When Ed Sullivan introduced the 13-year-old Itzhak Perlman on his television show, he said the young violin prodigy was there "by the grace of God." Sullivan wasn't far off.
Perlman was just four years old when he contracted polio. That was in 1949, well before the Salk vaccine. Given the state of medicine at the time, it was more likely that the Israel-born youngster would die or spend the rest of his life in an iron lung than become a world-renowned violin virtuoso.
Perlman, however, doesn't see any cosmic intervention. "It never occurred to me to consider that scenario," he said in an interview with IBD. "I was just concentrating on playing the violin, liking what I was doing. I liked to play the violin — though I hated to practice."
If not otherworldly, Perlman certainly did benefit from a series of fortunate events. The first occurred when he was three years old. He heard Jascha Heifitz on the radio and immediately fell in love with the violin. Why?
"Look, it's a very interesting phenomenon, what makes kids want to study the instruments they want to play. It's what speaks to you. The sound appealed to me. I wanted to do that," he said.
Perlman was twice blessed. Not only did he find his passion very early in life, he also was good at it. He demonstrated great talent from the very beginning of his violin studies.
And while he didn't fantasize that the life he now has might actually happen, he did imagine a professional career. "Whenever one plays and has a certain amount of talent, one dreams that you can make a living at something you are passionate about, something that captures your imagination," he said.
But as often happens in life, talent alone is not necessarily enough to assure success. Though he played exceptionally well and even had a recital at age 10, there were many who discouraged any thoughts of a professional classical music career.
Some people "were listening to the talent," but others couldn't see past the crutches. They "were saying, well, he won't be able to travel, he won't be able to do this or that, but that (should have been) secondary," Perlman said.
Extensive naysaying can prove a difficult obstacle to overcome for an adult, let alone a preteen. It would have been easy — understandable even — if young Perlman gave up. But he didn't. And that, he maintains, "has to do with my parents. They believed in me. Whatever you hear in your house, the vibes you get from your parents, that gives you strength."
Then another stroke of luck hit. Popular TV host Ed Sullivan sent staffers to Israel in search of talent. "They held auditions around the country, because he wanted to have Israeli acts on his show. Everybody was auditioning," Perlman recalled.
After the number of acts was winnowed down to a manageable few, Sullivan himself came and approved Perlman. Perlman believes he wasn't selected solely on the basis of his violin skills, as great as they were. Working in his favor, he's said, was that he was a cute, chubby little kid who walked with crutches.
Crutches don't make superstars though. But the way Perlman crushed Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto that Sunday evening in 1958 does. In retrospect, Perlman has said he sounded like a talented 13-year-old rather than a master musician. Still, the result, as they say, is history.
At great personal sacrifice, his family moved to New York, where he attended the Juilliard School, after which a combination of his artistry and the irrepressible joy with which he makes music propelled him to the top of the classical music universe — primarily as a single star but also regularly in combination with others, including frequent trip partners Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax.
Perlman's well-rounded life, though, involves more than just concertos. He loves jazz and klezmer music and has played with everyone from Billy Joel to the Sesame Street Muppets. He's even performed the national anthem before a playoff game involving his beloved New York Mets.
He's also won almost every significant honor available. This impressive list includes the Medal of Liberty from President Reagan (1986), the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton (2000), the Kennedy Center Honors (2003) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama (2015).
And Perlman has won four Emmy awards and 16 Grammys plus a lifetime achievement Grammy.
Filmmaker Alison Chernick spent a year with the maestro for her recently released documentary, " Itzhak." She chose him as a subject "not only because of his incredible musical talent, but his wonderful human soul behind his public persona."
In an interview with IBD she added, "His humility, his honesty, his vulnerability, his kindness. I wouldn't say this surprised me, but in this time of moral corruptness, it was really nice to be around someone like that."
It is difficult to pick up a newspaper and not read a story about some celebrity gone astray. Which brings up another piece of good fortune along Perlman's path to success: He attended a prestigious music camp where he met his wife of 50-plus years, Toby, who was a violinist herself. She heard him play and immediately thereafter rushed into his bunk and proposed to the then-17-year-old prodigy. There was at least one girlfriend between then and the nuptials, she says, but eventually they became partners in life — and fiddle.
"About his playing, nobody else is going to be honest," she told IBD. "Everybody is going to say, 'You're so great. You're so wonderful.'
"I'm going to say it too, because I think he is the greatest. But if he's (playing) sharp or I think there's a bad habit that creeps into his playing, I'm going to tell him that too."
Perlman claims people always ask him if he has any remaining goals, if there is something left he wants to accomplish. And he responds simply: I don't want to be bored. To that end, he regularly plays new pieces.
He's also taken up conducting. Perlman has led some of the world's best orchestras, including symphonies in New York, London, Berlin and San Francisco. "It's a different process," he said. "But the goal is the same: to make music the way I hear it."
Perlman has also become very active as a teacher, at Juilliard and at the Perlman Music Programs, founded by wife Toby, which brings talented young string musicians 12 to 18 years old to Shelter Island in New York for a seven-week summer program and older students to a chamber music program. There are also weeklong residencies in Vermont in the fall and Sarasota in the winter.
Part of the rationale for the teaching is paying it forward. When he was a struggling young student, a benefactor donated funds for sheet music and taxi fares so Perlman could make the roughly three-mile trip from his home in Manhattan to Juilliard.
But, also, he feels teaching makes him a better musician. "Teaching is really very important," he's said. "I always tell my students that you should find an opportunity to teach. When you teach others, you teach yourself."
In fact, he feels, teaching, conducting and his performing career support each other. One of the most important things you can do as a musician, he says, is to listen. And the three elements of his current life allow him "to listen with different ears."
"Life is full of challenges," he's said. "I believe you're never happy unless you are consistently making challenges for yourself."
Widely considered one of the greatest violinists of his time.
Overcame: Discouragement from outsiders who viewed his polio as an impediment to a classical music career.
Lesson: Ignore naysayers.
Quote: "I have a very simple philosophy: One has to separate the abilities from the disabilities. The fact that I cannot walk, that I need crutches or a scooter or whatever it is, has nothing to do with my playing the violin."
The first commandment when conducting public relations?
"Thou shall tell the truth," says Harold Burson, the legendary 97-year-old founder of PR giant Burson-Marsteller, which has over 77 offices on six continents. He's also the author of " The Business of Persuasion."
Paul Blanchard, author of " Fast PR: Give Yourself A Huge Media Boost," says companies and businesspeople who choose not to hire a PR agency can learn how to implement their own internally as long as they are ambitious about it.
Tips on conducting and implementing public relations:
Be consistent. Communicate with a single voice, Burson says, as "that's the overriding objective of a public relations program."
It's also why "the chief public relations or communication officer should report to the chief executive officer, the only person entitled to speak for the totality of the institution," he said.
Match words to actions. Communication and behavior go hand in hand, Burson says. "How you behave always trumps what you say."
Get real. Build relationships, not just email lists.
"Don't spam journalists with press releases, because you'll irritate them, and they'll go in the trash anyway," Blanchard says.
He says it's better to identify five applicable journalists by name and try to build relationships with them. "Take them out for coffee or lunch. Be interested in them."
Not only will these journalists be more receptive to your emails, but if they know you're reliable, friendly and easy to reach, "then they can save themselves the time and the effort of contacting a dozen other people and speak to you directly if they need expert comment," Blanchard says.
Use LinkedIn. Many journalists take themselves off media databases so they can avoid the hundreds of press releases "thoughtlessly sent their way each day," but they remain on LinkedIn, Blanchard says. (LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft ( MSFT).)
"LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to find out a little more about the journalists you'd like to speak to, and it gives you another way of establishing contact in a personal and friendly way," he says.
Research. If you're serious about developing your company's profile in the media, you have to roll your sleeves up, get out there and do your homework. Do as much as your time allows and get ahead of the competition.
Blanchard suggests listing your competitors and seeing what their CEOs have been doing to raise their own profiles. For example, has that CEO spoken at a conference recently? Then contact that conference and make yourself available as a potential speaker too.
Create Google ( GOOGL) Alerts for relevant people and publications. If you disagree with something that someone in your industry has said in the media, "contact the journalist who covered the story and offer the other side of the argument," he says. "Suggest a follow-up article, and try to generate more of a buzz around the issue."
Don't guess. A common mistake spokespeople make, especially in crisis situations, is speculating publicly before verifying facts, Burson has found.
It's better to know nothing than to have wrong information, he says. "The best answer in those early tense moments is: 'I don't have the answer to that question; I will give you an answer when I have the facts.' "
Be a thought leader. This is absolutely essential for business leaders who want to raise their profiles, Blanchard says. It "runs alongside, and builds upon, corporate PR."
Say, for example, you sell travel trailers; you should also be talking in the media about that industry. While no one in the media is likely to invite someone to talk about how their sales of travel trailers are doing, "if sales are down across the board they are likely to invite someone to talk about the state of the industry from the perspective of someone in it," he said.
Burson: "To achieve success in public relations … communicate well in writing and in speaking, always be thinking about what else you can do for your clients or employer, and take the initiative."
Moore On Boldness
Take chances, make mistakes. That's how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave. Mary Tyler Moore, actress
Kiyosaki On Collaboration
The richest people in the world look for and build networks; everyone else just looks for work. Robert Kiyosaki, author
Chou On Diligence
I do think anyone can be an entrepreneur, but then it does seem to take a certain type of personality, and it's a personality that includes the most entrepreneurial trait there is: the ability to persist. Steve Chou, entrepreneur
Hammarskj?ld On Vision
Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road. Dag Hammarskj?ld, diplomat
Welch On Implementation
An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage. Jack Welch, businessman
Clients hire an advisor to focus on their money. But some advisors take a broader view.
Increasingly, health and wellness play a central role as advisors collaborate with clients on formulating a comprehensive, long-term financial plan. Issues related to diet, smoking and stress enter into their discussions.
Advisors who gently prod clients to adopt healthier habits strengthen their relationship and produce added value. For example, they might persuade individuals to take steps to reduce risk factors that threaten their longevity.
"If I think a client is responsive, I'll give them information on how they can make healthier choices," said Susan Pack, a certified financial planner in Cincinnati. "They see that I'm interested in their entire well-being."
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Part of the reason for advisors' interest in a client's health reflects surging medical costs. Health care spending will rise at an average annual rate of 5.5% from 2017 to 2026, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Prescription drugs will rise on average 6.3% a year, potentially blowing a hole in the budget of all but the highest-income earners.
On a more personal level, clients appreciate advisors who look beyond dollars and cents to assess the whole person. They're more apt to rave to friends that their advisor doesn't just manage money, but really cares about keeping them happy and healthy.
"It's a huge part of what we should be doing as financial planners," said Bridget Grimes, a certified financial planner in San Diego. "For all we do, it's for nothing if someone isn't healthy."
Experienced advisors broach health and wellness issues with clients without lecturing them or making them uncomfortable. They know that criticizing a client's weight or sedentary lifestyle might trigger defensiveness, so they find creative, nonthreatening ways to convey their concern.
For about eight years, Grimes has hosted a speaker series devoted to health and wellness. She holds each bimonthly session in a conference room overlooking San Diego Bay that fits 12 people.
She limits the size because she wants attendees to interact with the speaker. Because most of her clients are female executives, she chooses topics relevant to them such as the effects of hormones and meditation as a stress reliever.
"We tell speakers to give actionable advice that a client can implement incrementally," Grimes said. "We don't pay speakers and they do not pitch their services. Since (attendees) are all busy professionals, we want them to take away a few action steps that they can manage for better quality of life."
Grimes sometimes receives emails from clients who describe how they've applied what they learned. She also writes a blog that summarizes key points from each session for those who do not attend.
Healthy Choices, Lower Cost
Another tactic that advisors use to convince clients to lead healthier lives centers on cost savings. Rather than scold people for making poor choices, they may crunch the numbers and let clients draw their own conclusions.
Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial planner in Gaithersburg, Md., recalls helping a couple in their 30s purchase term life insurance. In completing the application, she learned that they were social smokers. Comparing the premium, she showed them that they'd save $87 a month if they were nonsmokers.
"They bought the insurance at the higher rate, but they vowed to quit over the next year to qualify for the preferred, non-nicotine rate," she said. "I never nagged them. It wasn't about shaming. But they did say, 'This is our motivation to quit.' And they did."
Because advisors often work with clients to craft a budget, they can signal the importance of good health by approving certain purchases. For instance, Cheng may tell clients, "I want you to eat healthy, and it can cost more to eat right!"
If they want to join a CSA (community supported agriculture) run by a local farmer, she gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up. If they're weighing whether to buy salmon or other nutritious but pricey food, she assures them it's fine.
"I tell them I won't micromanage where they shop," she said. "But I'll validate it and put it in their budget."
Similarly, Pack often assures clients that they can afford organic foods, yoga classes and other investments in their health.
"Some people need permission to spend money on themselves," she said. "I tell them we're building those expenses into their plan."
A longtime vegetarian, Pack doesn't preach to clients. But if the topic arises, she might send them links to information on toxic chemicals in foods.
"When people know the why and the reward, then they don't feel selfish spending extra money on organic food," Pack said.
First things first: Strauss Zelnick is neither a gamer nor a designer of the imaginative video games that put the company he leads, Take-Two Interactive ( TTWO), on the forefront of digital entertainment.
He insists as much. What's more, he is neither an entertainer nor a creative type of any kind.
"I know what I'm not good at," he said in a recent interview from the New York offices of the video game publisher he has guided for more than a decade. "I always wanted to be an entertainer, to be creative, but I just didn't have the requisite talent on that side."
What he does have is an abundance of management skill, a knack for identifying talent and a passion for developing it.
With both a law degree and an M.B.A. from Harvard University, Zelnick, 60, built an executive career that spans decades and various corners of the entertainment industry — from a four-year run as president of motion-picture power 20th Century Fox in the 1980s, to heading music giant BMG Entertainment when the recording industry still thrived in the 1990s, to his current role leading Take-Two.
Zelnick has been executive chairman of Take-Two since 2007 and CEO since 2011. The company publishes the wildly popular Grand Theft Auto and NBA2K series of video games.
All of his business leadership endeavors have proved successful. Analysts say his latest stands out as particularly impressive.
Take Two For Take-Two
Back in 2007, when Zelnick agreed to help turn around Take-Two, the company was mired in woe. It was coming off an annual loss that approached $200 million, its former chief executive had pleaded guilty to falsifying records, regulators swirled with demands, and its stock was battered.
The company had its Grand Theft Auto franchise of games but not much else. Zelnick said he focused first on the things he had to do: Rein in costs, shore up controls, rebuild Take-Two's reputation and push the company out of the shadow of controversy.
Zelnick said his previous experience taught him an important lesson: Do not put off tough decisions, and act swiftly when changes are necessary or problems need fixing.
It's About The Talent
Along the road to redemption for Take-Two, Zelnick focused intently on recruiting talent — and in some cases parting with underperforming employees — both on the creative and business sides. He created a vision and worked to build a team that bought into it.
He believed that video game technology at the time was powerful. It enabled designers to incorporate into games not just impressive graphics but also rich characters and evolving stories that users found engrossing, even gratifying.
And Zelnick believed that, as long as Take-Two's games evolved with fast-developing technology and expanded in number to meet the interests of a wider audience, the company would not only recover but also flourish. He was right.
It took time and an infusion of prominent video game developers. Zelnick ensured that the creative forces of the company had the resources and runway to develop the best games possible. And when a new offering was ready to go public, he made sure the company was ready to market it aggressively and shrewdly.
Pressed to set aside what appears an instinctive modesty, Zelnick acknowledges that he is uniquely gifted at identifying talented people and unwaveringly committed to making sure they get the backing needed to excel.
"I'm very devoted to the success of the enterprise," he said.
Accessibility and responsiveness to staffers' needs and questions, Zelnick added, go a long way toward successful retention. "We have very low turnover," he said. "I don't want it to be hard for anyone to get to me. It needs to be easy. That makes a big difference."
From Bust To Boom
Today, Take-Two has annual revenue of about $2 billion, nearly three times the level it was at when Zelnick took over. It has no debt and is flush with cash.
The company has nurtured and made increasingly sophisticated its GTA series, and it continues to generate robust sales. "Grand Theft Auto 5," released in 2013, had sold more than 90 million copies by early 2018. It is the best-selling console video game ever made.
"It was — and remains — the standard-bearer for the industry as far as quality, entertainment and fun," Zelnick said of GTA.
From Sports To 'Civilization'
But Take-Two also has broadened its offering considerably, venturing successfully into sports with the NBA2K (basketball) and WWE2K (wrestling) series, and into a range of other popular adventure offerings such as XCOM and "Sid Meier's Civilization," among others.
The company's stock has climbed more than sevenfold over the past five years. Over the 12 months ended Feb. 28, shares of Take-Two soared more than 80%. Its market capitalization tops $11 billion.
For its fiscal 2018 third quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017, Take-Two posted net income of $25.1 million, or 21 cents per diluted share, on net revenue of $480.8 million.
Its outlook is bright. Take-Two and larger rivals Activision Blizzard ( ATVI) and Electronic Arts ( EA) are benefiting from a steady shift from packaged games to digital delivery, which includes full-game downloads and add-on content and services. Take-Two said its digitally delivered net revenue in the December quarter increased 8% from a year earlier to $258.4 million. It made up 54% of total net revenue.
Piper Jaffray analysts predicted in a report that, by 2023, 100% of console video games will be sold as digital downloads.
Digital delivery enables video game publishers to pass over retailers, sell directly to consumers and bolster profit margins in the process. The trend bodes well for the likes of Take-Two and helps explain why the company is upbeat on both revenue and earnings.
It projected net revenue in a range of $460 million to $510 million for its fiscal 2018 fourth quarter. Net income is forecast to come in between $87 million to $99 million.
The company recently raised full-year fiscal 2018 guidance, projecting adjusted earnings per share of $3.23 at the midpoint, up from $2.90 previously. Its fiscal 2018 revenue guidance of $2.02 billion was up from $1.98 billion.
For its fiscal 2019, it looks for revenue to top $2.5 billion.
"They have a lot of positives in their corner," analyst Neil Macker of Morningstar said in an interview.
He said the fall 2018 release of Red Dead Redemption 2 — think GTA in the 1800s Wild West — should prove an important indicator of how strong the tailwinds are. If Red Dead can enter the realm of GTA5's online sales performance, Take-Two's favorable outlooks are likely to prove prescient, Macker said.
Getting It Right
While some observers wish Zelnick would pick up the pace with launching new products, he prefers to give projects the time and attention they require.
While analysts such as Macker applaud the breadth of Take-Two's catalog today compared with a decade ago, some also wish Zelnick and company would expand deeper into potential growth areas such as sports and launch new versions of its existing games at a faster pace in order to gain ground on the notably larger Activision and Electronic Arts.
"Management gets high marks," Macker said. "They have a much more robust profile of franchises. But there is still room for more."
Zelnick understands. Investors do not like waiting long stretches for new catalysts. Development costs per new game tend to run high.
But Zelnick said Take-Two's success ultimately is premised on the splendor of its games — not just the visuals, but also the nuances of the stories and uncommon challenges within the games. Game developers cannot be rushed. Taking time to get it right may leave gamers waiting longer than they like, but when they are truly dazzled with the product once it does come out, they tend to form stronger attachments to it and pass along positive reviews that help fuel long-term sales.
Take-Two's average Metacritic ratings — an aggregation of game reviews — are consistently on the high end for the industry. The sales follow. And that validates one of the three pillars of leadership that Zelnick adheres to: Never compromise integrity. The others: Listen emphatically, and show up early and work hard.
The last one comes naturally for Zelnick. From his college days, through the course of his career, and in his personal time — he is famously devoted to physical fitness, working out daily with people half his age — Zelnick digs in full-bore. But he views it more as devoting himself to cherished pursuits than hard work.
"I'm not in the coal mines. I'm blessed," he said. "This is very cool place to work."
Executive posts span music, movie and video game giants.
Overcame: Steep losses to resurrect Take-Two into a video game power.
Lesson: Show up early and work hard. Listen emphatically. Never compromise integrity.
"I know what I'm not good at." Realize your strengths and capitalize on them.
Great listeners gather more facts and opinions while forging deeper connections with others. Better yet, they use their attentiveness to boost their creative problem-solving skills.
By capturing more of what people say — and remaining receptive to wide-ranging input — you increase your learning and identify new approaches to address thorny problems. Rapt listeners train their minds to expand with each tidbit of new information.
While it's not easy to keep quiet when you're tempted to assert your rightness or showcase your smarts, you'll reap huge benefits. To listen effectively and flex your innovative muscles:
Embrace mindfulness. Many people admit they could listen better, but they lapse into bad habits when it counts. To differentiate yourself from the herd, prepare to listen with care.
"What separates good listeners is a mindfulness practice long before an interaction," said Brenda Bailey-Hughes, a senior lecturer at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, Ind. Taking five minutes to sit quietly in which you will yourself to ignore distractions and concentrate on one thing (such as an object in the room) can strengthen your ability to focus on speakers later, she says.
Set the stage. If you want to pick someone's brain, exhibit curiosity from the outset. Signal your intent to digest every word.
"Shove your paperwork aside, put your phone away, close your office door," Bailey-Hughes said. "You've got to look like you're going to listen. That helps you stay focused and it helps the speaker" feel like the center of attention.
Crave the details. Listen with the goal of empathizing with the speaker. Ideally, you want to remove your biases so that you view the situation through the other person's eyes.
Don't assume you know what someone is about to say — and rush to respond. Instead, stay silent and wait to offer your advice or opinions.
"If I understand your problem well, it's easier to come up with an innovative solution," Bailey-Hughes said. "You want to be a frog in the pond rather than a bird flying over the pond. Listening is your pathway into the pond so that you understand their experience and their feelings about their experience."
Stop cutting in. Adept listeners rarely interrupt. They prefer to purse their lips shut and let speakers take their time in formulating their thoughts.
"Interrupting is a common problem for people in power," said Dorie Clark, an adjunct professor at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. "If you shut down a person enough times, they'll stop bringing ideas to you. You're eliminating a good data source."
Align your body. Speakers tend to open up to listeners who demonstrate interest. To underscore your eagerness to learn, send nonverbal cues that reinforce your curiosity.
Nod to acknowledge that you understand a key point. Smile sympathetically if appropriate. Maintain eye contact, especially if others lurk nearby vying for your attention.
"If you're talking face-to-face, position your feet toward the person, not away from them or toward the door," said Clark, author of "Stand Out."
Bailey-Hughes offers a similar tip: Align your heart and torso with the speaker's heart and torso. Turning toward someone rather than shifting your body as if you're eager to escape will heighten your nonverbal connection.
Withhold judgment. When you hear a fresh idea, respond by digging to learn more. Ask a few neutrally worded questions to flesh out the speaker's suggestion.
Even if your initial reaction is negative, don't say so. Listening with receptivity does not obligate you to endorse what you hear. You can always render a verdict later after investigating further and deliberating at your own pace.
William J. O'Neil built IBD's "10 Secrets To Success" column as an action plan for anyone who wants to create a better life for oneself or for others.
Secret No. 1? "How You Think Is Everything." In other words, stay focused on success.
Secret No. 10: "Be Honest And Dependable; Take Responsibility."
Perhaps an 11th secret helps the founder of Investor's Business Daily and Investors.com continue to influence readers today:
No matter how big you've hit it, be modest. Stay humble.
Editor's Note: The Chartered Market Technician Association recently honored Investor's Business Daily founder William O'Neil with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Bill O'Neil was one of the first people on Wall Street — and remains one of the few — to combine fundamental research with technical analysis, giving everyday investors the tools to change their lives. For readers who might not know the man who built IBD, we are updating and republishing this Leaders & Success profile, which first appeared four years ago on IBD's 30th anniversary.
If you walked into his office at IBD's Los Angeles headquarters a few years ago, you would have found it similar to the way it was about 10 years earlier in 2004, when IBD celebrated its 20th birthday.
The room was the same size as before, with barely enough space to house a conference table and shelves. Same metal desk. Same gray carpet. No mahogany paneling. No Impressionist or postmodernist paintings on the wall.
Instead, it featured a portrait of a dog, front pages of IBD and a photo of O'Neil meeting President Reagan in the Oval Office in the 1980s.
When a reporter asked O'Neil, "Outside of starting IBD, what is the achievement you are most proud of?" the Oklahoma native, now 85, arched his eyebrows, breathed deeply and shrugged.
"I don't think of that, don't look at that very much," he replied. "I think starting a business is important because you've got the total freedom to start and create what you want. We've obviously created products that have helped a lot of people."
He added: "If you want to start a business, you've got to have some experience in the field. If you're going to be selling peanut butter or something, you better have some experience with peanut butter."
O'Neil never joins a conversation with an intention to boast. He publicly cares less about what success he's had and more about the organization's mission today: Make readers smarter investors.
"I think the stock market is complicated itself, and not very many people really understand how the stock market works," he said. "If you're going to invest in the stock market, you're going to make mistakes. The typical person doesn't want to buy and then turn around and sell it for a loss. To some extent, to be very successful in the market, you've got to do what you have to do, which means taking some profits and taking some losses."
O'Neil has done very well in a large number of stocks over the decades. In 1962, as a broker at Hayden Stone in Los Angeles, he made profits of more than $200,000 (more than $1.5 million in today's money) in a short play on discount department store chain Korvette, a long investment in Chrysler and a buy in Syntex, one of the first companies to cash in on the birth control pill.
That haul helped the graduate of Southern Methodist University start his own institutional stock research firm — William O'Neil + Co. — on Nov. 7, 1963. One of the company's early achievements: managing money for the Vatican.
In 2013, O'Neil's research firm celebrated 50 years in the business. It remains a force in the world of institutional stock research.
He was one of the first people to use computers to collect vital stock information, and one of the first to place key information on fundamentals and buying trends by mutual funds and top money management firms right on the stock chart.
These simple innovations made his products stand out immediately.
"How did William O'Neil + Company survive and grow over 50 years? We concentrated on stocks, the one thing we know best," O'Neil wrote in the introduction to the book "50 Years of Independent Market Vision." "People asked me why I didn't buy bonds or commodities. The answer was simple: I didn't want to be distracted."
He added: "Just the concept of concentrating, seeing all the details, is important to innovation and being the best."
Twenty-one years after founding the securities company, O'Neil in 1984 launched Investor's Daily (later changed to Investor's Business Daily) with a mind toward building a new business and helping individual investors use the same tools as top money managers to find stock market winners.
Today, IBD is more than a paper and a website. It hosts dozens of beginning-to-advanced-level workshops as well as IBD Summits to help investors of all levels, including money managers, to become smarter in the stock market and make consistent profits through the platforms Investors.com, Leaderboard, SwingTrader and MarketSmith.
Awareness of IBD continues to grow. Investor's Business Daily reaches over 5 million investors each month who access IBD content across platforms including digital, mobile, print, events, meetups and social media.
Brian Edwards, a former high school English teacher who moved to Southeast Asia to start an online toy manufacturing business, first met O'Neil during a two-day Level 4 Masters program workshop in Los Angeles in 2004.
An active growth investor, Edwards asked O'Neil about the paper's online direction and whether he felt overwhelmed by the changes sweeping the media industry.
"I was looking for insights. Bill's response was knowledgeable and reassuring, down-to-earth, the meat-and-potatoes variety. I like meat and potatoes," Edwards told IBD. "Bill's investment approach is similar. He urges one to follow historically valid rules and not to get overwhelmed by emotion. He has found stability in an environment others find chaotic."
Does O'Neil ever take losses in stocks? Of course. One reason for his success in the market is the ability to consistently keep losses small, usually in the 3%-4% range.
He quickly learned the benefit of acting fast when you realize you have made a mistake.
In addition, early in his stock-investment career, O'Neil made a point to meet Gerald Loeb in New York. Loeb was making serious money as a stockbroker and wrote the investment classic "The Battle for Investment Survival."
In that book, he advised people to limit losses to 10% in any stock.
Loeb, a California native, went to Los Angeles and visited O'Neil, who recalls: "As he was leaving, I asked Loeb, 'Do you always sell every stock in trouble at 10%?' He said, 'I would hope to be out of them much quicker than that.' "
Onward In Oklahoma
Born in Oklahoma City, O'Neil moved with his family to Muskogee, roughly 40 miles southeast of Tulsa, when he was young.
His father had left the family by then, but O'Neil says his aunt motivated him to strive for success. She encouraged him to sell magazines to women in the neighborhood when he was in grade school.
O'Neil listened. Soon he landed a better-paying job on a newspaper route. He loved sports, particularly baseball, and worked hard to earn the extra $20 needed to buy a new glove or bat. After school, he hustled to finish his newspaper route so he could join baseball games.
"I was a pitcher. You're competing with nine batters all game long. You can do all right, then in the sixth inning, one of them beats you," said O'Neil, who also played the cornet. "I think I learned something from sports and a couple other activities."
O'Neil stresses that it's crucial to listen and learn from the very best in their respective fields.
The same philosophy applies to books. O'Neil once bought a library of investment books and found that most were junk. Only five or six really helped him learn how to make money in the stock market.
"Everyone and his brother has written a book on investing," he said. "Find out who is successful in a field, and if they've written a book, then the writing is from somebody who's been there, done that and been successful in that field. That, I think, is the whole key."
O'Neil is upbeat about the stock market's prospects over the next 30 years. "The country will grow and continue to grow as it's done in the past. You cannot hold human nature down," he said. "And you've got this freedom in the country, so there's a lot of opportunity. There will be new inventions, new developments, new companies. That I wouldn't worry about.
"You have this constant renewal of new products coming along, new services coming along, and a company does pretty well for a while. Then the company either gets too large to grow or is replaced by someone else. That's been going on for cycle after cycle after cycle."
(Please follow Saito-Chung on Twitter at @IBD_DChung for analysis and commentary on growth stocks, buy points, sell signals, the CAN SLIM investment system, and financial markets.)
In early April, advisors often detect a sour mood in clients. As the tax deadline nears, anxieties tend to spike.
While some taxpayers fret about a hefty bill from Uncle Sam, others turn angry and resentful at the very thought of paying the government. Advisors can bear the brunt of clients' wrath.
Rather than just listen to clients complain about forking over their hard-earned cash, advisors may treat these discussions as an opportunity to engage in tax planning. It's an ideal time to explore saving and spending strategies.
When his clients express frustration during tax season, Olivier Cornet likes to reply, "Let's focus on what we can control." Then the Los Angeles-based advisor analyzes steps to mitigate one's taxes in the future.
"You have to be compassionate when people are vocal about what they don't like about taxes," he said. "But the reality is you have to deal with it in the most efficient manner."
He says that federal tax reform has bred discontent among some of his clients — California residents — who face a tax hike due to changes in state and local tax deductions and other aspects of the new law. Advisors in other high-tax states such as New York and New Jersey are confronting similar rumblings of dissatisfaction.
Coupled with unhappiness over changing tax rules, some clients limit their advisor's options to make tax-smart moves. For example, a new client may hold a mutual fund with significant unrealized capital gains on large-cap equities — and insist on keeping the fund even if the advisor warns of steep taxes ahead.
"If a new client has an existing investment and doesn't want us to touch it, it can create constraints on what we can do (to mitigate taxes)," Cornet said. "It's a balancing act. We may want to replace it with a better investment, and hopefully over time the client agrees. Sometimes, they're very strict at first."
Thanks to the complexities of the federal tax code, individuals may lack a sophisticated understanding of how their personal financial decisions affect the amount they owe every April. Otherwise intelligent folks may seem baffled by their tax returns — and by cause-effect relationships that drive taxes higher.
"A high percentage of our clients aren't familiar with what causes tax implications," said Greg Hammer, an advisor in Schererville, Ind. "They may do things not knowing the impact, and that leads to shock value at tax time."
His firm provides tax preparation to clients, and he finds that many of them express uncertainty about the interplay between their investments and tax liabilities. For example, he notes that many people assume that taking an early withdrawal from a tax-advantaged account such as a 401(k) will "only cost me 10%."
"It actually goes deeper," Hammer said. "There are additional repercussions" beyond the one-time tax penalty.
Fear And Loathing
Even if taxpayers appreciate how certain actions will increase the amount they owe the government, they may struggle with myriad fears. Examples range from concern about audits to identity theft.
"Just getting a letter from the IRS can cause a lot of anxiety, especially with seniors," Hammer said. "They think, 'Gosh, something's wrong.' But the IRS may just need to verify documentation."
Fending off hackers poses another challenge. To file his clients' returns electronically, Hammer needs their driver's license as an extra safeguard to prevent stolen identities. But some clients are wary about giving their driver's license to tax authorities, he says, which in turn adds to their anxiety.
As a result, advisors often find themselves coaching clients to win a psychological battle. By educating them about certain risks, such as the odds of facing a full IRS audit, advisors can allay fears and guide taxpayers to take prudent planning steps.
Nevertheless, some people will go to great lengths to avoid paying taxes. They may refuse to sell a soaring stock or a rental property that's doubled in value, even if they suspect their gains will not last.
"I've seen situations where they need liquidity but they won't sell (an appreciated asset) because it'll trigger a tax bill," said Ryan Wibberley, an advisor in Rockville, Md. "They'll say, 'I'd rather not make money than make money and pay taxes on it.'"
By crunching the numbers, Wibberley addresses their concerns with facts and quantifies their projected net gain after taxes. They usually change their mind once they see how much they'll come out ahead, he says.
"I let them vent," he said. "And then I focus on how they'll benefit from tax strategies and proper planning."
Eighty-four percent of executives interviewed in studies said they'd grant a sales meeting if the salesperson were recommended internally by a credible source.
Contrast that to referrals from people outside the organization, which get meetings a still-impressive 50% of the time. Cold calls to the executive, even those following a letter or an email, worked only about 20% of the time.
Never sell yourself short. Bistritz and Read asked a chief information officer of a Fortune 500 technology company, "Why would someone at your level ever agree to meet with a professional salesperson?"
The CIO's answer: "Professional salespeople offer me suggestions about solutions to business problems that even people in my own organization can't solve. Some of these salespeople have encountered similar problems in other organizations and have creatively addressed them. That's what I expect from salespeople who want to have a trusted advisor relationship with me."
To further achieve trust, Bistritz says a salesperson's focus should be on a longer-term relationship that transcends any short-term sales.
Hail the gatekeepers. Don't attempt to circumvent them unless you're certain you can obtain the meeting with the relevant executive you've identified, Bistritz said. "As one savvy salesperson put it: 'Hell hath no fury like a gatekeeper scorned!' "
Treat them like they are the boss. "Gatekeepers often have an understanding of the executive's key issues and can often help salespeople gain access to that individual," he added.
Do due diligence. In the surveys Bistritz and Read conducted, C-level leaders stated clearly they expect salespeople who meet with them to have an in-depth understanding of the key business issues facing the company, and they have little patience for those who don't.
Learn about their industry, company and the executives you'll be presenting to. "At each level you become more valuable to the client executive," Bistritz said.
The authors also say it's vital that salespeople "listen intently before proposing any product or service solutions."
Make yourself indispensable. Lisa Wardell, president and CEO of Adtalem Global Education, which empowers students to achieve goals, says be ready to answer this question for potential clients: "What problem are we trying to solve?"
Have a timeline for deliverables, budget and revenue benefit, she adds.
"As CEO, I'm always looking for the best talent – typically a creative problem-solver who finds new opportunities and has the determination to follow through," Wardell said.
Demonstrate consistency. Bistritz says salespeople need to remember "that every interaction with an executive either enhances or dilutes your credibility. You need to be at the top of your game at all times."
Cut the fat. Matt Kerbel, CMO of MusclePharm, a lifestyle and sports nutrition company, says the key to a sales presentation winning him over is "the three C's: clear, concise and compelling."
He adds that whether the salesperson has 30 seconds or an hour, they must "make it as hard for me to say no as possible. You have to keep me engaged or chances are it's a pass."
Recently Kerbel was presented with a plan about future ingredient innovations for their products in about five minutes, "which consisted of work that likely took months to organize," he said. "That individual left me with an appendix for every major product on the roadmap. I was floored."
Be authentic. When someone wants to sell Kerbel on an idea, he says, "I'm not concerned whether it's on a napkin or PowerPoint. The most important things are that it has a strong business case, is aligned with our overarching brand purpose, and is grounded in data.
"Don't tell me things I already know — I'm not only looking for great ideas, but for people to bring information and expertise to the table that my team doesn't already have."
He tells of a pitch from a senior leader who spent 20 minutes reading slides to Kerbel's team word for word. "He never asked us whether we had questions and, candidly, lost the business within the first two minutes."
Top advisors are students of their craft. Guided by intellectual curiosity, they commit to continual learning.
A big part of that process involves reading about money — and a life well lived.
But what books stand the test of time — and help advisors gain an edge? While some technically minded market mavens seek out more esoteric fare, others prefer to soak up material that has a mass appeal.
For many advisors, the books that resonate most with them present a comprehensive approach to investing built around a core set of principles. Authors who champion a buy-and-hold strategy or highlight the benefits of diversification tend to stand out.
Ed Snyder, a certified financial planner in Carmel, Ind., discovered "Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth" by Nick Murray around the time he co-founded his firm in 2000. As soon as he read it, he knew it was a keeper.
"Murray focuses on the value of investing in equities for the long term," Snyder said. "His message is building long-term wealth doesn't have to be fancy. Another message is the ups and downs of the market is the short-term price you pay for long-term returns."
Snyder admires how Murray writes in plain English for a broad audience. It's one reason he likes to give the book to clients, especially newcomers, so that they can gain a better sense of Snyder's investment philosophy.
Furthermore, Snyder often reminds clients of a key point in Murray's writings: Investors' behavior matters more than the actual investments they choose.
"Your behavior is the most important factor in investing success," Snyder said. "So if you sell amid a downturn, always try to time the market or look for the latest fad," you're in trouble.
Communicate To Win
In some cases, advisors stumble upon a book that changes the arc of their career. It's as if the author is reaching out to them personally and striking a chord.
In 2005, Brook Thompson read "Smart Women Finish Rich" by David Bach. His focus — to give women the tools to plan for their financial future — motivated Thompson to rethink her ambitions.
"When I read the book, I realized I wanted to help women with financial planning," said Thompson, an advisor in Omaha, Neb. "I was in the insurance side of the business, so it motivated me to do more. It's one of the reasons I'm in this business today."
While advisors must master the complexities of personal finance, they also realize that their success depends on their people skills. They are more likely to attract and retain clients if they know how to build rapport, speak clearly and listen well.
Sterling Neblett, a certified financial planner in McLean, Va., cites two self-help classics as his favorite books: "How To Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie and "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill.
"They go together," Neblett said. "Carnegie helped me with my communication skills and being more empathetic in understanding where people are coming from and taking their perspective. Hill talks about having a positive attitude — a mental state of how to think about money and make it work for you, rather than you work for it."
Inspired By Buffett
Advisors spend countless hours talking about money. They calm nervous investors during volatile markets, coach savers to stay the course and recommend investment vehicles.
With all this emphasis on tracking cash flow and attaining financial security, it's no wonder that some advisors rave about books that transcend the world of dollars and cents in favor of loftier concepts.
In 2006, Neal Van Zutphen came across "Authentic Happiness" at a bookstore. The author, Martin Seligman, presents groundbreaking research in the field of positive psychology.
"I was skeptical at first," said Van Zutphen, a certified financial planner in Tempe, Ariz. "But I found the book has self-actualizing exercises to explore how we can create a happier and more fulfilling life. Money is necessary for life, but it's not the primary driver of happiness."
He sometimes gives the book to clients to encourage them to savor their life. Many readers come away with a fresh sense of purpose that goes beyond accumulating assets.
As much as busy professionals may love reading books, they may lack the time to sift through 200 or more pages of text. But there are shorter works that attract a loyal following.
Tony D'Amico, a certified financial planner in Strongsville, Ohio, enjoys Berkshire Hathaway's ( BRKA) annual shareholder letter. Written by legendary investor and Berkshire Chief Executive Warren Buffett, the letter conveys a spirit of optimism that D'Amico finds reassuring.
"He believes that the economy will do well over time and that people shouldn't bet against America," he said. "I think that's an important message."
Al McGuire didn't coach the game of basketball as much as he reached and influenced his players.
McGuire (1928-2001) was Marquette University's Hall of Fame coach who then went on to become a unique and popular television color commentator on college basketball games for over 20 years.
"Coach McGuire was revolutionary," said former Marquette star center Jim Chones. "He wasn't a traditional coach. He understood the times of the '60s and '70s. He knew how to get the most out of us on the court, and he was always teaching us about life off the court.
"He'd make us form a circle around midcourt before practice and he would just talk about the current events and life, like how it was important to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else. All that made him different."
The talks could go on for as much as an hour before a ball was bounced. He wasn't trying to be his players' friend; he was acting as their teacher and coach.
Bo Ellis, a star on Marquette's 1977 NCAA championship team, said: "Coach was an excellent people person and a master psychologist."
"I don't think too much about coaching," McGuire said, as quoted in "I Remember Al McGuire: Personal Memories and Testimonials," by Mike Towle. "I do that by instinct. I work upstairs, in the boy's mind."
"A player has to give all he has for you," McGuire added in " Cracked Sidewalks and French Pastry: The Wit and Wisdom of Al McGuire," by Tom Kertscher. "It has to be a personal thing. He has to feel a win and he has to feel a loss. He has to be willing to give up a dented nose or a tooth or a bent rib. He isn't playing basketball for you if he isn't willing."
"You didn't want to let Al down because he wasn't going to let you down," Chones said. "You didn't want to embarrass him, so you go out there and try extra hard because he'll do whatever it takes for you."
At Marquette from 1964-1977, McGuire led the Warriors to 11 postseason tournaments while compiling a career record there of 295-80. His .739 winning percentage ranked among the top-20 all-time for Division I coaches at the time of his death. His .786 all-time percentage, which includes his seven years at Belmont Abbey College, a Division II school, is good for 11th place all-time.
McGuire led Marquette to the 1970 NIT title, and in 1971 was named college basketball coach of the year by AP, UPI, the Sporting News and the United States Basketball Writers Association.
In 1976-77, his final season at Marquette, McGuire led his team to the university's only NCAA men's basketball championship. He was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
"I know my profession," McGuire said. "All my life I've worked at it hard."
"Coach knew how to manage the game," Ellis said. "He knew preparation, and he was excellent at making adjustments once the game started."
Chones said McGuire wasn't as technical as some other coaches, "but he understood that this game was about will, and whoever could sustain their efforts could break the other team's will."
Chones, who went on to have a successful NBA career, said what McGuire instilled in him most that helped him was to "be tough, don't be afraid to compete."
McGuire championed civil rights and was a pioneer of making sure female sports writers had the access they needed to games and his team. While playing a game at Bradley University in 1965, an arena official decided that Barbara Roncke, the first female sports editor of the Marquette Tribune student newspaper, wouldn't be allowed to sit in press row. McGuire issued an edict: "She doesn't sit in the press row, we don't play this game." She sat and they played.
After he retired from coaching, McGuire went on to a new profession, that of a "hoops-savvy television analyst whose unique mix of humor, candor and uncanny insights brought a whole new dimension to sports broadcasting. … It made him one of the sports world's most enduring icons," Towle's book says.
When watching USC's Harold Minor's ritual before shooting his free throws, McGuire quipped: "He goes through so many things at the foul line, I think I'm watching 'Macbeth.' "
McGuire also philosophized: "The only mystery in life is why kamikaze pilots wore helmets."
Born in New York City, McGuire grew up in Rockaway Beach, N.Y., where his family ran a tavern. He said his family was so poor that "when we tossed the dog a bone, he'd call for a fair catch," referencing a football term.
The 6'3" McGuire was a star at St. John's University from 1947-51. The New York Knicks selected him in the 1951 NBA draft. He played with the team from 1951–53.
McGuire then went on to play one year with the Baltimore Bullets in 1954 before beginning his coaching career as an assistant at Dartmouth in 1954. He coached the freshman team there, before freshmen were varsity eligible, to a 19-4 record in two seasons.
In 1957 McGuire was named head coach at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina.
During one game McGuire was so irritated by the refereeing he took off his coat and handed it to one of one them, adding "Here, take this, you've taken everything else from me tonight."
McGuire compiled a 109-64 record, good for a .630 winning percentage, in his seven years at Belmont. While his last two years produced only a 12-37 record, he was highly recommended to Marquette by big-name college and pro basketball people. McGuire aced his interview and was named Marquette's head basketball coach in 1964.
McGuire leaned heavily on and delegated to assistant coaches Hank Raymonds and eventually Rick Mejarius, who both became successful college head coaches.
"Coach McGuire always gave Coach Raymonds his props for how important he was to him," Ellis said.
McGuire "lived for the games, leaving practice regiments to his assistants to run," Moran said.
During games "stalking the sidelines, McGuire was as intense a game coach as there was," Kertscher wrote.
He also left no doubt to anyone who was ultimately in charge: "I don't discuss basketball," McGuire said. "I dictate basketball. I'm not interested in philosophy classes.
"I'm the boss. The players know it. There's give and take, but in the end I'm the dictator."
Off the court, McGuire would tell his players to "use basketball but don't let basketball use you," Moran said. "He always reminded them, 'Take advantage of your education here at Marquette because it's a short basketball career. It's only a sliver of your life.' "
McGuire announced early in the 1976-77 season it would be his last, even though he was only 48 years old.
In the first round of the NCAA tournament, Marquette played the University of Cincinnati, who they'd lost to in the regular season. At halftime Cincinnati led 31-28, and McGuire had a physical confrontation with Bernard Toone about playing time.
"I didn't think coach would play Bernard anymore, but it turned out he played him in the second half," Ellis said. Marquette outscored Cincinnati 38-20 in the second half to win 66-51. "Bernard was a very significant role in that game and the four next ones.
"Coach never had anything to say about it until right before the national championship game. He told us that he felt the team needed a spark and that was his way of getting us going, having that little altercation with Bernard and challenging him."
Marquette beat Dean Smith's North Carolina Tar Heels 67-59 to win the 1977 title.
"Dream big," McGuire said. "Don't be just another guy going down the street and going nowhere."
Career record as head coach at Marquette of 295-80, a .739 winning percentage. Elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
Overcame: Unconventional coaching and leadership style.
Lesson: Decide what you believe in and be yourself.
"My personal style is not negotiable. That's how I fly."
Some clients love to talk money. With their knowledge and strong opinions, they enjoy batting around investment strategies.
While women sometimes take a deep interest in portfolio management, advisors often find that men are more apt to drive the process. Women who are less familiar with financial matters, from single professionals to divorcees to widows, may lean more on their advisor.
"Women can get overwhelmed with the enormity of the financial planning world and put it aside — and not pick it up — until there's an urgency," said Wendi Strom, a certified financial planner in Denver, Colo. "Their anxiety tends to come from uncertainty, from what they don't know."
To empower female clients, advisors take steps to educate and encourage. They offer a menu of choices, including pros and cons of various investment options, and invite women to ask questions and make their own decisions.
If a client hesitates to take charge of her finances or lacks the confidence to call the shots, advisors might double as cheerleaders. They express faith in their client to step up and demonstrate strength and wisdom.
"One way I empower women is to tell them that they can do it," said Scott Clarke, a certified financial planner in Colleyville, Texas. "They must believe that they have the capacity to handle their finances well. Then you give them the tools and the information they need."
Facts, Not Emotion
Newly divorced women face myriad financial challenges. They may need to grapple with money issues for the first time.
With his background helping women navigate divorce, Clarke knows their concerns. They may lack grounding in investment products and worry about cash flow in the years ahead.
He finds that as he crunches the numbers and projects their expenses, some women react by saying, "I can't live on that amount of money!"
Rather than rush to contradict them, he'll ask, "Why do you think that?" This serves as a springboard for a more revealing conversation about their attitude and expectations.
"It's important for me to understand why they say that," Clarke said. "It's often a fear-based statement that's made without data."
By educating his clients, he says that they're better able to set aside their emotions in favor of digesting facts and engaging in a clear-eyed analysis of their saving and spending habits. From that point, they're well-positioned to take charge of their financial future.
Some women prefer a female advisor. But in many cases, their larger goal is finding someone who listens, translates complex concepts into plain English, and provides short- and long-term guidance.
Clarke says that women, like all clients, seek an advisor who earns their trust, demonstrates competence and possesses knowledge. But rather than show off their knowledge, the most skilled advisors replace lectures with a gentle curiosity to uncover the client's aspirations, concerns and goals.
Give Good Answers
Clients who enjoy tracking their investments may take an analytical approach with their advisor. These clients — often male — propose ideas, assess new products and debate strategies.
When advisors confer with married couples, they may find that the man does most of the talking. Ideally, they seek to involve the woman as well so that she feels equally connected to the planning process.
During her first six years as an advisor, Strom says she worked mostly with male clients and couples "where the male dominated." But then she shifted her practice to serve women.
"I saw a need to work with women so my process had to change," she said. "It moved from investment-related with a bit of planning to more comprehensive financial planning. With women, there's more of a need to connect life and money, not just 'Let's go with this strategy.' "
For those advisors who want to empower female clients, part of the challenge is mastering question-and-answer exchanges. The ability to respond to queries clearly and succinctly can reassure an anxious client.
"The women I've worked with really want to learn," Strom said. "They want to be comfortable asking questions."
When replying to a question, it's important to stay on point and avoid roundabout or confusing answers. Advisors need to make sure they don't over-explain or lapse into industry lingo that's hard for clients to decipher. Checking in with the client ("Did I answer your question?") can help.
If a female client raises an emotionally charged topic, stay attentive and let her elaborate. Jumping in to give advice can backfire. Women may welcome the chance to open up to an advisor who's able to listen without judgment.
"Money decisions are emotional decisions," Strom said. "So making good money decisions requires emotional clarity."
You read reports, review documents and peruse online posts. But moments later, you forget almost everything you just took in.
Learning a new fact is half the battle. You also have to find a way to remember it before it skips away forever.
When you're busy or distracted, retaining what you read gets even harder. To boost your memory for critical information:
Stop and reflect. If you're rushing to read something, you may figure it's better to keep going without interruption. So you aim to get through the whole document and finish it in one sitting.
That's an admirable goal, but it's misguided if you want to retain the content. Despite your best efforts to concentrate, you may lose your grasp of the material.
"When you've just read something that you want to remember, look away and reflect on it," said Roddy Roediger, a professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis. "It's more of an effort than just reading, but it really helps."
Repeat, then repeat. Just as students do drills or exercises to memorize key facts before a test, you can increase your retention by repeating vital information. If you can wait awhile in between repetitions, that's even better.
"People drop things too quickly," said Roediger, co-author of "Make It Stick." He warns that even if you've repeated something once or twice in the hours after you've read it, you may not have captured it for good.
He recommends repeating it "over long-stage, spaced intervals" to keep the information fresh. Reinforcing it every week or two helps seal it in your brain.
Create a catchy word or phrase. If you need to retain a series of items, devise a catchphrase or slogan that doubles as a mnemonic device. For example, some people remember the five elements of effective goal setting with "smart" (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound).
"Acronyms work great if you can make them up and remember them easily," Roediger said.
Remove distractions. Regardless of how well you try to focus, it's harder to retain what you read if you're surrounded by diversions. The ping of your phone can derail your concentration, and even soft background music or a photo on your desk might redirect your thoughts away from the content at hand.
"When I want to remember what I read, I put myself in a barren room," Roediger said. "No computer. Nothing on the walls to distract."
Make connections. In isolation, it's tough to retain stray facts. But if you can tie them to something memorable, they are more likely to stick.
"The more connections you've created, the better off you are remembering something," said Danny Oppenheimer, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "Look for how you can make it personally relevant to you. Put it in context of what you already know."
If you want to remember an event that occurred on a certain date, for instance, connect it to something else that happened on that date, such as your child's birthday.
Prioritize what counts. As you're reading, keep asking yourself, "What's the key thing I need to know?" Rivet your attention on the most valuable information you seek.
"Otherwise, seductive details can be really tempting," Oppenheimer said. A juicy tidbit that has little to do with what you need to know can prove alluring, crowding out your ability to digest what's truly important.
LendingTree CEO Doug Lebda knows the key to business success lies in finding solutions to common problems.
Lebda was trying to get a $55,000 mortgage to finance a condo in 1994, and faced the same issues many Americans deal with daily when they're shopping for a loan.
"I got the runaround from the banks," said Lebda, who is also founder and chairman of LendingTree. "They'd tell you one price and advertise another in the newspaper. I couldn't understand why I couldn't comparison-shop and there was no easy way to find the best deal on a mortgage. That was a problem that made me very angry."
Lebda's idea for what today is LendingTree ( TREE) was born out of that frustration.
Rather than give up, Lebda looked for ways to circumvent the hassle of searching for a mortgage. In the process, he pioneered the concept of an online loan marketplace and revolutionized the way Americans shop for loans and credit.
Lebda started LendingTree in 1996, launched it nationally in 1998 and took it public in 2000. Following his vision, today LendingTree is an online marketplace where consumers can comparison-shop across a full suite of loan- and credit-based offers from multiple lenders that compete for their business.
Lebda honed his leadership and management skills from multiple sources. Experience led to valuable entrepreneurial insights. He also gleaned lessons from business consultant and author Jim Collins and former General Electric ( GE) CEO Jack Welch. As a result, Lebda has led LendingTree through many cycles and challenges — from the dot.com bubble and subsequent meltdown to the housing crisis — and transformed it into an industry dynamo.
Today, LendingTree is the leading online loan marketplace in terms of market share and size of its lender network, according to the company. It's No. 1 in market share for marketplaces/comparison-shopping sites on mortgages and personal loans. It has a network of over 500 lenders.
As of the fourth quarter 2017, LendingTree has delivered EBITDA growth north of 50% in every quarter since 2014. EBITDA is defined as net income from continuing operations excluding interest, income taxes, amortization of intangibles and depreciation.
LendingTree's share price has soared from 4.07 on Feb. 20, 2009, to 354.65 at Friday's close, a gain of 8,614%.
What has propelled LendingTree's impressive stock performance?
"They've diversified the business a great deal to have a larger addressable market," Needham & Co. analyst Kerry Rice told IBD. "Their customers can use more than one product, and they continue to innovate and bring new products to market. Above all, under Doug's direction, they've executed very well. Doug has done a great job of laying out a strategic plan and executing on that plan. That's why the stock has performed so well."
Lebda's idea for LendingTree took shape in 1995, when he was doing some consulting with natural gas and oil companies for accounting firm PwC, where he worked as an accountant after graduating from Bucknell University in 1992.
"I watched inefficient markets get very efficient through open marketplaces and transparency," said Lebda. "I said to myself: 'Why can't you have an exchange or marketplace for loans like you have for natural gas and oil companies to help volatility? You should be able to create an efficient exchange to help consumers trying to find loans and lenders trying to find borrowers.'
"Then my entrepreneurial thinking came in: If I could go to banks and sell them on the notion I could introduce them to customers over the internet and have them give prices to the consumer so the consumer could make a choice; we'll make the lenders compete online for their customers' business. LendingTree would be a marketplace that can serve the buyers and the sellers."
Lebda further developed his loan marketplace idea through a business plan in a competition at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, where he started attending in 1995. He won second place. But he didn't give up.
In 1996, Lebda went to a guest lecture by consultant Collins at Darden. Lebda was inspired by a story Collins told about the fact that the founder of L.L. Bean started the company around boot making because it solved the problem of people having wet feet.
After that lecture, Lebda was determined to create a solution to a problem with his loan marketplace. He dropped out of business school to pursue his goal.
But Lebda says he almost didn't start the company. Lebda decided to give himself one year, his "affordable loss," to see if he could come up with an idea that gained the support of the industry. If he couldn't make something happen, he figured he'd go back to business school.
As it turns out, the industry was open to his idea. Lebda says since he started LendingTree, he never thought about giving up.
(Lebda waited until 2012 to go back to Darden. He received his MBA from there in 2014.)
Lebda, 48, says his philosophy of leadership is through "empowerment."
"I try to be very disciplined about what I can uniquely do and what others can do," he said. "If they can do it better sometimes, I have them do it."
Lebda is a proponent of Collins. He aims to follow Collins' concept of "Level 5 leadership," meaning Lebda gives credit to others and takes the blame himself. That means, in part, that he ensures he has the right people in the right roles, and the right processes in place to endure the test of time.
In addition, Lebda urges employees to challenge the status quo — and their bosses. He welcomes a debate if there are objections. Lebda encourages and invites others to share their knowledge, explain their opinions and back up their positions.
When Lebda started the company, he laid the foundation with a set of guiding principles of a company he would like to work for.
Some of Lebda's core principles:
Build truly outstanding products. Find breakthrough ways to surprise and delight customers with insight and clarity.
Be open and candid. Mistakes are fine, as long as they're small, quick, not repeated, and we learn from them.
Act with urgency and creativity. Search for ideas everywhere. Test, debate and develop ideas until you quickly find the best answer. Then, execute with urgency and a sense of purpose.
Take charge. Ask for the ball. Make a decision and stand by it.
Commit to excellence. Keep learning, and don't be afraid to take on more responsibility and tackle larger challenges. Encourage, help and teach others so they can reach their full potential, too.
Lebda says LendingTree overcame the impact of the dot.com meltdown and housing crisis by adhering to these principles and common practices.
"We kept our heads down and remained focused on our internal metrics," Lebda said. "We had our eye on what we could become five, 10 years down the road — and made sure we had the right people in the right roles and the right strategy to help us get there."
Lebda also led LendingTree through a major metamorphosis by drawing on such principles: In 2003, LendingTree was acquired by IAC/InterActive ( IAC), which is controlled by media mogul Barry Diller. A few years later, in 2008, IAC spun off LendingTree as its own public company, and Lebda resumed his position as LendingTree's CEO.
Lebda was IAC's president and chief operating officer from 2005 to 2008. During this time, Lebda oversaw websites such as Match.com, HomeAdvisor.com and Expedia.com and learned a lot from the experience.
Lebda says marketplaces like Expedia run on the same "physics" as LendingTree.
While at IAC, Lebda learned a lot about leadership as well as managing and transforming a business under the tutelage of Jack Welch, who was a consultant for IAC while Lebda was there.
Lebda says Welch reinforced everything he learned from Collins.
"(Welch) really showed me that leadership has to be through other people, and as you grow you can't do it yourself," Lebda said.
Master Of Change
Welch also taught him how to transition from one role to another.
"When you start a company, you're a player. Then you have to get off the playing field and be a coach," Lebda said. "Then at the next level of growth you go from being a coach to being a general manager making trade-offs and thinking mostly about creating the best team."
Welch strongly influenced Lebda's future path when IAC spun off LendingTree. At the time, LendingTree was struggling amid the housing and mortgage crisis.
"(Welch) convinced me to leave that job (as president and COO of IAC) and try to turn LendingTree around," Lebda said. "Jack said: 'You'll regret it if you don't return to LendingTree.' He said I'd be an idiot not to."
So Lebda analyzed ways to turn LendingTree around. In examining LendingTree's assets, he found the company had a "great brand name, a huge customer file and a lot of opportunities for growth."
Lebda's plan: Expand into new categories such as personal loans.
"We had a great position in mortgages and added more capacity in our mortgage business," he said. "We were able to create My LendingTree — a new platform for consumers to better understand their credit profile, and offer ways to save money on their current loans and credit cards."
My LendingTree has over 6 million consumers enrolled.
How does Lebda see the future?
"Our vision for the future is we want to be ubiquitous in helping every customer regardless of your credit situation," he said.
Another goal: "Every lender will work with LendingTree and LendingTree will be an integral part of the way they find new customers," he added.
In addition, Lebda aims to make LendingTree "as good as Amazon.com ( AMZN) as a highly personalized experience, giving you what you want, when you want it. "
"That's what My LendingTree is about," he said. "It's a highly personalized experience of your having a relationship with us. We can save you money on credit cards, mortgages, student loans, auto loans and more by using real-time data and machine learning."
Pioneered the concept of an online loan marketplace.
Overcame: the dot.com meltdown and the housing crisis.
Lesson: "My management philosophy is one where a CEO articulates a key set of principles for his company and makes sure they're commonly held."
Temporary setbacks happen. A project goes wrong, a sales pitch falls flat or a client goes to the competitor. The key is to move past setbacks and avoid letting them mushroom into personal failures.
"You don't want to let these things fester into fact," said Kevin Eikenberry, who founded his own Indianapolis-based leadership training and consulting firm, quoting Robin Williams in "Dead Poets Society."
Here's how to recover from setbacks:
Look from another angle. Most successful people start attacking a problem by reframing it, says Skip Prichard, CEO of Dublin, Ohio-based library software, data and content provider OCLC Inc.
"Maybe a competitor is coming into your space and you say, 'This will make us so much sharper,' " Prichard told IBD.
Get energized. Look at a setback as a means to light your fire. It can boost your resolve.
"Some people are so focused on their mission that a temporary challenge fuels their drive even more," said Prichard, author of "The Book of Mistakes." "Setbacks are like these bugs on the windshield that they overcome and keep going."
Take the right view. Focus on treating the setback as a learning experience.
"Change the language from 'I can't' to 'Next time I will … .' " Eikenberry said. "Realize that we had a failure or a setback, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will happen again."
Be educated. Everyone at Eikenberry's firm writes a report each week on what they learned. Much of that comes from things that went wrong.
"That keeps people thinking about a culture of improvement instead of a culture of blame," he said.
Check both sides. When Prichard runs into an obstacle, his lawyer background comes out. He lays out the arguments on both sides — why it's a disaster and why it's a good thing.
"Then I make a decision like a judge," he said.
Model the behavior. Eikenberry planned to conduct a live video event online several years ago. People at his firm had tested it, but when the event began there was no video or audio.
"That was an expensive and frustrating day, but it didn't mean we quit using video," he said. "My job was not to blame but to figure out what we do next time. If I start blaming other people, I'm not looking at my part in it. If the leader is thinking like a coach with a culture of learning, we have a better chance."
Innovate. Persistence and overcoming failure are keys to breaking new ground.
"When you have an organization of people saying, 'We tried that once and it didn't work,' then you have a group of people who have decided they're not going to try anything new," Eikenberry said.
Be realistic. You can't happily explain away every problem. People won't buy it. Be honest with them. If you say getting a new competitor is the greatest news you've ever heard, people will roll their eyes. Admit that it's tough news, but point out it's an opportunity to get better.
"People respond to authenticity," Prichard said. "Start with the reality of the situation, then take them where you want to go."
Admit errors. Show your vulnerability by telling stories about mistakes you've made. Then explain how you and the company were able to overcome them. That shows staffers how the company deals with setbacks.
"Build a culture where people know it's OK to fail," Prichard said.
Know when to quit. There's such a thing as persisting too much. Don't be hardheaded about pushing an initiative that isn't working. Eikenberry suggests asking questions about what could resolve the problem next time. Maybe it's best to contract out for that project if it's just not in your team's wheelhouse.
"Sometimes we have to say no to some things so we can say yes to better things," Eikenberry said.
Kirk Kerkorian was on his way to LaGuardia Airport after a business trip to New York City. Halfway there he ordered the driver to turn back to his hotel.
The reason: He'd forgotten to tip the room maid.
The billionaire deal maker, an eighth-grade dropout who overcame a hardscrabble youth to become one of the richest men in the world, never forgot where he came from. And how hard it was to make a buck.
That deal making included starting Trans International Airlines, three times building what would then be the largest hotels in the world and purchasing Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio.
His career had an unlikely genesis. His father was a successful farmer in California's rich San Joaquin Valley until he lost it all in the Depression of 1921-22. The family moved to Los Angeles when Kerkorian (1917-2015) was five years old. Ironically, much of his later success is rooted in the difficult times he experienced in his youth.
In a phone interview, author Rempel continued: "That poverty, that desperation, that uncertainty gave him a comfort with risk, and with that comfort came a willingness to place big bets."
It also imbued Kerkorian with a scrappiness. He even thought about becoming a professional boxer; he'd compiled a 33-4 record and won the Pacific Coast welterweight title as an amateur. While he may not have had a killer instinct, he certainly didn't lack confidence.
Kerkorian was booked to fight a more experienced, undefeated boxer. After watching his opponent warm up in the ring, he called over his manager/brother Nish and said, "I can't fight this guy." Kerkorian wasn't afraid of his opponent, he was afraid he "might hurt him."
His confidence was warranted. Kerkorian knocked him out within seconds of the first round. But boxing was probably not the best career choice. In a twist of fate and luck, his boss at the heating company where he worked took him along on a flying lesson and Kerkorian was hooked.
He signed up for flying lessons, eventually became a flight instructor, and during World War II took on the dangerous task of ferrying RAF planes from Canada to Scotland. The flights required a stiff tailwind, and many aircraft (nearly including one Kerkorian piloted) didn't make it.
After the war, he started a charter service that flew between Los Angeles and Las Vegas; Bugsy Siegel and John Wayne were regular customers. He saw a future in aviation and steadily expanded what started as Los Angeles Air Service into Trans International Airlines (TIA), a major supplemental carrier at the time.
Instinct And Foresight
Kerkorian seemed to have a special wisdom to see deals where his contemporaries didn't. For example, when, after a rough landing, an insurance company declared a BOAC (a forerunner of British Airways) Constellation a total loss, Kerkorian offered $150,000 for it with the proviso the insurer throw in four new (or rebuilt) engines, which it gladly did.
Kerkorian promptly leased the engines to TWA for $150,000, invested that amount in rebuilding the plane, and ultimately (after leasing it elsewhere) sold it to El Al for $750,000.
It is the kind of deal Kerkorian repeated time and again. "I think there was an instinct," Rempel said. "He also did his homework. He didn't turn to advisors with MBAs. He searched (on his own) for things outside the common wisdom, looking for hidden assets."
In 1962, Kerkorian sold TIA to Studebaker in a deal valued at approximately $10 million — plus an approval-of-purchaser clause. By the following year, the automaker was in free fall, and its board tried to sell TIA to Continental Airlines. If successful, it would have impacted TIA employees' seniority and pensions. Kerkorian said no way. He would not leave in the lurch the employees who had been there for him in the beginning.
"All he had growing up was family and the loyalty of friends," Rempel said. "He put value in people."
So he agreed to purchase the airline back — for $2.5 million. He'd purchased a large parcel of land on the Las Vegas Strip with his share of the initial TIA sale, so he had to go into debt to repurchase the airline. He willingly put up every property he owned as collateral and covered the rest with his personal savings. He did this time and again, because, Rempel said, "He didn't have an attachment to things. Things didn't matter. He didn't have toys growing up. He didn't even have the same house from one month to the next. Things were what he traded."
In 1968 he sold TIA again, this time to Transamerica Corp., but a last-minute hang-up, a technicality over a class of stock, threatened to squelch the deal. Kerkorian needed the proceeds to pursue his Las Vegas dreams, but wasn't prepared to net any less than the original amount agreed upon. So at the meeting where the final papers were to be signed, Kerkorian called it off and started to walk out. But he was stopped, and Transamerica adjusted the terms to the original level.
That money was used to help build the International Hotel, at the time (1969) the largest hotel in the world. In subsequent years, he built even larger properties, the MGM Grand Hotel (1973) and the MGM Grand (1993), each the largest hotels in the world when they were constructed.
While the mob may have started Las Vegas, it was Kerkorian's vision of the modern leisure industry that created its current incarnation.
When we think of the marketing of Las Vegas as an "entertainment center instead of just being known for gambling with ancillary activities, we forget that Kerkorian had been (an innovator) a long time before," noted Michael Green, an associate professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
"When (he) opened the International, it had two showrooms, not one. ... The hotel had a youth hostel and activities for young people. ... This is the kind of thing we might expect today, but not back then."
He recognized value in Vegas just as he did with his purchase of MGM. The studio was bleeding cash when he made a tender offer for 1 million shares — initially for $10 a share more than the stock was then selling for. It seemed to produce one bomb film after another. He considered the company's real estate, vast library of classic films ("Singing in the Rain," "Wizard of Oz," "Gone With the Wind") and even its symbol, Leo the Lion, as unvalued assets.
Kerkorian revealed another aspect of his personality in 1985, when he sold MGM to Ted Turner. Turner signed on to a deal that was unsustainable, so Kerkorian restructured it, helping Turner finance the purchase. He didn't want to squash Turner. CNN could have been KNN, but Kerkorian kept changing the deal to accommodate Turner's needs.
"You see in his dealings with Ted Turner and others that a good deal is a deal that benefits both sides," Rempel said.
Early in his career, Kerkorian sold a used DC-4 to Pacific Northern Airlines. The company's mechanics complained that the aircraft leaked so badly it posed a safety hazard even when parked on the ground. When the airline's executives protested, Kerkorian apologized, said he was unaware of the plane's condition and immediately returned the full purchase price without question.
Certainly Kerkorian had setbacks in his career, but his reputation for honesty as personified by actions such as these made it so he was able to get multimillion-dollar loans on his signature alone.
When he died in 2015, his estate was valued at around $4 billion, but not because he didn't try to give much of it away. Mostly anonymously, he gave millions to charities such as the American Red Cross. But following the devastating 1988 earthquake that hit his parents' native Armenia, he spearheaded and donated $1 billion to relief efforts.
"His acts were pure charity," Rempel said. "He felt it wasn't charity if you expect something in return. He didn't want his name on buildings and no credit for any gift."
Toward the end of his life, Rempel says, Kerkorian confided to a friend that he wanted "to give it all away — and start over. He so much enjoyed making deals."
Deal maker who founded a charter airline and helped create the modern Las Vegas.
Overcame: A poverty-stricken background and a lack of education.
Lesson: Use your background as your strength.
Quote: "When you're a self-made man, you start very early in life. ... You get a drive that's a little stronger than somebody who inherited."
When advising clients, you're the expert. But what if you switch roles?
X Some clients possess expertise in their chosen field or study certain types of investments with rigor. Their background or training may enable them to spot trends, make sense of market conditions or even identify potential buying opportunities based on their familiarity with a particular sector.
Savvy advisors listen with an open mind to knowledgeable clients. Better yet, they may come away with valuable insights that help them make wise decisions on the client's behalf.
Showing receptivity to client ideas and input has an added bonus: It positions the advisor as a collaborative ally rather than a know-it-all. Picking a client's brain — and following up to learn more — builds trust and solidifies the relationship.
Of course, tapping clients' expertise differs from extracting secrets that result in stock tips. Clients who reveal nonpublic information about, say, a pending merger in their industry can embroil an advisor in insider trading.
But it's perfectly legal for advisors to ask clients to give updates on their work lives. Such questions often arise during quarterly reviews.
"With all our client relationships, we like to go a little deeper in getting to know them," said Scott Bishop, a Houston-based certified financial planner. "They are used to opening up to us. Over time, they see me and our firm as a sounding board."
When chatting with clients, Bishop routinely invites them to discuss their work. His goal is to gain a fuller understanding of their life rather than unearth investment ideas, but sometimes their remarks stoke his curiosity.
He recalls a client who worked at a company that provides logistical support for private jets. After asking if the client was on track to earn a big bonus that year, Bishop gathered a piece of business news that he had previously missed: profits had fallen due to volatility in the pricing of jet fuel.
"After I heard that, I told my investment committee to look into any airline stocks we own," Bishop said. "They confirmed we didn't have an over-allocation in that sector, and we didn't take on additional airline exposure."
In some cases, clients contact Bishop to propose investments. During the 2009 recession, for example, he received calls from two oil and gas executives. Both favored buying energy stocks during the downturn, arguing the sector was due for a turnaround.
"They know that business," he said. "So I told them I'd bounce it off my investment team," which approved buying shares of an exchange-traded fund that comprises large oil services companies.
Here's An Idea
In order for advisors to heed client input, they need to feel comfortable listening and learning. If their professional identity revolves around having all the answers, they may spend more time holding court — and volunteering their opinions — than asking questions.
"I don't always have to be the smartest person in the room," said Kristi Sullivan, a certified financial planner in Denver, Colo. "Listening to clients is a great way to get new ideas and make the relationship stronger."
Like Bishop, Sullivan enjoys hearing about clients' jobs. She finds that getting a better sense of what they do for a living — and their career prospects — helps her plan for their financial future.
But she's wary of individuals who get too attached to their employer — or to their industry as a whole.
"You have to be careful when people in a certain industry, like oil or biotech, want to overweight that sector," she warned. "They think they know their sector better than most," but they risk missing out on the benefits of broader diversification.
Occasionally, clients have urged Sullivan to consider investing in specific mutual funds. After researching their suggestion, she might act on their recommendation.
"It can be a fund that I've missed during my regular screening process," she said. "It usually comes up during our quarterly review of their investments if I say, 'I'm not thrilled with fund X.' It might spur them to do a little research and come to me with their idea."
While she's eager to learn from clients, Sullivan knows that many of them lack a deep grounding in investments. They prefer to let her handle all those decisions.
"Still, I think it's always good to ask open-ended questions and gather information from clients like what jobs or industries are paying great (employee) benefits," she said. "It's good to know what careers are more risky and what careers are more likely to offer secure, long-term employment."
Amid today's coarse political dialogue, the value of courtesy and politeness can be lost. Former White House social secretaries Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard teamed up to make the case for respect. In their book " Treating People Well: The Extraordinary Power of Civility at Work and in Life," Berman and Bernard contend that what they learned about achieving goals with integrity at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is applicable to any workplace.
Be prepared. Minding the details shows you care about everyone's success.
"Being prepared shows that you're on top of the situation," said Berman, who was social secretary for First Lady Laura Bush and President George W. Bush. "For us, the endpoint of things not going well was a bad press article or embarrassing our presidents or first ladies. We sat down and thought about every event and how we could prevent anything from going wrong."
Use levity. Humor at work can by tricky. Carefully deployed, though, it can be an effective tool in easing tensions. Self-deprecating humor is safest, says Jeremy Bernard, social secretary for First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama.
"That way the target is not someone else — it's yourself," Bernard said. "Self-deprecation shows people that you are secure enough to make fun of yourself and you don't take yourself too seriously while at the same time recognizing a fault of your own."
Listen actively. Multitasking doesn't always produce positive results. It can be disrespectful.
"We all know what it's like to be talking to someone and then they come back and ask a question that we just answered or something we just discussed and it's very insulting, because you realize they're sitting there or standing there or they're across from you but they're not listening," Bernard said. "I never want that to be how someone feels when I'm in a conversation or listening. It really is important to take that moment and really listen to what they're saying so that you don't make matters worse."
Active listening sends the signal that you are invested in solutions.
"When you take the time to really give someone your full attention, and you take the time to respond because you're actually thinking of the best way to respond, it shows a level of attention that we don't see very much anymore," Berman said. "It also shows a willingness to be open-minded with what you're listening to, which can be a very valuable thing whether you're talking with a family member, your boss or your neighbor."
Use tact with honesty. Telling the truth is obviously a virtue. But if stating a truth is hurtful and doesn't yield anything positive, it's probably best to say nothing.
"It always makes me nervous," Bernard said, "when someone says, 'I'm just being honest.' Sometimes you can have information that can be hurtful or mean, and there's no positive outcome of sharing that with another person. (For example), if you know you're invited to a dinner party and someone else isn't, there's no reason to say, 'Hey, I'm going to this dinner tonight, were you invited?' "
Berman says deciding who made it on the invite list for a White House party often resulted in uncomfortable situations in which simply telling the truth would serve no good.
"We both had experiences in the White House where people felt they were closer to the president and first lady than they were in reality," she said. "And they would say, 'I need to be at this party. They would be disappointed if I'm not there. I'm going to have to talk to them about not being included in this party.' We would never say: Hey, there's no way they would think to include you in this party or there's no reason for you to be there. We would say, 'Well, you need to do whatever you feel you have to do, but I'm sure they would include you if they had space.' We weren't being very honest, but we were trying to smooth over what was an awkward situation."
After five years of hosting America's first shopping channel on a Clearwater, Fla., radio station, Bob Circosta was expecting hundreds of calls to pour in when the program went national on July 1, 1985.
He and Bud Paxson, the station owner, had started selling products on the air directly to the audience in 1977 and expanded to local cable TV. They called it the Home Shopping Club and eventually were taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars daily. Paxson lined up stations across the country for the big rollout.
Circosta kicked things off by announcing that any viewer who called in within the next three minutes would receive a free serpentine neck chain. An auditorium of operators stood by to take the calls, but not one phone rang. He quickly showcased some deeply discounted items and repeated the offer. Five hours later, they had $352 in sales.
"We tried to be like professional news anchors instead of our original approach of just helping our neighbors get great prices on valuable products," Circosta told IBD. "We returned to our folksy ways, building rapport and explaining why each product could change their lives. Within three months we had reached $1 million in sales a day. The lesson was that the best way to sell is not to sell."
Circosta, who has made 100,000 presentations and sold $6 billion in merchandise, still pitches on what is now the Home Shopping Network (part of the QVC Group ( QVCA)), mentors entrepreneurs on "HSN American Dreams," and hosts "What a Great Idea with Bob and Chad" with Chad Allen on a Canadian shopping channel.
Circosta, 68, grew up in Shadyside, Ohio. His father owned a bowling alley and entertainment center, and his mom managed a loving home in a supportive community. He attended Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, in the tumultuous years of anti-war protests of 1968-72, earning a degree in telecommunications. His original notion was that he would become a TV anchor delivering breaking news, but he loved interacting with people, so he headed out to Los Angeles to pursue his dream and ended up working in a men's clothing store. There, he discovered that he hated selling.
Birth Of The Home Shopping Network
A call from his dad changed his life. His father invited him to come live with him in a town house near Clearwater. On arrival, Circosta found a job as a talk-show host for a tiny radio station. One day Paxson came in with a box of 112 avocado-green electric can openers, which he had accepted to settle an overdue ad bill. He announced they would try to sell these on the air for a bargain price of $9.95, if listeners would come by and pick them up.
Circosta resisted being forced back into what he hated, but by the end of the day they had sold all of them. Other merchandise was quickly offered, and they formed the International Suncoast Bargaineers Club. Members bought certificates they could redeem at stores and restaurants, which brought in new customers.
"For the next five years, we were making it up as we went, learning to sell by describing things to a radio audience in a way that became real to them, learning what would later be called relationship marketing," Circosta said. In 1982, they bought time on a new Clearwater cable channel and soon stopped the radio simulcast, selling on TV in six-hour shifts, sometimes seven days a week.
One thing that sold well, which surprised even Circosta: the AM-FM Radio Telephone Toilet Paper Dispenser (remember, this was in the era before cellphones); 7,000 were sold in the first 10 minutes. Others he thought were great values, like the microwave cleaning solution in a tub, bombed. His longest-running winner is a water filter that only has to be replaced every 25 years, and in various versions has sold in the millions.
"What HSN did was combine two favorite American activities: shopping and watching television," Circosta said. "These worked well with the rise of e-commerce because it gave people another option if they didn't want to wait on the phone or go out to crowded malls. Now they can also just punch in the product number while they're on the phone to place an order. They buy with confidence because they trust the host's description of product benefits, they can ask questions of the operators, they know everything is very carefully screened for quality before it is offered, and they can read the online reviews."
Many traits and practices separate the ordinary salesperson from the extraordinary. Circosta's tips: Research customers deeply, treat the pitch as if it's being made to only one individual, be authentic in stating the case for buying, make a succinct summary of the value proposition, and learn the presentation so that it doesn't sound like a canned script.
There are many other aspects of becoming a master salesman, from overcoming nervousness and starting with a "grabber" statement to using variations of "power words" like new, guaranteed and fast.
In "Life's A Pitch: Understanding the Secrets to Selling from Television's Billion Dollar Man," Circosta explains that too many efforts to sell fail to communicate the full value of the product or service. This starts with not thinking about how the features will benefit the customer from the customer's standpoint.
It seems obvious, but most sales presentations analyze the details too superficially and don't explain the benefits in a way that has an emotional meaning for the customer that will cause her to buy, he says. What product descriptions need is his WSGAT formula, pronounced "wizgat," which stands for "What's So Good About That?"
He gives an example of a 16-inch diamond-cut rope necklace made out of 18-karat gold with a lobster-claw clasp. As he drills into the details, the customer discovers that the length is important because of the way it lays on the skin and can be worn with a pendant that will be seen above the collar. The gold will not tarnish and is a good investment. The clasp is easy to open and close without assistance and very secure. The customer now realizes this is something she needs, because it would work well with several outfits that make her feel good.
Aside from sales training, Circosta does general business and brand consulting and has worked with many celebrities over the decades, including Bob Hope, Ed McMahon, Suzanne Somers, Jillian Barberie and Patti LaBelle. He's on HSN with his own products a few times a month, a couple of times a week with entrepreneurs he's discovered traveling the country for "HSN American Dreams," and does the live show in Canada once a month. Helping him are his three children from his first marriage: Mike, Chris and Angela.
"I'm excited every day I get up and think about all the possibilities," Circosta said.
"Bob is the man who has most changed TV in our lifetime, creating a global industry," said Berny Dohrmann, chairman of the entrepreneur network CEO Space International, at whose boot camps Circosta has taught since 1991. "When the CEO of HSN gave him the first lifetime achievement award in 2012, everyone there from the cable networks and broadcasters gave him a standing ovation. Bob told them 'This is just the beginning,' and direct-to-consumer retailing is now a $350-billion-a-year worldwide marketplace. But more importantly, he is humble, has absolute integrity and has never been especially interested in the money; he just wants to help people."
Nevertheless, he's worth $400 million, according to CelebrityNetWorth.com, all from trying not to sell.
Legendary host of the Home Shopping Network
Overcame: No model for how to sell merchandise on radio
Lesson: The best way to sell is to just try to clearly explain the full benefits of a product from a customer's viewpoint.
Eager to boost their visibility, many advisors embrace the media. Radio and television appearances can burnish their image as experts.
X But there's a risk to giving live — or taped — broadcast interviews. If you stammer or sound unprepared, you can sink your reputation. And if you let slip a comment that raises concerns from regulators or compliance officials, the consequences can sting.
Advisors who undergo media training learn to be themselves — to converse in a natural, engaging manner as if they're chatting with friends. That's good advice, unless you take it too far.
"If you're passionate, let people feel your passion and excitement," said Ben Lewis, director of public relations at the Financial Planning Association in Denver, Colo. "But sometimes if you're passionate, you might speak fast and stumble over your words."
When providing media training to advisors, Lewis instructs them to pause before answering a question. Use the silence to compose yourself, take a breath and plan what you want to say next.
In a fast-moving conversation, you may be tempted to talk over the host and interrupt to make a point. Yet the impulsive urge to jump in can backfire if you say something you regret later.
Beware of parroting an interviewer's bombastic or inflammatory language. In an effort to answer questions head-on, you can wind up adopting an unintentionally aggressive or hypercritical tone. It's safer to recast questions with neutral wording.
If asked why "so many of your colleagues are dead wrong about the market," for example, don't respond by saying, "They're dead wrong because … ." Instead, say, "My view is … ."
Some advisors prepare for a live interview by jotting answers to questions they expect to hear. That's a good start.
It's even better if you simulate an actual question-and-answer dialogue. Practicing how you'll respond to inquiries gives you an added advantage than simply writing your preferred answer.
Ask a friend to interview you and pose likely questions. Record the give-and-take as you dish out pithy, insightful replies.
"You can also do a mock interview yourself," Lewis said. "Turn on the voice recording app on your phone and start with the first logical question you anticipate getting."
Find a way to weave in your core message as it relates to the topic. If the subject involves the fees that advisors charge, for instance, prepare to highlight how you provide value with a transparent pricing model.
If you want to promote your new book, blog or white paper, don't overdo it. Repeatedly mentioning the title — or treating every question as a chance to hype what you're selling — can prove off-putting to your audience.
Instead, inform the interviewer beforehand of your new offering. Suggest a graphic from the book that the host can use, such as a bulleted list of tips, to guide the conversation.
"Position your book as a resource for the reporter," Lewis said. "In the pre-interview, say that you include a three-step process in your book" or that it includes action steps, warning signs or other take-aways. This makes it easier for the host to plug your book, saving you from having to do it.
Play It Safe
Because advisors face compliance concerns when making media appearances, minimize mishaps by laying the groundwork with care. Know what you can say — and what not to say.
"I encourage all advisors to talk with your public relations, legal or compliance department before you do a media interview," Lewis said. "Understand the protocol" before you go live.
As a rule, Lewis trains advisors never to speculate or use definitive terms such as "best" or "worst." Replace "I think the best course of action is ..." with "From my experience, it's usually prudent to consider … ."
If you're new to the media game, brace for some jitters. The glaring lights, cameras and microphones can seem intimidating at first.
Kelly Graves, a certified financial planner in Charlotte, N.C., recalls his first live television appearance more than 30 years ago.
"In the 1987 crash, I was three years in the business," he said. "It was scary being on TV. I took a deep breath, slowed down and just tried to get through it."
Now 63, Graves has become a pro serving as a guest on live television segments. He has learned to "make your point in two sentences" because hosts like succinct responses.
He also probes in advance to determine the focus of the interview. This way, he can align his comments to fit the overall theme.
"Understand where the interviewer is coming from," Graves said. "It's their story, not my story. If I go in another direction, it can be a waste of time."
This helps you to "see how to align the work and steps to move you forward," she adds.
Define your purpose. In contemporary terms, understand what makes you tick, or in Shakespearean ones, "to thine own self be true."
Once you know what you do not want to do, "begin to recognize what you do well and enjoy," Turman says. "This will help you seek the job opportunities you want to find or start a business that you can be passionate about."
Don't curb your enthusiasm. Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel said. "Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion."
Similarly, Matuson says employees can tell when their leaders aren't passionate. This can lead to a host of productivity problems and loss of valuable people.
Leaders who don't have enthusiasm "are costing organizations millions, if not billions of dollars, as there is a real cost to employee turnover," she says.
Embrace servant leadership. Innovative workspaces and all kind of perks won't make employees delusional enough to stay and work under an ineffective leader," Matuson said.
"Employees want respect, interesting assignments, professional development opportunities, clear expectations, feedback and fair compensation," she said. "Treat them with authenticity and transparency."
An effective leader helps reduce turnover, Matuson reminds. "Promote from within and give direct but kind feedback. Listen to your staff members. Take the time to have meaningful conversations."
Shine online. Create a strong presence. Start with your LinkedIn profile, have a professional photo and keep information up to date, Matuson says.
Further practice and refine your elevator pitch — what you want to say briefly about yourself when you're introduced to others, she says. To showcase your unique strengths, take advantage of any speaking opportunities.
The result is twofold: attracting great people who are inspired to work under you and making yourself attractive for any great opportunities that come your way.
Create a resiliency mindset. Adversity in life and in business is a given for most. Be prepared to overcome it when it rears its head.
In Turman's case, lack of opportunities "in no way slowed me down or detoured me.
I simply created a road map that was nimble enough so that when I hit an obstacle, I would go around it or go through it."
She says don't be afraid to take a different route and be flexible if you're not growing and getting what you need.
Develop supreme confidence. Foster an unwavering belief in yourself because there will be times no one will agree with you, your big idea or purpose, Turman says.
"It can be crushing when a mentor, a family member or a spouse is not as passionate or sure as you may be about your idea or purpose," Turman said. "And it happens to everyone. This isn't to say do not listen to advice or hear different vantage points, but if your gut, heart and/or head tell you jump, then do it."
She shares when she decided to start her own business at 40; a mentor questioned the purpose of that business. That was four years ago and today her company, Catalyst Consulting Services, represents over 50 nonprofits, has raised over $60 million dollars and is a model that other consultant firms look to as the new standard.
Neuropsychologist Richard Chaifetz was thinking big when he graduated with his doctorate in 1981.
He saw an opportunity to provide broad-based mental health services to the general public and opened a dozen psychological treatment centers in the Midwest, with the goal of a national franchise system. To fund this, he committed to advertising in the Yellow Pages for $10,000 a month charged to a credit card, since he only had a few thousand dollars to his name.
"If I hadn't succeeded, I'd have gone bankrupt," Chaifetz, the CEO and chairman of ComPsych Corp., told IBD from his Chicago office. "I knew professionals in the mental health field often didn't have good business acumen, and I saw an attractive opportunity for them if I could provide infrastructure, marketing and oversight. But then the insurance model began to change from direct reimbursement for patients to coverage by HMOs. I expanded services in 1984, pioneering employee assistance programs or EAPs and eventually selling off the mental health centers."
He succeeded, in spades. Today, ComPsych is the world's largest provider of customized programs for improving the lives of workers, ranging from overall wellness and work-life balance to meeting their needs for expert legal and financial help. It serves 100 million people in 160 countries, helping its 45,000 clients, including Comcast ( CMCSA) and Hilton Hotels ( HLT), to retain their best employees and increase productivity.
Crain's Chicago Business last April estimated annual revenues for the privately held company at $475 million for 2016. According to Chaifetz, "We've always had double-digit growth, so I expect them to estimate an increase of more than 10% for last year."
Chaifetz, 64, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and attended Eastern Military Academy in Huntington on Long Island, after his parents divorced. Upon graduation, he was one of only two cadets to receive appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, but turned it down because the Army wasn't where he wanted to spend his life. At the advice of Eastern's headmaster, he instead attended Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Mo.
But in the second semester of his freshman year working towards a degree in psychology, his father, with whom he had little contact after his parents' divorce, stopped paying his tuition and his mother couldn't provide enough on her teacher's salary for him to continue. Chaifetz refused to give up and pleaded with the university president to let him stay, committing not only to pay off his student debt, but to do something big for the university once he became successful.
Permission granted, he worked at all kinds of jobs part-time during the school year and full-time in summer, including at mental health facilities, graduating magna cum laude in 1975. He went on to earn his Psy.D at Illinois School of Professional Psychology.
"Psychology can be fluffy and I was attracted to the fact that neuropsychology, which is the study of the relationship between brain function and behavior, emotion and cognition, was more scientific and exact in coming to a diagnosis," Chaifetz said.
He never forgot his promise to Saint Louis University, and in 2007, Chaifetz and his wife Jill donated $12 million as the lead gift to build Chaifetz Arena, an $80 million, 10,600-seat sports facility. They also funded the Chaifetz Trading Center at her alma mater, the Farmer School of Business at Miami University-Oxford in Oxford, Ohio, with $3 million.
On Feb. 20, 2018, an announcement was made of their $15 million donation for business education at the university, resulting in the renaming of what will now be known as the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business, and the programs for entrepreneurs will become the Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship.
Challenges The Status Quo
"We pioneered fully integrated EAPs to cover everything from crisis intervention to disability management, under our GuidanceResources brand, for organizations from small, private concerns to the Fortune 100," Chaifetz said. "To be able to grow globally and serve so many industries, we empower our own employees to solve problems with a custom-fit for client needs. We encourage them not only to innovate, we expect them to challenge the status quo, helping us to avoid falling into the standardization trap that big companies often do."
ComPsych recruits for high-energy, intellectually curious, creative individuals who are willing to test the limits within the boundaries of good business sense. The selection process not only uses extensive interviewing and background checks, but also tests and uses role-playing to make sure candidates fit the culture. The new hires are tasked to create superstars in other organizations and are incentivized by rewards for performance. As boomers retire and more millennials are hired, Chaifetz is confident about the company's future.
"Studies have shown that younger people want meaningful work, and we believe our entrepreneurial culture is an excellent fit," Chaifetz said.
ComPsych has gradually expanded its offerings. One of the most critical is absence management, which helps companies meet the requirements of the two-decade-old U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) at a lower cost with less liability exposure. Health care organizations have the largest percentage of employees on leave in a given year at 39%, while hotel and hospitality employees have the lengthiest absences overall, averaging more than 30 days. ComPsych's integrated EAPs have helped health care worker absenteeism drop by 43%, while their life satisfaction has risen 59%.
Another area where the company excels is in managing the opioid abuse crisis, which cost $20 billion in lost productivity in 2016, yet three-quarters of employers have not offered training on how to detect misuse. The fatality rate is six times higher than the world average, according to the United Nations. ComPsych's multi-pronged approach can include cognitive behavioral therapy, managing inpatient and outpatient treatment by leading providers, coordinating with pharmacies, family support and 24/7 access to online workshops with master-level clinicians.
Mitigates Merger Pitfalls
ComPsych's growth has been entirely organic and it counsels clients to be careful about how they go about mergers and acquisitions, since studies show 70% to 90% fail to pay for themselves. Clients are advised to have clearly defined core competencies they can leverage to expand and to avoid trying to merge cultures that are not compatible.
"Most M&A problems are not due to miscalculating the financials, but because of the intangible aspects," Chaifetz said. "You're buying the services of people and if their aspirations are not a good fit with the new company culture, financial goals are unlikely to come to fruition. That's where we can play an important role in helping clients make sure that they understand the needs and expectations of new employees."
Enlightened corporate leaders have come to see the cost-effectiveness of employee wellness services, but ComPsych is especially appreciated during crises. During Hurricane Harvey last summer, the company conducted more than 450 critical incident stress management sessions.
In 2017, Chaifetz was given the Humanitarian Award by the Illinois Holocaust Museum. "He always wanted to help people as a psychologist," Jill told the audience. "He's been called the Michael Jordan of his industry, and he's pretty much a savant."
Dale Grenolds, executive vice president at ComPsych, says Chaifetz is the type of leader that lets you take risks and be autonomous.
"At the same time, he's very direct in his feedback and clear about his expectations," Grenolds said. "His drive and level of confidence push his people to achieve more and operate from a place of strength. And at times of crisis, he has a unique ability to create clarity and find solutions."
CEO of ComPsych Corp., world's leading provider of employee well-being programs.
Overcame: The need for a completely new business model in the early years.
Lesson: Attract clients by offering easy solutions for the areas where they have the biggest challenges.
"Over-reliance on market research can stifle creativity and create a 'me too' organization which can marginalize opportunities."
When clients tell you that they're engaged, it's all smiles and congratulations. But in some cases, you may add a word of caution.
X If one party has substantially more assets than the other, an advisor may raise the issue of a prenuptial agreement. That's especially true if it's a second marriage and one or both individuals have adult children.
"When it's a first marriage and one person has a lot of assets and the other doesn't, I may bring it up," said Larry Ginsburg, a certified financial planner in Oakland, Calif. "In a second marriage, it's more likely I'll bring it up. Issues can come into play like children from a prior marriage who wind up their parent emotionally and financially."
Yet broaching the topic can prove dicey. Clients may squirm in their seats and even resent their advisor for raising such a sensitive matter.
Seasoned advisors insist that's no reason to overlook this vital issue. In fact, they view it as part of their job.
Reflecting on his 36 years as an advisor, Ginsburg tries to soften the blow of suggesting a prenup by telling lovebirds, "I'm a paid pessimist. I look for what could be major problems in your financial life and to protect you — to plan for the worst and hope for better."
Ginsburg, 70, finds that everyone accepts his recommendation, even if they chafe at first. And he doesn't let up if they initially resist.
Show You're Serious
Many advisors view the prenup as a prudent part of financial planning for certain clients. But Ginsburg has a heightened appreciation for it.
Over 20 years ago, a young man with substantial assets was planning to marry a foreign bride of modest means. The bride didn't speak English, and Ginsburg strongly urged him to get a prenup.
"He objected, saying they were in love and didn't need one," Ginsburg recalled. "He also didn't want to hire an interpreter and pay for his attorney and her attorney."
Ginsburg convinced him to act — and he did. Six months later, she left him.
"Before that, if clients didn't take my advice, then so what," he said. "But after that, I knew I needed to be very clear and take a stand."
Since then, Ginsburg estimates that he's worked with over 50 clients planning to marry who fit the profile of needing a prenup. He has dealt with multiple rounds of resistance by declaring, "Let me tell you how important it is that you do this. If you choose not to do a prenup, I will resign as your advisor."
"I've never had to resign, and every single person has thanked me," he said.
He also chooses his words with care. When couples insist that their marriage will turn out well, he doesn't try to argue.
Instead, he acknowledges that recommending a prenup "sounds ridiculous" to them. But then he educates them and explains its benefits.
"Emotionally, people are adverse to talking about it," he added. "Using (strong) language like 'ridiculous' helps them understand."
Now's The Time
Timing is critical when introducing the idea of a prenup. Clients basking in the glow of blooming romance may not want to talk about such a gloomy subject.
Nevertheless, advisors cannot wait indefinitely to bring it up. The longer you delay, the more uncomfortable it can get.
Soon after learning a client plans to marry, Cary Carbonaro will evaluate whether there's a large inequality between the couple in terms of assets. If so, she'll come right out and ask, "Are you getting a prenup?"
"If they say no, I'll say that I advise against that," said Carbonaro, a certified financial planner in Huntington, N.Y. "I'll tell them that you want to do this now — that it's the best time to negotiate when you're both happy."
She says she's made this recommendation over a dozen times in her career, and every client has taken her advice.
An advisor's demeanor and communication skills are put to the test during these delicate conversations. If you come across as too cold or lacking in empathy, you can create a rift in the client relationship.
Just because you're about to mention the need for a prenup should not preclude you from offering hearty congratulations on their marriage. Smile warmly and celebrate the news, even if you privately harbor reservations.
When the moment arrives to start the prenup discussion, maintain eye contact with both individuals. Ensure that they're fully attuned to the matter at hand.
"Do not favor one person over the other," Carbonaro said. "Treat both of them equally."
Elite athletes often lean on their coach to sharpen their mental game. They apply a coach's tips and exercises to improve their performance.
Some of those tools work equally well for executives and entrepreneurs seeking to gain a psychological edge. Even if you're not a top athlete, you can benefit by acting like one.
In both sports and business, success centers on concentration, confidence and goal-driven determination. To think like a champion:
Focus intently. Master the ability to concentrate on what matters most and you're more likely to come away a winner. Once you set a goal, maintain a steely focus on achieving it.
"I teach athletes to change their body language and physical position to help them refocus," said Angie Fifer, owner of Breakthrough Performance Consulting, a Philadelphia-based firm that provides performance psychology training. "That also applies if you're slouching at your desk. Straighten your back, take a deep breath and remind yourself what you want to focus on."
Advance in increments. Chasing a lofty goal is exhausting, and distractions can derail you along the way. It's better to set incremental goals and concentrate on attaining them, one at a time.
"Set a time limit to focus," Fifer said. "Make it 20 minutes or less so that it's doable. You can get focus fatigue if you try to do too much at once or for too long."
Take errors in stride. Respond to mistakes with an eagerness to learn and grow. That sounds easy, but in the heat of the moment you may react with anger or self-flagellation when you realize you've committed a costly blunder.
"The easiest form of self-sabotage is to focus on what's going wrong, not what's going right," Fifer said. "If you berate yourself for a mistake, it doesn't do you any good. Ask, 'What can I learn from this?' and move on."
Identify what works. Before pursuing an ambitious goal, assess how you've attained similar objectives. What strategies did you use? What actions and behaviors worked to your advantage — and what stymied you?
"It's important to understand your process that leads to success," said Brent Walker, associate athletics director of championship performance at Columbia University in New York City. "When people miss outcomes and lose confidence, they engage in behaviors that don't lead to success."
Just as great athletes identify steps that maximize performance, salespeople might look back and analyze what they did to reach the top of the leader board in their best month — and follow the same blueprint to resume their torrid production.
Know what you want. Coaches prod athletes to excel by having them pinpoint what they aspire to achieve and what concrete actions will get them there. Expressing an overly vague goal, by contrast, can lead to trouble.
"Clarity of vision is a really big thing," said Jonathan Armold, a minor-league pitching coach for the Texas Rangers.
To help a player execute a pitch, Armond likes to ask, "What's your vision for what you want to do with that pitch?"
"If he responds, 'I want to throw a strike,' that isn't good enough," Armold said. "It's better to have a clear vision like, 'I want to hit the top part of the strike zone with my four-seam fastball and deliver it hard.' "
Similarly, if you're about to negotiate a high-stakes deal or give a major presentation, paint a vivid mental picture of the desired outcome. See yourself making a bold offer — and staying quiet afterward — or wowing the audience with a rousing anecdote that drives home your main message.
While the famed NFL Films' poem says "The Autumn Wind is a Raider," Amy Trask proved not all Raiders are necessarily men.
Trask, 56, the former CEO of the Oakland Raiders, admired the team when she was in college at the University of California, Berkeley. Their owner, Al Davis, had built the Raiders into an NFL powerhouse in the '60s, '70s and '80s in part by giving second and third chances to talented castoff players other teams labeled as misfits, problems and troublemakers.
Trask herself had been called a behavioral problem and a troublemaker in kindergarten by a teacher, and the characterization — not entirely undeserved, she admits — stuck until high school. So she instantly identified with the Raiders and Davis.
While a student at the University of Southern California law school, she boldly cold-called the Raiders and asked for an unpaid internship. She got it, and four years later the Raiders hired her full-time as an attorney.
She'd only been on the job two weeks when she respectfully told Davis he was wrong for tearing into another employee for 10 minutes "like a velociraptor" — and when he had the facts of the situation wrong. Davis then directed a profanity-laced tirade at Trask — who then went right back at him — before he acquiesced to Trask's points. And he didn't fire her.
Trask had lived her mantra: "To thine own self be true," Trask told IBD, quoting her mother quoting Shakespeare's "Hamlet." Trask says that's the best piece of advice she's ever been given, and she's built her career on it. She spoke her mind to Davis right from the start — backing up the point of contention with facts — so she fit right into the Raiders' culture.
Further recognition of that occurred in the mid-1980s while Trask was waiting on the sidelines for practice to conclude so she could speak with Davis. A member of the assembled media shouted out to retired Raiders Hall of Fame lineman Gene Upshaw, "Gene, what's it like having a girl working for the team?"
Trask says Upshaw gave the reporter a withering stare and then in a commanding voice bellowed, "She's not a girl. She's a Raider."
"That was a very, very special moment for me," Trask said. "It gave me confidence and a sense of belonging. I still get goose bumps when I think about it."
Trask, who joined the Los Angeles Raiders full-time in 1987, was appointed CEO of the team in 1997, after they relocated to Oakland. She was the first female to hold that position in the NFL. Trask left the team in 2013.
TV sports journalist Andrea Kremer, the chief correspondent for the NFL Network, said, "Above all, you need to be passionate about what you're interested in, and Amy has that. She started at the lowest entry point you could in business. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but most of the women who are highly placed in NFL teams are related to the owner in some capacity. Obviously, Amy was not."
"Hard work really, really matters," Trask said. "Work as hard as you can. And when you don't think you can work any harder, try to find a way to work harder."
She added: "There is something to be said for being the first in and the last out. There is something to be said for doing everything one can think of, whether asked or not."
The Raiders' best three-year run in the last 30 years coincided with when Trask was CEO and running the legal and business side of things. Between 2000-02 the team went 36-15 in the regular season and made the playoffs all three years. The Raiders also advanced to their only Super Bowl in the last 34 years, Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003, before losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Amy has a powerful drive and tremendous curiosity," said Jeff Birren, the Raiders' longtime former general counsel and the person who first hired Trask. "She wanted to know every aspect of the business. Very few people ever get that interested in all of it. Ticketing, promotions, all these kinds of things that are nonlegal, as well as the legal stuff. Anything she could learn about the business she would, and tried to. If she'd been able to, she would have added in watching film with the coaches."
When the Raiders were looking to hire a new head coach in 1998, Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots' head coach, interviewed for the job. Trask recommended to Davis that he hire Belichick.
Trask wrote in " You Negotiate Like A Girl: Reflections On A Career In The National Football League," with Mike Freeman, that Belichick does everything that the best football coaches do. "Bill maximized the talent on his roster, he exploits matchups, he disguises deficiencies, he does everything possible to put his players and teams in the best position to win." Trask ranks Belichick as the best NFL head coach ever.
Currently, Trask is chairman of the board of the Big3 three-on-three basketball league. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband of 32 years, Rob, and their pets. Trask said of Rob: "He believes in me and encourages me to do things when I don't believe I can do them."
Trask also serves on the board of directors for Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, ARF.
La Russa, a former baseball manager and Hall of Famer, said, "If Amy says she's in, she's in. No excuses. Her commitment is ironclad. She has a big heart and is very caring."
Trask was born in Los Angeles to a mother with a Ph.D. in chemistry and an aerospace industry father. She fell in love with NFL football watching it in junior high school.
She wasn't a particularly good student in elementary or junior high school, and really didn't apply herself, except for continuing her "obnoxious, disinterested attitude in general," she said. Her 10th-grade English teacher, Mrs. Hernandez, though, "told me she was not going to stand for my attitude or behavior, that she expected more of me." Hernandez got through to her because she cared.
After graduating U.C. Berkley with a B.A. degree in political science, she went on to USC law school in 1982. She began her internship with the then-L.A. Raiders in 1983. After becoming an attorney in 1985, she joined a law firm but rejoined the Raiders in 1987, taking a significant pay cut to pursue her dream.
Her rapid rise up through the Raiders' organization was only a byproduct of hard work, not a master plan of hers.
"At no time from the moment I accepted my job until the day I resigned decades later did I think about my status or advancing within the organization," Trask said. "It bothers me when people take a position already looking to advance … even before they located the restrooms."
Trask said rather "one should focus on doing the best job possible and on working as hard as possible."
The Four C's
Trask feels the one trait that has served her especially well is the being willing "to admit when I make a mistake and willing to acknowledge when I need help."
The fours words she fundamentally leads and manages on are "communicate, cooperate, collaborate and coordinate."
"I would repeatedly say to co-workers and still do, 'You may make many mistakes, and whatever mistakes you make we will fix together," Trask said. "The only mistake I have little or no tolerance for is a failure to communicate, cooperate, collaborate or coordinate because that we can control."
Over the decades the Raiders have cultivated an image that has led some fans to take things too far. One of Trask's goals was to ensure a safe, family- and fan-friendly environment at home games.
At Raiders' home games she set out to making it unequivocally clear that inappropriate fan behavior would not be tolerated, and "making it abundantly clear that those knuckleheads were not representative of Raider Nation as a whole."
Trask helped institute fan-conduct videos shown in the stadium before each game, and an in-stadium texting program allowing fans to report inappropriate behavior from their seats so they wouldn't miss any action on the field.
Trask went toe to toe with Davis on the subject of television blackouts of home games for the home fan base. Essentially, for the entire NFL, a game must be sold out 72 hours prior to kickoff or it can't be televised in the home team's market.
There are numerous ways for a home team to meet the criteria, but Davis thought fans shouldn't get home games for free and wouldn't allow for the ways to make it happen. Trask disagreed with him.
"My steadfast view (was) that televising one's games in one's home market is absolutely, positively, unequivocally the single most important marketing tool available to a team," Trask wrote. "To allow games to be blacked out in one's home market is bad business. Why would an organization want residents of its own market watching other teams?"
Toward the end of his life, Davis, who passed in 2011, relented and allowed Trask to do as she wished with finding ways to lift blackouts.
"Amy just had this tremendous passion for the product, for the Raiders on the field and off, and in the community," Birren said.
First female CEO of an NFL team.
Overcame: Being a female in the male dominated culture of the NFL.
Lesson: Work very hard, be yourself, and don't worry about what you cannot control.
"To thine own self be true." Pretending you're somebody you're not is a recipe for disaster.
At some point, every hard-charging entrepreneur faces the same challenge. After surviving the startup phase, you need a plan to advance to the next level.
XEven if you draft a scalable business model, there's no guarantee you will expand in a profitable manner. Operational costs can skyrocket. Recruiting and training staff can prove vexing. And if customers detect a service decline, they might quit and jump into a competitor's arms.
For independent financial advisors, growing their business without sacrificing quality represents one of the biggest obstacles to long-term success. But it's not the only one.
An ever-swirling mix of variables can affect a financial advisor's ability to run a thriving firm. Staying one step ahead of technology demands ongoing research and vigilance, especially as robo platforms proliferate. Identifying an attractive target market to pursue — and then wooing and retaining clients in that niche — requires strategic thinking and seamless execution.
Like any provider of professional services, advisors also need to manage their time efficiently. For example, continuing to serve difficult or overly demanding clients can prove counterproductive. Consider the 80/20 rule: If 80% of profits flow from 20% of clients, then it's imperative to devote the bulk of your workday to delighting that 20%.
Among all the obstacles, engineering a prudent growth strategy stands out. Advisors seeking to ramp up their enterprise often face a dilemma: They want to boost capacity — adding advisors and support staff — to serve more clients, without losing what made them successful in the first place.
It's easier to deliver superior service and develop an organizational culture of excellence with a small cadre of devoted partners and employees. As the head count increases, bureaucratic inefficiencies can set in.
When firms grow quickly, it's tempting to assume that the founders hatched a brilliant strategy from the get-go. But that's not necessarily the case.
Skip Johnson co-founded his Minneapolis-based firm, Great Waters Financial, in 2012 along with three colleagues. They didn't start out with lofty ambitions.
"We worked for a big firm and just wanted to be independent," Johnson recalled. "Growth wasn't our plan."
About 18 months after launching their firm, a valued employee quit and scolded the founders for failing to build a viable business.
"You just dump all the stuff you don't want to do on me," he told his bosses.
"It was a slap in the face, but he was right," Johnson said. "It shifted our focus and was the impetus for us to build a real company."
They read two books that helped them gain an edge: "Scaling Up" by Verne Harnish and "The E Myth" by Michael Gerber.
One of the founders moved into the chief executive role and stopped seeing clients. Working on the business, not in the business, afforded him a fresh perspective.
Adopting an entrepreneurial mindset, the founders set up a system to boost internal efficiency. In scrutinizing every aspect of their operation, they began asking three questions: Is it repeatable? Is it scalable? Is it auditable?
"The third question involves whether we can audit something, check it for compliance and check every part of the process so that no balls get dropped," Johnson said.
They also hired a consultant to craft compensation plans to retain skilled employees, including granting a small percentage of firm equity to key personnel. Johnson's firm now has 32 employees in four offices and serves about 1,200 households.
Even if financial advisors think like entrepreneurs, navigating a path of measured growth — without neglecting what made you successful — is a constant balancing act.
Many advisors intend to grow organically in their early years of practice. To harness economies of scale, they may eventually acquire other firms. But preserving a strong culture while integrating new businesses can put any growing enterprise to the test.
"You need to have a strong, vibrant, collaborative culture," said Fielding Miller, co-founder of Captrust Financial Advisors in Raleigh, N.C. His firm, with about 450 employees and 36 locations, has completed 28 acquisitions since 2006.
"When we make an acquisition, we tell (the acquired firm) that we're looking for people to buy in, not sell out," he said. "We don't want them to sell and go away."
Miller emphasizes the importance of employee engagement in powering the firm's growth. Offering stock ownership to every employee after three years with the company helps align their efforts and raise their commitment. About two-thirds of Captrust's workers are owners, he adds.
Setting up centralized processes also strengthens a company's capacity to grow steadily without hiccups. Adopting a consistent approach to portfolio management, financial planning, compliance protocols and other facets of the business enables a firm to integrate newcomers into a well-oiled machine.
"In a smaller firm, advisors wear multiple hats," said Patrick Goshtigian, president of EP Wealth Advisors in Torrance, Calif. "It's easy for advisors as entrepreneurs to try to do everything themselves."
After the firm's two co-founders hired Goshtigian in 2011, he helped establish internal processes that pave the way for growth. The company's average compound annual growth rate is about 20% over the last six years.
"To invest in growth, you need to relieve advisors of the burden of wearing too many hats," Goshtigian said. "Our value proposition to advisors is we're able to offer them a centralized set of services so that they can focus solely on clients."
Financial advisors spend much of their time coaching clients to manage their financial lives. But sometimes, it's the advisor who needs a coach.
XMany financial advisors, especially those who launch their own practices, see themselves as lifelong learners. In addition to listening and learning from clients, they often seek to improve their business savvy.
His experience led him to conclude that financial planners could increase their odds of success by applying the right data and extracting lessons from top performers in their field. He realized that while elite advisors face the same obstacles as their less accomplished peers, they're somehow able to identify and implement solutions to race ahead of the pack.
In this interview with IBD, Bowen discusses what separates the best advisors from the rest.
IBD: Many advisors do well, but a few do exceptionally well. What distinguishes the top tier?
Bowen: Advisors sign up for being a great technician. Many of them are good at helping clients and solving a range of situations for them. But all of a sudden, we're asking them to be entrepreneurial. Many wind up struggling with the entrepreneurial model. They didn't sign up for that. They may be forced into it.
IBD: Is that how you felt when you were an advisor?
Bowen: I started in 1978. I sold my practice in 1998. You're learning on the fly. When I started, you were handed a phone book and told to start prospecting.
IBD: So how did you learn to think like an entrepreneur?
Bowen: I decided to focus on a narrow niche instead of the phone book. I thought I could add value by helping affluent people with complicated financial situations. So I had to market myself to affluent people. Cold calls or direct mail wouldn't work to reach them, so I had to find another way.
IBD: What other way?
Bowen: I developed relationships with CPAs, attorneys and others who worked with affluent people. It's about forming strategic partnerships with centers of influence. And I started to tap the power of thought leadership. I started writing articles and books and they helped me be perceived as a financial expert. My first book, "The Prudent Investor's Guide to Beating the Market" (co-written with Carl Reinhardt and Alan Werba), sold around 100,000 copies.
IBD: You make it sound easy!
Bowen: It wasn't easy. We teach four keys to success. Client focus — knowing whom you are going to serve. Second is practice management. Third is creating management systems. And finally you need to have a systematic process to attract the right clients. I struggled with all four.
IBD: You built a business around affluent individuals. But some advisors think less wealthy people represent an overlooked niche. Do you agree?
Bowen: Remember that movie, "Jerry Maguire"? (The characters) yell, "Show me the money." Well, the money is with the baby boomers on up. It's blindingly obvious. I'd go where the money is. And there are more wealthy people than ever.
IBD: Aside from encouraging advisors to pursue affluent clients, how do you coach them to be successful?
Bowen: There are financial advisors who net $250,000 a year. And there are superstars who make over $1 million (a year). It comes down to one thing that these superstars are doing better than the others. And that is the ability to source wealthy clients.
IBD: You mentioned thought leadership. Is that an important part of attracting wealthy clients?
Bowen: Yes, because these clients want to work with an expert. So advisors need to establish themselves as thought leaders. Writing books is a good way to do that.
IBD: How can an advisor cultivate lasting relationships with the affluent?
Bowen: Advisors need to master the art of framing. Some advisors treat all clients the same. Top advisors, by contrast, understand the psychographics of their clients so that they can appeal to them more effectively.
Bowen: The mental driving forces that drive their decisions. You have to focus on what each client wants to achieve, like a focus on the family or freedom to live a certain lifestyle.
IBD: So top advisors listen better and are more attuned to each client's hot buttons?
Bowen: It's more than that. (Most) advisors spend 80% of their time with clients talking about process and 20% on the results. I recommend that they shift that around. You want to spend most of your time talking about what the client will gain rather than the process on how to get there.
IBD: But what if advisors want to educate prospects and clients about their investment philosophy? That can take time.
Bowen: Most advisors think they need to differentiate themselves by telling clients how great they are. But it's better to make an emotional connection first with clients — and then discuss the logic of what you bring and your technical skills. When talking to prospective clients, design a series of questions so that you make your meeting all about them and not about you.
IBD: Full-service advisors offer both investment management and financial planning. As the business gets more complex, are they overextending themselves?
Bowen: When I started out, investments were the No. 1 concern. But today, clients look to their advisors on the advanced planning side to help them mitigate taxes and do estate planning. And then there's asset protection: Clients don't want their assets unjustly taken through litigation or divorce. Most advisors know the investment side, but don't have expertise in all these other areas. So they need to create systematic processes with a professional network (of experts).
Financial advisors know how to make every dollar count. So when it comes to office space, they tend to spend wisely.
XIndependent financial advisors who run their own firm seek a setting that reinforces their brand. Aside from a safe, convenient location for their clients, they want to convey security and stability with their choice of office.
But securing a prestigious address can prove costly, especially in a pricey real estate market. Advisors who launch their own practice often want to conserve cash flow, leading them to think twice about splurging on fancy office space.
When Sahil Vakil recently explored options for locating his new practice, he asked himself, "What's the best way to find cheap office space?" Because he wanted to serve younger clients as a fee-only planner, he knew his target market of on-the-go entrepreneurs and professionals would welcome an advisor who operated a virtual office.
Based in the New York City area, Vakil realized that renting or buying space in a desirable location would prove prohibitively expensive. As a result, the 33-year-old certified financial planner opted for a more economical option: a shared workspace.
"Controlling costs was my primary driver initially," Vakil said. "But then I saw there were other benefits."
In a coworking arrangement, solo professionals operate independently in a shared space. Companies such as WeWork and Regus are among a growing number of providers of flexible workspace in cities around the world.
"Coworking spaces serve a dual purpose for us," Vakil said. "They not only provide our team with physical space to collaborate, but also enable seamless conversations with our target audience: the Generation X/Y entrepreneur and their employees and customers."
He has mingled with accountants, attorneys and other entrepreneurs in shared workspaces. The socializing helps him cultivate potential clients while providing a springboard for peer-to-peer learning about entrepreneurial success.
As a fledgling entrepreneur, Vakil likes coworking spaces' low cost and short-term commitment. They often charge by the month, so newcomers are not locked into long leases. He has scouted a private office for $1,100 a month with conference rooms available to rent for $25 an hour.
"Coworking spaces give you flexibility," he said. "You convert a fixed cost — real estate — into a variable cost based on demand or client traffic. I anticipate having clients all over the country, so I'll need professional office space for only part of the month."
Additionally, coworking allows an advisor in startup mode to nab a high-status address. Vakil has weighed options on Manhattan's Wall Street or Park Avenue.
Buy And Grow
As an advisor's business grows, so does the need for space. Evaluating whether to rent or buy property takes on critical importance.
Jason Labrum, a certified financial planner in Carlsbad, Calif., raves about the decision to own the buildings for his two locations. He bought his first building in 2014 after a rocky rental experience.
"I was in a five-year lease but we needed new space," Labrum recalled. "At first, (the landlord) said they'd be flexible as I grew and my needs changed. But it turns out I had to get out of that lease and pay a surrender penalty."
When Labrum spotted an opportunity to buy attractive real estate at a relatively low price, he pounced. He says he designed the space "exactly the way we wanted," with an open architecture plan, 30-foot ceilings and lots of glass to give the office what he calls "a cool, modern look."
He purchased his second location after leasing it from a landlord who sought to sell the property after her husband died. Labrum liked the building and they negotiated a deal.
"For an advisor who has a good business, if you can get a loan and you can wind up paying the same amount as you're paying anyway (in rent), then I say buy," Labrum said. "If you do it properly, you pay yourself market-rate rent. And there can be tax advantages in taking depreciation over many years."
But he cautions that in some markets it's tough to find space ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 square feet. You may wind up with a limited inventory of Class A buildings that meet all your needs.
Labrum's Carlsbad office is 2,200 square feet with 10 employees, and his firm is outgrowing the space.
"Once that happens, now you're a landlord and you have to rent it out," he said.
Financial advisors genuinely like most of their clients. But not all.
X Just one difficult personality can ruin your day. Dealing with an overly demanding, irrational or downright unpleasant individual saps energy and darkens the mood of even the most upbeat financial advisor.
Beyond their annoying antics, grating clients pose a more pressing problem. At some point, advisors must weigh whether to persevere — or cut the cord and move on.
"I can count the number of really difficult clients on less than two hands that I've had over the last 20 years," said Robert DeHollander, a certified financial planner in Greenville, S.C. "It's very stressful when it happens."
He recalls a client who repeatedly sent "adversarial communication" in the form of angry emails berating DeHollander and his team over nitpicky issues. As the tone of the messages grew testier, the relationship ended.
Reflecting on that experience, DeHollander says it's sometimes hard to predict how a new client's behavior will evolve. But in other cases, the handwriting is on the wall from the outset.
"Our onboarding process is better now," he said. "We explain our process in more detail, and if they want something that's outside our process — like an advisor who will chase hot stocks that the client saw on the internet — then we may refer them to another advisor who's a better fit."
Strict screening of clients involves more than a discussion of investment philosophy. To avoid having to fire a client down the road, advisors may spend their initial meeting making a broader, more subjective assessment.
"My criteria for a new client is, 'Would I enjoy having dinner with them?'," said Patrick Dougherty, a Dallas-based certified financial planner.
Skip The Pita
Certain personality types raise a red flag for wary advisors. Examples include those who habitually lapse into foul or inappropriate language — or who trash their former advisor in harsh or nasty terms.
In an introductory meeting with a married couple, Dougherty noticed that one spouse treated the other with disdain and became "verbally and emotionally abusive." He severed ties before they could sign on.
"If I see someone treat their spouse that way, then they might treat me that way," he said.
Controlling, domineering types can also put financial advisors on guard, especially if such people fancy themselves know-it-alls. Entering into a relationship with such individuals is fraught with peril.
"We occasionally see people who are do-it-yourselfers and extremely fee-sensitive," DeHollander said. "I don't want to work with somebody who will second guess everything we provide."
In the 1990s, DeHollander read a comment by Nick Murray, a prominent financial advisor. Murray said that some clients are not nice people — and act like human scorpions.
"You pick them up and they're going to sting," Murray warned.
Nevertheless, some advisors go against their better judgment and accept clients with the potential to sting. They often come to regret it.
When Dougherty met an avid market watcher who tracked stocks daily, he figured he could convince the newcomer to lighten up and embrace his long-term outlook. Within a month, however, Dougherty realized he was stuck with what he calls "a PITA client" (pain in the a**) and they parted ways.
Lay Down The Law
Terminating a client relationship is often a last resort for exasperated advisors. They may opt for less drastic measures, at least at first.
Karen Van Voorhis, a certified financial planner in Newton, Mass., worked with a client who called constantly, expressed outrage over trivial matters and reacted with heightened anxiety to every market move. Rather than fire the client, Van Voorhis decided to lay down the law.
"The kicker was I told her we're happy to find her another advisor if she wasn't happy with us," Van Voorhis said. "That showed we were serious and she needed to change her behavior. Eventually, she settled down and I outlined the terms going forward."
In a calm tone, Van Voorhis set a limit on the number of calls per month and meetings per year they'd have. Grudgingly, the client agreed.
"I was very comfortable saying, 'This is how we need to work together,'" Van Voorhis said. "She became much more compliant after that."
While Van Voorhis salvaged that client, she acknowledges that it's sometimes wise to disengage for good. If an individual behaves egregiously — and requires continual care and feeding — then the decision becomes easier.
"I don't think it's worth holding on to all clients at all costs," she said.
If you elect to cut them loose, deliver the news in person — or at least by phone. Sending a letter might save you from an awkward conversation, but it can breed lasting ill will that ultimately hurts your reputation.
Advisors of all ages seek to harness technology to their advantage. While that's relatively easy for techies, it poses a challenge for those who lack an affinity for such solutions.
"People can get intimidated with technology," said Allan Katz, a certified financial planner in Staten Island, N.Y. "But the tools out there now are tremendous. Learning how to use them is so important for an advisor."
Katz, 48, evaluates potentially cost-effective technologies in three steps. First, he asks, "What am I trying to accomplish?" Examples include enhancing some aspect of client service or streamlining an administrative task.
Second, he asks, "What's the best tool to help me accomplish that?" He will review tech products that are designed to address his needs, assessing their cost, ease of use and other factors.
After identifying the most promising tools, he will conduct test runs and gauge the results. Many vendors allow users to try their offerings for a limited time at little or no cost.
For years, Katz has favored VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) for his phone lines. He has used several VoIP providers, and he recently sampled a vendor's latest release.
"I like VoIP because it's much less money and lets you do so much," he said. "But when something new comes along, I might test it out. In this case, (the new product) was OK but not all that robust, so I didn't go with it."
Because technology keeps advancing at warp speed, financial advisors cannot buy hardware or software and forget about it. They must prowl the landscape for upgrades and scrutinize potentially groundbreaking applications and gadgets.
"You have to constantly review the newest offerings and see if you can make whatever you have better," Katz said. That's a chore for individuals who find technology boring, vexing, or a source of fear and frustration.
Many advisors resist the hype to obtain the newest device that hits the market. Non-techies usually find that waiting at least a few months — or longer — enables them to learn from the first wave of users and perhaps nab the product at a lower price.
"I'm not a first adopter," Katz said. "I don't think, 'Oh, this shiny new thing just came out and I have to buy it.' "
Similarly, Patti Black doesn't consider herself an early adopter. After 20 years as a financial advisor, Black figured she knew enough about technology to get by. But when she joined a new firm last year, she faced a steep learning curve to master its financial planning software and CRM (customer relationship management) platform.
Black got up to speed on the basics by watching online training videos produced by the software firms. But Black, a certified financial planner in Birmingham, Ala., says the videos only covered "routine scenarios."
To round out her knowledge, she asked tech-savvy colleagues to help. She discovered that some younger employees were happy to coach her.
"We have some millennials here who were able to work with me and answer my specific questions," she said. "Beyond (benefiting from) their help, it's been great getting to know them better."
Learn From Peers
While Black works at a firm with younger, tech-oriented staffers, other planners operate solo or without an in-house tech whiz. That's when leaning on outside experts can help.
Kevin O'Brien, a certified financial planner in Northborough, Mass., relies on a local computer support business to advise him on tech matters. He's worked closely with the shop's owner for 20 years.
"Any time I buy a new computer, I make sure he installs it," O'Brien said. "And I'm always running things by him. He takes care of my hardware, networking, and security and firewall."
A voracious reader, O'Brien scans industry publications and blogs by thought leaders such as Bob Veres and Michael Kitces to educate himself about tech trends. He also attends annual conferences hosted by his custodian, TD Ameritrade ( AMTD), where attendees, guest speakers and vendors share ideas and resources to keep pace with technology.
O'Brien has also participated in a peer network with other financial advisors. They discussed their experience using different tech tools and invited vendors to present their latest wares.
Thanks to input from his peers, O'Brien discovered two valuable tools: a voicemail system called PhoneTag and a digital dictation service called Copytalk.
"Those were two applications I bought because other advisors in my study group liked them," he said. "I'm not a tech person. But by talking to your peers and keeping an open mind, you can learn about some great solutions."
Haden says research shows that people who talk about a goal they want to achieve — especially how it will feel to achieve it — are much less likely to do so.
This is because "you already got a kick out of people thinking of you (for example) as an NYC Marathon finisher, so now you're less motivated to actually be an NYC Marathon finisher."
To improve your results on anything, consider changing your perspective.
Raise the stakes. Haden says that in a recent research study, one group was given a simple temptation and told to say in response to it, "I can't," while the other group was told to say, "I don't."
Participants told to say, "I can't" gave in to the temptation 61% of the time, while participants told to say, "I don't" gave in only 36%.
"When we say 'I can't,' we automatically give ourselves a way out," Haden said. "We have a choice. Actually, we could give in.
"But when we say 'I don't,' we're powerful. We're determined. We're not making a choice. What we do — or don't do — is based on something much stronger: our identity. We don't, because that's who we are."
She adds these leaders "have cultivated an ability to pay attention to what's important and avoid the constant distractions that negatively impact productivity and results. They do not dwell on past mistakes and they do not brood about future risks and concerns."
Haden says if a big goal looks like a scary mountain, just focus on the next step, "the day to day and not the end result."
Be selective. Having to make too many decisions in a day can be counterproductive. The more choices we make during the day, Haden says, the harder each one is on our brain "and the more we start to look for shortcuts."
"A to-do list with 20 or 30 items is really just a wish list — impossible and depressing," Haden said.
Paring down the number of issues you tackle in a day improves your chances of making good decisions.
Also, turn ambiguous goals into achievable tasks. Instead of saying, "Make more cold calls," Haden says you should tell yourself to "make three cold calls to prospects today."
High-stakes decisions deserve time and attention, but "we're in such a rush to reach a conclusion that we never really take the time for deep reflection," Strauss Einhorn said.
One culprit: information overload. People are overprogrammed to answer emails late at night and waking to urgent texts, she says.
"We struggle with the need to react when we also need to really think," Strauss Einhorn said. "Yet when it comes to our future, we deserve the time needed for thoughtful reflection. Insight doesn't come from collecting information alone; it comes from brainwork."
Pause throughout the day. Turn off your cellphone, shut down your computer and give yourself a few moments of quiet, Rosenberg advises.
"Your brain activity will almost instantly be less frenzied," she said.
Schedule tranquility. Make time for it in your day to de-stress. Rosenberg suggests doing a simple meditation practice, even for just two to five minutes per day.
She says simple yoga breathing techniques support the nervous system and kick-start a relaxation response. "This reduces stress and helps our minds to become less cluttered and frantic, allowing us to make prudent and objective, rather than reactive, decisions," Rosenberg said.
Just as professional athletes benefit from coaching, so can advisors. Knowledgeable outsiders can spot holes in one's performance and suggest ways to plug them.
X In helping advisors grow their business, consultants often focus on processes and work habits. For example, advisors may lack systems to generate referrals, manage their time or build a thriving team.
Even if advisors think they operate efficient businesses, they may still want to improve. By enlisting a coach, they can reset their priorities and identify better ways to attract and retain clients.
"The No. 1 thing I see with advisors is a lack of a business development process," said John Furey, principal at Advisor Growth Strategies in Phoenix. "How do you track referrals? How are you measuring success? North of 80% of advisors are not good at that."
Hard-charging advisors can mistake busyness with productive lead generation. They may spend hours a day cultivating prospects, while still struggling to build a sustainable practice.
The best firms set up repeatable processes that govern every step of attracting new clients, Furey says. Better yet, advisors define the actions necessary to complete each part of the sales process so that any employee can step in and seamlessly tackle a particular set of duties.
Furey cites the example of a firm that establishes what he calls "center of influence marketing." Once an advisor receives a referral of a prospective client from an accountant, attorney or other source, this triggers a series of distinct, orchestrated steps. Staffers follow this consistent approach so that no potentially valuable prospect falls through the cracks.
Dollars, Not Pennies
Because advisors largely sell their time, they need to maximize every minute of their day. Setting priorities — and sticking to their plan — produces better outcomes.
Coaches sometimes double as time trackers. They will log an advisor's activities to assess productivity and goal-driven progress.
"Lawyers and accountants track their time," Furey said. "Advisors usually don't."
He urges advisors to identify their "ideal client" and then marshal their efforts to attract and retain as many of those clients as possible. They should not spend time pursuing prospects that fall outside their niche.
Adopting this disciplined approach to building a stable, desirable client base takes patience. Advisors eager to hit the ground running may widen their arms of acceptance for any client, foiling their carefully crafted niche strategy.
"Advisors will sometimes step over dollars to pick up pennies," said James Pollard, founder of TheAdvisorCoach.com in Newark, Del. "They chase the easy money."
In their first year on their own, advisors should lay the groundwork for long-term success, Pollard says. He encourages them to develop a prospecting system and foster relationships that will ultimately produce a big payoff.
If you want to build a practice around dentists, for instance, devote your first six months or more to forging key contacts who can help you penetrate that niche. Pollard cautions that you may need to reject other clients during that time, but sticking to your strategy makes more sense in the long run.
Listen And Learn
As advisors start to grow their business, staffing becomes critical. To increase their capacity to serve clients, advisors shift their attention to hiring and training more employees.
Yet many advisors lack grounding in management skills. From interviewing job candidates to motivating and evaluating them once they come aboard, advisors may wing it.
"Most advisors are not the best people managers," Furey said. "You may be great at helping clients, but as you grow, you need people to help you."
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Coaches can provide leadership training as well as onboarding systems for new hires. They might also work with advisors to establish performance standards for employees along with pathways for professional development so that rising stars stay with the firm.
Advisors can also benefit by polishing their communication skills. Coaches may offer pointers on how to listen better, show empathy and explain complex concepts in plain English.
"You want to be physically engaged by sitting up, leaning forward and actively listening to the client," said Brian Portnoy, director of investment education at Virtus Investment Partners in Hartford, Conn. "You're creating an overall experience of authenticity where you want to learn more, and where you repeat what you've just heard" to confirm understanding.
When Portnoy provides behavioral coaching to advisors, he warns them to resist distractions (such as glancing at their phones or computer monitors) when conversing with clients. Maintaining eye contact — and showing interest and curiosity in what they say — helps build lasting bonds.
When Harry Truman had the American presidency thrust on him on April 12, 1945, he called it the day "the whole weight of the moon and the stars fell on me."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt had died 82 days into his unprecedented fourth term. Truman had been made vice president because he was the least offensive option among the Democratic Party factions. He had no executive experience, and his career didn't inspire confidence:
He had no money to go to college and had only taken some night courses on the law.
His vision was so bad, he could only pass the Army eye exam by memorizing the chart.
After the war, he opened a men's clothing store, which went bankrupt.
He was made a judge and then a senator because the local political machine thought he would do whatever it wanted.
"The first four months of his administration were the most challenging four-month period of any president," A.J. Baime, author of "The Accidental President," told IBD. "He oversaw the collapse of Nazi Germany, the victory at Okinawa, the dropping of the atomic bombs, the founding of the United Nations, the Potsdam Conference where he negotiated the new map of the world with (British Prime Minister Winston) Churchill and (Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Joseph) Stalin, and the dawn of the Cold War. At the end of all this, Americans had achieved a sense of unity that is unimaginable today."
Truman (1884-1972) was born in Lamar, Mo., to a farming family. They moved to Independence, 10 miles from Kansas City, when he was 6. Sick with diphtheria that virtually paralyzed him for a year, he became a voracious reader of biographies about heroes, including Hannibal, the Duke of Wellington, and Ulysses Grant. "I found that the first victory they won was over themselves … self-discipline with all of them," he recalled.
His father went bankrupt in 1906, and the family moved to the 600-acre farm in Grandview where his mother had grown up. In 1917, he was made a first lieutenant in the Army to command an artillery battery. While training at Fort Sill, Okla., he befriended the nephew of Tom Pendergast, head of the Kansas City Democratic Party machine. Promoted to captain, he and his unit arrived in July 1918 on the front line in France, where Truman showed his courage and leadership skills.
Returning in 1919, he married Bess Wallace and opened a haberdashery (a store that sells sewing supplies) in Kansas City, which went out of business during the recession of 1921. The next year, Pendergast helped him get elected as a judge, then in 1934, backed him for the U.S. Senate. Although Truman accomplished little before his reelection in 1940, he began making headlines as chairman of the committee on military affairs, which found $15 billion in waste. When Roosevelt decided his vice president, Henry Wallace, was too far to the left for his fourth campaign, Truman was offered the position at the nominating convention in Chicago in July 1944.
"Truman didn't want the job and was terrified because the rumors about FDR's health were rampant, and he realized he might become president," Baime said. "But he believed he had to take orders from the commander in chief, so he accepted."
Commander In Chief
Truman had only been in two one-on-one meetings with Roosevelt before his death. After taking the oath as president, Truman was told for the first time that there was a secret weapon that was being developed as the Manhattan Project. Two weeks later, he was given the details on the atomic bomb, but there were rumors that the Germans might make a workable one first.
The same day, the conference to found the United Nations began in San Francisco, and American and Soviet forces met at the Elbe River in Germany, joining the western and eastern fronts. The German military surrendered on May 8, Truman's 61st birthday.
U.S. military leaders thought it could take another 18 months to bring the war against Imperial Japan to an end with an invasion of the home islands. The Battle of Okinawa, the bloodiest of the Pacific campaign, had started April 1 and would end on June 22, with 14,572 American and Allied soldiers dead, as well as 77,166 Japanese military and 149,193 Okinawan civilians.
By August, even the fire bombing of much of Tokyo had not forced an unconditional surrender. Japanese military leaders insisted that any peace agreement would have to allow Emperor Hirohito to stay on the throne, and they believed they could inflict enough casualties on an invasion force to bring the Allies to the negotiating table, perhaps resulting in retaining some of their wartime gains. They had not only 2 million soldiers on the home islands, but had also trained women and children in a wide variety of suicide attacks. A conservative estimate of casualties by American planners was 800,000, according to Stephen Ambrose in "To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian."
Hiroshima, a major military manufacturer, was the target for the first atomic bomb on August 6 local time. When no surrender was forthcoming, three days later Nagasaki was hit, ending the war. The atomic bombings resulted in immediate deaths, plus long-term consequences of radiation, of as many as a quarter million people. According to The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia, Japan's war had resulted in the deaths of 1.7 million of its military and 393,000 civilians, while 111,606 American military died, as well as 4 million Chinese soldiers and a staggering 18 million civilians.
The transition to a peacetime economy was rocky, with the rapid decrease of government spending on military needs and demobilization resulting in high unemployment, labor strikes, and a shortage of housing and consumer goods leading to inflation. In foreign affairs, Truman was more successful, directing the airlift to deliver supplies to West Berlin (which had been isolated by the blockade imposed by the Soviet Union and its allies), implementing the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe, and recognizing the new state of Israel.
Truman was far ahead of the public when it came to civil rights for African Americans. In 1947, he proposed anti-lynching legislation, the abolition of poll taxes that discouraged minority voting and an end to job discrimination. He would later push to desegregate interstate transportation and the armed forces. This contributed to his approval rating sinking to 32% by the time he ran for reelection in 1948, with Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and former Vice President Wallace leading third parties from the right and left. Against all odds, Truman won with 49.5% of the popular vote over the Republican candidate Thomas Dewey's 45.2%.
But the second term was even more challenging than the first, with the escalation of the Cold War, including the loss of China to Communists in 1949. That same year, the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb. Then there was the hot war, the invasion by North Korea of South Korea in 1950.
"Truman, although the least formally educated of modern presidents, was perhaps the most historically minded and the most devoted to the Constitution," said H.W. Brands, author of "The General vs. the President." "In 1951, at the height of the Korean War, he relieved commanding general Douglas MacArthur, who publicly disputed Truman's policies in the war. He knew he was signing his political death warrant by firing the popular MacArthur, but he judged the constitutional principle of civilian control of the military more important than his career."
Truman's popularity sunk to 22%, so he decided not to run for another full term in 1952. He died at age 88, and he and Bess are buried at his presidential library in Independence, Mo.
Conservative scholar Alvin Felzenberg, in "The Leaders We Deserved," ranks Truman at No. 7 among the best presidents, especially strong on character, national security, vision, competence and extension of personal liberty.
The 33rd U.S. president led the Allies to victory in the final months of World War II.
Overcame: Objections to dropping the atomic bombs on Japan.
Lesson: The top leader has to take responsibility for what the entire organization does.
"America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand."
It started with accusations against Harvey Weinstein in October. In the ensuing months, the #MeToo movement empowered women to speak up and expose sexual harassment and assault. Kevin Spacey, Sen. Al Franken, Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer were just a handful of the others who paid a steep price after being accused of misconduct.
Here's how to handle the issue in your organization.
Recognize signs. If your comments or actions — or those of anyone in your firm — are greeted with eye rolls and people flinching or walking away, realize that behavior is unwelcome. Stop, and if someone else is doing it, tell them to knock it off. Respect others' workplace and environment.
"If threatening or abusive behavior continues and goes unchecked, it's going to build, and that's when you get complaints," Lynn Lieber, principal at San Francisco-based employment law firm Lieber Lawyers, told IBD.
Take stock. If your behavior is in question, ask yourself if it would make you feel uncomfortable if the shoe were on the other foot.
"If you get to anything other than 'absolutely not,' there's at least the risk that someone feels harassed," said Brian Kropp, human resources practice leader at Arlington, Va.-based research and advisory firm Gartner.
Set the tone. People watch how top executives behave. Treat everyone with respect and others will follow suit. Manage by walking around to show you're accessible and will listen to complaints. And create a clear policy of how to report harassment.
"Every C-level (executive) needs to understand what a complaint is, how to receive it and what to do with it," Lieber said.
Teach. Provide sexual harassment training for all employees. It's best to do it in person rather than online so people are more engaged and remember the training. Include those in the C-suite.
"No one is exempt or too important to take training," Lieber said.
Pay attention. Watch and listen for signs that employees are being harassed, Kropp says. Check Twitter for #MeToo references mentioning your company.
"A lot of leaders wait until something is reported," Kropp said. "But they can listen more."
Get with the times. Some executives who entered the business world 25 years ago say the way they treat people now was acceptable back then. That's not an excuse.
"That's not the right way to look at it now," Kropp said. "What was acceptable 20 or 30 years ago isn't necessarily acceptable now."
React strongly. If you've experienced actions that make you feel uncomfortable, tell the person their behavior is inappropriate. If that doesn't help, go to human resources or a company leader. There shouldn't be any reason to feel you'll be penalized if you report it.
"They need to know retaliation is against the law," Lieber said. "If someone is hesitant about reporting, then that manager has a problem."
Stand up. If you see behavior that makes an employee uncomfortable, take action even if it doesn't directly involve you.
"As the leader, you have more responsibility and you set the tone," Kropp said. "If you're not objecting and stepping in, then you're essentially saying it's OK."
Be evenhanded. Many high-level employees or high producers feel protected from punishments that apply to others. That arrogance makes them feel they can treat people however they want. Leaders can prevent that by taking swift, appropriate action when anyone — regardless of status — harasses another employee. If it means firing, clearly explain the rationale to staff.
"You have to make it public and show that the behavior is not OK, and the person was punished for it," Kropp said.
Get help. Bring in an outside investigator, if needed. Companies face financial risk, but their reputation is at stake, too.
"The key is to move rapidly and take whatever action is needed instead of taking the attitude that you can't live without this (accused) person," Lieber said.
Eisenhower On Responsibility
The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions. Dwight Eisenhower, 34th U.S. president
Jobs On Passion
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder
Winfrey On Goals
Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe. Oprah Winfrey, media mogul
Abdul-Jabbar On Teamwork
Five guys on the court working together can achieve more than five talented individuals who come and go as individuals. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, basketball player
Carnegie On Action
As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do. Andrew Carnegie, industrialist
Over one month ago, many people made resolutions for 2018. With each passing day, however, that resolve might fade away.
X A new year brings new commitments to change for the better. It's an especially good time for advisors to extract commitments from clients on ways to improve their financial lives, from sticking to a budget to executing a will.
Yet even the most persuasive advisors might struggle to seal a commitment from a busy, distracted or recalcitrant client. Nagging people to change can prove futile if they're unable or unwilling to heed an advisor's recommendation.
"When we meet with clients, we write into their financial plan what we agree we'll do for them and what they'll do," said Tim Neuville, a certified financial planner in Irvine, Calif. "We give them due dates. But at our next meeting, some of them are embarrassed and bring it up first when they don't do what they were supposed to do."
While Neuville doesn't scold clients who fail to tackle their to-do items within the allotted timeframe, he poses searching questions to learn more. For example, he might ask, "Is this important to you to get done?"
Dealing with individuals who repeatedly promise to complete a task — and then renege — can prove vexing. Clients may understand that they're committing to do something for their own good, but still lapse into inaction.
Savvy advisors dig to determine a client's aspirations and motivations — and then frame their requests and recommendations to reflect those hot-button drivers. Asking open-ended questions to learn about one's attitudes and experience can lay the groundwork for gaining commitment from clients.
Some advisors employ unusual strategies to induce commitment from clients. They may draw up "contracts" and have the client sign, reinforcing their intent to change their behavior or address pending items such as purchasing life insurance. Or they may shake hands and tell the client, "I'm glad that's settled and you will take care of that."
Providing a visual cue also helps. When clients can see the consequences of their actions — positive and negative — it can prod them to act.
John Gajkowski, a certified financial planner in Oak Brook, Ill., uses a timeline to illustrate how clients' commitment to embrace a new behavior can pay off over decades. If someone promises to set aside tax-deferred funds every month, for instance, Gajkowski will develop a timeline to show how much more money the client can expect to enjoy in retirement.
"We try to make it almost game-like," he said. "It tends to sink in and they're more likely to buy into it when they can visualize the outcome. And they can get pride and satisfaction out of it and see their progress."
Acknowledging clients who fulfill their commitments helps as well. Advisors who express admiration or kudos to those who do what they say they're going to do come across as valued allies and even cheerleaders.
When one of Neuville's clients commits to joining a gym or starting yoga, he might jot a card on their next birthday and congratulate them for taking up new health and wellness activities.
Clients may sincerely want to follow through on their commitments. But when obstacles arise, they may lose the sense of urgency to do what they said they'd do.
Leah Weinberg, a certified financial planner in Chestnut Hill, Mass., increases the odds that clients will deliver on their commitments by making it as easy as possible. To help young professionals stick to a saving plan, she works with them to set up an automatic monthly withdrawal from their bank account into a long-term investment account.
"They know they need to commit to a change," she said. "By having someone hold them accountable, they're more likely to stick with it. Just knowing that someone else — their advisor — is overseeing their progress tends to go a long way."
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Clients authorize Weinberg to see their brokerage account, so she can tell if someone stops making their monthly contribution and ask why. She might also suggest that a client raise the monthly amount earmarked for investment.
Whenever Weinberg seeks to forge any kind of important commitment from a client, she prefers to do it in person. Individuals who make a promise over the phone or via email might be more apt to back out.
"Seeing someone's facial reaction when they're making a commitment is very powerful," she said. "Face time is important" because it helps reveal someone's determination and eagerness to follow through.
Mark Johnson has been to the pinnacle, but he's still enjoying his journey.
Johnson was a star player on the legendary 1980 USA Olympic hockey team. They stunned the heavily favored Soviet Union squad at those Lake Placid, N.Y., Winter Olympics and went on to win the gold medal. Sports Illustrated named what's become known as the "Miracle On Ice" as the greatest sports moment of the 20th century.
Johnson went on to have a successful professional playing career and has continued to make his mark as a four-time championship collegiate women's hockey coach.
He's the son of Hall of Fame hockey coach Bob Johnson, and his father left Mark a piece of advice the keeps him going today.
"My father was upbeat and positive all the time," Johnson, 60, told IBD. "He saw the light at the end of the tunnel no matter what situation he or his team was in. His slogan was: `It's a great day for hockey.'"
And it's that mentality that Mark Johnson lives every day.
Carla MacLeod, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who played for Johnson on the University of Wisconsin-Madison's women's hockey team, emailed him for advice when she coached Japan's women's hockey team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
"Mark gave me some technical stuff and details, things like that, but what he told me to do was go for a walk every day and appreciate the fact that through hard work I was enjoying these Olympics, too," MacLeod said. "Mark is incredibly grounded and incredibly humble."
Committed To Excellence
As a player Johnson represented the United States in 13 international tournaments. At only 5'9" and 160 pounds, he had an 11-year NHL career where he scored 203 goals, assisted on 305 others and amassed 508 points. He was chosen to play in the 1984 NHL All Star Game.
Johnson was inducted into the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001 and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.
"The big thing is the commitment that it takes individually to try to become the best player you can be," Johnson said. "The hard part is doing it on a daily basis and creating those habits that are going to make you successful. You know along the way there is going to be some hurdles and obstacles but it's that you're willing to stay committed and form really good habits that will make you successful."
Mike Eruzione, the 1980 Team USA captain, said to the New York Daily News that Johnson was "the best player and most important player on our team. … We don't win without Mark. … When we needed big goals, Mark scored them."
Johnson followed in his father's footsteps and began his coaching career with the Madison Monsters, a minor league hockey team, in 1995-96. From there he became an assistant coach for the University of Wisconsin-Madison men's ice hockey team from 1996 until 2002.
Johnson served as an assistant coach for the American national men's hockey team in 2000 and 2002.
Since 2002, Johnson has been the head coach of the University of Wisconsin-Madison women's ice hockey team. He led the team to its first NCAA national championship in 2006. They repeated as national champions in 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Coming into this season, Johnson's career record is 428-78-39, good for a .819 winning percentage. He ranks third in NCAA history in career wins in women's hockey.
In 2010, Johnson coached the United States women's national ice hockey team to a silver medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
"I see myself as a coach who serves the people in front of him," Johnson said. "It's my job to try to serve to their needs and try to create a culture that's positive and gives the opportunity for each one of them to grow and reach their potential.
"I try to set an example on how I conduct myself on a daily basis, whether things are going well or not going well, being consistent in that approach."
"Mark is always positive," said Wisconsin women's hockey associated head coach Dan Koch, who has coached under Johnson for 14 years. "Mark makes it enjoyable to come to the rink every day. The players know they are going to be held accountable, they know they have to work hard but they know they are going to enjoy themselves."
Johnson makes the effort to understand his players as people, and treats them as he would want to be treated in the various situations that arise. "I think developing those relationships is crucial and by doing so I have a better chance to understand them."
Born in Minneapolis, Johnson was raised in Wisconsin. With hockey in his blood and guidance from his father, he made his international hockey debut with the United States national team in 1976 at age 18. He played in 11 training games for the 1976 U.S. Olympic ice hockey team coached by his father.
He went to play hockey for his father at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1977, with father coaching and son playing, the Badgers won the NCAA national championship in ice hockey. Johnson was the first Badger to win the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's Rookie of the Year award.
He went on to become a two-time All-American, the school's leading goal scorer and its second all-time scorer.
1980 Olympics Backdrop
Team USA in 1980 was composed of amateur collegiate players and fielded its youngest team ever, with an average age of 21. By contrast, the Soviet team was composed of full-time athletes battle-tested in international play. They were essentially professionals before that was allowed in the Olympics. The Soviet team had spent the previous 10 to 12 years together and had taken home the Gold Medal in hockey the previous four Winter Olympics and five of the previous six.
Many of their players were in the Red Army. Their training regimen consisted of living in army barracks and training together four to five times a day. They had beaten an NHL all-star team 6-0 just the year before. The Soviet team was considered on par with NHL teams and had some of the best hockey players in the world.
There was also a political backdrop to the games. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan two months earlier and the Cold War was in full force. Talk from the Carter Administration of boycotting the upcoming Moscow Summer Olympic Games was already happening due to that invasion.
Johnson recalls the team being shown thousands of telegrams encouraging them to beat the communist Russians.
But just 13 days previously, the Soviets had routed Team USA 10-3 in a pre-Olympic exhibition game.
Now at the Olympics, both Team USA and the Soviets were undefeated going into their medal match. The game was played on Friday, Feb. 22, 1980, starting a 5 p.m. in the East, not even prime time.
With the Russians leading 2-1 with just five seconds to go in the first period, Johnson raced between two defensemen and slapped in the puck on a rebound with one second left.
"I look up at the clock and see five seconds," Eruzione said. "I'm starting to skate toward the bench and all of a sudden Mark flies by me and I'm thinking, 'Where the hell is he going?'"
"You're trained to play until you hear whistles or horns and so you keep going," Johnson said.
The Soviets dominated the second period but scored only once, taking a 3-2 lead into the third and final period. Nearing the end of a power-play man advantage, Russian defenseman Sergei Starikov mishandled the puck right in front of his own net. Johnson was on the spot and slapped the puck in to tie the game with around 10 minutes to play.
On the heels of that, Eruzione scored to put Team USA in front 4-3. Despite a furious finish by the Soviets, the Americans hung on to win.
After Team USA's victory over the Soviet Union, ABC announcer Al Michaels famously asked: "Do you believe in miracles?"
The answer was "yes," and in the gold medal game vs. Finland, Johnson assisted on the game-winning goal and scored an insurance goal with less than four minutes remaining in the game to cap off Team USA's improbable run.
The preparation that coach Herb Brooks put the team through was challenging and confusing to the players, Johnson said, but "when the moment was presented to us, it was like oh that's why we had to be in this type of condition, that's why we had to be ready mentally to withstand some of the things that were being thrown at us. We were fortunate enough to have the preparation needed to create a situation where we had an opportunity and we seized it."
Star player on the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" USA Olympic Hockey Team, United States Hockey Hall of Fame inductee (2004), four-time NCAA championship coach of the University of Wisconsin-Madison women's ice hockey team.
Overcame: The Soviet hockey machine that had dominated the Olympics.
Lesson: Believe you can do it and then put in the work to make miracles happen.
Scrutinize your words. It doesn't necessarily cost any extra money or extra time to have maximum influence, David says. Sometimes it only requires that you change the words you say.
For example, he tells us that the email app Boomerang analyzed over 350,000 email threads and found there was one "magic phrase" at the very end of emails that gets a 65.7% response rate, while all the other words and phrases average only 47.5%.
The phrase? "Thanks in advance!"
"It's easy enough to start including that phrase where appropriate, right?" David adds.
Attract their attention. The human brain suffers from information overload. That's why you can arrive at work but not really remember the drive, David says. "Your brain saves energy by tuning out boring, repetitive, monotonous things."
The solution marketing-wise is to change your approach. "As soon as something new or out of the ordinary shows up in our awareness, our brains switch on and begin to pay close attention," he says." This can range from the way you word things to changing surroundings in a meeting.
If you find yourself saying something you've said a thousand times, "that might be your problem right there," David says.
Kelleher put it like this: "I can teach you the secret to running this airline in 30 seconds. This is it: We are THE low-cost airline. Once you understand that fact, you can make any decision about this company's future as well as I can."
Holiday says that due to this, Southwest Airlines' employees know who their customers are and what those customers need.
Court influencers. When a real person whom many others trust say your product or service is good, "it has an effect that no ad can match," Holiday says.
He points to Marc Ecko, who built his clothing brand Ecko Unltd into a billion-dollar company. His first influencer was popular New York City deejay Kool DJ Red Alert.
Ecko loved the deejay's show. To get attention for his company, Ecko sent the show special drawings to show off his product line. Then he started sending airbrushed hats and jackets and T?shirts.
"Ecko never asked for anything — he just made great work and sent it to select influencers he knew might appreciate it," Holiday says. "Eventually, he got his first shoutout on the air, and the brand was officially born."
Probe intelligently. Pose well-thought-out questions that lead people to the conclusion that you desire, David says.
"Influence is an emotion transplant," David says. "It's about getting people to care. But it's about getting them to care for their own reasons, not yours."
Connect for free. Build an email list, Holidays says. "It's the most durable of platforms, and it's the most direct."
Things like creating a newsletter and providing valuable information for free help spread your influence.
Another applicable example: TED video talks are free to watch and have racked up billions and billions of views since the first videos went up. Parlaying that influence has helped the company achieve revenue in the tens of millions.
Tell a great story. Holiday points out that the average book in this country sells less than 500 copies, there's well over a day of content uploaded to Alphabet's ( GOOGL) YouTube every minute, and many startups don't make it.
"A creator needs not only to make something brilliant and exciting and new, but also has to have brilliant, exciting and compelling marketing too," he says.
David: "If you want to move mountains, you must be able to move people."
In the true spirit of an entrepreneur, Chris Rondeau followed his passion for hard work and risk taking to help build Planet Fitness ( PLNT) into a company that has turned the health club industry on its head.
Rondeau, who became CEO of Planet Fitness in January 2013, joined the company while he was in college working at the front desk of the gym in 1993, a year after the company was founded by brothers Michael and Marc Grondahl.
And he's been at Planet Fitness ever since, working his way up as a club manager, then regional manager of several locations. In 2003, he became a partner with the founders and chief operating officer. When Rondeau became CEO, he replaced Michael Grondahl, who has since left the company.
Drawing on the leadership principles shaped by his various positions at Planet Fitness and by lessons he gleaned from his father, Rondeau played a major role helping the founders develop and refine the business model that has helped grow the business into a mighty contender in the fitness industry.
Rondeau learned about being an entrepreneur from his father, who dropped out of high school but eventually owned and operated several pharmacies throughout Massachusetts while Rondeau was growing up.
"As a child growing up I saw him working hard," Rondeau told IBD. "I got my work ethic from him."
"The one thing my father taught me is I could do anything I set my mind to," he added. "Coming from him without a high school education, he was living proof."
That lesson came into play when Rondeau and the Planet Fitness founders revamped the traditional health club environment aimed at fitness buffs to one that caters to first-time gymgoers with a non-intimidating, low-cost business model.
Rondeau says over 40% of current Planet Fitness members had never gone to a gym before signing up at Planet Fitness.
"The key to success in business is not to be afraid of doing things differently," said Rondeau. "Don't be afraid of going against the grain. When you think of the Apple ( AAPL) iPhone, people didn't realize there was anything better than the flip phones that were offered to them by every phone company out there. Apple wasn't afraid to abandon the flip phone and the competition by creating something new."
Similarly, Rondeau and the founders of Planet Fitness went against the grain and created a completely different gym experience than what was in the industry. People didn't realize the experience and affordability they were missing until Planet Fitness created it.
Rondeau and the founders not only created an innovative new business model, they also transformed Planet Fitness into a major force in its space.
"Planet Fitness is exceptionally competitive because of its national footprint and growing awareness of its different approach to the market aimed at non-gymgoers," Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen told IBD. "It's a business model that's revolutionized fitness because of the attractiveness of this model to a wide market and low price. It's offering a very premium gym experience at a low price."
Planet Fitness is one of the largest owners and operators of health clubs in the U.S. in terms of the number of members and locations, Dorvin Lively, president and CFO of Planet Fitness, told IBD.
It boasts over 10.5 million members, up from 7 million at the end of 2012, just before Rondeau took the helm. And it has 1,500 locations nationwide. Over 95% of its stores are owned and operated by franchisees.
"We are clearly opening more health clubs in the U.S. at a faster rate than anyone," Lively said. "We've opened roughly 200 stores a year for the past three years."
On the financial front, he adds, Planet Fitness has had 43 straight quarters of positive same-store sales.
"That's 10 years plus three quarters," Lively pointed out. In the 2017 third quarter, same-store sales jumped 9.3% from a year earlier and revenue climbed 12.1%.
Another reflection of Planet Fitness' financial success is that over 95% of its stores opened in the last three years were opened by existing franchisees and more than 90% of all of the new territory being sold has been sold to existing franchisees, Lively says.
"That proves that the brand is growing and the profitability is there, and franchisees want to continue to invest in their businesses in their local markets to grow the brand," he added.
Rondeau, 44, grew up in Methuen, Mass. He started busing tables and dishwashing at age 14, and at 16 he got a job working at his father's pharmacy business. But at age 19 Rondeau told his father he didn't want to work for him anymore because he decided he wanted to work at a gym — Planet Fitness.
Eventually, Rondeau dropped out of college — the University of New Hampshire — to work full time at Planet Fitness, and earned an associate degree rather than a bachelor's degree.
Why did he opt to stay at Planet Fitness?
"Unfortunately, I was never one for school, yet I loved to work, and haven't stopped since my first job busing tables and dishwashing at the age of 14," Rondeau said. "Planet Fitness is only the third job I ever had. I liked fitness and I liked the work environment at a gym, meaning it's a positive atmosphere, and we were doing good things. I believed we were onto something special with making fitness affordable and comfortable for the masses. So I stayed, followed my passion, and chose not to pursue my bachelor's degree."
Moving up through the ranks at Planet Fitness helped Rondeau become a better leader.
"The lesson I learned from being in various jobs at Planet Fitness is being able to put yourself in the mindset of your customers and understand how they're thinking. And that allows you to service them better and market the business better," Rondeau said.
That lesson helped Rondeau and the founders design the new business model.
"In high school and college, exercise was my passion," he said. "As I continued to get older into my late 20s it started to become more of a chore that I had to do for health and wellness vs. a hobby."
Rondeau says that the founders shared his feelings about exercising becoming a chore as they got older with more "responsibilities on their plates."
As they built the business, that attitude about exercise helped the three of them better understand what the average person goes through when joining the gym, he adds.
Today, given his responsibilities, Rondeau says he works out more for "mental focus and energy."
Created Judgment-Free Environment
Rondeau came in on the ground floor of building the business.
When he joined Planet Fitness, it was struggling as it faced heavy competition for the same customer as the other gyms in their small town in New Hampshire — those who already had a gym membership.
Rondeau and the founders saw an opportunity to move in a different direction than the rest of the pack.
As Rondeau and the founders looked at the industry, they saw that 80% of the population didn't have a gym membership.
"We thought to ourselves 'how do we come up with a model that is affordable and comfortable that would motivate the 80% to give fitness a try?' "
The answer: Change the gym environment and create what the company calls a "Judgement Free Zone," where there was no "intimidation" and members are accepted and respected for who they are.
"The founders are truly visionaries," he adds. "We didn't have juice bars or heavy free weights. We have free pizza once a month for members and free Tootsie Rolls at the front desk. We have a very unorthodox business."
They unveiled the judgment-free philosophy and the discount business model with a $10 monthly membership in 1997. In 2003, they started franchising. Over 95% of its stores are owned and operated by franchisees.
"Today, with our size and scale, we are a marketing machine that happens to be in the gym business," he said. "We're a franchise business, and the franchisees are required to spend 7% of their membership dues on marketing locally and an additional 2% of membership dues support the national marketing efforts. When you think about the marketing spending, every incremental member is 9% more dollars spent on marketing. Our budget continues to expand. Every day we sell memberships, it allows us to tap into the 80% of the population that doesn't have a gym membership."
Rondeau has nurtured a culture where both corporate and franchisees share the same passion for the brand and the company's goals.
"It's truly important that both the corporate staff and franchisees wholeheartedly believe in the judgment-free zone," said Rondeau. "A lot of our staff and franchisees have been members of our clubs, and they've seen and experienced the judgment-free zone firsthand and they believe in it. That culture keeps us grounded and doesn't allow us to get diluted as we continue to scale. We all have a common belief to make fitness comfortable, affordable and accessible to the first-time gym user."
Added Lively: "He has developed and built a corporate culture where he's able to bridge the gap and be the leader of the franchisees at the same time."
Rondeau says he looks at the franchisees as part of the team.
"If I can gain their respect and they have my passion, then they'll do right for our members," he adds. "I always tell my staff we're in a unique business with two sets of customers — our franchisees and our members. If we can make our franchisees a happy customer, then that will trickle down to our members. I have a very collaborative and open relationship with franchisees. We have about 200 different franchisee groups. I look at that as an asset. Our franchisees bring me ideas and thoughts on how to fine-tune the business and we work collaboratively."
Rondeau says an important part of his growth strategy since becoming CEO, one that's been even more important since he took the company public in August 2015, is the use of more data analytics than before.
Rondeau points out that Planet Fitness has locations in every state, every demographic and every ethnicity and over 10.5 million members.
"The data we're able to hone allow us to fine-tune the business, drive same-store sales, drive store openings and better service the franchisees."
For example, because Planet Fitness is membership based, by analyzing certain data they know how far people are willing to drive to a gym.
"This insight allows us to know where the next gym location should go," he added.
Through data analytics, the company can better segment its marketing according to certain demographic groups. For example, because the company knows the names, ages and sex of its members, it knows that 49% of its 10.5 million members are millennials.
Analyst Chen rates Planet Fitness stock an outperform.
"We feel Planet Fitness is 'un-Amazonable' because health and wellness can't yet be purchased online," Chen said. "Looking forward, we expect Planet Fitness to execute on creative digital innovation, including predictive analytics and big data."
Helped revolutionize the fitness industry with a business model geared to first-time gymgoers. He helped turn Planet Fitness into one of the largest owners and operators of health clubs in the U.S. in terms of the number of members and locations
Overcame: Competition from traditional gyms and skepticism from naysayers who didn't take their approach seriously.
Lesson: You can do anything you set your mind to.
"The key to success in business is not to be afraid of doing things differently. Don't be afraid of going against the grain."
Everyone is entitled to voice strong opinions. But what happens when a client expresses misguided — or downright wrong — views about investing?
XYour first instinct may be to disabuse people of their biases. But contradicting clients, and trying to teach them why you're right and they're wrong, might lower your retention rate.
A better approach is to assess what's driving the client's outlook. Determining what factors lead someone to reach a certain conclusion can help you respond in a tactful but firm manner.
For example, an investor with an irrational disdain for certain sectors of the market may have been burned by a calamitous set of stock picks decades earlier. Encouraging the client to put those poor investments in perspective can pry open their mind to diversifying their portfolio.
"People always have biases," said Jeff Fishman, a Los Angeles-based advisor. "I'll look at history and use anecdotes" to broaden their understanding.
Southern California's hot real estate market has led some of Fishman's clients to benefit from the appreciated value of their property. As a result, they might fancy themselves real estate experts — and insist on gobbling up more land.
Rather than argue with them, Fishman urges them to consider a wider range of variables such as liquidity concerns and how leverage can hurt credit.
"You can't just say no to everything," he said. "It comes down to their overall asset mix and liquidity. If clients want to take all of their $1 million (portfolio) into real estate, that's bad. But $100,000 won't sink the whole ship."
When clients harbor biases, they may not realize the origin of those views. Advisors who gently probe to determine how and why someone thinks a certain way — without rushing to judgment — can build a stronger relationship.
It's also important to clarify a client's deeply held assumptions to avoid any misunderstanding.
Darin Shebesta, a certified financial planner in Scottsdale, Ariz., responds to clients' biases by acknowledging what he hears. If a client expresses antipathy for bonds, he'll reply, "I heard you say you don't like bonds."
Once the client confirms the point, Shebesta shows empathy. He'll say, "I can understand why you don't like bonds given their recent performance."
His ability to affirm what he hears and empathize with the client sets the stage for a more fruitful discussion about next steps. People are more apt to listen to an advisor who communicates with care and dignifies their beliefs.
Only then will Shebesta reframe the issue in an attempt to educate the client. He might say, "Based on our professional expertise, which is rooted in evidence and history, bonds are a critical piece of a diversified portfolio."
"Citing the long-term performance of the asset class, I can explain how bonds earn a place in their portfolio," he said. "Clients appreciate that approach."
He also reminds clients that he has a fiduciary duty to work in their best interest. And he documents their conversation so that there's a written record of points covered and decisions made.
A Mix Of Questions
Trying to rid a client of a faulty perception requires diligence and patience. You cannot demand that someone abandon a belief formed over decades of experience.
"For many clients, it can take years to help them relearn a healthy understanding around key concepts," said Jon Baker, a certified financial planner in Atlanta. "But first, you have to ask the right questions to earn their trust."
In getting to know new clients, Baker likes to pose a series of experiential questions (such as, "When have you run into problems in your experience as an investor?" and "How did you feel during the downturn in 2008 and 2009?") with forward-looking inquiries about how they think they'll react in future years amid various market moves.
Even if Baker does his best to address the source of a client's misguided notions about investing, he does not push too hard. In some cases, he ultimately defers to them.
"Sometimes it's more important that the client believes what they are doing is correct," he said. "Our job is to educate and guide clients," not make decisions for them.
For instance, a client wanted to pay off their home mortgage before funding their 401(k). Baker laid out the options with facts, figures and projected rates of return over time.
While Baker's evidence underscored the wisdom of funding the 401(k) sooner rather than later — and not rushing to pay down the mortgage — the client's bias proved intractable. Baker concluded that the client could afford to pay off the home first, despite the lost opportunity cost of not investing in a tax-deferred account.
Leading a team of geniuses can spark big breakthroughs. But what happens when you want people who lack training in innovation to think outside the box?
Some individuals may refrain from offering creative input for fear of appearing crazy or stupid — or clashing with a powerful manager's preferred course of action. Others may simply not see themselves as inventive visionaries.
To transform non-innovators into innovators:
Let them build. To design something new, invite users to roll up their sleeves and build a prototype. That may require some initial training, but it can produce a rich payoff.
"We host 'maker' workshops where we take people who are not traditionally innovators, give them some tools and teach them about design," said Rory Cooper, founder and director of Human Engineering Research Laboratories in Pittsburgh, Pa. Cooper, who uses a wheelchair, enlists people with disabilities to help develop assistive devices. He also involves caregivers, clinicians and others as partners in the innovative process.
Forge a bond. If you're asking people to innovate who aren't accustomed to it, make them feel special. Foster a camaraderie that brings them together.
For the past 10 years, Cooper has given participants a T-shirt with the research lab's logo. The shirt has become a coveted perk.
"You can't buy them," Cooper said. "You have to earn them" by contributing ideas.
Break down barriers. Treat everyone from part-time workers to customers as potential innovators, even if they don't see themselves as such. Solicit their input on creative challenges you face — and provide multiple ways for them to chime in.
"At our design meetings, everybody has a voice," Cooper said. "Everybody is welcome to attend. And that transparency leads them to see how much we value innovation."
Share screw-ups. Insisting that people innovate can backfire if they're unprepared or reluctant to open up. But when leaders volunteer their errors — and what they learned — others might follow suit.
Enda King, managing director at What If Innovation, says that his New York City-based consulting firm holds weekly gatherings in which colleagues admit their mistakes and share what they learned. Team leaders go first, which makes underlings more comfortable doing the same.
"We look to build that into our culture," King said. "It feels less daunting to enable learning, experimentation and failure than asking people to be innovative and produce large-scale breakthroughs."
Cite examples. To spur great ideas, highlight innovations in other fields that are inspiring or instructive. These examples can serve as a springboard to get individuals to flex their creative muscles.
"Often, people are not skilled in the tools to be creative," said Greg Leman, an innovation expert and professor of entrepreneurship at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. "Giving them anecdotes of transformative solutions to issues with a distant tie to the challenge you're facing" can boost their innovative output.
Capture the big picture. Leaders may assume that all staffers perceive the competitive landscape in the same way — and realize the urgency to innovate. But that's not necessarily the case.
"It's amazing how disconnected people can be to the big picture," Leman said. "That's why you need to communicate an innovation strategy with what's going on at your company as well as the outside, competitive world — and the path you're following" to maintain an edge.
Give honest feedback. Once you gather input, assess it in a straightforward manner. Don't dish out excessive praise or reward individuals too freely for trying to come up with fresh ideas.
"People know if they are honestly valued," Leman said. "It's hard to hide your genuine thoughts," so level with others and teach them to sharpen their innovative thinking.
Jim Steeg learned an important lesson early on in his career as head of the National Football League's annual extravaganza: Bed sheets and Super Bowls don't mesh.
He was only 29 when tapped by Hall of Fame NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to lead the league's Special Events Department as its director. This meant Steeg was in charge of the NFL's biggest showcase, the Super Bowl.
Steeg, 67, is considered the NFL official most responsible for growing the Super Bowl from a game to the biggest sports event in the United States. He was in charge of it from 1979 to 2004.
After Super Bowl XV in New Orleans in January 1981, Steeg reviewed the game's presentation. He was irritated at one thing the most: the bed sheets fans used as banners and hung from the upper deck.
"I was always opposed to those kind of banners in those days but everyone in the league thought it was no big deal," Steeg told IBD. "You look at the pictures that live on forever from Super Bowl XV and it looks like a hodgepodge."
The following year, Steeg stopped the use of banners in the Super Bowl. Instead he developed a decorative package for the entire stadium.
"After a few years, it became something that everyone in all of sports did. Banners went the way of yesterday's news," Steeg said. "What I learned out of that was trust your judgment, and argue for it a little bit more."
Under Steeg's direction, the Super Bowl went from a championship game to an unofficial national weekend holiday combining sports, entertainment and innovative events in the host city. The Super Bowl also went from generating over $5 million in revenue for the NFL when he started to more than $250 million when he left in 2004.
Steeg was inducted into the inaugural class of the Special Events Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2008, he received the Pete Rozelle Award.
"The most important things are you need to listen, you need to read, you need to research, and you need to understand people," Steeg said.
"Jim's a tireless worker," said wife Jill Steeg, a former top Sports Illustrated writer who met Jim when interviewing him in the 1980s. "Jim wanted to make sure that if you went to the game you had a once-in-a lifetime memory. He pushed the envelope for the game."
"It was important to lead by example," Jim Steeg said. "I tried to be the first to work and last to leave. I was available to people if they had issues."
Amy Trask, former CEO of the Oakland Raiders, can attest to Steeg's availability.
"I can't tell you how many times I called Jim when he was as busy as could be, and he always found time to say, 'How can I help you?' He always found time to help. No matter how busy Jim was, all we saw was calm."
First And 10
Steeg was born in Boston and moved to Indiana when he was 13.
A lifetime sports enthusiast, Steeg graduated from Miami University in Ohio with a minor in accounting and a major in political science. He worked as an accountant for a year and decided that wasn't for him. He then earned an MBA from Wake Forest University. His rocket-scientist father suggested that since he loved sports he should do something in sports.
Steeg wrote to numerous sports teams. He got only one response, but one was all he needed. Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie hired him as the team's chief accountant.
A month later, Robbie put Steeg in charge of team travel, which he knew nothing about. In the next six months, three of his superiors either quit, were fired or retired. And suddenly, at 25 years of age, Steeg was running the business side of things for the Dolphins.
Working with the Dolphins meant working with the team's Hall of Famer Don Shula, who is the NFL's all-time winningest coach.
"Don was the ultimate detail guy on everything," Steeg said. "I think that was really very important. He thought the smallest detail could change the outcome of a game."
Steeg took that lesson to heart and applied it to the Super Bowl. "I also wanted to look at the details that were going to make the best experience for the fans, teams and media."
He adopted another Shula philosophy: "It's 'I' when it's wrong, it's 'we' or a particular person when it's right," Steeg said.
When Rozelle was looking for someone to lead the special events department, Steeg was recommended by former Dolphins safety Dick Anderson, who had been head of the players union.
Rozelle hired the 29-year-old Steeg, who was put in charge of the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl and the NFL Draft. Steeg worked under Rozelle until the commissioner's 1989 retirement.
"Pete had an ability to get his people to be extremely loyal to him, because of the way he treated you," Steeg said. "He also taught you to give responsibilities to other people so they could learn and grow from what was going on."
Steeg started with three full-time staff members in his department. It grew to 24 by the time he left in 2004.
"Surround yourself with the best people, people who (are) never satisfied with the status quo and always want to get better," Steeg said.
One of those people was Don Renzulli, now executive vice president for On Location Experiences, who worked with Steeg for 10 years.
"Jim had a vision for how you can continually make the Super Bowl experience better, and he pushed everybody to make it better each year," Renzulli said. "Jim listened to everybody's ideas, said what could work, and then pushed everybody to make things happen."
On game days at the Super Bowl, there were in excess of 10,000 employees "that were directly accountable for the success of the game and to me," Steeg said. "You've got to make sure you communicate your philosophies with everybody as much as you can."
Best Fan Experience
Steeg felt the most important thing for him to keep in mind whether it was the Super Bowl or NFL Draft was to view everything through the prism of what his reaction would be as a fan.
He asked himself: "How do you make Super Bowl game day in the stadium the best possible experience you can for the fans in attendance? And that's as simple as how you prepare the look on the field, the look in the stadium, what do you do with concessions and merchandise to how you handle parking."
Steeg constantly stayed alert to borrow from other sporting event experiences he'd had — or thought that he had. He was at an L.A. Dodgers home game in the early 1980s and while in the restroom he clearly heard the team's legendary announcer Vin Scully describe the game.
"I'm thinking the Dodgers are brilliant, they put speakers in all the restrooms so you can hear Scully, and then I realize no, it was everybody bringing their transistor radios in," Steeg recalled.
The seed planted, Steeg put speakers into the restrooms, tunnels, elevators and concession areas at Super Bowl sites so the fans wouldn't miss a second of what was transpiring on the field if they left their seats. Soon after that, he put TV screens in the concession areas.
While at a U.S. Open tennis match, Steeg took note of how devices were handed out to fans sitting far away from the action so they could listen to the broadcast. Steeg took that idea, found a sponsor, and provided devices so attending fans could listen to the national Super Bowl broadcast or the ones of each team's home announcers.
When the Super Bowl XVI played in Detroit in 1982, Steeg sought Diana Ross to sing the national anthem and made that happen. Bringing the biggest stars to sing the anthem was the seed that sprouted into Super Bowl halftime shows becoming events in and of themselves.
For Super Bowl XIX played at Stanford Stadium in 1985, Steeg got Apple and Steve Jobs to sponsor seat cushions for the fans as the stadium had only uncomfortable wooden benches. Seat cushions have now become a staple at many title events.
Super Bowl Buildup
With a two-week wait before the Super Bowl game after the conference title games were played, Steeg set out to create something in the host community so people had something to do in the days leading up to kickoff. "Things like the NFL Experience came out of that," Steeg said. "One year in Phoenix we had 106 different events going on, something for everyone."
Steeg worked to also engage the host community by creating events that gave back. The Taste Of The NFL event, now in its 25th year, is a fundraiser that has donated tens of millions to food banks. The Super Bowl Golf Tournament also gives money back to communities as do the clinics the NFL puts on in the host cities.
"What could you do to come into the community and not just take but leave something behind?" Steeg said. One of the biggest investments introduced under Steeg: the construction of the NFL's Youth Education Town, which is the youth center that is built every year after the Super Bowl in that community.
"Someone once said to me that the event is never over until you have learned from it," Steeg reflected. "Success can camouflage problems, and you need to be introspective enough to look for issues and improve. The self- and collective analysis after the event is critical to the future."
NFL executive credited with transforming the Super Bowl from title game to annual extravaganza.
Overcame: Youth, inexperience and uncharted waters.
Lesson: Think like your customers.
"The best leaders incentivize, inspire and empower their teams to be creative and innovative. It's not about one person; it's about building a culture where innovation is prized — and expected."
Advisors tend to think highly of their clients. That's especially true if they admire a client's character and courage.
XFor advisors who work with active or former military members, their admiration leads to heightened job satisfaction. Helping these warriors often becomes a labor of love.
"What's so great about this market is you can not only make a living, but it's so rewarding to serve these folks because they're so deserving," said Scott Spiker, chairman and chief executive of First Command Financial Services, a Fort Worth, Texas-based advisory firm.
Spiker notes that military benefits are in flux as a new retirement system takes effect this year. It features a blend of the long-standing fixed pension with a 401(k)-like defined contribution piece.
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.
This represents the biggest change to the military retirement system in 70 years, so advisors with military clients face a fresh set of retirement planning questions. The parties seek to navigate the Blended Retirement System based on the individual's length of service and other variables.
For those currently serving in the military, focusing on personal financial matters can require heavy lifting. Limited time to meet with an advisor, coupled with the demands of frequent travel and training exercises, can leave these individuals with less opportunity to research their options.
To accommodate military clients, advisors use video chat and email as well as phone calls. Face-to-face meetings around a conference table can prove a rare luxury.
"For the actively serving, the greatest challenge is setting up a game plan to communicate with them," said Chad Feucht, an advisor and military veteran in Fond du Lac, Wis. "They're getting deployed and moving around a lot. So we set up a plan that doesn't take a lot of day-to-day attention."
Advisors in search of a niche might target a high-net-worth crowd. But those in the military do not sit atop the list of richly compensated professionals.
"Even with four-star generals and admirals, you're not dealing with really wealthy people," Spiker said.
Yet Spiker, a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, finds that military members can make great clients. He lauds their decisiveness when weighing financial options.
"They're more likely to move on a decision than say they need time to think about it," he said.
He also describes them as prudent risk-takers who "have some money and a pretty long runway" to capitalize on the power of compounding. They may favor dollar-cost averaging and other long-term investment strategies.
Financial planners often invite military members to look ahead. Feucht and his colleagues like to ask questions such as, "How do you envision your career playing out?" and "How long do you plan on serving?"
"These are difficult questions to answer for anyone," Feucht said. "The important thing is to challenge them to think about these questions deeply."
Every Minute Counts
Advisors with military clients may need to acquire a new vocabulary. In addition to mastering the details of the new retirement system, they must understand the nuances of active duty service vs. National Guard and reserve service.
"There's also the issue of follow-on civilian employment," Feucht said. Because many military personnel transition to a second career after completing their service, advisors should take a holistic look at their client's entire working life and how their earnings and benefits can impact their retirement.
Feucht compares the advisor's job to a military commander's role. Leaders of a military unit seek to develop and safeguard their team, offering ideas to perform more effectively, anticipate and address obstacles, and pounce on educational and training opportunities.
Similarly, the best advisors don't just direct investments, track cash flow and project retirement savings. They also "consider the person as a whole," Feucht says.
Well-organized advisors value their clients' time. They prepare diligently for meetings by notifying the client in advance of what issues they will cover, what materials they need to review and what questions to consider.
Such preparation is particularly important with military clients.
"Their time is important," Feucht said. "As an advisor, you may have to cram a lot of information and discussion into a limited amount of time."
For advisors who are just starting to work with military personnel, they may assume their clients are under constant stress. While military life can entail periods of difficulty and upheaval, individuals who serve often learn to manage stress effectively.
"While you have to be aware of the stressors they face, they're normal people," said Jeremy Feucht, an advisor who works with his brother, Chad, at their firm. "They have the same goals and face many of the same obstacles that others face," such as managing their money and planning for retirement.
Early on in Morten Hansen's career at Boston Consulting Group in London, putting in 60-, 70-, 80- and even 90-hour workweeks was common. But it led him to ponder: Why was a colleague's work better than his, even though she kept normal 8 a.m.-to-6 p.m. hours?
That question ultimately led to now-Professor Hansen's recent in-depth five-year study of 5,000 businesspeople. It showed, on average, that when people increased their hours to 50 a week, performance increased quite a bit. At 50-65 hours per week, performance flattens out and beyond 65 hours per week performance deteriorates.
Pursue obsession. Hansen's "working smart" definition is to select very few activities that maximize value and then "apply intense targeted effort to truly excel."
He defines value activities as ones making "very beneficial contributions to others, including your customers and other departments in your company."
Top performers "pay fanatic attention to the details of the work, and keep on working to achieve perfection," Hansen said. "(But) that obsession is only possible if you do focus on a tiny set of priorities."
Learn how to say no. About a quarter of the people in Hansen's study complained that they couldn't focus because their bosses gave them too many things to do.
How you say no matters a great deal. When the boss piles it on, ask him to prioritize the work. Ask what task you should do first and which ones can wait.
"Make sure you get across that you're doing so in order to do excellent work, which requires focus, and not because you're a slacker," Hansen said.
Managers in general need to be "far better at setting priorities for people," he adds.
"If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be 'meetings.' "
A 2015 Harris Poll survey found that the No. 1 obstacle to getting work done is having to attend meetings. A study by the Wharton Center for Applied Research showed senior and middle managers felt 44% of their meetings were unproductive.
Brinkman: "As a manager, if you free your employees from meetings they don't need to attend and make the ones they do shorter, focused and more productive, conservatively it would be the equivalent of increasing your workforce by 25% without spending a penny."
Ask why. There is only one legitimate reason for a meeting, Brickman says, and that's so people can interact on a particular subject.
"If you're holding a meeting just to present information, you're wasting your time," he adds. Better to put that in a memo.
Create meeting schedules. Each meeting agenda item should include a title, time frame, process, and two essential items, purpose and focus, Brinkman says.
"Purpose is a two-sentence statement explaining why this item is so important," he continues. "Focus is what you want from the group regarding this item."
Brinkman adds: "The meeting must start on time whether or not everyone is there and end on time whether or not the agenda has been accomplished."
Look in the mirror. People aren't the only reason we get distracted and lose concentration. "The other culprit is, well, you," Hansen said.
"Contain yourself before you hear the lure of email and text messages and get the urge to jump on the internet for the latest scoop," he adds.
One tactic Hansen used to pound out a book was to get a second laptop but stripped of everything except word processing. Away from other computers and his phone, "when the siren song of checking emails beckoned, I had the urge to check them but I couldn't, so I continued writing," he says.
When Forbes recently reprinted its first list of the richest Americans, for its 100th Anniversary Issue, Jacob Schiff's name stood out as one that seems to be forgotten.
That list for 1918, headed by John D. Rockefeller, consisted of well-known captains of industry or their heirs. Schiff was tied for 23rd with a net worth of $50 million (equivalent to $875 million today), alongside tobacco tycoon James Duke, photography pioneer George Eastman, Sears & Roebuck founder Julius Rosenwald, and Pierre S. Du Pont, who created the chemicals empire.
Schiff was one of Wall Street's leading investment bankers from 1880 to 1920, with his Kuhn, Loeb & Co. enabling railroads to reach every corner of the continent, helping insurance companies grow, and lending Japan the money it needed to defeat Russia in their 1904-05 war (his revenge for the czar's pogroms against the Jews).
"Many Jews were forced to flee Russia, and Schiff, an immigrant from Germany, helped encourage these and other immigrants to be proud of their heritage and fight bigotry and hatred," Jeffrey Podoshen, associate professor of marketing at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., told IBD. "He was instrumental in instilling the beliefs that they had to depend on themselves and their own hard work to achieve success in the face of perpetual propaganda from racists and anti-Semites. Schiff was confident, bold, unapologetic, and very successful."
Schiff (1847-1920) was born in Frankfurt into a distinguished family that traced its lineage in the city back five centuries. His father was a broker for the Rothschilds and at 14 Schiff began working as an apprentice at a mercantile house and then a bank.
At the end of the American Civil War in 1865, Schiff, 18, decided the United States would provide greater opportunity and boarded a ship for New York City. After a few months of unemployment, he was hired as a clerk at a brokerage and within two years formed a partnership, Budge, Schiff & Co. In 1874, Abraham Kuhn of Kuhn, Loeb invited him to join the investment bank and Schiff contributed his valuable European connections. The following year, he married Theresa Loeb, daughter of co-founder Solomon, and they would have a son and daughter.
"The partners had prospered in wholesale clothing in Cincinnati and during the Civil War because of the Union's demand for army blankets," wrote Naomi Cohen in "Jacob H. Schiff: A Study in American Jewish Leadership." "In 1867, they established Kuhn, Loeb & Co. in New York, a banking firm that dealt primarily in government bonds. Jewish investment bankers ... created opportunities for Jews who, because of their Jewishness, were barred from gentile firms, collectively providing a base for cooperation in new investments. … Their kinship network that spanned two continents played a pivotal role in their achievements."
Rapidly Expanding Railroads
By 1875, the other partners were following Schiff's lead in aggressively pursuing new business, in contrast to the prior attitude that the respectable thing to do was to wait for proposals. Well before Schiff was made head of the firm in 1885, he was seen as the strategist and spokesman for Kuhn, Loeb and would remain so for over four decades.
"The older members of the firm recognized his financial genius ... and Kuhn, Loeb became one of the two most influential private international banking houses in the Western Hemisphere," wrote Cyrus Adler in " Jacob Henry Schiff: A Biographical Sketch." "It was characteristic of him as a banker that his activities were all creative, looking to the development of the resources and the extension of the commerce of the United States, particularly concerned in the financing of railway enterprises. … He was swift to recognize the genius of Edward H. Harriman, and the Harriman-Schiff railway combination became the most powerful, the most aggressive, and the most successful that America had ever known."
Kuhn, Loeb financed many railways, including providing the Pennsylvania Railroad with $500 million over a quarter century. By the mid-1880s, Schiff had a strong relationship with railroad baron James J. Hill, who controlled the Great Northern Railroad, giving Schiff a seat on the board, while Hill sent his son to be trained by the banker. But the economic panic of 1893 exposed corruption and inefficiencies in many railroads, and Schiff pressured Hill to consolidate Great Northern with his troubled client, Northern Pacific. Hill refused and turned to J.P. Morgan to fund his ambitions.
"Schiff formed a reorganization committee for another client in debt, Union Pacific ( UNP), that included the National City Bank and Rockefeller money, but he assumed the all-consuming task of hands-on manager," wrote Cohen. "A partner observed, 'He could conceive financial transactions of gigantic lines, but at the same time no business detail escaped his attention.' "
But a year later, Schiff heard that Harriman was trying to block the reorganization in order to add the Union Pacific to his own railroad empire. They struck an agreement that would give Harriman a position on the executive board and Kuhn, Loeb would have access to his credit reserves. In 1897, Schiff convinced the U.S. government to provide $87 million to allow his investment group to take full possession of the line, which prospered.
In 1900, Schiff tried to acquire the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad for Union Pacific and went up against Hill and Morgan, who wanted to add it to Northern Pacific, which they now owned. Northern Pacific won the bid, but Schiff and Harriman began buying its stock, and on May 9, 1901, the price of a share shot up to $1,000 before the two sides brokered a truce and the price fell back to $150. The agreement gave board seats to the non-owners and promised to minimize competition between the lines, but this later had to be modified under the new antitrust laws.
Kuhn, Loeb was now in control of 22,000 miles of railway and held stock worth $321 million (equal to $9.3 billion now), while Schiff was regarded as second only to Morgan in the investment banking world.
Kuhn, Loeb financed many other companies in a variety of industries, including Equitable Life Assurance Society, Western Union ( WU), Wells Fargo ( WFC) and Westinghouse Electric Co.
But Schiff's most high-profile loans were to Japan, starting in 1904, when it faced a much stronger Russia and needed to purchase munitions. Eventually, Kuhn, Loeb floated $200 million (worth $5.6 billion today), half its entire war needs. Schiff had also done everything he could over the decades to hinder Russia's ability to get the backing of Wall Street, because of that nation's persecution of Jews. During World War I, Schiff arranged funding for the Allies, as long as none of the money went to Russia.
Schiff was as well-known for his philanthropy as for his business success, giving to every kind of Jewish charity and school, but also to benefit the general public, ranging from the Boy Scouts to the National Geographic Society and Red Cross.
Newspapers around the world reported his death in 1920 and he was declared "the greatest Jewish leader of the age."
Kuhn, Loeb was merged with Lehman Bros. in 1977 and the combined firm was acquired in 1984 by American Express ( AXP), forming Shearson Lehman/American Express. Kuhn Loeb was spun off in 1994 as Lehman Bros. Holdings, which filed for bankruptcy in 2008 (an event that may have helped trigger that year's global financial crisis).
"I began studying the history of Wall Street when I worked there and came across Jacob Schiff's story," said Michael Driskoll, clinical professor at the Willumstad School of Business at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y. "Going up against some of the white-shoe firms, he had to be bare-knuckled at times to succeed in a world where racism was rampant, conspiracy theories were rife that Jews ruled the world, and foreigners were under suspicion. Schiff was able to gain respect beyond his own group by advocating assimilation for immigrants, socializing with a wide variety of people, sharing risks with anyone who had the same values and vision, and giving to causes that benefited society at large. There are lessons for those who have to climb the professional ladder without certain advantages."
Leading Jewish banker and philanthropist on Wall Street in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Overcame: Anti-Semitism on Wall Street.
Lesson: Produce results no one can deny by focusing on getting the details right.
"We are only the temporary custodians of our fortunes, and let us be careful that no just complaint can be made against our stewardship."
The best advisors invest clients' funds wisely. So it makes sense that they also know how to invest in people.
XAs an advisor's business takes off, assembling a strong team becomes a priority. Bringing aboard more advisors, an office manager and an administrative aide can prove pivotal to a firm's survival.
But savvy advisors don't stop there. They hire stars to fill roles that help differentiate their firm and enhance client service.
For example, some enterprising advisors recruit a full-time employee whose sole responsibility is supporting the firm's most valuable clients. Acting as an in-house concierge, this individual focuses on making clients' lives simpler and easier.
David Bach, co-founder of AE Wealth Management in Topeka, Kan., notes that many firms operate under the 80/20 rule, where 20% of clients generate 80% of revenue. He recommends that advisors who want to build their business identify their best clients and then elevate them into what he calls a "platinum care" program.
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.
"Hire somebody who's specifically dedicated to your platinum clients," said Bach, author of "Smart Couples Finish Rich" and other books. "You want somebody who can wine, dine and schmooze them and be there 24/7 for them."
Investing in this position can pay off many times over, Bach argues. That's because if you care for your most profitable clients in ways that exceed even their highest expectations, they will refer their friends to you.
Bach also urges advisors of growing firms to hire a chief marketing officer. An experienced marketer can devise strategies — from hosting public seminars to appearing on radio shows and podcasts — to help you reach your target demographic.
Make A Great Impression
For some advisors, their smartest hire isn't just a marketing whiz. They look to recruit someone who can boost their firm's overall image.
David Hays, president of Comprehensive Financial Consultants in Bloomington, Ind., developed a full-time job that he calls "director of first impressions."
"The job is to make us look good in the eyes of clients, prospects and the community," Hays said.
The role entails everything from managing the initial outreach to prospects to buying and hand-delivering gifts to top clients' homes to representing the firm at Chamber of Commerce mixers. This employee also sends cards to clients after a major life event (such as the birth of a grandchild or death of a loved one) and "even dressed as Santa Claus for our Christmas party," Hays adds with a laugh.
While acknowledging that the position is hard to quantify, Hays says the ideal director of first impressions possesses both marketing skills and charisma to charm the crowds at community events. The individual also needs to be detail-oriented and well-organized.
"You're looking for people who are gregarious, likable and very social," Hays said. "They don't need a financial background, but they do need to be warm and caring, with a good working knowledge of your community."
Finding such a gem may require some digging. To land great hires, contact local colleges and their alumni association — and ask your most trusted clients, vendors and business partners if they know any candidates.
Once advisors build businesses that exceed $1 billion in assets under management, they may make other bold hiring moves. That's especially true if they can recruit a technical expert who gives them a competitive advantage over other advisory firms.
Advisors with a heavy reliance on information systems might carve out a position for information-technology support. Others who seek to add advisors at a rapid rate may hire a trainer or quality-control specialist.
For Paul Pagnato, founder and chief executive of PagnatoKarp in Reston, Va., hiring a full-time tax expert two years ago has propelled his success.
"It's rare for a wealth-management firm to provide a full tax practice," he said. "The value-add to our clients is incredible."
Recruiting a tax specialist was easy for Pagnato: He knew an accountant in the local Ernst & Young office was helping some of his clients — and he figured she might want to join his firm.
"We have fewer clients so it was less stressful for her," he said. "We also have a better benefits package."
He lured her away with what he says was "slightly higher compensation" than she was earning. He raves about his investment in the position, noting that new clients are thrilled when they learn that his firm provides tax expertise at no additional charge.
"As technology digitizes our industry, you have to look for outside-the-box ways to add value for clients," Pagnato said.
You're about to give a big speech. It's filled with facts and figures.
You wish you could omit the dry data, but you have no choice. Your subject matter requires a deep dive into hard numbers and devilish details.
A fact-laden presentation does not mean you must put people to sleep. To enliven your content:
Spark a dialogue. Skip the data dump in favor of a question-and-answer format. Divulge bite-size bits of detail in response to the audience's queries.
If it's impractical to take live questions from the crowd, organize your speech as a series of commonly asked inquiries — and then answer them.
"The problem with data is it's hard to digest if the speaker spits it out at you without stopping for 20 minutes," said Joey Asher, president of Speechworks, an Atlanta-based communication-skills training firm. "If the audience can drive the process by asking questions, they're more likely to understand it better."
Tell a story. Before you plunge into the weeds, give people a reason to listen. Pose a riddle that you promise to solve. Build suspense as everyone wonders how you'll resolve a dilemma. Describe how a long-suffering individual or group can benefit from what you're about to propose.
"Present data as part of a larger story that listeners care about," said Asher, author of " Riveting Data." "Start with the big issue — what big concern people have — and use your story to put the data in context."
Invite feedback. Many speakers subject their audience to dozens of slides packed with graphs, statistics and bulleted lists. But don't feel obliged to march through a long slog of slides.
"Don't overwhelm the audience with data," Asher said. "Smart business folks have a tendency to be blind to the audience's ability to grasp this stuff."
To gauge the group's receptivity to hearing more details, solicit input. For example, invite listeners to vote on whether they want you to share supporting data — or skip ahead.
Lighten your tone. If you're reciting reams of data, you may assume you should speak with dispassionate authority. And that can lead you to deaden your enthusiasm and adopt a detached, robotic delivery.
But if you want people to retain facts and figures, turn your voice into an asset. Inject a dramatic flair into your speech, modulating your tempo and volume to emphasize the story behind the numbers.
"Speak like you're speaking with intensity to a friend," Asher said. "Avoid the corporate monotone and flat affectation that so many business people use."
Tap the power of silence. Separate your core message from the details by altering how you speak. Pause just before you make your most crucial points to signal that what's coming next carries special weight.
"I speak slowly, look at the audience and use the power of the pause," said Molly McPherson, a communication consultant in Portsmouth, N.H. "That way, they know what I'm about to say is important."
Pick a captivating visual. Start with the conclusion that you want everyone to reach. Then cite details to flesh out your case.
A professional speaker and trainer, McPherson begins her presentations with what she calls a "BLUF slide" (bottom line up front) — a compelling visual image that encapsulates her overall thesis.
Before presenting research data to marketers, for instance, she showed a timeline of a company's sales before and after it experienced a public relations crisis. From there, she analyzed how viral media can cause reputational damage to an organization.
"It's the kind of slide where you don't have to write anything down," she said. "It just sticks in your head."
You give great advice to clients. But what happens if they don't take it?
XMany financial advisors find it easy to offer sound recommendations. The hard part is nudging clients to comply, especially if they lack the discipline to follow through.
Whether it's an inability to stick to a savings plan or an asset allocation strategy, some clients will act impulsively or simply ignore what they're told. Despite their best intentions, they may not do what their advisor says — and wind up sabotaging their goals as a result.
"It's incredibly rare that a client can be completely disciplined and follow through on everything that you recommend," said Evan Powers, a certified financial planner in Charlottesville, Va. "But it's not that huge of a problem" because there are ways to support individuals over time — and help them get with the program.
Powers applies a three-step process to advise clients who may initially lack the discipline to adhere to a game plan. First, he probes to determine their goals such as targeting a certain age to retire or funding a child's education.
Second, he collaborates with the client to draft a written plan built around three or four action steps to reach those goals. Examples may include managing household expenses, developing an ongoing savings strategy or adjusting a portfolio to reflect agreed-upon priorities.
Finally, he confers with the client every six months or so to review the formal plan. Most of the time, they find that one of the action steps has fallen by the wayside.
"It soon becomes clear which item the client struggles with," Powers said. "So we make tweaks to the plan or change priorities."
When clients fail to pounce on their advisor's recommendation, it's tempting to conclude that they lack discipline or are too busy or distracted to comply. But they may have other reasons.
Powers recalls advising a new client in his 30s to get life insurance. Over the next few months, however, the client didn't take any action.
Eventually, Powers learned that the client's medical history made him nervous about applying for a policy. Through gentle, supportive questioning, Powers determined that the client's reluctance stemmed from his fear that he'd be denied life insurance and that would prevent him from ever obtaining it.
Armed with that information, Powers enlisted an insurance broker's help to secure coverage for the client.
If advisors conclude that their client lacks the wherewithal to heed their suggestions, they may proceed in small steps to induce compliance. Establishing incremental milestones to advance toward a larger goal tends to work well with individuals who seem unwilling or unable to take practical advice that's in their best interest.
"We prefer to nudge our clients (who don't initially take our advice) rather than expect complete behavioral changes," said Doug Amis, a certified financial planner in Cary, N.C. "Most clients are more receptive to making little changes."
Assess And Coach
Nudging works particularly well when trying to get clients to stay within their budget. Some advisors might present them with a detailed budget, insist that they follow it strictly and lecture them if they don't.
A better approach is to urge less responsive clients to take baby steps. Instead of drafting an annual budget broken down by month, encourage clients to meet weekly mini-goals.
Above all, beware of berating those who do not take your advice. Scolding or expressing disappointment in them can drive them away.
"I've learned that you want to position yourself as a consultant and coach who says, 'Let's work together to fix this,' " Amis said.
Personality assessments and other diagnostic tools can strengthen your understanding of how clients behave and what motivates them to act. Analyzing the results can help you appeal to certain types of clients more effectively.
Lisa Kirchenbauer, a certified financial planner in Arlington, Va., often asks new clients to take such assessments. She likes products by Kolbe and the Sudden Money Institute's "communication preference" tool.
For example, the results may show that an individual is more apt to comply when given an urgent deadline. So Kirchenbauer will create a crunch deadline to rivet the client's attention on following through.
"It takes the judgment out of it so that we can find creative ways to help clients," she said. "When clients feel judged, it doesn't help your relationship with them."
In some cases, Kirchenbauer recommends that a client enlist a life coach or join a support group to acquire more discipline. She says she finds it "more useful to brainstorm with the client than to signal disapproval."
When Miles White was named CEO of Abbott Laboratories ( ABT) in 1998 at 43, he was the youngest head of a major health care company.
Today, he's one of the longest-serving chiefs in health care and has made a reputation as a master strategist, known for making bold moves at Abbott. And none was more dramatic than when he spun off the research-based pharmaceutical half of the firm as AbbVie ( ABBV) in 2013. Before this, Abbott had a market capitalization at about half that of industry leaders Pfizer ( PFE) and Merck ( MRK).
It seemed crazy to many, but White perceived that developing new drugs had a completely different business rhythm than what the new Abbott would now focus on: devices, diagnostics, nutritional products and branded generic drugs. The result: Abbott's stock has since risen from 24 a share to around 59 a share, giving it a market cap of about $102 billion, while AbbVie's shares increased from 33 a share to near 100 a share, giving it a value approaching $159 billion. His creations combined are now worth around $260 billion, far more than Pfizer ($217 billion) or Merck ($156 billion). And White has been ranked by Barron's as one of the world's 30 best CEOs for nine straight years.
"It's about keeping the company current and relevant," White told IBD. "We continually shape our business to ensure we're where the needs and opportunities are for the future. For instance, our recent acquisition of St. Jude Medical makes us a leader across a range of growing medical device categories where new technology can make a huge difference — for the patient and for investors."
White grew up in Las Vegas and earned a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering at Stanford in 1978, and an MBA two years later. He joined McKinsey & Co. in Chicago as a consultant, but while he felt the work was fascinating, projects and clients came and went. White said he wanted something he "could feel connected to for a longer term, which would be more fulfilling."
White was hired by Abbott, based in the north Chicago suburb of Abbott Park, Ill., in 1984 as a director of sales in diagnostics, and four years later he was offered a chance to head the division's growing Asia-Pacific region — a prestigious position for a 33-year-old. But he turned it down because it meant moving to Japan; his wife wanted to open a children's bookstore in the U.S. White said he is a big believer in work-life balance and was confident that other opportunities for advancement would come his way. Indeed, 10 years later he was chosen to be the new CEO and the following year added the title of chairman of the board. (And his wife ran her bookstore for 19 years before selling it in 2008.)
Abbott had rarely done acquisitions or divestitures since its founding in 1888. A whirlwind of change followed after White took the helm, including:
Abbott purchasing Knoll in 2001, the pharmaceutical division of Germany's BASF.
Selling off its Selsun Blue, Clear Eyes and Murine brands in 2002.
Spinning off its hospital products division as Hospira in 2004 (bought by Pfizer for $17 billion in 2015), as well as acquiring TheraSense and merging with earlier acquisition MediSense to create its diabetes-care division.
Purchasing the vascular device business of Guidant Corp. in 2006.
But 2007 was dramatic and traumatic. Abbott acquired Kos Pharmaceuticals, a maker of cardiovascular drugs, for $3.7 billion in cash, but a deal to sell its core laboratory and point-of-care diagnostics divisions to General Electric ( GE) fell through. White decided to revive these challenged divisions instead, investing in research and development, streamlining operations, and reorganizing products and services into a new diagnostics division. In August 2016 it began launching a family of next-generation instruments, informatics and services with common software and hardware platforms designed to be easy to use and more efficient, which White called "a game-changer for the industry."
Among other acquisitions, in 2010 Abbott paid $6.2 billion for the pharmaceuticals unit of Belgium-based Solvay, expanding its presence in emerging markets. The same year, a plan was announced to purchase a unit of Piramal Healthcare for $3.8 billion, which would make Abbott the biggest pharmaceutical company in India.
The success of the company's acquisitions may largely depend on an ability to anticipate consumers' medical needs, understand where the practice of medicine is headed, and aggressively position the company to benefit through internal and external investment.
"It's not just about acquiring companies," White said. "It's about what you do with them. How can you do more with that business? How can you make it better? How can it improve your existing operations?
"We've developed a very disciplined integration process through which we learn how best to bring new assets into Abbott and help them expand and reach their potential, faster and better than they could have before."
All of this and more were just preliminaries to spinning off half the company, for which Abbott took a 2012 third-quarter charge of $478 million. AbbVie was officially listed on the New York Stock Exchange on Jan. 2, 2013.
"What makes White such a savvy deal-maker?" asked Jim Cramer on his "Mad Money" show on CNBC in November 2017. "He has a real talent for anticipating consumers' future medical needs and then aggressively positioning his company to benefit from them. Within four years of becoming CEO, Abbott released Humira, which would go on to treat forms of arthritis, plaque psoriasis and Crohn's disease, among other ailments. In 2016, now part of AbbVie, it made $16.1 billion in sales, making it the best-selling drug in the world. But White had the foresight to spin off this part of his company ahead of the explosion of the debate about drug prices."
But guiding a global enterprise through massive change can result in mistakes, and Abbott's biggest occurred in the midst of the drama leading to the split. In October 2012, Abbott was fined $500 million for marketing Depakote, a brand of valproic acid, the world's most widely prescribed anti-epileptic drug, for conditions not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As part of a settlement that cost it a total of $1.5 billion, the company agreed to strengthen its internal controls.
The New Abbott
After separating from AbbVie in January 2013, the new Abbott emerged with a focus on not only diagnostic products and services, but medical devices, nutritional lines and branded generic medicines. The latter is the Established Pharmaceuticals Division, which sells to developing markets, where a brand name may be trusted more than an unknown, due to high quality and efficacy standards, but which doesn't have the high costs of R&D-based pharma. The division now offers more than 1,500 products, with 400 in development. In 2014, it acquired CFR Pharmaceuticals for $2.9 billion, more than doubling its Latin American branded-generics pharmaceutical presence.
Abbott is also the world leader in adult nutritional products, including Ensure and ZonePerfect, as well as the U.S. leader in baby nutrition with Similac and other lines, and for special dietary needs with Glucerna and Juven.
The company is also a leader in diabetes care, introducing a revolutionary continuous glucose monitoring device, FreeStyleLibre, in September.
In 2017, the company purchased St. Jude Medical for $25 billion in cash and stock, establishing Abbott as a leader in the medical device arena. It also closed Alere for $5.3 billion, which made it the leader in the $7 billion point-of-care diagnostics market.
"We've reinvented the company multiple times over the past 20 years," White said. "It's a continuous process of shaping the company for the future. We work very deliberately to ensure that we remain relevant and current to the people we serve and to the changes taking place in our environment. We're in several different businesses today than we were decades ago, and they were all chosen specifically for their relevance to where the science was going, where demographic and socioeconomic factors were going, and where our customers were going. And that's why we're still growing strong and our stock is at an all-time high."
Today, Abbott employs 94,000 workers in over 150 countries. In 2016, its revenue was $20.9 billion and net income was $1.4 billion.
CEO and chairman of Abbott Laboratories, a global leader in medical devices, diagnostics, nutritional products and branded generic medicines.
Overcame: The failed sale of the challenged diagnostics businesses, which he turned around by investing in innovation and becoming a highly profitable, consistent grower for the company.
Lesson: Envision a long-term big goal and work out the detailed steps to get there, even if it means defying the industry's consensus.
"You need to continually ask yourself, 'Is there a better way?' Because the answer is always yes, even though exactly how might not yet be apparent."
It's not enough to try to bounce back after a failure or mistake. View it as an opportunity to vault ahead of where you were.
Ama Marston, who co-authored "Type R," calls it transformative resilience.
"Success really depends on transforming challenges," Marston told IBD. "Just bouncing back will keep us stuck in the past and limited by the status quo."
Here's how to do it:
Free your mind. An organization's views on being resilient are closely tied to its attitudes toward failure, says Chris Maslin, director of the Asheville, N.C.-based Biltmore Center for Professional Development. If it's willing to accept failure as long as the process is well-researched, it's open to learning from setbacks. That spurs innovation, too.
"Fail fast, fail cheap and learn from it," Maslin said.
Find your baseline. Figure out what your default response is to something negative. Examine it when you're not in crisis and look back at a prior incident, says Marston, founder and CEO of London-based strategy and leadership advisory firm Marston Consulting. If you see it as an opportunity, great. If you turn it into a catastrophe that's insurmountable, be aware you'll need to change that view the next time trouble arises.
Look ahead. If you've lost your job or let a big contract slip away, your mindset will help you rally.
"Look at how you can use this to propel you to the next great thing," Maslin said. "The longer you mope, the less momentum you have to find success."
Change your sightline. After you've devoted time and energy to a project, when you have a setback the tendency is to tweak it and continue down the original path. Look more broadly. Maybe that product failure means you should gear it to another market you hadn't considered.
"If you can shift your focus, maybe you'll find some new opportunities," Marston said.
Gain knowledge. Ask yourself what you can learn from a setback so it makes you better down the road.
"If everything that happens is viewed through a prism of learning and growth, then the trauma of failure is reduced," Maslin said.
Talk to others. Recognize that everyone fails at some point. It's what you do with that setback that's vital, Maslin says. Discuss it with your mentors to learn how to rise higher next time.
"If you try to process it internally, you're going to be stuck in your own head," he said.
Show the way. View problems as mere challenges that will get you further ahead down the road. You'll get others to adopt the same mindset.
"By starting on ourselves, we have this immense ripple effect and impact on those around us," Marston said.
Set deep priorities. Rely on a strong sense of purpose. When former Alcoa ( AA) CEO Paul O'Neill took over the company in 1987, the firm had some recent accidents. So he talked about worker safety rather than profits and revenue growth. Investors were concerned by the new priority. But O'Neill used that as a way to change the company's thinking. That mindset soon spread to other parts of the business and Alcoa thrived.
"He used purpose as a driving force for the business," Marston said. "By the time he left, he had transformed the way business was done."
Look back. Biltmore has its team review each project, Maslin says. Everyone participates, and rank doesn't matter. One of its businesses failed recently. The review didn't point fingers, and no jobs were lost.
"That reinforced the culture of resilience," Maslin said.
Get ahead. Resilience is particularly vital now because it's such a big factor in innovation. You don't discover new things without a few missteps along the way. Accept those mistakes and plunge ahead, and you'll get better results later.
"Resilience is a core competency for innovation," Maslin said. "Companies will die on the vine without innovation."
Homeboy Industries is a Los Angeles-based youth program that, as its supercool ghetto name might suggest, has helped transform the lives of literally thousands of gangbangers since it was formed 35 years ago.
It was founded by Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest, to meet desperate needs in the community to which he ministered. And it all had its roots in his desire to learn Spanish.
Boyle, 63, grew up in Los Angeles, one of eight children in a large and largely observant Irish Catholic family. He had five sisters and two brothers. "My father used to say he had three hits and five misses," Boyle said in a phone interview with IBD. "He thought that was clever."
There was, he says, no pressures on him to enter the priesthood, but when it became clear that he would, "they were very supportive."
There followed a lengthy educational period involving a B.A. (Gonzaga University), three Master's degrees (including an M.A. in divinity from the Weston School of Theology and another in Sacred Theology or S.T.M. from the Jesuit School of Theology). He was ordained in 1984.
It Started With Spanish
It was his interest in Spanish that changed his path. "I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life (as a priest), so I said let me immerse myself and learn Spanish. In those days, they (the Church hierarchy) liked it when somebody wanted to do that, because it felt like the direction we were moving in," given the large Spanish-speaking population of Southern California.
Boyle was assigned to a Christian community in Cochabamba, Bolivia, a position that reoriented his priorities and his life.
"It wasn't just studying (Spanish)," he said. "I became a priest to this very poor community; it turned me inside out and ruined my life."
Of course, he said the last ironically. When he returned to the U.S. in 1986, he was slated to become the pastor for students at Santa Clara University, a decidedly cushy job 180 degrees removed from Bolivia. But his experiences in South America radically altered Boyle.
"I told my provincial superior who was assigning me to Santa Clara that I wasn't feeling it anymore. Fortunately, he needed a pastor at the poorest place we had, which was Delores Mission Church, so I went down there."
The church was located in the heavily Hispanic (coincidentally) Boyle Heights neighborhood of L.A. Boyle wrote about his experiences there in the best-selling "Tattoos of the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion" and in his newly published "Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship."
What he'd discovered in Bolivia was that working with poor people brought him closer to his own salvation. "There's something about folks at the margins," he said. "They happen to be our trustworthy guides to the original covenants, where God said, 'As I love you, you have to have special care for the widow, orphan or stranger.' It's not charity, but letting them guide us to the spirit of God. And suddenly this became a way not to save widows or orphans or the poor, but to find myself led to the gospel."
It wasn't easy. His congregants were not used to his kind of ministry. Boyle's message was of God's love. "They were used to the priests wagging their fingers at them," Boyle said. "They had become comfortable with being chewed out, being told that they were less. It's what they settled for."
'Too Stupid To Be Frightened'
He was in his early 30s when he was assigned to Delores Mission, which was located in a dangerous, high-crime neighborhood. But he was too idealistic to worry.
"I was too stupid to be frightened," Father Boyle said. "I didn't know what a gang member was. Walking the streets, police officers would come over to me and ask 'What are you doing here?' And when I'd tell them I was just walking to my parish they'd say 'I wouldn't recommend that.' "
The cops didn't trust the gang members, and in turn the gang members didn't trust the new priest. "They all thought I was a narc. But that got dispelled. I used to go to juvenile hall and visit the guys who got locked up. And in those days, we had so many wounded (from gang-related shootings), I was going to three hospitals a day. Soon these guys got out of the hospital and juvenile hall and told their friends that the priest visited me."
Boyle had no choice but to get involved with the gangs because so many bangers lived in his parish. At first he was a negotiator, trying to arrange cease-fires and peace treaties and agreements not to shoot into each other's homes.
"I had Pyrrhic victories, but then I started to see this is bad, this is giving oxygen to gangs, so I stopped doing it. The gangs aren't the Middle East. They're not Northern Ireland. Gang violence wasn't about anything other than violence."
Gangs were understandably being demonized, but there didn't seem to be any easy way to solve the problems. In the summer of 1988, the LAPD's infamous Operation Hammer, a massive raid on an apartment building that wreaked havoc on a building and produced negligible results, only hardened gang members' resolves.
"We had shootings morning, noon and night, so I was burying kids too often. So what was my choice: To bury my head in the sand or to do something. It was kind of evolving. It wasn't all at once, but it was an accumulation of things."
The seed was planted for Homeboy Industries in 1988, with a program called Jobs for the Future. That involved creating educational and employment opportunities. "It was always jobs. Nothing stops a bullet more than a job."
Boyle started by creating maintenance crews made up of rival gang members and paying them to do graffiti removal and landscaping, while reaching out to potential employers. A 1990 "60 Minutes" TV profile of the program brought in funding. But Jobs for the Future wasn't a complete success.
"This was partly because we weren't able to find enough felony-friendly employers."
But it succeeded handily in another way. During the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, "our community didn't explode, which was odd, because it was so poor. The L.A. Times wrote an article and asked me why. I told them I thought it was because we had strategically hired rival gang members (to work) together."
Shortly thereafter, the late film producer Ray Stark called. He'd read the article, was impressed with Boyle's work and told him, as relayed by Boyle, " 'I happen to have $500 million. What should I do with my money?' In retrospect," Boyle jokes, "I woefully undershot."
What he asked for was Stark's help in buying an abandoned bakery located across the street from the school he ran, and thus began Homeboy Industries. From this humble beginning, a youth-oriented mini-conglomerate has risen that serves an estimated 10,000 high-risk youths every year.
In addition to the bakery, there is now a Homegirl Cafe. Bakery and cafe items are available at about 20 farmers markets in L.A. County plus several grocery stores. Homeboy Industries also provides silk screening and embroidery services and helps recycle electronics and install solar panels.
But Homeboy provides more than just jobs. It provides legal and mental health services, a case worker to help guide gangbangers through the labyrinth to a way out of the life, and even a tattoo removal service. But the young men and women have to want to be helped.
Consider Steve Alvos, 39, a gang member since he was 12, convicted of gang murder at 17 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. His father was murdered before he was born, his stepdad was also sentenced to what he calls "life without," and he had an uncle he first met in prison. Then two things happened that changed his life.
The first was that Boyle entered his life tangentially. It started when the priest convinced Alvos' younger brother to return to school. The youngster not only did well, but won scholarships to Stanford, Harvard and Yale. He chose Yale and is currently participating in Teach For America. TFA is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is to "enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation's most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence."
Boyle was also instrumental in getting Alvos' stepdad, who was dying of cancer, a compassionate release from prison. "He got out of prison at 10 in the morning and he died at home on the couch at 10 that night, but, to me, he died with dignity, not in a cell without his family."
The second important positive event in Alvos' life was a change in the law that allowed youths under 18 to be sentenced to life without parole to now be eligible for parole.
So when he was paroled five years ago, he was happily sent to Homeboy in part because he realized there were few other options. "What do you do with somebody who went in as a kid, came out as a man, has no drug problem, has no alcohol problem, just has a gang problem?"
That was five years ago. Alvos now works as a supervisor checking "on the homies that come in to make sure that they don't fall through the cracks."
His story also serves as an inspiration: "It's the best thing that ever happened in my life. It's not just the jobs. It's not just the resources. It's the culture. When you grow up in a violent community and you come to a place that's loving unconditionally, that's where the healing really comes from."
Started Homeboy Industries, one of the nation's largest youth service organizations.
Overcame: Lack of trust from his constituents.
Lesson: Understand where people are coming from.
"Sometimes the bad behaviors of a person are not the actions of a bad person, but a person in pain. Everyone who comes here has had some unspeakable thing that's been done to them. The question then is how do we relieve that pain."
For years, independent advisors often marketed themselves as fiduciaries — emphasizing their commitment to work in the client's best interest. That message resonated with consumers.
XToday, however, large financial services companies such as Vanguard and Charles Schwab ( SCHW) label themselves fiduciaries as well. So how do advisors who run small practices continue to differentiate themselves?
In a world where many big securities brokerage firms hype their status as fiduciaries, advisors are left rethinking their marketing strategy. Their options include specializing in underserved niches, lowering their fees and harnessing the latest tech tools to engage clients in new ways.
"It's still important to be a fiduciary," said Minna Burns, director of marketing at the Carson Group, an advisory firm in Omaha, Neb. "But I don't think it's as much of a differentiator. Advisors have a real opportunity to differentiate themselves by explaining the value they bring to the client and to personalize their message to appeal to their demographic target."
To attract younger investors who are just starting to accumulate wealth, some advisors are investing in technology that brings clients closer to their money. Examples include providing online portals for clients to open new accounts, track their assets, rebalance their portfolio and analyze their projected financial performance under a range of planning scenarios.
Burns, whose firm partners with advisors to offer marketing services, coaching and other services, says that millennials — those born in the 1980s and 1990s — expect customized features and resources that help them understand and monitor their personal finances. Advisors who produce a steady stream of rich social media content can also stand apart.
Define Your Niche
The big players — giant financial services companies — are unveiling tech platforms to meet the needs of different market segments. But advisors who operate on a smaller scale can differentiate themselves by pursuing more defined niches.
Todd Sensing, a certified financial planner in Miramar Beach, Fla., launched his firm in 2016 with a focus on serving families with special needs. The father of two sons on the autism spectrum, he applies his personal experience to help other parents facing similar challenges.
"My niche is one of my key differentiators beyond my fiduciary status," he said. "To stand out in a world full of options, you must be able to provide a compelling argument whether it be your knowledge, pricing or something else."
Marketing becomes easier if you can set yourself apart with your credentials, life experience and specialized focus. That way, you need not rely on your role as a fiduciary as the primary way to differentiate your business.
Sensing notes that there are not many certified financial planners who are also chartered financial analysts who specialize in special needs planning for families. He further differentiates himself by highlighting his own experience raising two children with special needs.
"My case is not the norm but does highlight the added advantage of developing a niche business," he said. "You could say I speak both the language of autism and finance and often act as the interpreter for families who need both."
Even for those advisors who uncover a relatively untapped niche, that may not be enough to win over cost-conscious clients. With a growing number of robo platforms competing to deliver planning services with fees dropping to nearly zero in some cases, human advisors are rethinking their traditional business model.
As robo advisors have proliferated in recent years, many human advisors have tried to maintain their customary charge of 1% of assets under management (perhaps discounting their rate for their largest accounts). But they are finding that's harder to do in the current competitive environment.
Some advisors with small practices are dropping their fees so that they're roughly in the same ballpark as automated rivals such as Betterment and Wealthfront, as well as Vanguard and other large companies entering the space. These independent planners have lowered their fees by 15% or more.
Advisors who operate on a small scale wield an advantage in that they're closer to their customers and understand their needs. Investors in certain regions or demographic groups may grapple with specific concerns.
If your target market consists of young professionals with heavy student debt loads, for instance, you can offer short, explanatory videos on your firm's website to educate them about paying off their loans. You can also dangle free, downloadable checklists, diagnostic tests and other resources to help them manage household debt.
"Advisors have a tendency to treat their website as a brochure of their firm," Burns said. "But the best websites give clients the information they want and are looking for. Website content should be client-driven, not advisor-driven."
For many, the new year often brings into focus possibilities for a new career. Whether you're changing paths or expanding your skill set, several trends can help guide you in the right direction.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, personal health care workers, systems engineers, nurses, and operational managers are among the jobs with the most growth possibilities.
Perhaps the best way to approach any career change is to acknowledge that demand shifts rapidly and to plan accordingly.
"The shelf life of any skill is getting shorter, so workers need to adopt lifelong learning as a habit, not as an occasional event," said Rich Feller, counseling and career development professor at Colorado State University.
Here's where to focus your learning:
Health care demand. The United Nation's "World Population Prospects" says that in most of the developed world, the population is quickly aging. By 2050, the number of people over age 60 is expected to more than double. And the number of people over age 80 is poised to more than triple.
Demographic trends are creating specific needs, says Northridge, Calif.-based career consultant Michele D'Amico.
"We're going to see an uptick in the number of nurses, occupational therapists and physical therapists," she told IBD.
And with increasing complexity in health care comes the need for health services managers.
But not all health care fields are adding workers.
"Pharmacy technicians and medical assistants are going the other way," D'Amico pointed out. "A lot of those jobs are lost to automation."
Big Data's impact. The ability to make sense of all the data being collected is a strong job growth area.
Among the BLS' top 20 fields with the most job gains is market research analyst, with a median pay of around $62,500 a year. Market research analysts study market conditions to determine potential sales of a product or service. They help companies decide what products and services people want and the price they are willing to pay for them.
"The key is to bring technical skills to any job," Feller told IBD. "All fields are hiring tech skills that translate data into profitability or better service. Data is the new fuel."
Biomedical advances. Scientific and technological advances, especially in the area of artificial intelligence, are revolutionizing this career path. According to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, nearly half of all economic activities could be automated by 2055 and possibly as early as 2035. It also estimates that about half of every job can become automated.
Translation: Biomedical engineers are in top demand, D'Amico says. Other related fields poised for growth: mechanical and electronic engineers, software developers, computer software developers, drone pilots and dispatchers, 3D printing technicians, nanotech engineers and security specialists.
More futuristic options will include brain implant specialists and tech ethicists, because someone will have to consider the potential consequences of using advanced technology.
Macro trends. Global challenges and conflict are driving job opportunities in the environmental field.
Population growth and worldwide industrialization are complicating environmental issues and causing sustainability challenges.
"Jobs related to dealing with the environment and development are on the rise," D'Amico said.
Wind and solar technicians will find more work, as well as urban agricultural specialists, for example.
Leisure and entertainment. Even the way we play and travel is changing rapidly and creating new job opportunities. Remember when your parents bought a TV and kept it for a decade? Not so anymore.
Fully immersive virtual-reality experiences are not far off. And companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic already have plans to offer space travel for the public. So new occupations like virtual-reality designers and space tourism guides will likely emerge.
In 2013, when Pam Nicholson took the steering wheel of Enterprise Holdings Inc., the world's largest car rental firm, she was ready.
Starting as a manager trainee right out of college in 1981, Nicholson did everything from washing cars to marketing as she moved up the ranks of the company until she was named COO in 2003. Four years later, she oversaw the company's game-changing acquisition of the National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands. Andy Taylor, who at the time was CEO and is the son of Jack Taylor, who founded the firm in 1957, was so impressed he recommended her as his successor, the first outside the family to helm the private company.
"Just like 99% of our senior management team, I learned the business from the ground up, so I had hands-on experience in nearly every facet of our business," Nicholson told IBD from her office in St. Louis, Mo. "I truly understand the challenges people are facing because I've been there before. We're a meritocracy, promoting from within and paying for performance, so my job as a leader is to empower others to harness their strengths and reach their full potential, which helps the entire organization deliver outstanding results."
Nicholson's own results are fully recognized, with Fortune magazine ranking her No. 17 on its recent list of most powerful women in U.S. business.
Nicholson, 58, grew up in St. Louis and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Within nine months, she was made assistant manager in a local office and a few months later was sent to the Southern California market. It only had a fleet of 1,000 cars, but the company could see the enormous potential.
Her competitive instincts were honed as she entered horse-jumping contests in her 20s and 30s. Within 12 years, she was made regional vice president of the Southern California group, whose fleet had reached 27,000.
"I learned about how to hire the right people and then continually train and mentor them to provide the consistent customer service we're known for," said Nicholson. "No matter where they work in the world, they get promoted based on the same measurements of performance that reveal both ability and talent. If you don't meet your goals, you don't get promoted, and everyone embraces that."
With such attention to developing good leaders at every level and retaining the best employees, it's no wonder that Enterprise has continued to win awards from magazines Workforce, Chief Learning Officer, and Training. Nicholson is the highest-ranking woman to receive the 2017 Glassdoor Employees' Choice Award, with a 95% approval rating.
Today, some 10,000 new employees, as well as 2,000 interns, are hired each year through the renowned Enterprise Rent-A-Car Management Training Program. CollegeGrad.com ranks it No. 1 for entry level jobs, and the company prioritizes military veterans and reservists for recruitment.
Enterprise Holdings and its network of regional subsidiaries — including nearly 10,000 neighborhood and airport locations — currently employ more than 100,000 people. And every year, they rent and lease about 1.9 million vehicles, made up of 450 makes and models.
In 1994, Nicholson was brought back to headquarters as a corporate vice president. Three years later, she moved back into the rental business as general manager of the New York regional subsidiary, whose profitability she doubled in two years. She returned to St. Louis in 1999 as senior VP of North American operations. In 2003, Nicholson was appointed chief operating officer and became responsible for all day-to-day operations. Chrissy Taylor, the daughter of now Executive Chairman Andy Taylor, is the current COO and Nicholson is responsible for mentoring her, just as mentors helped her master the skills she needed as she advanced.
"The late Jack Taylor used to ask me, 'Are you having fun?' " said Nicholson. "There's no reason we can't both work hard and have a good time doing it, which helps us deliver better customer service, since it's far easier to make other people happy when you're happy."
Enterprise had long specialized in offering free pickup of customers from their neighborhood offices, including providing cars for customers of insurance companies, whose own autos were being repaired. As a result, it had only 8% of the airport market. Then in 2007, Nicholson supervised the integration of two new brands: National Car Rental, which primarily served business travelers, and Alamo Rent A Car, which catered to value-oriented domestic travelers and foreign visitors to North America. After the acquisition, the three brands together had 28% of the airport market and that has now grown to 38%.
"On the day the acquisition was completed, we delivered a small book titled 'GR8 DAY' to every Enterprise, National and Alamo employee," said Nicholson. "It stated that we had all become part of a company dedicated to three things: 1) Listening to and satisfying our customers; 2) Creating opportunities for our employees; and 3) Achieving long-term sustainable growth. Just as importantly, the book stressed that we were going to take our time to carefully review all organizational, customer, and cultural issues. Above all else, we wanted to make sure that we got the integration process right, because, just like a first impression, you only get one chance to do a merger well. Ten years later, I think our deliberative approach has paid off enormously."
But she says that while the airport presence was the primary driver for the deal, there were other important benefits.
"We also learned a lot about ourselves and changed our company in ways that have equipped us for faster growth on a global scale," said Nicholson, who added the title of president in 2008. "Our biggest lesson from the integration is that our company can execute a major acquisition without risk to our fundamental values and culture."
Enterprise set up its first European franchise at the end of 2012. As CEO starting the next year, Nicholson continued the company's focus on franchising overseas. It now has offices covering 95% of the car rental market in more than 90 countries and territories.
"Our robust growth is a tribute to the strong international reputation of our brands," she said. "We have a very clear vision of how Enterprise, National and Alamo customers should be treated. As a result, we have developed a strong international network of exceptional franchise partners who share our passion for excellence across the board. Good customer service translates well in any language or culture. Yet that core competency is always balanced with an intuitive understanding of local cultures and characteristics, which means we are learning as much from our partners as they are from us. It's definitely a two-way street."
Nicholson says that the expansion needs to rest on a foundation of entrepreneurialism, where decisions are made as locally as possible. She also oversees the Enterprise Fleet Management affiliate, which has 50 offices and manages a fleet of 470,000 vehicles in the U.S. and Canada, with full-service management for companies, government agencies and organizations having midsize fleets of 20 or more. That business recently invested $100 million in its information-technology infrastructure.
"I think many people have been surprised by how quickly technology is changing the automotive industry," said Nicholson. "We believe we should let innovation and responsiveness to consumer needs determine which business models and technologies thrive in the market, allowing a pragmatic and market-driven solution to evolve, supported by infrastructure and appropriate public policies. We think the car rental industry may be one of the early adopters of autonomous vehicles, since many drivers first experience new automotive technologies in rental vehicles. While potential liability issues need to be evaluated, our industry can efficiently introduce new autonomous vehicles to millions of consumers."
During Nicholson's tenure as COO, revenue for the company and its Fleet Management affiliate more than doubled. Since becoming CEO, revenue has increased from $16.4 billion in fiscal 2013 to more than $22.3 billion in fiscal 2017 ending July 31, exceeding the combined size of its chief competitors, Hertz Global Holdings ( HTZ), with $9.4 billion, and Avis Budget Group ( CAR), with $8.5 billion.
In 2017, National and Enterprise took the top two spots respectively in Travel & Leisure's World's Best Awards for car rental agencies, and it also earned the same rankings by Business Travel News. Money magazine gave its top award to Alamo and second place to Enterprise.
Executive Chairman Taylor believes that the ongoing success reflects "Pam's leadership, passion and dedication to grow the business, with the help of every employee, and she continues to have an impact as a leader across all industries."
CEO of Enterprise Holdings Inc., the world's largest car rental company.
Overcame: Challenges of integrating National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car.
Lesson: Make sure all the core values of the company are clearly understood and implemented consistently everywhere.
The new year brings new predictions. Almost everyone turns into a prognosticator, guessing how markets will perform and what geopolitical events will unfold.
XUnlike bloviating TV pundits, advisors tend to refrain from bold predictions. But their prudence is put to the test when clients press them for answers.
Problems can arise when clients expect their advisor to forecast how markets will move in the months or year ahead. While advisors usually prefer to hedge — and redirect clients' attention to financial matters that they can control — some individuals may still assume their advisor should be able to see the future with some level of precision.
"A small group of clients will ask for your predictions every time they see you," said Mark Fried, an advisor in Newtown, Pa. "And in December and January (during our annual review), a lot more of them will ask. That's especially true now when the market has gone up for so long. They want to know when it's going to end."
Author of "Road Rules for Retirement," Fried has a standard reply. It involves a prop that he keeps nearby.
Vacationing in Mexico about 25 years ago, he bought a crystal ball. Whenever clients ask him to predict the future, he gestures to the orb and replies, "I'm not sure. Let me check."
Clients usually laugh, and Fried makes his point: It's foolish to pretend we know what will happen and plan based on such unknowns.
Advisors who avoid making predictions still give considerable thought to the future. But rather than speculate about market swings or other variables, they work with clients to plan for a range of scenarios.
Fried likes to explore how economic and political conditions might change over the next six months or year. Then he'll explain how such changes could affect a client's portfolio.
To reinforce his point about the limited value of even the most confident predictions, Fried invites clients to note every forecast that they hear or read in the media. When they review the list a year later, the results are predictably awful.
Seasoned advisors understand that clients' eagerness to know the future often masks a larger concern. Their deeper anxiety may revolve around whether they're positioned to weather storms — from market meltdowns to global trade disputes.
Having a detailed financial plan in place can reassure clients that they can rest easy regardless of any foreseeable market shocks.
When Jason Staley's clients ask for his predictions, the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based advisor responds by reviewing their investment policy statement and asset allocation. They see how he has designed their portfolio to withstand a range of outcomes.
"I've learned to navigate the conversation back to things that are time-tested and true," Staley said. "When clients try to pin me down, I might say it's a coin flip" and shift attention to their customized financial plan.
A Narrow Range
Clients with more aggressive risk appetites may look to their advisor to predict moves in Bitcoin or the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX). Few planners oblige.
When Pat Kelly's clients ask about Bitcoin, the Detroit-based advisor emphasizes the highly speculative nature of that investment. If they continue to show interest, he refers them to Coinbase, a digital currency exchange.
Like many advisors, Kelly has learned over the years to scale down his predictions. He says that early in his career, he'd offer a narrow range based on what he set as a target average return for the coming year.
"I'd give a tighter, more specific range," he said. "Now I'll give a wider range. I'll draw a big bell curve for the client and say, 'You need to get comfortable with this range. If I get more specific, I'll probably be wrong.'"
If clients want more concrete predictions, Kelly plays market historian. Rather than look forward and guess, he'll look back and draw lessons.
"I might say, 'Let's stress-test different market environments based on a period of rising interest rates,'" he said. Analyzing historical data can provide at least one indicator of what the future holds.
He also likes to remind clients of their overall investment objectives. Otherwise, they might get too immersed in day-to-day market swings.
"If you get caught up in the weeds, you can make more emotional decisions," Kelly warned. "I'll tell clients who ask for my predictions that the reality is, regardless of my answer, my goal is to help them achieve their retirement goals over the next 10 years or more."
He defines a side hustle as a product or service you create that has the potential to earn income, preferably passive income "using the skills you already have and without spending a lot of money."
Tips on how you can create additional income:
Build an idea arsenal. Develop the power of observation to spot potential side hustle ideas, Guillebeau says. Think about the questions you hear people ask over and over, or the skills that come naturally to you but are hard for others.
"It all starts with paying attention to problems you encounter," he continues. "Don't follow your passion; follow a problem."
Embrace your gifts. When our talents come easy for us, we tend to diminish their value with a wave and an "oh that's nothing."
People in general "believe if something comes easily for us it couldn't be valuable," she adds.
But that's wrong. And, "the longer you wait to leverage your innate talents and your singular experience, the more your potential can atrophy, inertia sets in and you can lose that drive not only for your career but also for life," Crook says. "Joy is a hot commodity in the arena of success."
Avoid tunnel vision. Once you've embarked on a new source of income, Guillebeau says, to keep it simple, tweak your business when necessary and don't ignore a potential bird that lands in your hand: "you should do more of what's working and less of what isn't."
Act. Guillebeau says some business books teach you to think about sustainability, stemming from the perspective that every project needs to be scalable and potentially last forever, but his side hustle perspective is different: "if you see an opportunity, don't think too hard about it. Pick up that money!"
Be deal driven. As consumers we don't buy ideas, Guillebeau says, we buy products and services.
"Start thinking about your idea in terms of an offer," he advises. "An offer includes a promise, a pitch, and a price. How will your offer change someone's life, why should they buy it now, and how much should it cost?"
Determine your talents. Which activities do you find energizing? Which do you find stimulating even when you are working hard at them?
This may be problem-solving with a CEO or writing an article, Crook says. "I have a colleague who is energized by finding just the right tool to organize information and processes. She loves bringing order to chaos."
Crook says to go from making a list of what you know how to do, to finding within that list the talents that energize you. "So that when you move forward in your work, you can move toward those things that stimulate you."
"They learn to trust their gut and go," she says. "It's possible to harness the power of your intuition so you can recognize opportunities others miss and create the breakthrough idea the world is waiting for."
Picture your customer. For smaller or side businesses, don't worry so much about demographics or target markets, Guillebeau says.
"Somewhere out there, there's a single individual in desperate need of your offer," he says. "Who are they? What are their hopes, dreams and fears? By thinking about this person, you'll learn to speak their language and provide the reassurance they need to make a purchase."
Clausewitz On Objectives Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination.
Carl von Clausewitz, general
Pink On Compassion
Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place. Daniel Pink,author
Hoffer On Curiosity
In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists. Eric Hoffer,philosopher
Poincare On Instincts
It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover. Henri Poincar,mathematician
Willard On Listening
Sometimes questions are more important than answers. Nancy Willard,author
Innovations in robo technology have spurred investor interest in low-cost digital investment advice. More than 200 pure-play robos like Wealthfront and Betterment claim more than $50 billion in assets under management. But despite the recent flurry of activity, robos are still an emergent technology, accounting for less than 0.03% of total assets under management. So the long-term ramifications of robos remain to be seen.
XTo shed light on the potential road ahead, Investor's Business Daily asked three professionals from various corners of the investment landscape to predict where robos may take us and recommend ways financial advisors can solidify their current client relationships, here and now. They are Brian Barnes, founder and CEO of M1 Finance; Lowell Putnam, co-founder & CEO or Quovo; and Lisa Kramer, professor of finance at the University of Toronto.
Brian Barnes, M1 Finance
Looking Ahead: Robos are in their infancy, but I'm betting on the software solution because computers are just better than people at making tons of massive computations on a minute-by-minute basis.
A lot of fintech players have been seeded with so much money that they'll only have to perfect the experience once, and then they can distribute it to others. That will change things. Millennials are starting to make decent salaries and save a bit, and they don't care about the 150-year history of an established fund company. Innovators are offering cheaper and more personalized experience.
And then 30 years from now, the cycle will continue, when some of today's new players will be the incumbents, as a new set of innovators arise.
What Advisors Should Do Today: Advisors need to expand their offerings beyond simple portfolios that are based on a client's risk tolerance. Advisors shouldn't just look at the investment portion of a client's financial situation. They also need to understand the income portion, the spending portion and the planning portion. And if a client gets to a certain bracket, advisors should offer generation wealth plans.
Lowell Putnam, Quovo
Looking Ahead: If I had to look into my crystal ball, I'd say there's a misplaced confidence that the large incumbent brands my parents trust are going to follow through to the millennial generation. We're moving toward a world of smaller boutique brands — both in the advisor space and in the B2C space. Look at companies like (eyeglasses retailer) Warby Parker, or (mattress maker) Casper.
With money in their wallets, these guys have tapped into a rising demographic by building brands around something that's not very sexy, like glasses or mattresses, and I expect to see those types robo platforms emerging. I don't see any reason why guys like Vanguard or BlackRock ( BLK) even need to be around in 20 years, because they don't have the brand that speaks directly to their next investor.
What Advisors Should Do Today: The horse is out of the barn, because this isn't about justifying whether or not the technology is any good, because it's clear that it does things really well. You could make a claim that active management is going to come back, but that's not what I see happening right now.
Lisa Kramer, University of Toronto
Looking Ahead: There's a greater awareness among investors about the benefits to passive investing, which puts pressure on institutions that have traditionally leaned on active management techniques. There will always be some demand for actively managed funds, because it's human nature to seek that outperformance — even though ironically, the average return on actively managed funds is below average, when you factor in the active management fees.
We're still in our early days and most of the robo offerings are passive funds, but we might actually see robo platforms competing with each other by offering a greater selection of niche funds. In the future, I think we'll see more diversity in the funds robos offer.
What Advisors Should Do Today: Gone are the days when clients didn't have viable alternative investment opportunities, so advisors must add value to the equation. One way to do that is to make sure they're up to date on current developments. For example, the Nobel Prize in economics just went to Richard Thaler for his work in behavioral science, so a savvy advisor might make sure she's well-versed in all of the behavioral issues that can arise for investors.
Most people don't celebrate being last, but for astronaut Eugene Cernan it was an honor and achievement no other person has replicated since December 1972.
Cernan (1934-2017) is the last man to have walked on the moon. Cernan, who retired as a Navy captain in 1976, was one of the hero astronauts who made a massive contribution to winning the space race with the Soviet Union during the 1960s. He was the pilot of Gemini 9, the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10 that paved the way for Apollo 11's moon landing mission, and the commander of Apollo 17.
During his career Cernan spent 566 hours and 15 minutes in space, including more than 73 hours on the surface of the moon.
"You get paid for results," Cernan told the NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project in December 2007. "You never get something for nothing in this world. There isn't a person that went to the moon who was guaranteed a trip home. ... Nobody had any guarantees. We had a challenge."
And in meeting it, Cernan received accolades. He was awarded the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal and was inducted into the U.S. Space Hall of Fame. Cernan was also enshrined into the National Aviation Hall of Fame, Naval Aviation's Hall of Honor and the International Aerospace Hall of Fame.
He was the first recipient of NASA's Ambassador of Exploration Award.
On his road to being a space traveler, Cernan logged more than 5,000 conventional flying hours with more than 4,800 hours in jet aircraft. He also made over 200 jet aircraft carrier landings.
"(My dad) had made so many of my accomplishments possible and gave me a moral and personal compass that I still follow," Cernan wrote.
He told People.com in 2016 "My dad always used to tell me, 'Just do your best and someday you're going to surprise yourself.' He was right. I did surprise myself."
"Gene was a hard worker and took his job very seriously," said astronaut Charles Duke, the 10th man to walk on the moon and a close friend and colleague of Cernan. "Gene knew he was representing his nation in his flights. He was always thoroughly prepared in every facet of his missions."
A Great Listener, Always Learning
Duke lauds Cernan's leadership qualities. "Gene was very patient. I never saw Gene lose his temper in any meeting or at any time during his training. He kept himself under control and was not confrontational. He had humility about him. Occasionally he would get upset and frustrated with the way things were going, but I don't recall him ever blaming anybody."
Gerry Griffin, a former director of the NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, worked with Cernan as a flight controller and lead flight director of Apollo 17. Griffin said: "Gene had a passion about space and exploration. He was a great listener and absorbed information like a sponge. He was always very well-prepared. He really worked hard at what he did.
"Gene was also a load of fun. He never took himself too seriously and always tried to find the humor in what we were doing. He was just a good guy."
Cernan was born in Chicago, Ill., to a working-class family. As a child of World War ll, the seeds of being a Naval aviator were planted by seeing Movietone newsreels in the theater.
"What fascinated me were reports from the war in the Pacific, battles at … places like Wake Island, Midway, and Guadalcanal," Cernan wrote. "Brave pilots of the U.S. Navy flew out to attack the foe, shot their way to victory … and it dawned on me: That's what I want to do!"
His father stressed education to young Gene, who excelled in the classroom and as an athlete in high school. While his athleticism didn't transfer to the major college level, his academic excellence continued at Purdue University. He'd graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1956.
Cernan received his Naval commission through the Navy ROTC Program at Purdue. He then began flight training upon graduation.
"While I was still taking instruction in ground school, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev scorned America with his infamous 'We will bury you' promise," Cernan wrote. "I was a military officer now, and his challenge seemed personal. I looked in the mirror and saw a slim, crew-cut young aviator-to-be, complete with flight suit, the patch of my training squadron stitched on my sleeve, and carrying a bad-ass attitude. I was ready to jump in my jet and go show Khrushchev a thing or two. There was a slight problem, however, for I didn't yet know how to fly."
That would change in a hurry. Only 10 months after he'd begun learning how to fly, with his mom and dad in attendance Cernan earned his wings of gold, far faster than the normal 18-month training period.
He was assigned to Attack Squadrons at the Miramar, Calif., Naval Air Station. Cernan went on to attend the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and earned a Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1963.
He became an experienced test pilot, and in October 1963 Cernan was selected by NASA along with 13 others to become the next batch of astronauts.
Cernan's first NASA mission was Gemini 9, a three-day assignment that began on June 3, 1966. The space capsule orbited the Earth 45 times and practiced docking procedures, which would be a crucial component to a mission that would eventually land men on the moon.
Next Cernan was assigned as the backup pilot for Gemini 12 and then as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 7.
"Yet our sophisticated Apollo package still wasn't quite ready," he wrote. "I was spending hours, days, weeks in the simulators, learning to fly something that had never been flown before, reacting to emergencies dreamed up by the fiendish engineers who conducted the tests. I would crash and burn on their make-believe moon because I didn't make the right decision fast enough. Have a cup of coffee and do it again, because you wouldn't get a second chance if you screwed up once you were there. Do it again because the Russians were doing the same thing."
His next time into space was as the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10 in May 1969. The mission was a dress rehearsal for Apollo 11. The Apollo 10 mission did everything except land men on the moon.
The mission confirmed that astronauts and their spacecraft could safely navigate the moon's gravitational fields and made Apollo 11 a go to put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface.
After serving as the backup spacecraft commander for Apollo 14, Cernan made his third space flight as spacecraft commander of Apollo 17, whose 13-day mission began on Dec. 6, 1972.
At 1:54 p.m. Houston time on Dec. 11, 1972, Cernan said he made "one of the smoothest landings of my career," on the moon. Soon it was time for him to take a stroll.
"I lowered my left foot and the thin crust gave way," he wrote. "Soft contact. There, it was done. A Cernan footprint was on the moon. I had fulfilled my dream. No one could ever take this moment away."
He said over his radio "As I step off at the surface … I'd like to dedicate the first steps of Apollo 17 to all those who made it possible."
"Gene was good at giving credit where credit was due," Duke said "He was not domineering; he did not want to take all the glory when he saw it was a team effort."
Gemini 9 pilot, Apollo 10 lunar module pilot, Apollo 17 commander. Inducted into the U.S. Space Hall of Fame, the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the Naval Aviation's Hall of Honor and the International Aerospace Hall of Fame.
Overcame: Challenges and dangers of manned space flight.
Lesson: Study your craft and be prepared.
"It was the nature of the early astronauts to be cocky and bold, for you cannot strap into a canvas seat atop a monster rocket and be ready, even eager, to ride it into space without having total confidence in yourself and your ability."
A lot of the discussion about leadership style sounds to me like carpenters arguing about whether saws are better than hammers, or artists arguing about whether red is better than blue. All styles are potentially useful. Robert Lutz,auto executive
I say listen to the words chosen by ordinary people if you want to see the sun shine on the language. Gerry Spence,attorney
Brooke-Marciniak On Diplomacy
Diplomacy is brutally time-consuming but worth every second. Beth Brooke-Marciniak, global vice chair of public policy at EY
Before you can fix a problem, you need to know what it is. Frank Sesno, broadcast journalist
Ford On Learning
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Co.
Hard-charging entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality. And that's not easy.
It's not enough to innovate, overcome obstacles and woo investors and customers. Goal-driven visionaries also need to transform their grandest dreams of success into practical building blocks on which they can ascend.
To set effective goals that spur entrepreneurial triumphs:
Stay close to customers. It's fine to dream, but stay grounded. As you formulate your business model, keep checking in with your target market to ensure you're on the right track.
"Entrepreneurs tend to convince themselves that they're right and then set lofty goals," said Toby Rush, chief executive of Zoloz, a Kansas City, Mo.-based identity verification and biometrics platform. "It's better to force yourself to do market validation early on and establish goals that flow from customer input."
Proceed in steps. Brimming with confidence and passion, entrepreneurs may set wildly ambitious goals and assume they'll attain them. But it may make more sense to do a reality check.
"Entrepreneurs like to think their assumptions are correct, that they can go from zero to 100," said Rush, a serial entrepreneur who sold a previous firm to Alibaba Group ( BABA) in 2016. "But you have to set up incremental milestones along the way. You set your feet to the fire with the milestones."
Knowing what results you need to see each month or quarter helps you advance in steps toward your larger goal. If you miss a milestone, you can make course corrections and test different strategies while mitigating your overall risk.
Heed wise counsel. Beware of setting goals in a vacuum. Instead, ask a trusted ally to help you distinguish between a realistic target and pie-in-the-sky aspirations.
Rush, 43, remembers launching his first company in 2005. He kept modifying his business plan as various ideas ricocheted in his head.
Finally, a board member said, "Toby, how will we ever know if you're successful if you keep changing the idea?"
"I was jumping around too much," Rush recalled. "The lesson is, it's fine to change direction as long as you stick with your defined milestones and you're consistent in how you get from A to B."
Hire winners. You cannot turn dreams into reality on your own. You'll need to assemble a team of skilled, motivated stars to help you.
To recruit winners, don't just focus on candidates' technical qualifications. Also consider their psychological makeup.
"It's important to hire patriots, not mercenaries," said Jack Teboda, founder and chief executive of Teboda & Associates, a financial advisory firm in Elgin, Ill. "Patriots have that inner drive. They'll help you reach your goals," while mercenaries lack the buy-in to go beyond the call of duty.
Focus on how, not what. While important, goals themselves have limited value. The real driver of success is how you climb the ladder to attain your objective.
For Courtney Reum, the process of setting goals is only part of the picture. He's co-author of " Shortcut Your Startup."
"Goal-setting is not about digging in your heels for the sake of reaching a goal," he said. "It's more about the tactics and action steps you take to get there."
Reum urges entrepreneurs to ask themselves, "What are we doing to reach the goal? How will we get there?" rather than "What is the goal?"
"It's not about the what," he said. "It's about the how."
Balance micro and macro. Turning your dreams into dollars requires a mix of detailed analysis and big-picture visioning. Beware of neglecting one at the expense of the other.
"A good entrepreneur needs a microscope in one eye and a telescope in the other," Reum said.
Thomas Nast struggled in school and spent most of his time drawing on his desk. At home, he covered the walls with his pictures.
Drawing permeated every aspect of Nast's life. As a child, he chased fire trucks racing to emergencies to sketch burning buildings. He drew New York's colorful street life and copied paintings at museums.
"As a political cartoonist, Nast wielded more influence than any other artist of the 19th century," wrote Albert Boime in "Thomas Nast and French Art" in "The American Art Journal." "He not only enthralled a vast audience with boldness and wit, but swayed it time and again to his personal position on the strength of his visual imagination. … His impact on American public life was formidable enough to profoundly affect the outcome of every presidential election during the period (of) 1864 to 1884."
Nast (1840-1902) was born in Landau in the Kingdom of Bavaria, where his father, Joseph, was a trombonist in a regimental band. One of the boy's fondest memories was of a bearded man dressed as St. Nicholas going door to door at Christmas distributing treats. But this seemingly idyllic childhood ended in 1846, as his father was warned to leave the country because of his controversial political views, two years before a Europe-wide revolution broke out between the aristocracy and reformers. He joined the French navy, while Thomas' mother, Appolonia, took the six-year-old and his sister, Andie, on a ship to New York City.
They ended up on the Lower East Side, where the boy attended German-speaking schools but showed no interest in anything but art. The colorful and sometimes dangerous mixture of immigrants gave Thomas plenty of subjects to sketch. His father rejoined the family four years later. Nast's parents decided to send their budding 14-year-old artist to study with Theodore Kaufmann, a local German-American painter. Restless, Nast left six months later to study at the National Academy of Design, while earning money helping out at a museum.
Hustling To The Top
At 15, he pitched Frank Leslie, publisher of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, for a job. The publication combined news, sensational stories and portraits of local personalities, so it needed lots of artists to depict what was being reported. Artists had to draw quickly, then engravers turned the pictures into wood blocks for the press. Leslie glanced at Nast's portfolio and didn't think the kid was up to the work, but gave him a tough trial assignment to draw a busy ferry in the morning. Nast returned with a picture bursting with energy and detail. Leslie was astonished and hired him. Nast spent the next three decades driving much of the national conversation with his pictorial social commentary.
"Thomas Nast built a life essentially from nothing, lacking education, connections or financial support," Fiona Deans Halloran, author of " Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons," told IBD. "He translated his curiosity and bonhomie into a career. He was the sort of person who could talk to nearly anyone, as he worked with artists, publishers, politicians and activists. He was deeply interested in human society, loved stories and poetry, Shakespeare, children and politics. All of this lodged in his mind and informed his work, making him a model of how to turn a passionate character into a professional position."
Nast worked hard to improve both his artistic and commentary skills, and the newsroom was a crash course in social and political issues. In 1859, his work appeared for the first time in another popular paper, Harper's Weekly, in a piece exposing police corruption. The following year, he went to England to cover a major boxing match for New York Illustrated News. A few months later, he filed pictorial reports on Giuseppe Garibaldi's military campaign to unify Italy.
After his return to New York in February 1861, he married Sarah Edwards. The Civil War broke out that year and he was sent to the front. The anti-draft riots in July 1863 made him the leading political cartoonist for the Union cause. The abolition of slavery had by that time become a war goal, but many in the North were not willing to risk their lives for it, and in July 1863, riots broke out against the draft in New York. Nast covered the uprising and became a passionate supporter of freeing the slaves. With more than 100,000 readers, his Harper's cartoons rallied the public to the war effort, which resulted in loads of hate mail from the South.
His "Compromise with the South" on Sept. 4, 1864, depicted a vote for any presidential candidate but Abraham Lincoln as a betrayal of all those who had died for the cause. Millions of copies were distributed to ensure his re-election. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant said that Nast "did as much as any one man to preserve the Union and bring the war to an end."
The Invention Of Santa Claus
Nast was involved in the creation or refinement of some of the most iconic images in American society: the elephant for the Republican Party, the donkey for the Democrats, Uncle Sam, and America as a graceful woman, Columbia. But nothing matched his creation of the modern Santa Claus.
Nast's first depiction of St. Nick was in Harper's in 1863, recruiting him for sentimental and patriotic roles. He was drawn dressed in a star-spangled robe with a flag, as he flew above children in a Union Army camp playing with toys he had delivered.
By the 1870s, he had children of his own and Christmas was well-established nationally as a family holiday (previously celebrated either as a serious religious event or an excuse for drunken merriment). His drawings became a central part of Harper's seasonal fare.
"Nast popularized the image of Santa Claus by transforming him into the jolly figure known today," said Ryan Hyman, curator of the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum in Morristown, N.J., where Nast made his home in 1872. It houses the nation's largest collection of Nast's work. "His images showed Santa delivering gifts to children, but also included him in his political cartoons, such as one showing a stern-looking Santa threatening not to bring Congressmen any presents if they did not behave. His Christmas drawings remain popular today."
By 1870, Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall's organization had taken control of New York City and the state legislature. Tweed came to fear Nast's cartoons attacking its corruption so much that he offered a bribe of $500,000 (worth $10 million now) to get him to stop. The Tweed Ring was voted out of power in November 1871, and Tweed was convicted of fraud, cementing Nast's reputation.
Grant acknowledged Nast's role in his presidential victories in 1868 and 1872. Nast helped Rutherford Hayes become president in 1876, but became disillusioned by his Reconstruction policies, which did not protect former slaves. In 1880, Nast opposed Republican James Garfield because of a railroad financing scandal and refused to criticize Winfield Scott, the former Union general and Democrat, who was a friend. Garfield won, but was assassinated. His vice president, Chester Arthur, who became president, refused to run in 1884 because of ill health. Nast could not support the corrupt GOP nominee, James Blaine, so for the first time backed a Democrat, Grover Cleveland, who won by a narrow margin.
Nast had gone on lucrative lecture tours in 1873 and 1884. He left Harper's in 1886, then lost most of his fortune the following year when he and Grant invested with a swindler, so he went back to lecturing. He started his own magazine in 1892, but that failed. Then he accepted a job offer from a fan, President Theodore Roosevelt, to become a consul in Ecuador, where he died of yellow fever in 1902.
"His work appears regularly in the works of modern cartoonists, who reference his images and know his role in establishing political cartooning in the U.S.," said Halloran. "Nast is part of our national legacy of political satire."
Overcame: Difficulties in school.
Lesson: Perfect your skills and don't be shy about touting them.
"Thomas Nast has been our best recruiting sergeant." — President Abraham Lincoln
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.
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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.
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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.
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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."