Sasha's experience compelled him to face who he really was."
Be true to yourself. Sasha Chanoff's decision came down to asking himself whether he was a humanitarian or not. Understand the role your moral psyche plays in any tough decision, David Chanoff says.
"If you do things to violate that, you'll end up with a badly diminished sense of your own self-worth," Chanoff said.
Stick to your guns. Don't shed your values if you're faced with tough decisions like laying off employees. Autry tells clients there's no correlation between making those moves and abandoning your values. He worked with a company that shut down a magazine, eliminating 40 jobs. It was upfront with employees, set up loan programs and helped those employees find jobs.
"The impact on the rest of the company was that morale was great," he said. "They said, 'They took care of our friends and they'll take care of us.' "
Reinforce it. Get others to base decisions on the company's values by regularly talking about it. And when you notice something improper, make an example of it, Chanoff says.
"Be repetitive and be relentless at it," Chanoff said.
Movie producer Merian Cooper was a legend in Hollywood. He wrote and directed the 1933 classic film "King Kong," arranged Katharine Hepburn's screen test, got David O. Selznick his first job as head producer, teamed Fred Astaire with Ginger Rogers, partnered with director John Ford to make John Wayne a star, and pioneered Technicolor.
But it was his off-the-set activities that could have been turned into a blockbuster: He was nearly killed by a leopard in the jungles of Thailand, barely escaped being captured by pirates, and was a fighter-bomber pilot who was shot down and taken prisoner twice.
"Coop was ready to go anywhere, anytime and accept any challenge," Wheeler Winston Dixon, professor of film studies at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, told IBD. "No matter what life or business fortunes dealt him, he remained an optimist and never lost his zest for life."
First though, his father, a prominent lawyer, arranged an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., in 1911. In his senior year, however, Cooper was kicked out for hard partying and too strongly advocating air power.
In 1915, he became a newspaper reporter, then joined the Georgia National Guard to hunt the Mexican bandit and revolutionary Pancho Villa along the border, though Villa always eluded them.
His First World War
Back in Georgia, Cooper graduated first in his aeronautics class of 150 and in 1918 became a pilot in the Army Air Services, flying an American DH-4 Liberty. On Sept. 26, the Meuse-Argonne offensive began with the aerial bombing of enemy positions, but on the way back, the seven planes in Cooper's group were attacked by a dozen German Fokkers and Cooper's gunner-bomber Edmund Leonard was wounded and the plane caught fire. Cooper crash-landed near a German camp, where a doctor treated him for burns and Leonard for his wound.
After the war, Cooper was promoted to captain and headed the division delivering aid to a newly independent Poland from Herbert Hoover's American Food Administration. In 1920, he recruited American volunteers to create a squadron to defend Poland from the first Russian effort to export its revolution. After 70 combat missions he was shot down in July and spent nine months in a prisoner-of-war camp before escaping to Latvia through a swamp.
Back in the U.S. in 1921, he was assigned by a magazine to write articles about a sea voyage. He teamed with a friend from the Poland campaign, cinematographer Ernest Schoedsack, and they encountered headhunters in the Solomon Islands, met the charismatic future emperor, Haile Selassie, in Ethiopia, and got out of a trap set by pirates off Yemen.
In 1924, Cooper, and Schoedsack set off on an expedition to film a migration of 5,000 tribesmen and 50,000 animals across frozen mountains and dangerous rivers in Persia, resulting in the landmark 1925 documentary "Grass" and a contract with Paramount Pictures. "Chang" in 1927 pioneered wildlife films by showing a Thai family's struggles to survive man-eating tigers and stampeding elephants, combining documentary with staged sequences. After spending a year among fighting tribes in the Sudan, their adaptation of the novel, "The Four Feathers," was released in 1929, but Cooper had become disillusioned by the studio's interference.
He returned to his other love, co-founding what would become Pan American Airways in 1927. The company lined up mail delivery monopolies for Latin America using seaplanes that could carry eight passengers. In 1931, it began flying Clippers, which were the epitome of luxurious international air travel.
Living in New York City, Cooper spent his free time working on a movie treatment inspired by the gorillas he had seen on one of his trips. One day he looked up to see a plane flying above a skyscraper.
"Without any conscious effort of thought I immediately saw in my mind's eye a giant gorilla on top of the building," he recalled. Civilization could be symbolized by the "mightiest building in the world" and nature personified in the gorilla would be defeated by "the most modern of weapons, the airplane." He also began thinking about a "beauty and the beast" plot.
Paramount showed interest in Cooper's idea in 1931, but Hollywood had been hit hard by the Depression. Selznick had left the studio and come to New York to try to form an independent production company and Cooper introduced him to investors. But Louis B. Mayer of MGM threatened to prevent distribution, so Cooper set up a meeting with David Sarnoff, president of RCA, which owned the RKO studio. Selznick was hired as vice president of production and asked Cooper to be his assistant.
In January 1932, Cooper gave Selznick the first draft of the screenplay for "King Kong," the tale of how filmmaker Carl Denham (a thinly disguised Cooper) sails to Skull Island, where prehistoric monsters still live, captures Kong and brings him to New York for exhibition. Robert Armstrong would play Denham and Fay Wray was selected for the role of Ann Darrow, whom Kong is trying to protect when he takes her to the top of the Empire State Building (which had opened in 1931).
On a sound stage, and with Schoedsack in the rear cockpit, Cooper would pilot the mock plane on that finally kills Kong. RKO's experimental stop-motion animation would bring all the monsters to life, but help drive the budget to $517,000 (equivalent to $9.5 million now).
It was released in March 1933, during the nationwide "bank holiday" imposed by President Franklin Roosevelt to check the collapse of the banking system — caused by nervous depositors rushing to withdraw their funds. The economic strife did not deter the public, with 180,000 flocking to theaters in the first week to spend $100,000. In its initial release, the movie brought in $2 million (worth $36 million today). There have been countless remakes (notably "King Kong" in 2005), sequels (including "Kong: Skull Island" in 2017), parodies, cartoons, comics, books, video games, toys, and theme park rides (a Broadway musical has been announced for 2018). But there would be innumerable legal battles over who owned what rights, which largely prevented Cooper from benefiting.
" 'King Kong' had been one of the great gambles in movie history," wrote Mark Vaz in " Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong." "It beguiled an entire generation and its financial returns marked the turning point for an entire industry that had recently bottomed out, but was back on an economic upswing. … Movie halls became a refuge during the Depression, ushering in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Kong's triumphant creator would be crowned in glory, raising him to the pinnacle of Hollywood power and influence."
Cooper had been named head of production, after Selznick left just before the release of "Kong." With an incentive of 20% profit participation, he aimed to lower the overhead per picture by dramatically speeding up production, while signing little-known actresses he thought would be audience magnets.
He also began producing John Ford's movies, starting with "The Lost Patrol" and "The Informer."
Cooper had invested in the Technicolor three-strip process and co-founded Pioneer Pictures in 1933. He directed its first full-length feature, "Becky Sharp," in 1935, predicting with incredible prescience, that color would enable motion pictures to continue to attract audiences despite competition from TV, which was still in its infancy.
World War II
In June 1941, at age 47 and seeing war as inevitable, he enlisted as a colonel in the Army Air Forces, serving as the logistics officer for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, setting up the airlift of supplies from India to China and acting as chief-of-staff to Gen. Claire Chennault in China, then chief-of-staff for the Fifth Air Force Bomber Command. Cooper, who finished his wartime service as a brigadier general, was on the battleship Missouri when the Japanese surrendered.
Returning to Hollywood, in 1946 he partnered with Ford and they went on to make such John Wayne classics as "Rio Grande," "The Quiet Man," "Fort Apache," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," and "The Searchers."
"Cooper spent his final two decades pioneering Cinerama and other attempts to create more immersive theatrical experiences and was given an Academy Award for lifetime achievement in 1952," said Ivor Dawson, a film historian and president of the Traveling Space Museum. "And long before man walked on the moon in 1969, this incurable adventurer was dreaming of commercial flights into the final frontier, outer space."
In 1960 Cooper received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — though it got his first name wrong, misspelling it as "Meriam."
He always saw the glass half-full and if something didn't work out, he moved on and didn't look back.
Overcame: Enormous technical challenges to create "King Kong."
Lesson: When you walk a tightrope, don't look down.
"Keep it distant, difficult, and dangerous." — motto of Merian C. Cooper for his projects
As an advisory firm grows, so does its head count. Advisors often double as managers of an ever-expanding workforce.
Supervising a staff can pose challenges for advisors, who may lack experience in managing people. Advisors who are passionate about their job suddenly find themselves having to motivate employees — some of whom may seem apathetic or disengaged.
X"When an advisor becomes a business owner, the thing they're least prepared for is managing the team," said David Bahnsen, a certified financial planner in Newport Beach, Calif. "It's a gargantuan task."
Bahnsen, 43, founded The Bahnsen Group of HighTowers Advisors in 2015. It now has 14 employees.
Like many advisors who build their own business, Bahnsen has found that motivation is more art than science. Initially, he concentrated on compensation as a leading factor in spurring top performers.
"With my background as a finance guy, I assumed that money was the No. 1 motivator," he said. "You'd think that throwing more money at people would motivate them. But it's surprising to me how incredibly different each person's motivations are."
Research led by Teresa Amabile, a Harvard Business School professor, found that the top motivator for employees is making progress in meaningful work. When people feel they are advancing in their craft — or simply accomplishing a small but challenging task — they tend to feel great satisfaction and heightened engagement in their job.
Advisors who want to prod employees to excel can help them derive more meaning from their daily activities. Coach them to tackle tough but stimulating assignments. Sweep away obstacles that divert their focus from what matters most. And recognize their effort as they pursue goals that enhance clients' lives and strengthen the firm's reputation.
Like Bahnsen, many advisors assume that money tops the list of carrots. They may align their pay structure so that workers earn relatively high salaries along with generous benefits and other workplace perks.
Yet an overemphasis on money can prove misguided. Coaching people to forge ahead — and attain even "small wins" like mastering a new process or financial technology platform — typically makes a more lasting impact.
Bahnsen highlights other motivators that appeal to certain individuals such as advancement opportunities within the firm and a flexible work schedule. He says he's now more attuned to identifying each person's hot buttons.
"I've learned to be more intentional in trying to understand each (employee's) personality," he said.
Another aspect of motivation involves a commitment to transparent communication with everyone on the team. People feel more connected to their employer when they have a voice — and access to the top brass.
When John Bucsek's firm changed ownership in 2016, employees' concerns about the transition led him to host a few town hall meetings. A managing partner, Bucsek took questions, even stinging ones, from his workforce.
"You have to let people vent," said Bucsek, a certified financial planner in Iselin, N.J. "It's one of the best things you can do, to let them say, 'I don't have confidence in you' and not get defensive."
Coaching Up Close
To update over 200 advisors and support staff about organizational changes, Bucsek recorded each town hall session for those who couldn't attend. As a result, everyone was on the same page and more apt to feel motivated about the firm's future.
Bucsek also held Monday morning conference calls with his advisors and staffers, offering weekly news updates. Such regular communication tamped down the rumor mill and helped unify the workforce.
To raise morale, advisors enthusiastically coach employees to learn and grow on the job. When individuals feel comfortable seeking out the firm's leaders for advice and insight, they form stronger bonds of loyalty with their employer and strive for excellence.
"I do coaching all the time," Bucsek said. "A team takes on the personality of its leader."
Bucsek says that his eagerness to support his colleagues' success proves contagious. It leads other advisors to look for ways to boost their peers' performance.
Motivation sometimes unfolds in intangible ways. During casual conversations with employees, Bucsek showers them with attention.
"It helps to show an intense interest not only in what they're doing at work, but also what's going on in their lives," he said. "It involves asking questions, listening really well and being someone who is happy to be around people."
Like many seasoned leaders, Bucsek allocates his motivational energy efficiently. He estimates that roughly 10% of employees are internally driven so they don't need external motivation. By contrast, another 10% are impossible to motivate regardless of a leader's efforts.
"It's that other 80% where I can really increase their motivation and productivity," he said.
Legendary businesswoman Mary Kay Ash said people are definitely a company's greatest asset.
"It doesn't make any difference whether the product is cars or cosmetics," she said. "A company is only as good as the people it keeps."
Demonstrating loyalty to those who work for you can be conveyed in many ways, and loyalty begets loyalty.
The benefits are indisputable, and include higher retention and productivity.
Tips on inspiring loyalty:
Create engagement opportunities. Jamie Haenggi, chief marketing officer of ADT — one of the country's largest home and business security concerns — says the company recently helped define its story by reaching out to its employees across 200 local branch offices. The question asked was: What does ADT mean to them?
"The exercise resulted in hundreds of creative and collaborative submissions, which not only helped shape the outcome of our story and messaging, it also provided employees a sense of ownership beyond their day-to-day roles and responsibilities," she said.
Brian Kropp, human resources practice leader at CEB — a research and advisory firm serving mainly Fortune 500 and 1000 companies — added that in order to create a more inclusive environment, companies "should collaborate more with their employees to bring in different perspectives (and) focus on open communication strategies that make employees feel part of the larger conversation."
Get specific. Often an employee may hear, "good job," Haenggi says, but there may not be any real acknowledgement of the exact action or effort that person made, which contributed to the overall success.
"I like to make sure I know the details behind what the employee was working on and how their specific work made a difference," she said. "I also like to add my own style of 'thank you,' which includes a pair of funky socks with a 'you rocked my socks' shout-out or note."
Personalize. It's not a secret that employees are motivated when they know you care, but leaders have to demonstrate that.
A great motivator and driver of culture is when you invest yourself into employees, Haenggi said, "whether that is knowing the details of their job and their results, knowing about them personally, and also, investing the time to coach and develop them into the best they can be."
Shower with appreciation. Ashish Rangnekar, CEO and co-founder at BenchPrep, an exam-preparation platform for professional success, says that members of his company express their values in ways like coming together over convenient, communal lunches. They also offer significant financial allowances annually for each employee to put toward professional development opportunities.
Distribute information. Tropical Smoothie Cafe, which has 600 franchises in 45 states, believes that doing so promotes company loyalty among its employees because they're treated as partners in the business, said their CEO Mike Rotondo.
"We share our metrics with our employees and franchisees on a regular basis from app downloads, online orders, cafe-opening projections," in addition to relevant financial information, he said.
The company also gives updates at their support center during weekly breakfast breaks and quarterly business meetings. They provide quarterly webinars and annual conferences to keep everyone up to date.
Ensure clarity. Create your culture and make sure it's evident to employees that there is one.
Lee Caraher, CEO of digital marketing agency Double Forte, and author of " The Boomerang Principle: Inspire Lifetime Loyalty From Your Employees" and "Millennials & Management," suggests that leaders go through this checklist:
Do you have a strong vision that everyone is proud to recite?
Do you have values that make that vision possible? Are you a high-appreciation culture?
Does the company leadership style come from a coaching or a command-and-control point of view?
Can your employees articulate what opportunities exist for them at your organization?
Do you consistently set high expectations and provide the support required to meet them?
"If you answered yes to these questions," said Caraher, "you have a culture of value."