His Marvel Comics boss wanted him to create a superhero group to counter DC Comics' Justice League cast of characters.
REMEMBERING STAN LEE: IBD is honoring the memory of the legendary comic-book writer, editor and publisher, who died Monday at age 95, by posting this article that appeared in the May 31, 2011, print edition. The story has been edited slightly from its original form.
Lee, Marvel's editor and art director, wanted characters that were more personal and realistic.
His boss wanted the standard, clean-cut, all-American characters that appealed to children.
What to do? A frustrated Lee, then 39, thought maybe he'd leave comics and write novels.
Fortunately, he didn't.
Lee's wife helped persuade him to follow his passion and create a new world — far from DC Comics' Superman and Batman.
"I didn't even know where Clark Kent lived, and the only personal thing I knew was that he didn't want Lois Lane to know he was Superman," said Lee, speaking to businessmen at a Saturday morning breakfast in Los Angeles.
"Other than that," he added, "he had no personal life. I wanted to make characters that, despite having superpowers, had a personal life and their own set of problems."
Kind Of All For One
That desire set the platform for the Fantastic Four, which debuted in November 1961 and ushered realism into superhero comics.
The Fantastic Four characters emerged as dysfunctional. They would argue, fight and hold grudges against one another. Lee once called them "heroes with hang-ups," characters who confronted their problems and rose above them.
From there, Lee changed the course of comic books and built a huge following that viewed the writer as the real superhero.
"Lee was the first to humanize comic book characters with real problems," Jonathan Maberry, a prizewinning author and comic-book writer, told IBD. "I can't think of a single comic book since that doesn't owe a good chunk of its theme to what Lee did. He is the father of all modern comics."
With his team of writers and artists, especially illustrators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Lee sparked these human traits in other Marvel characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men and the Hulk.
They display bouts of melancholy, bad temper, vanity and greed.
"Before that, characters were very one-dimensional with no complexity or depth," Maberry said.
Marvel Comics would emerge from a small division of a publishing company into a powerhouse.
Lee, at 88, was still working hard as chairman and creative officer of POW! Entertainment, a creator of intellectual property for the entertainment industry.
More than 2 billion of his comic books have been published in 75 countries and 25 languages.
He was often the center of attention at trade shows as an unofficial ambassador to the comic-book world. Though admired widely, he was also seen by some critics as a relentless self-promoter and credit hog who obscured the artistic contributions of the men he worked with.
"I am my own biggest fan," Lee said at the breakfast event.
"Interviewers were not always kind to Lee, and some were contemptuous of what he was doing generally," said Tom Spurgeon, the editor of ComicsReporter.com. "There was a level of distrust due to the huckster part of Lee's personality that rubbed some people the wrong way."
When asked during the breakfast what inspired him to create Thor, Lee quipped: "Greed."
Lee did acknowledge at the L.A. event that a team effort sparked his creativity at Marvel.
"Without those illustrators, I'd be somewhere else pushing a cart," he said. "They were brilliant. I was blessed by having great visual storytellers so that any plot I came up with, they made it look good."
The fruits of his work (at the time of this story's 2011 publication) were on the big screen with the smash movie "Thor," which had hit $162 million in U.S. ticket sales and $412 million globally. The hit movie spawned a successful sequel. The character was created by Lee in 1962. With Thor, based on a god of Norse mythology, Lee created maybe the strongest superhero of them all.
"That's the nice thing about being a writer," he said. "I can be God."
Becoming Stan Lee
Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber in 1922 in New York to Jewish-Romanian immigrant parents. As a teen, he worked a variety of odd jobs that included some writing.
With the help of a relative, Lee was offered a job as an assistant at Timely Publications, which would become Marvel. He was 16.
His first published comic book in 1941 used the pseudonym Stan Lee, which later became his legal name.
After some colleagues left the company, 18-year-old Lee was installed as interim editor.
That was interrupted in 1942 with a stint in the Army, for which he wrote manuals and copy for training films.
With World War II over in 1945, Lee returned to Marvel as editor-in-chief and wrote stories in genres that included Westerns, romance, humor and science fiction.
Yearning For More Inspiration
By the 1960s, Lee yearned for more inspiration. That's when he and his colleagues developed new concepts of storytelling.
Lee started using comic books for social commentary on topics like racism. He did the first comic book about apartheid and touched on pregnancy. He sprinkled sophisticated vocabulary to encourage readers to learn new words.
"All of this increased the reader base," Spurgeon said. "The characters and themes were so different than the standard DC Comics superheroes that did not have edge or personality. Marvel characters were livelier, lighthearted and fun."
He added: "Lee was a funny, top-notch dialogue writer who was light years ahead of people in comics at the time. Not only did he make comics more entertaining, but he could wink at you through them."
The upshot? "It sustained people as lifelong readers," Maberry said.
Lee and Kirby in 1966 also developed the Black Panther, the first black superhero in mainstream American comics.
"The Black Panther went on to become a major character, and it taught me about racial equality and diversity," Maberry said. "I learned my core values from comic books and Stan Lee."
Marvel's comic book characters eventually swung to the big screen. The first major production was 1998's "Blade," a vampire action film starring Wesley Snipes.
Two years later came "X-Men," a blockbuster that fueled a renaissance in comic superhero films, with Lee often in cameo roles. Other movie hits were "Spider-Man," "The Incredible Hulk," "Fantastic Four," "Iron Man" and "Black Panther."
In 2009, Walt Disney Co. ( DIS) bought Marvel Entertainment and its library of 5,000 characters for $4 billion.
When asked what his definition of a hero is, Lee said: "It's someone who, when he or she needs to help someone, difficult or dangerous it may be, they do not walk away."
Said Maberry, "There's no one like him in the comic book industry."
The most innovative thinkers tend to make a strong impression. Their charisma fills the room as they radiate supreme confidence. But do you need to build confidence to innovate effectively?
Some creative types are bashful and diffident. They prefer to ponder in private rather than bask in the spotlight.
In many cases, however, innovators are brash and outspoken. They stir audiences by setting ambitious goals and feed off the energy of admiring acolytes. To build confidence:
Give yourself your due. If you have a track record of innovation, keep it in mind as you pursue a new challenge. Don't disregard past success and allow self-doubt to take hold.
"Creative self-efficacy is our belief that we can produce creative outcomes," said Dina Krasikova, an assistant professor of management at the University of Texas at San Antonio. If you have faith in your ability to innovate — and you've done it before — you're more likely to approach your next project in the right frame of mind.
Enlist a mentor. Left to your own devices, you may dwell on your mistakes or berate yourself for not innovating fast enough. Such negative thoughts can slow your progress and dull your creative edge.
Ideally, you have at least one or two fans who admire your curiosity and willingness to take risks by proposing seemingly off-the-wall ideas. These allies can help you build confidence when you need it most.
"Feedback is very important," Krasikova said. "A mentor or peer can tell you, 'You're great. You're doing all the right things.' "
Focus on wellness. It's tough to feel like an unstoppable force of innovation when you're cranky or sleep-deprived. Physical exhaustion and fatigue can undermine your mental acuity.
"Our self-efficacy is low when we're stressed or tired," Krasikova said. "So take breaks. Take weekends off. Take vacations."
Surround yourself with doers. If you work with confident colleagues, it can rub off. Look for opportunities to build confidence by interacting with go-getters who enjoy brainstorming and don't rush to dismiss outlandish ideas.
It's easier to build confidence if you work in an organizational culture devoted to openness and a shared sense of mission. You want those around you to feel comfortable sharing innovative suggestions, rather than withholding their input for fear of looking stupid.
"When team members have creative self-efficacy and their leaders have their own creative self-efficacy, that really helps," Krasikova said.
Anticipate criticism. Top innovators gird for resistance. Head-turning proposals rarely win universal approval, at least at first, without overcoming some skepticism.
"Creativity is analogous to problem-solving," said David Magellan Horth, director of innovation venturing at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C. "If you've got a low self-image, you're less apt to produce creative ideas, especially bolder, more innovative ideas. You have to have the resilience to keep going when you're all by yourself."
Seek support. To raise your confidence level, engage family and friends. Rehearse how you'll articulate your breakthrough idea and welcome their input.
"Reach out to people you trust," said Horth, co-author of "Leadership Brand." "Say to them, 'I've got this crazy idea and I'm not sure how to phrase it to my manager.' Use them as a sounding board."
Keep tweaking. Innovators build confidence in themselves by polishing their public speaking. If you're able to deliver a persuasive pitch to key decision-makers, you'll come across as a more-dynamic visionary.
"To pitch better, use an app to practice your speech," Horth said. For example, he cites PitchVantage as a tool that provides real-time feedback to presenters to help them stay on track, master nonverbal cues and avoid stammering.
Advisors often double as educators, helping clients understand the nuances of personal finance. That gets tougher when individuals suddenly become rich.
Clients who are unaccustomed to wealth might feel overwhelmed as they manage their holdings. They may lean on their advisor more than ever.
As a result, the advisor-client relationship can change. A once-deferential client can become more assertive, as some wealthy individuals exhibit more acquisitive tendencies.
"For people who have earned their wealth over time, they have the benefit of time to get used to it," said Ryan Heath, an advisor in Raleigh, N.C. "Others who come into it suddenly don't have that benefit."
Left to their own devices, they may make impulsive financial decisions that they regret later. So Heath helps them wrap their mind around their newfound riches by emphasizing prudent long-term planning.
"Typically, this person can be like a kid in a candy store," said Heath, co-author of "Life Perfected." "They may want to go hog-wild. My biggest challenge is talking them back into reality."
Heath advises clients to choose a single extravagant purchase such as a fancy car or exotic vacation. He finds that they savor the experience of buying something that they've long coveted.
From there, he'll suggest they wait a year to get used to their wealth before making other major purchases. This gives them time to transition to their new life without incurring undue risks or making foolhardy moves.
Coming into sudden wealth — perhaps by getting an inheritance or winning the lottery — can place recipients in an uncomfortable position. If their instinct is to please others, they may spread their cash around with abandon.
Such rampant generosity can backfire. Even a large cash cushion can erode when money flows out the door recklessly.
"It's important to learn to say no to family and friends who ask for money," Heath said. He urges clients to respond to such requests by saying, "I need to talk to Ryan first."
Of course, some freshly minted millionaires resist their advisor's entreaties. Tensions can mount if an advisor makes repeated efforts to assist a noncompliant client.
"Most people respond really well upfront," Heath said. "But three to six months in, they may fall off the wagon and want to do more spending."
Conversely, some clients undergo bouts of doubt and even fear when pondering their newfound wealth. For those who never had much money, managing large sums can prove stressful.
"They can go through an emotional roller coaster coming to grips with something they never had to consider before," said Elliot Herman, a certified financial planner in Quincy, Mass.
He recalls a client in his 50s who received a substantial inheritance after years of scraping by. Because he previously lacked savings and did not have an investment account, he fretted about all the decisions related to his windfall.
"He had this deer-in-the-headlights look," Herman said. "He said, 'I don't want to mess up and make a mistake.' It was scary to him not knowing what to do, and I told him not to be embarrassed about feeling worried about losing money."
Limit Lavish Buys
Over the course of many conversations, Herman assured the client that he could navigate his way to peace of mind. He taught him investment principles and listened to his concerns without judging what he heard.
"Tone is very important," he said. "He has a little guilt that he didn't have to work for the money. I validate his feelings and give him tough love when he needs it."
On a practical level, advisors counsel the newly wealthy to devise a plan for how their net worth will impact their future. Ideally, clients deploy the cash to reinforce their most deeply held values.
"You have to identify what a client's present objectives and expenses are and how those objectives and expenses might change over different time frames," said Harley Lance Kaplan, a certified financial planner in Sherborn, Mass. "They may not know what they want over time" so an advisor can establish a series of checkpoints to monitor spending and saving.
During the tech boom in the late 1990s, Kaplan recalls that some young entrepreneurs found themselves atop mountains of cash thanks to their startup's fast success. He urged them to pay off their debt (often from their college tuition or home mortgage) and limit lavish expenditures.
"One kid wanted to get a DeLorean," Kaplan said with a laugh. "I told him, 'Let's look at your debt ratio first' and 'Don't flaunt your wealth.' He was in over his head," but in time he settled down and made wise decisions.
In peace and in war, George W. Hamilton never hesitated to take action, when he knew what he wanted — or had to do.
Hamilton (1892-1922) is an unsung hero from World War I, despite being that conflict's "most outstanding Marine Corps hero," wrote Col. Clyde H. Metcalf USMC, author of 1939's " A History of the United States Marine Corps."
"Hamilton never shied away from a challenge," said Mark Mortensen, author of "George W. Hamilton, USMC: America's Greatest World War I Hero," and "protecting and serving his country were always important to Hamilton."
In the Marines, Hamilton found his place. He played a key role in three battles in France critical to ending World War I: Belleau Wood, Blanc Mont and the crossing of the Meuse River. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor twice — both by fellow Marine Corps legends.
Instead, in serving with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, American Expeditionary Forces, Hamilton earned the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross, America's second highest awards for valor. He also received two individual Croix de Guerre decorations from France for his heroism.
No Marine officers were awarded a Medal of Honor during World War I. Mortensen thinks that was a political decision by the commander of the American forces, Gen. John J. Pershing of the Army, or by his staff, who may have believed the Marines had gotten enough publicity as a result of the Battle of Belleau Wood.
Hamilton "served as a calm leader issuing orders and offering guidance to those in need," Mortensen wrote. "At the same time the captain was also a very active participating warrior in the middle of the action, displaying acts of bravery by jeopardizing his life to save the lives of his men."
Col. Bill White, a World War I historian, wrote on the Marine Corps Association & Foundation website that Hamilton has been called by more than one historian, "the bravest of the brave." "No argument here," said White.
Hamilton was born in Washington, D.C., to a well-off family. Before the war, Hamilton was just a young man trying to find his place in the world.
He enrolled in Georgetown University in 1912, but after his first semester decided to drop out and take a job as a real estate clerk in the National Savings and Trust Company in his hometown. By Spring 1913, however, he decided he didn't want a career in banking — he want to join the Marines. He quit his job to enroll in a preparatory school and study toward a Marine Corps commission.
After passing the Marine Corps' entrance exam, he was assigned to officers school in Norfolk, Va., in November 1913.
"If there was one word to describe Hamilton it would be 'competitive,' " Mortensen said. "Competition was a part of the DNA from which he lived and breathed."
He spent his next few years as a Marine officer at sea with the Atlantic Fleet. And when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Hamilton was transferred with his detachment to Quantico, Va., and soon was among the first group of American soldiers to set foot on French soil to fight Germany. As a captain and company commander, he was part of the first major American assault, the Battle of Belleau Wood, in June 1918.
The objective of the battle was to capture the woods and clear it of German soldiers. The terrain was an open wheat field leading to a 200-acre forest 53 miles northeast of Paris.
In the dawn hours, Hamilton led his company as they crawled through a hail of machine-gun fire from an enemy lying in wait in trenches. A thousand Marines died on the first day.
As Hamilton witnessed his officers and men being shot and killed all around him, he decided bold action was the best course. Hamilton "ran up and down his line under severe fire, leading his men forward and urging them on by cheering and similar efforts. … at great personal exposure Capt. Hamilton displayed a quality of extraordinary heroism," wrote Col. Wendell Neville in recommending Hamilton for the Medal of Honor.
"It was every man for himself, kill or be killed," Mortensen wrote. "There is no better example of this than Capt. Hamilton killing four Germans in hand-to-hand combat in one wild rush. He was leading from the front.
"The Marines' continuous charge was unlike anything the Germans had ever faced or imagined. Their determination to advance under horrific conditions, using all means available including bayonets and hand-to-hand combat, gave the Germans reason to call the Marines 'Teufel Hunden,' translated to 'Devil Dog.' "
Hamilton wrote in a letter to his sister, "It was only because we rushed the positions that we were able to take them, as there were too many guns to take in any other way."
Some 20 days later, the Belleau Wood territory was finally secured by the Marines. The battle protected Paris from invasion and put the Germans on the defensive, but the cost was heavy — 2,000 U.S. military personnel died, and 8,000 were wounded.
In October 1917, the 4th Marine Brigade was tasked with the seizure of Blanc Mont Ridge in the Champagne region, as part of a plan to drive the German army out of the region. Hamilton was now a major and a battalion commander.
At around noon on Oct. 4, Hamilton and his battalion were under heavy shelling and fire. "The incessant noise from machine guns all around was overwhelming," Mortensen wrote. "Over time, the rapid fire guns overheated forcing the enemy to struggle to cool them down." German airplanes were dropping bombs with little to no resistance. Then the enemy unleashed the worst poison gas attack the Fifth Regiment had faced.
"With gas masks on, artillery shells exploding and machine guns firing across the entire terrain, one envisioned being on the threshold of hell," Mortensen wrote. Hamilton and his men pressed on, charging up the ridge despite heavy losses and monumental resistance.
"Major Hamilton was beside his men the entire way," wrote Mortenson, "and when they were surrounded … he again remained calm and led his men to safety." Once the battalion made it to the top of the ridge, Hamilton's men took about 100 prisoners as well as several machine guns. It was a key victory in that it forced a quick enemy retreat for about 18 miles.
Hamilton's Marine Corps superiors soon gave him extra responsibilities, and France presented him with his second individual Croix de Guerre and a third to his 4th Brigade.
On the night of Nov. 10, 1918, Hamilton commanded two battalions of some 2,230 men, crossing the Meuse River. They were part of an Allied effort to sever the railway network supporting the German Army in France.
A painting titled " The Last Night of the War" by Frederick C. Yohn, captures the moment. It depicts Hamilton "leading a battalion of Marines across a pontoon bridge over the Meuse under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire in an effort to establish a beachhead," Mortensen wrote.
The next day, Nov. 11, 1918, the armistice was signed ending World War I. America had lost over 53,000 men in combat, and this year marks the armistice's 100th anniversary.
After beating the odds by surviving horrendous clashes, Hamilton died piloting an airplane in 1922, when it crashed in Gettysburg during a re-enactment of the Civil War battle showcasing the technology of the day.
George W. Hamilton: Keys
Played a key role in three battles that were significant in ending World War I. Recommended for the Medal of Honor twice. Earned the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross, America's second highest awards for valor, and was twice awarded France's Croix de Guerre.
Overcame: Horrific conditions as a battlefield commander in World War I.
Lesson: Stay on the offensive regardless of the situation.
"Well, orders are to attack, and by God, we'll attack."
While many companies feel their products and services are enough to cause their dream clients to transfer loyalties, they must attract customers from the competition by offering greater value, a better future or a strategic outcome that customers believe they need.
That's from Anthony Iannarino, author of " Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away From Your Competition." He's also the creator of The Sales Blog.
"Without a big idea and a big result, there is no reason to change," he cautioned.
Tips on how to attract customers:
Capture their imagination. To attract customers away from your competition, "you must establish yourself as someone with a better understanding of the current environment, what needs to change, why it needs to change, and how to make those changes," Iannarino said.
Do your homework and help customers discover something new about their needs that isn't addressed elsewhere. To replace your competitors and take their chair at a prospective client's table, show that you can deliver greater results to them — if they change, he adds.
"There are new roads, old ones are sometimes closed," he adds while warning: "People have even religiously followed their GPS off a bridge that no longer exists. The same is true in business. Look at the road, not at the map."
Get personal. To attract customers from a company that already has a partner, Iannarino says, you also need relationships within the company with people who will support a changing of the guard.
He points out that in the last few years relationships have been downplayed as more transactional approaches to sales have been pursued by those who believe those models allow them to better scale.
"But relationships matter," Iannarino said. "And if some group of people aren't willing to support changing to you from their current partner, it isn't going to happen. You need to build relationships deep and wide."
Separate yourself. Iannarino says the idea in a book called "Blue Ocean Strategy" is that you should seek an innovation that allows you to eliminate competition, as Netflix ( NFLX), Airbnb and Uber have done.
While not easy, success at doing that is to see the world with different perspectives. "This is central to the success of the greatest entrepreneurs," says O'Reilly.
The creativity of these kinds of entrepreneurs lies in their ability to understand and apply ways that the world has changed, while everyone else is still following the old map, O'Reilly says. "Real breakthroughs come when we don't just use new technology to duplicate what went before or to fine-tune the way the world works now, but to reimagine how it ought to work."
O'Reilly points to Uber founders Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick. There were already hundreds of millions of smartphones equipped with sensors able to track the locations of both drivers and passengers.
"The notion that you could use the location sensors in the phones of driver and passenger to match them up in real time is blindingly obvious in retrospect. But the capability was around for years before anyone actually built a service to do it," O'Reilly says.
Stay vigilant. Keep waiting for the missing pieces of the puzzle to arrive, such as a particular technology.
Speech recognition has been a feature of smartphones since the 2011 launch of Apple's Siri intelligent agent, O'Reilly says. "Yet it was Amazon.com ( AMZN), not Apple ( AAPL) or Google ( GOOGL), that brought a seemingly minor change that made all the difference: The Echo had a smart agent named Alexa that was always listening to your commands without the need to first touch a button."
Even if you aren't the one to push that boundary, "once someone does it successfully, there's a huge opportunity for a fast follower," he says. "Be ready!"
As they age, many advisors strive to make their firm sustainable over time. They want their business to outlast them — to provide ongoing service to generations of clients to come.
That's easier said than done.
For a firm to outlive its founder, several elements must be in place. A pipeline of rising advisors builds relationships with clients and their families. A team of loyal employees develops their skills. And the business itself continues to evolve with the times and stays one step ahead of the curve.
Sustainability rarely occurs by accident. For firms to stay the course, their leaders take steps to foster a cohesive organizational culture and create reliable internal systems.
"I'd like for my firm to live beyond me and continue on," said Kristin Bartlow, a certified financial planner who joined Northwestern Mutual in 2009 when she launched her Walnut Creek, Calif.-based business.
As her firm grows, Bartlow is getting a better sense of what constitutes a sustainable business. She says that by focusing on three aspects of her practice, she can lead it in the right direction: hiring the right people, choosing the right niche and putting the right processes in place to maximize client service.
"The value of a practice really comes down to the people you invest in, the clients you target and the processes and procedures you set up," Bartlow said. She adds that the last piece — creating consistent, repeatable processes — plays a particularly critical role.
For example, she has established a 30-step onboarding process for new clients that begins at the initial point of contact and advances through a series of follow-up communications. Her goal is for every incoming client to enjoy the same seamless experience, which in turn leads to heightened satisfaction and thus more referrals.
A Culture That Sticks
Perhaps the most important variable in determining a firm's sustainability is its culture. Advisors who nurture a warm, welcoming workplace and encourage openness and camaraderie produce more driven, engaged employees.
For Bartlow, creating a shared culture of excellence begins as soon as newcomers arrive.
"Our team knows our mission and vision when they come into the firm," she said. "And we start each team meeting by stating our mission and vision. Everyone has it memorized at this point. People internalize it."
Every quarter, Bartlow facilitates an off-site retreat for all eight of her employees. They collaborate to set the agenda and cover a range of topics tied to long-term business strategy. They also discuss goals related to professional development, client retention and production.
Advisors who founded their own business often find that part of the challenge of building a sustainable firm is stepping back. Given their experience and expertise, they may be tempted to micromanage every aspect of the practice. But that inhibits a firm's growth.
"I'm not involved in every step of the process," Bartlow said. "When something is run past me, now I'll ask, 'What do you think?' as opposed to telling them what to do."
Delegate To Grow
When advisors can groom their adult children to run the business, continuity gets easier. Developing an effective succession plan paves the way for a smooth transition after the founder retires.
Gary Schwartz, an advisor in West Harrison, N.Y., launched his firm in the 1990s. He has grown the business to 18 people, including his two sons.
"I've integrated them into working with clients," Schwartz said. "People are really happy about that, and having both of them here makes the business sustainable."
He admits that he used to drop gentle hints for his sons to join the firm, but he didn't put pressure on them. He wanted them to feel comfortable navigating their own career choices.
"I love what I do, but you can't force your kids into things that don't come naturally to them," he said. "They had to like it. I didn't want them to get stuck here" and regret their decision to sign on.
As his sons were growing up, Schwartz invited them to accompany him to his public seminars and client meetings. He wanted to demystify what he did for a living and spark their interest in financial planning.
Delegating also increases the odds that your business will outlast you. By training employees to expand their job duties, you can gradually step away from the day-to-day operation.
"A lot of my clients who need something don't need to talk to me," Schwartz said. He has empowered his team to make a range of decisions from operational systems to portfolio management.
Steve Jobs didn't tolerate many bosses, but there was one he wanted to work for: Nolan Bushnell.
Jobs was attracted by the unique way Bushnell, co-founder of video game pioneer Atari, was forging an entirely new industry in the early 1970s on the success of iconic games like "Pong." Bushnell tasked Steve Jobs to build a follow-up game called "Breakout," which turned out to be another big hit.
It was just one calculated risk Bushnell took while putting technology in places it's never been before, like bars and, later living rooms. Even Jobs wanted to be part of it.
"If you're truly a radical innovator, the more radical the idea, the fewer people will join," Bushnell told Investor's Business Daily. "Innovation doesn't have a constituency."
Atari is the company Bushnell is best known for, and is why he has been called the " father of electronic gaming." But he has created dozens of other businesses with varying degrees of success, with game arcade and pizza parlor Chuck E. Cheese's being the next-best known.
Using creativity as his compass, Bushnell, 75, has blended innovation, business planning and leadership to blaze a hard-charging path into areas so unfamiliar that he's forged entirely new industries along the way. He says other business leaders can boost their success by looking at things in new ways — and that innovation isn't something a lucky few are born with, it can be learned. Some of Bushnell's suggestions for business planning are:
Make optimism your default. "Entrepreneurship is driven by optimism," Bushnell said. Many large companies are set up to reward those who say no to new ideas and perhaps avoid mistakes from being made. Innovation is quashed in such an environment.
Success goes to those who find ways to make seemingly impossible ideas work. That's especially true today as new technology and innovation can expose a stagnant and unchanging business to disruption.
Bushnell recalls the early days of Atari as being very challenging since the company didn't have venture capital to keep it funded. It needed a steady stream of good ideas that could be quickly turned into cash flow. "We had to live by our wits and our retained earnings," he said. "We were constantly out of money.
"You felt like you had your hands on the controls very closely when you were constantly struggling for cash flow," Bushnell recalled. "You need to have the optimism to drive things that may be a little risky. The future is risky."
Success took coming up with a good idea and moving on it quickly. "When I think about something, I have to do it. It's not enough to just think about it," he said.
Take risks, yes, but only after you've researched them to the nth degree. Bushnell's personal situation molded his approach to risk. As the eventual father of eight children, he couldn't just launch a video game company and hope for the best. He needed to carefully consider every move and plan his reaction to any possible turn of events: "I never felt like I took any risks. Of course I did, but I had a very clear vision of how the thing would cash flow."
Today Bushnell meets many "wantapreneurs" — those who don't do their homework but think a business will magically succeed. He often consults with young people starting companies and, said Bushnell, "I start asking them simple financial questions. They say, 'Well, I'm going to get a CFO to take care of that.' Wrong!"
Bushnell says a successful entrepreneur has to know the company's numbers better than anyone. "If they can't spreadsheet their business, I don't even want to talk to them," he said.
It's not enough to have a good idea; you have to understand the numbers that make it work. That was a lesson Bushnell impressed on his children, says Alissa Bushnell, his eldest daughter. At restaurants, he would challenge his young kids to estimate how much profit the restaurant made in a day by studying guest patterns and orders coming out of the kitchen. He would then say, " 'The first one to get the answer that's in my head gets dessert,' " she told IBD.
One way to improve the ability to forecast how much money can be made from an idea is learning how to play Go, the ancient Asian board game, Bushnell says. "This is a game about planning moves five, six or seven moves in the future," he said.
Business is the same and lessons are learned in failure as much as in success. Certainly, Bushnell has had his share of business misfires, such as video game restaurant uWink, but he picks himself up and tries again.
"There's a 'youthful energy' that I get from him in his work," said David Heineman, a professor at Bloomsburg University and author of "Thinking About Video Games: Interviews With the Experts." "A weakness would be that sometimes the risk-taking behavior and pursuit of 'edginess' has led to some high-profile disagreements" and disappointments.
Bushnell, though, looks past failure and thinks about how tomorrow will be better. "Working with Nolan is like nothing else in the world I've ever experienced," said Gene Stone, who co-wrote " Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Keep, and Nurture Talent" with Bushnell. "Whereas most people go from point A to point B, Nolan takes you on a ride from point A to point 455, to the back of a mirror, to the end of the world, and back — and then again, or not, or upside down."
Find inspiration in random places. A mundane daily routine can stunt innovation and new ideas. It's important to rejuvenate that part of your brain and there are ways to do that.
Bushnell has a secret to stoking new ideas and creativity. While traveling, especially to Las Vegas, Bushnell randomly walks into whatever trade shows are there, even if they have nothing to do with what he's working on.
"I like going to weird trade shows. I still do it," he said. While walking the halls, Bushnell looks for the best practices used in those industries and tries to find ways to connect them to his work. "There's an ability to arbitrage standards of work in one industry into the standards of work in another industry," he said.
Another way to jog the creative part of your brain is reading science fiction. "Not post-apocalyptic science fiction but the optimistic stuff," he said. If you read science fiction, look for things that should be real, but aren't. While reading, Bushnell asks himself, "How do we get there?" Books that Bushnell recommends are Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" and "The Diamond Age." He's read "Hyperion" by Dan Simmons several times and finds new inspiration each time.
Know that life in the future should be frustration-free. To find new ideas, "make a list of all the things in daily life that irritate you. Then figure out: How do I get rid of that irritation? That will lead to very interesting things," he explained.
Whenever ideas occur to Bushnell, be it strolling the floor of a museum or trade show, he records notes on his cellphone. "That's my compost where ideas fester, mature and sometimes metastasize," he said.
It's the ability to see bigger opportunities from technological developments and how they might fill consumer needs that's the core of Bushnell's ability, Heineman says. Bushnell also strings together lessons from other businesses to "parlay past experiences and successes into new opportunities," said Heineman.
Tame anxiety as it will block your creativity. During the early 1970s, while Atari was in its most rapid growth phase, Nolan suffered from anxiety-induced tension headaches. Knowing that stress would choke off innovation, he met with Emmett Miller, an author and personal coach who helps creative people manage anxiety. "He taught me exercises and I have not had a single migraine after that," Bushnell said.
The first technique Bushnell uses is a variation of mindfulness. He suggests having a series of "happy places" at your mental fingertips where you can go when life gets hectic. Think of a place you've been where you're calm and relaxed, and simulate as many of the senses you experience there. "I imagine myself sitting on a balcony in Positano, Italy, with a cup of good strong Italian coffee, glass of blood orange juice, hearing the birds chirping, smelling the coffee, smelling the croissant and overlooking the Mediterranean," Bushnell said.
Here's another one. Lie down and go through every set of your muscles from toes to feet to calves. "Flex each of your muscle groups and try to find new ones each time," he says. "I don't know why it works, but it does."
Having a personal philosophy can also help the mind focus on innovation. Bushnell has adopted existentialism as his way of looking at the world — where he celebrates the journey, not the destination. "You take yourself out of the middle of everything and put yourself into role of observer," he said. Doing this allows you to look at the situation more creatively.
But it's not long before Bushnell starts thinking about what's next. "If you want to live in the future," he said, "invent it."
Nolan Bushnell: Keys
Overcame: Launching Atari with very little financing, as the industry was new and didn't have a track record, resulting in Bushnell forgoing his own pay, sometimes for months.
Lesson: Think about how to monetize a good idea, but be prepared to change an approach when the unexpected occurs.
Quote: "Sometimes the most important outcome of a new idea is you get data before everyone else. That data, even if negative, is a data point: That didn't work, but maybe if I do this it will."
Everyone asks questions. But how many of us are actually getting questions answered by using the right language and tone?
The way you frame your inquiries largely determines whether you'll get revealing responses. If you adopt an aggrieved or negative stance, you lower the odds of eliciting substantive answers. And if you show little interest in listening, you'll shut down the kind of fruitful exchange that leads to learning and insight.
Adept questioning requires keen situational awareness. Context and timing play big roles in getting questions answered, along with an ability to build rapport. To pose winning questions:
Inject surprise. If you habitually ask the same questions to the same people, you risk becoming predictable. Colleagues may tire of having to address similar issues over and over.
"Ask questions that you don't normally ask," said Terry Fadem, senior fellow at the Mack Institute for Innovation Management at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. "You want to force people out of the box that they've built for answers they're expecting to give."
If you like to ask detail-oriented, closed-ended questions, for example, surprise your team by launching a hypothetical that starts, "What if we … ?"
Keep at it. After you pose one good question, keep plugging away. Drill down to gather more information.
"You have to know what to do with the answer," said Fadem, author of "The Art of Asking." "Ask good follow-up questions based on what you hear."
Even if you're satisfied with the response to your initial question, invite the speaker to elaborate. By giving others a second chance to address the topic, you enable them to divulge more of themselves and admit what they might otherwise withhold from you.
Consider the setting. Calibrate your questions to fit the situation. If you're too accusatory or pushy, you can alienate potential allies. And if you're too bossy or opinionated, you risk silencing subordinates who might be ready to open up to you.
"You can get away with a lot more in private than in public, where you have to be careful about embarrassing others," Fadem said. Behind closed doors, you can ask a blunt question while looking someone in the eyes; in public, you may want to modulate the question to spark debate.
Watch your wording. A loaded question communicates your bias and telegraphs the answer that you're seeking. You're less apt to learn if your question doubles as a thinly disguised opinion.
"It's better to ask questions without judging," said Michael Marquardt, professor emeritus at George Washington University. "You want your questions to empower others, to be positive" so that respondents feel comfortable leveling with you.
Marquardt suggests asking, "What did we learn?" and "How can we increase our success?" rather than "What went wrong here?" and "How can we avoid another failure?"
Stay silent. Once you ask a question, demonstrate your desire to hear the answer. If you keep talking or answer your own question, you might muzzle others.
"If you ask a subordinate a question, that person starts liking you as a leader," said Marquardt, the author of "Leading With Questions." "It dignifies the employee while bringing out your humility," so keep quiet and wait patiently for the reply.
Muster your curiosity. Questions work best when they flow from an eagerness to learn. If you're just going through the motions — or reading from a script — you're less likely to stoke a lively back-and-forth.
"Be committed to learning," Marquardt said. "Leaders recognize they need to help those around them," and they ask questions to offer support and gain ideas.
Advisors always want to burnish their brand. But in a small town, branding boils down to maintaining a solid reputation.
If you're based in a less populated area, you're often under a microscope. Clients see you at the supermarket. Neighbors seek your advice. Nonprofits solicit your contributions.
Advisors are often among the most visible, trusted professionals on Main Street, so they carry a certain clout in the community. This can prove a blessing and a curse.
"I enjoy small-town America," said Ben Harvey, an advisor in Connersville, Ind. "I was born and raised here in the 1980s. But I do get asked for donations a lot and it's hard to tell people no when they're in your community."
Harvey has experienced the downside of basing his business in a town with a population of roughly 13,500. He has watched the fortunes of Connersville and the surrounding area fluctuate over the years.
"We're probably in one of the most economically depressed communities in Indiana," he said.
Eager to diversify his practice, Harvey started searching for another town to establish a second location. In early 2018, he opened a branch office in Oxford, Ohio — a 40-minute drive from Connersville.
While Connersville and Oxford are both fairly small, the latter has an advantage: It's a college town. Home of Miami University, Oxford offers a large pool of potential clients, Harvey says.
"When we hosted public seminars for our target demographic — people who are about to retire in the next five years or who've already retired — we had an overwhelming response in Oxford," he said. "And Oxford is more recession-proof" because of the university's presence.
Even those advisors who prefer a small-town lifestyle acknowledge that challenges can arise. As respected members of the community, they are often expected to give back.
Along with nonprofit organizations seeking donations, informal appeals for money can pour in. The stream of charitable requests never dries up, from helping a family rebound from a costly health crisis to funding a student's tuition.
"We're constantly being asked for donations," Harvey said.
Over the summer, he was attending a local fair when a woman accosted him for rejecting her prior solicitation on behalf of the youth football program. About 10 people overheard her berate Harvey.
He has learned that it's better to say no right away if the request does not fit his philanthropic priorities, rather than dither and prolong the process. That can lead to multiple inquiries in which he'd say, "I'm still thinking about it."
From a client retention standpoint, operating in a small town can reinforce your commitment to service. The bonds are stronger when you run into clients on a regular basis in the course of everyday life.
"They want to do business with people whom they like and whom they know," said Paula Harris, an advisor in Duxbury, Mass. "Your relationships are deeper with your clients when you're in a small town. It's a lot harder to leave (an advisor) when you really know them."
A Familiar Face
When you're a longstanding part of the community, you become invested in its success. Aside from satisfying clients' needs, you may seek ways to make a broader impact.
Harris set up shop in Duxbury in 1993. It has a population of about 15,000.
"Over time, you get to really know the people in your town," she said. "You become a fabric of the town, including its politics and government."
As a result, marketing largely takes care of itself. Advisors need not advertise as much when they're already familiar faces around town.
"There's more cutthroat competition in big cities," Harris said. "Word-of-mouth is a lot easier in a small town. People naturally get to know you when you pick up your mail at the post office or go to the market."
Yet that closeness comes at a cost. Harris says that she "can't go into a store for less than 10 minutes" because she will inevitably bump into friends and acquaintances.
Another issue that small-town advisors confront is whether to have minimum asset requirements for accepting new clients. Setting such thresholds poses risks when you operate in a close-knit community.
"When you're in a small town, you can offend someone quick by saying they need $500,000 in assets to work with you," said David Mullins, a certified financial planner in Richlands, Va. "Not only that, but you can offend people in their social circle as well."
Mullins welcomes clients regardless of asset size. And he embraces his role as a pillar of the community.
"I grew up in a small town," he said. "Other than college, it's all I've known. Your identity is the wealth management guy. It's a compliment that they see you as such."
Nine days shy of his 21st birthday, the Baltimore Orioles gave the ball to Jim Palmer for Game 2 of the 1966 World Series.
The stakes were high. The Orioles had defeated the favored defending World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers 5-2 in Game 1 at Dodger Stadium. For the Dodgers, Game 2 was a must-win because an Orioles' victory would put the visitors in a commanding position with the series shifting to Baltimore for Games 3, 4 and 5.
Pitching for the Dodgers in Game 2 was the legendary Sandy Koufax, fresh off a 27-9 season with a stingy 1.73 earned run average. Palmer had gone 15-10 with a 3.46 ERA.
"I didn't have any trouble sleeping the night before the game," Palmer wrote in " Nine Innings To Success: A Hall of Famer's Approach to Achieving Excellence," co-written with Alan Maimon. "Despite the enormity of the situation, I felt an inner calmness. The whole thing had a surreal quality to it. I wanted to enjoy the experience, not feel stressed out about it."
"At the end of the day," Palmer has said, "organizations that enjoy success are going to foster a fun environment." That's something he's felt he learned early from Orioles minor league coaches like Cal Ripken Sr., one of whose commandments was: "You're going to have fun — and part of having fun is winning." Another, as Palmer wrote in "Nine Innings," was: "You're never going to let anyone outwork you."
Palmer studied how teammate Moe Drabowsky struck out 11 Dodgers in relief in Game 1 and then became the youngest pitcher ever to hurl a World Series shutout as the Orioles won 6-0 and went on to sweep Dodgers to win their first World Series title.
"The mental aspect of pitching was just as important as the physical one," Palmer told IBD. "It took preparation that included watching film and studying batters from the bench. When you've done your homework, there's a comfort level because of your preparation that allows you to relax and use it as a vehicle for success."
The 'Oriole Way'
Palmer went on to a long Hall of Fame career. The Orioles had an astounding run of success from 1966 to 1983, winning three World Series and appearing in six. The Orioles boasted other Hall of Famers such as Manager Earl Weaver, and players Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr., but only Palmer was the constant on all of those teams. Palmer credits the club's success in those years to the "Oriole Way."
The team sustained a level of excellence, Palmer wrote, because their system was based on the continuity of shared values regarding excellence that was instilled in those who joined it. And he advises "seize on the opportunity to assess what you and your organization can do to keep you at the top of your game."
In World Series play Palmer was 4-2, with a 3.20 ERA. In postseason play Palmer was 8-3 with a 2.61 earned run average.
Referring to the postseason, Palmer, 73, reiterated that "it's about perfect practice. It's about preparation. It's about being able to relax. The same things you do in the regular season.
"Nothing changes in the postseason if you don't change it, other than the spotlight is a little brighter."
"When you're as smart as Jim, your concentration level is off the charts," said former teammate and World Series-winning manager Davey Johnson. "Jim was not a nervous pitcher. He was so much in the moment, one pitch at a time. He knew the hitters and what their strengths were, so he could avoid those. That's why he was a great pitcher."
Palmer amassed a 268-152 regular season lifetime won/loss record, good for a great .638 winning percentage and a career ERA of 2.68.
Former Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor, who joined the team in 1976, said Palmer had "that determination and that drive to be the best."
Following a career playing for the Orioles, Palmer has been an analyst for the team's TV broadcasts for the last 26 years. He also was an ABC baseball analyst from 1978-95. He and his wife Susan live in Southern California and Florida. He has two daughters and a son.
Palmer was the national sports chairman for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for over two decades and is still involved in the organization.
Born in New York City, he was adopted at birth by Max and Polly Wiesen, a New York City couple. Max Wiesen owned two dress companies.
Young Jim had a great childhood in New York until his adoptive father died suddenly of a heart attack. Jim was 9 and his mother moved him and his sister, also adopted, to Beverly Hills, Calif. His mother remarried, to a character actor named Max Palmer. Jim took Palmer's name.
When it came to all three of his adoptive parents, Palmer says "I won the lottery. They were loving and supportive and taught me the difference between right and wrong."
The Palmer family relocated to Arizona where in high school Palmer starred in baseball, basketball and football.
He passed up a chance to play basketball at UCLA under John Wooden to sign with the Orioles in 1963. He then reported to Aberdeen, S.D., the Orioles' Class A minor league team where his manager was Ripken Sr., the father of Cal Ripken Jr.
Palmer said Ripken Sr. instilled "a work ethic" in young ballplayers. "One of the things Cal told us is: There are no such things as shortcuts. Try to come to the ballpark every day and have the passion to get a little bit better. It was Cal who said it's not about practice, it's about perfect practice."
After one season in the minors, Palmer made the Orioles opening day roster at 19, in 1965. The Orioles, by design, roomed him on the road with future Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts who, at 38, was at the end of his career. "I don't end up being the pitcher I became if my roommate wasn't Robin Roberts," Palmer said. "He pretty much taught me all I needed to know about pitching."
The inquisitive Palmer peppered Roberts with questions. "It's not what you know or who you know," Palmer said in his book. "It's who you know and taking the time to find out what they know." He also said it's important to pass along that knowledge.
Recalled MacGregor, "Jim always told me and I heard him say to the other guys, 'If you want to be the best, you've got to work harder than the rest.' And that was his motto."
Still, Palmer was blessed with great physical gifts for a pitcher: 190 pounds on a lanky 6-foot-3-inch frame with long arms. He had a great fastball, and good looks that led to him being Jockey International's underwear spokesman for 20 years.
"Even though Jim was by far the most athletic of all of our pitchers, he was also the hardest worker," said former Orioles pitcher Dave Leonhard. "His desire to be the best was unrivaled. His attention to detail; unbelievable. Jim also had a very clean lifestyle. He ate properly and didn't drink or party. He was very, very serious about his craft."
"I worked hard to nurture the athletic gifts that had been bestowed on me," Palmer wrote. "People have accused me of being a perfectionist, as if that word carries a negative connotation. I've never understood that. Should we make it our goal to be average? Why would anybody do that? You work as hard as you do to separate yourself from the pack."
After getting off to a 3-1 start in 1967, Palmer developed arm problems. The Orioles manager was Hank Bauer, a former major league player who'd also been a combat platoon leader in World War II. Bauer "had a rub-dirt-on-it attitude toward injuries," Palmer wrote.
Bauer was convinced Palmer's pain was all in his head. " 'OK, Hank,' " Palmer said in frustration one day, " 'If it's all in my head, why doesn't my head hurt when I throw the ball?' "
Rehabbing An Injury
Palmer wound up being diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff and spent almost two years rehabbing his injury.
Palmer's experience with adversity led him to cite psychology professor Angela Lee Duckworth, who said in a TED Talk that her research showed that "a significant predictor of success … was grit. Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals."
Palmer also wrote: "A positive organizational culture helps energize people and make them more successful. Make sure that you create a culture and an environment where your employees feel they can come to you with concerns."
By 1969 Palmer was back and so were the Orioles. Palmer compiled a 16-4 record and a 2.34 ERA and the team went 109-53 to win the American League's Eastern Division. Palmer won the third and deciding game against the Minnesota Twins in the divisional playoffs to punch the Orioles' World Series ticket.
After his arm injury, Palmer won 20 games for four consecutive years. He battled injuries again in 1974, and then came back with another four consecutive years of winning 20 games or more.
In Palmer's last season, 1983, the Orioles beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series four games to one. Palmer was the winning pitcher in Game 3, pitching two innings of scoreless relief the day before his 39th birthday.
"I still think it's about work ethic," Palmer said of his long career in the spotlight. "Once you have a little bit of success, you never really take it lightly."
Jim Palmer: Keys
Pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, 1965-1983. Career won-loss record of 268-152 and winner of three Cy Young Awards. Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 1990.
Overcame: A serious arm injury in his third year in the majors that doctors weren't sure how to treat.
Lesson: Persevere during the hard times and search for answers.
"I wouldn't have been able to mount a successful comeback if I hadn't developed new skills. I was never going to be the fastball pitcher that I was before my injuries. So I became more of a control pitcher."
These quotes of the week include four thoughts on persistence and another on accepting responsibility for failure.
I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the nonsuccessful ones is pure perseverance. Steve Jobs,Apple co-founder
Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well. Dwight Eisenhower,34th U.S. president
On Bouncing Back
Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even. Muhammad Ali,boxer
Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you'll be criticized anyway. Eleanor Roosevelt,first lady of the U.S. (1933-1945), activist and diplomat
There is no success without hardship. Sophocles,poet
You must persevere to get past those roadblocks that inevitably crop up in any venture. Get past them by having unshakable faith in what you're doing. That's how leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt forged ahead.
"Ask yourself what values and causes you believe in personally," said Antigoni Ladd, co-owner with her husband, Everett, of the Gettysburg, Pa.-based Tigrett Leadership Academy, which uses examples from history in its lessons.
Set your goals.Abraham Lincoln met with plenty of opposition in trying to unite the country under his vision, Ladd says. He wanted the U.S. to be a model of democracy for the world. That view helped him persevere even as he encountered fierce opposition.
"Persistence is doing whatever it takes to get you to your vision," Ladd said. "Lincoln was driven by his vision of what the U.S. should be. He was certain of what he wanted for the long term, so if he had a failure, he kept going."
Have conviction. Stick to your guns if you're confident in your ideas. Even when Winston Churchill was out of favor with British parliament before World War II began, he could see Germany was rearming. He gathered reports and studied the situation, Ladd says. Once he became prime minister, he was prepared. He sold Britain's war cabinet and the British people on the importance of going to war to stop Germany.
"He was so embedded in that vision of victory!" Ladd said.
Expect a roadblock. If you're striving to achieve something important, it's inevitable that you'll hit obstacles on the way.
"Any great accomplishment at one time was considered an impossible dream," said Joe Tye, CEO and head coach at Solon, Iowa-based consulting and training firm Values Coach. "The bigger the dream, the bigger the challenges."
Get ready. Prepare at all levels to persevere to get past hurdles, keep a positive outlook and have a clear vision of what you want to achieve to overcome them, Tye says. Many new businesses fail, but Tye says it's up to the owner. Leaders who persevere by making a call to one more bank or check in with one more potential client tend to succeed, he says.
"Businesses do not fail; owners quit," he said.
Keep at it. When Harland Sanders started trying to franchise his fried chicken concept he was rejected by many restaurants (legend has it he received 1,009 rejections) before succeeding. He had worked hard perfecting his combination of spices and method of cooking the chicken in a pressure cooker. Restaurant owners continually told him that they already knew how to make fried chicken. He forged on until he built it into Kentucky Fried Chicken.
"He knew what he wanted to accomplish and refused to give up," Ladd said.
Address the problem. It's vital to make sure your group doesn't start to lose faith if you encounter obstacles. If morale begins to slip, find the cause and deal with it. It might be a disgruntled member talking negatively or a communication problem you need to rectify.
"Once the cause is discovered and the situation can be corrected, the team morale will again enter a positive zone, all due to the perseverance of the team leader," Ladd said.
Know when to shift. Tye calls it a "broad and fuzzy line" between sticking to your guns and stubbornly persevering in your beliefs, even if your plan is unworkable.
"If something is not working, try something else, but don't quit," Tye said.
See opportunity. View hurdles as chances to achieve. Tye believes that Randy Pausch, the late Carnegie Mellon University professor who wrote " The Last Lecture," said it best: "Brick walls are not there to keep us out. Brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something."
Advisors love what they do. But they don't necessarily love what it takes to attract clients.
Marketing often represents one of the least pleasurable aspects of the business. Devising a strategy to sell yourself and your expertise to your target demographic can prove exhausting and expensive.
Savvy advisors streamline the marketing process. They produce more results in less time, and enjoy it as well.
"When I started my practice in 2009, I didn't know much about marketing," said Ara Oghoorian, a certified financial planner in Encino, Calif. He tried different approaches before finding a fun, satisfying solution: He joined a networking group.
Every month, he attends a members-only mixer with local professionals in various businesses. Examples include attorneys, accountants and insurance agents.
Called ProVisors, the membership organization arranges monthly meetings for participants to mingle with each other. In the weeks between meetings, each attendee can join two other members for coffee or lunch.
"In these informal meetings, called troikas, you can learn more about other members," Oghoorian said. Professional relationships blossom along with referrals from within the network.
Oghoorian credits the group for helping him engage in marketing that's low risk and high reward.
"It has been great for our business," he said. "People are vetted and it's a small community. And you make connections to a wide network of experts with unique specialties."
Host An Event
Traditionally, advisors embark on marketing campaigns that center on advertising and other forms of brand-building. They hunt for referrals and cultivate centers of influence (such as lawyers and insurance providers).
These activities can pay off over time. But many advisors say they'd rather spend time helping clients plan their financial future than chase after leads and curry favor with attorneys and such.
"I think creative marketing works better than the traditional approach," said Bridget Grimes, a certified financial planner in San Diego, Calif. "Trying different ways to get yourself out there" can turn marketing into a more productive, stimulating exercise.
About 10 years ago, for example, Grimes experimented with a new marketing tactic: She hosted a group of professional women for a monthly gathering.
The meetings proved popular, and Grimes kept it up. Because her firm's niche is female executives and entrepreneurs, the events doubled as marketing outreach for her practice.
"These women work really hard, and they may have less time to focus on quality of life," she said. "So I bring in guest speakers like a nutritionist, personal trainer and even someone who gave luggage-packing tips."
She limits the size to 12 prospects and clients. She doesn't pitch her services — or charge a fee — to attendees.
"With a small group you can have meaningful conversation," Grimes said. "These programs keep me in front of people. Clients don't forget you. And others pop in. I've got a couple dozen new clients through these meetings in recent years."
She holds the sessions at her firm's office. They start at 5:30 p.m. and run for 90 minutes. Her out-of-pocket cost is minimal — around $100 a month — to cover wine, appetizers and Mailchimp, an email marketing tool.
Add Your Photo
For Grimes, author of "Corner Office Choices," one of the benefits of hosting monthly gatherings is the camaraderie. Chatting with each group makes marketing fun, not laborious.
Years ago, she would invite over 50 women to her events and held them in hotel conference rooms. With such a large crowd, she couldn't get to know them as well.
"I want to talk to the people who show up," Grimes said. "When you limit it to a small group, you really make a connection with everyone in the room."
Some of the easiest marketing techniques are also the simplest. Branded calendars and other giveaways can serve as ongoing reminders of your expertise.
For Mark Snyder, establishing his presence meant making himself recognizable in his community. So he boosted his visibility by including his photo on all his marketing materials.
"I put my picture on everything," said Snyder, an advisor in Medford, N.Y. "My photo was on my newspaper advertisements, my newsletters, my website. Now when I walk into a restaurant, they say, 'I know you. You're a financial advisor.' "
Over the years, he has also sought to gain inclusion on "top advisor" lists assembled by financial publications. He never paid for such notoriety, but he did complete an application process.
"It's not that hard," he said. "I sent in information (about my practice). They interviewed me. And once you're on a list, you not only get a few clients out of it but you can constantly advertise it."
In 1933, General Motors ( GM) considered eliminating its Pontiac division. Sales had fallen 80% since the stock market crash four years earlier, and it didn't seem likely that this trend would be reversed anytime soon. So Harley Earl, the head of the company's styling department, dispatched one of his designers to look at the mock-up of the new model prepared by the division's engineers.
Told that it looked exactly like the 1932 car, Earl put his group into high gear and within two weeks they came up with a revised design that doubled sales that model year — and saved the Pontiac nameplate for more than 60 years.
"Earl practically invented the profession of automobile styling. He introduced art into the rigid mechanics of mass automobile manufacturing and thereby changed the game forever."
In a sense, Earl was born to the job. He grew up in Southern California where his father, J.W. Earl, ran a business building horse-drawn vehicles. In 1908, J.W. started Earl Automobile Works.
Harley soon developed a way to customize factory-built cars by repainting them other than the standard manufacturer-offered colors, by adding wire wheels and generally doing what he called "dolling them up."
His reputation spread and movie stars soon became regular customers. Mary Pickford, Tom Mix, Douglas Fairbanks, Mabel Normand and Fatty Arbuckle were regular customers. Word of his designs spread beyond Tinseltown, and he was visited, in late 1925, by Lawrence Fisher, one of the brothers of Fisher Body.
At the time, Lawrence was head of GM's Cadillac division. Impressed by what he saw, he asked Earl to design the LaSalle, a new nameplate that the company planned to introduce in the 1927 model year. He did and it was met with rave notices. This inspired Fisher and GM CEO Alfred Sloan to offer Earl a job at first designing Cadillacs — but fully intending to expand his purview to the entire corporate line.
Previously, changes to cars' designs were almost exclusively a function of engineering improvements, not style. Earl's appointment changed that — but not without a fight. Engineers fought him tooth and nail. In fact, they once adjusted Earl's design of a special anniversary edition Buick without his knowledge. He would have none of it.
Knowing What Movie Stars Liked
Asked in a phone interview with IBD to name Earl's most important trait, biographer Knoedelseder said:
"His determination. His fierceness. When you have an idea that no one else has and you want to push it through, you have to be relentless and fierce. He had a really good idea of what Americans wanted, and I think he got it growing up in the world where motion pictures were made. He knew what movie stars liked and he knew Americans liked what movie stars liked."
And what was that? "Longer. Lower. Wider. Sleeker. That's what he thought cars should be. A greyhound, he used to say, is more attractive than a bulldog."
One reason car designs stayed relatively unchanged in the pre-Earl era is the high cost of retooling production lines. "Earl came up with a way to change the look of the cars without bringing down the corporation because of multimillion-dollar retooling costs," Knoedelseder said.
From Concept To Reality
Earl and his staff in GM's Art and Color group were asked to design a new Cadillac for the Chicago World's Fair, whose theme was "A Century of Progress." Called the Aerodynamic Coupe, the auto featured a V-16 engine (the first for an American passenger car), a sloping fastback rear and the absence of running boards.
It was intended to be the first-ever concept car, an automobile not intended for mass production. Instead a concept car was envisioned exclusively for car shows around the country, to whet the public's appetite for what the future held. But it proved so popular that it went into production for the 1936 model year.
Auto historians, Knoedelseder says, credit the Aerodynamic with ushering in the modern era of American car design. "It showed GM staff how much Harley and his staff could accomplish if given free rein."
In 1938, Earl's team designed what he labeled the Buick Y-Job. Among its now-standard features: a power convertible roof, power doors and windows, and retractable headlights. This proved the first true concept car in that it never went into production. But it didn't become a museum piece, either. Earl kept it for himself and began driving it to and from work every day. So it may also hold another distinction: the world's first vanity car.
Though his department created many forward-looking cars, Earl wasn't a traditional hands-on designer who drew styles he wanted. Nor could he always communicate his desires to his large staff. Knoedelseder thinks this might be because Earl was dyslexic.
"Dyslexics (sometimes) have trouble communicating because they see things from a different perspective. His way of creating was to say, 'I want to see everything, and when I see what I like I'll know.' He might look at a 100 drawings of a taillight. That's how he operated."
But he was open-minded. Bernie Smith, who worked for him and was responsible for the designs of the concept cars that GM put on display at the 1965 World's Fair, told IBD: "The best part of working for him is that he was very receptive to new designs and was willing to break down barriers."
Harley Earl And The Next Big Thing
The next big thing came after World War II. The war over, the auto companies returned to making cars in a market where demand often exceeded supply. GM decided to redesign its top-of-the line Cadillacs, figuring it could make more profit on the popular luxury car, and was the first off the line ahead of the rest of the business, with — wait for it — tail fins.
GM CEO Sloan liked the fins so much that he told the Cadillac division head, "Now you have a Cadillac in the rear as well as the front."
At first, the public seemed perplexed by the tail fins. Alarmed by falling sales, dealers called GM headquarters to insist the change was too radical and that something be done. But as the cars began appearing, perception changed and the fins became popular with the public — and every other American company.
But had the public consciousness not changed, Earl "would have been willing to give (the fins) up," Knoedelseder said. "He always knew the public had the final say. American buyers didn't like big wrenching changes, so if he saw them reacting negatively, he'd say, 'OK. That's it. We'll go on to something else.' "
But he was right far more often than not. In fact, his stock had risen so high that his style group's purview was expanded to include GM's Frigidaire home appliance division, and Earl even designed a locomotive for the company's Electro-Motive Division.
Competitors who at first scoffed at the idea of a style department soon opened their own, which in part prompted Earl to arrange with GM to offer scholarship grants to two well-known design schools, Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Art Center School in L.A., both of which added automobile design courses. He also started a school in Detroit, with classes held in the GM facilities.
Still, it came as something of a shock when Earl hired seven women, graduates of Pratt Institute, to join the testosterone-filled world of GM's Art and Color Division.
Damsels Of Detroit
"Research showed that women inordinately influenced which car a couple bought," Knoedelseder said. "So they made a big deal of hiring these seven women from Pratt, calling them the Damsels of Detroit.
"They really liked him and didn't see him as exploiting or taking advantage of them. They were making $5,000 a year, the same as the men.
"Still, he was a man of his time. He assigned them to work on car interiors. Not one of them got to work on car exteriors. One of them, Susan Vanderbilt, worked on safety and literally went out to junkyards to see what happens (to cars) in accidents. GM didn't want to play that up, that cars were dangerous."
Harley Earl's Keys
Created the concept of an automobile styling department.
Overcame: The creative blocks endemic in any artistic endeavor and resistance from automotive engineers.
Lesson: Be relentless in pursuit of ideas you believe in.
"I sometimes wander into their quarters, make some irrelevant or even zany observation and then leave. ... First-class minds will seize on anything out of the ordinary and race off looking for explanations or hidden meanings. That's all I want them to do. Start exercising their imaginations. The ideas will soon pop up."
Motivational and inspirational quotes by luminaries including Mary Barra, Edwin Land, Confucius, Jim Rohn and Mario Andretti.
Do every job you're in like you're going to do it for the rest of your life, and demonstrate that ownership of it. Mary Barra, businesswoman
An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail. Edwin Land, inventor
It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop. Confucius, philosopher
Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value. Jim Rohn, motivational speaker
Desire is the key to motivation, but it's the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek. Mario Andretti, race car driver
Advisors help clients make smart investments. So it figures that they practice what they preach.
Successful advisors don't just manage portfolios wisely and try to pick winning stocks. In a broader sense, they invest in themselves and their business so that they can deliver better service and accelerate their growth.
Like true entrepreneurs, advisors who launch their own firm must manage cash flow and squeeze the most value from every dollar they plow back into the business. And if they join a larger company, many still opt to invest in their education to sharpen their expertise.
For Monica Dwyer, earning her certified financial planner designation propelled her career. Seeking to expand her knowledge and establish herself in her field, she passed the CFP exam in 2009.
"It was a huge commitment," said Dwyer, an advisor in West Chester, Ohio. "At the time, I was working at Fidelity and I wanted to make myself as marketable as possible."
She estimates that she invested around $4,000 to get her CFP, although her employer reimbursed her for some of it. In terms of time, she spent parts of nearly nine months in the classroom followed by three months of additional studying for the test.
"It was intense," she recalled. "But it was a much better investment than my undergraduate degree, even though you need an undergraduate degree to get a CFP."
The experience also proved an eye-opener for Dwyer. Through her course of study, she gained a fuller understanding of how she could assist clients on a range of financial issues.
"It taught me there's this whole world out there with all these different areas I could pursue, from taxes to estate planning to trusts," she said.
Blaze Your Own Path
Some advisors enjoy long careers working for large financial institutions. Others reach a point where they decide to branch out on their own.
Tom Balcom, a certified financial planner in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla., spent over a decade in private wealth management before he launched his firm in 2010. He calls that move his best professional investment.
"It was a risk to go from a nice, stable paycheck to no stable paycheck," he said. "You go from certainty to uncertainty. But it improved my quality of life in so many ways."
Because Balcom had already earned an MBA degree, he knew how to write a business plan and project his expenses. Such diligent planning mitigated his risk.
"I created a budget that included rent, overhead and how much I'd need to charge to survive," he recalled. "I set aside emergency savings for cash flow and made sure I could pay all my bills."
After persevering through what he calls a "scary" first year, he knew that he'd succeed over the long term. Today, he raves about all the benefits of running his own shop: the flexibility to work with a variety of clients, the freedom to make his own investment decisions and the financial rewards of growing the business.
Upgrade Your Tech
For advisors who are always on the lookout for ways to improve their business operation, technology can prove a pivotal investment. Finding better ways to access and deliver information can pay off in spades.
Sean Curley, a certified financial planner in Greenwood Village, Colo., says one of the best investments over his nearly 25-year career as an advisor occurred just last year when he switched to an all-in-one technology platform. Previously, he says he grappled with at least three separate systems.
"There were pain points, including the complexity of the software and the lack of integration," he said. "We had this disjointed patchwork of systems."
He says the new, unified platform costs $14,000 a year, which is roughly 20% less than what he was paying previously for multiple systems. But the cost savings is only icing on the cake for Curley.
"Ease of use is the biggest savings," he said. "We now have a very intuitive user interface" that ties in cloud-based performance reporting, document storage, client web portal management and customer relationship management features such as taking and archiving notes on client communications.
Curley hails the new platform for helping enhance his client service. His staff can work more efficiently as well, allowing him to devote more time to clients and less time hassling with tech issues.
"With the prior systems, if a client called we had a five- to 10-minute process to get their performance history up on the screen," he said. "Now, we press a button and it's instantaneously there. So we can be more responsive to clients."
Workplace learning that bridges the gap between employee skills and company needs is critical to every firm. Knowing what talents workers bring to the table currently and predicting which skills a company will need to succeed in the future is tricky. Experts say focus on reducing the impact of automation. How? Help workers develop soft skills such as communication, adaptability and critical thinking.
"The skills gap is a very real thing, and if (leaders) are not encouraging employees to learn, it might not happen," Palmer told IBD. "Simply sending employees to class alone is not working."
Creating a workplace learning culture. Apple's ( AAPL) senior vice president of retail Angela Ahrendts wants to move 10% of the company's retail employees to other stores around the world to provide more learning and development opportunities, according to Palmer's book.
Starbucks ( SBUX) offers to pay full tuition to employees seeking a bachelor's degree at Arizona State University, if they work at least 20 hours a week. The goal: reduce high turnover.
Offering programs is not enough. A recent LinkedIn survey found that the No. 1 challenge facing talent development in 2018 is getting workers to make time for learning.
"Yet, 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development," the study stated. "The modern organization needs to meet learners where they already are — aligning development opportunities with employee aspirations, and engaging them through the platforms where they are already spending their time."
Understand power of peers. Your co-workers are often the best workplace learning resources, Palmer says.
"This idea that there is a central group that has all the knowledge is outdated," she said. "We have a wealth of knowledge from people who are learning these new skills within our company."
As a result, he came up with a list of articles, videos, classes and book chapters he found most helpful.
"Your employees become part of the curator group," Palmer said.
Combat content overload. There are thousands of online learning sources. You can easily become overwhelmed. Company leaders must guide employees. Curate the myriad resources. Help employees decide what they need to learn. Managing content overload also makes workplace learning efficient and cost-effective.
In their book, Palmer and Blake describe Mastercard's approach. As a client of Degreed.com, a learning portal of which Blake is a founder, Mastercard ( MA) lets employees search, curate, share and track learning resources on thousands of topics in various formats. The results: More employees signed up to learn new skills, less time was spent developing content and costs decreased.
Drill down. While a focus on learning soft skills can minimize the impact of automation, employers should also zero in on hard skills that will be in demand.
Key to addressing the hard skills gap is getting an accurate read of workers' current skills vs. what a company knows it will need. Palmer and Blake's clients measure with a Skills Quotient (SQ). SQ measures the skills required against the skills needed for individuals, teams and the entire company. It reflects the skill level and gap any person, team or organization has.
LinkedIn's survey says talent developers are working hardest on creating a robust workforce in cloud computing, data mining, integration software, web architecture and user interface designing. Not surprisingly, they're looking to boost hard skills in engineering, computer programming and data analysis.
For workers, the fast-changing needs of employers means one thing: Develop an ability to learn quickly.
"Learning agility is key," Palmer said. "If you can adapt and learn on the job, you will succeed."
Ralph Roberts, who became a pioneer of the modern cable television industry, didn't think that much of cable TV at first.
The future founder of cable TV, media and technology giant Comcast ( CMCSA) was 43 years old and thought the business lacked the seasonal and holiday marketing opportunities of his previous retail venture, men's fashion accessories. But Roberts' entrepreneurial curiosity led him to give cable a closer look
"I realized the cable business was the best of all the ones I had invested in and decided to go forward full boat," Roberts (1920-2015) told The Cable Center in an oral history interview. "It was exciting once we realized you got to develop programming and you could do other things that would make people want to buy. ... people loved cable television because more is better." Roberts also liked the steady residual cash flow that cable provided.
Dan Aaron, who was Comcast's head of operations, said in William Novak's "An Incredible Dream: Ralph Roberts and the Story of Comcast," that Roberts mulled over things endlessly until it was time to strike. Then, "once he goes into action, sparks fly."
"Once I make up my mind about something," Roberts said, "I like to stay the course."
And he did. Roberts was Comcast's president from 1969 to 1990, when he was succeeded by son Brian, and chairman of the board from 1969 to 2002. He then was chairman emeritus until his death at 95. Under Ralph Roberts' leadership Comcast became one of the largest global media and technology companies in the world. Its 2017 revenue was over $84.5 billion and it's the largest provider of home internet service in the U.S.
"In a big company you need certain fundamentals to believe in," Roberts said. "Around here, everyone knows that integrity comes first."
Aaron said that even when the company was just a speck on the map "(Roberts) expected that someday Comcast would be the General Motors ( GM) of the cable industry ... and everything he did was to prepare for that day." Aaron recalled that in 1969 Roberts was drawing up an organization chart — for the year 2000.
Roberts' son and current Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told IBD his father "had an incredible optimism, a risk-taking mentality, and a vision to build and go for it."
Because his father had a deep caring for his employees, "people would just walk on hot coals for him," Brian Roberts said. "He didn't ask for anything, he just supported and mentored you.
Ralph Roberts encouraged a supportive atmosphere where new ideas could be presented without fear of criticism. He said decision making was collective. "Everyone has the right to speak" with the goal to "make everyone feel involved."
"My father also listened better than anyone I know," Brian Roberts said. "He was in the moment, looked you in the eye and made you feel that you were most important person in the world to him."
Born in Manhattan and raised on Long Island, Ralph Roberts was the son of Russian immigrants. His father Robert, who passed along a burning desire to young Ralph to eventually be his own boss, went to pharmacy school and then owned a chain of drugstores in the New York City area.
But the Great Depression took its toll on the business, and tragedy came to the family when Ralph was 12, when his father died suddenly from a heart attack at 42.
Roberts recalled how his mother took charge: "She kept us strong, too. She didn't fall apart and bemoan her fate. She told us we could survive, and that we shouldn't feel sorry for ourselves."
Roberts' entrepreneurial spirit then emerged: "I was always thinking, 'How could I earn a little money by doing something nobody else has ever done?'" Ingenuity and drive created part-time moneymaking opportunities to help put himself through college. And in 1940, in the fall of his senior year at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the school announced an officer-recruitment program that promised a Navy commission. War loomed and Roberts joined up.
Roberts graduated in Spring 1941, and when the U.S. entered World War II that December he asked for a Navy combat assignment but was deemed more valuable to the war effort by utilizing his business skills. He was a lieutenant assigned as a materiel superintendent in the Philadelphia Navy Yard where warships were built and repaired. He went on to become a liaison officer with other Navy yards.
He wed aspiring actress Suzanne Fleisher in 1942, and the couple had five children.
After the war and his discharge from the Navy, Roberts partnered with an engineer in 1946 to develop products to manufacture. One was a golf putter that sold 100,000 units. Sales got a boost when Roberts got backstage where Bob Hope was entertaining and asked the legendary entertainer to pose for a picture with the putter. Roberts used the photo as marketing material.
"Everything was doing fine until one day, while I was swinging a recently made putter, it bent almost in half," Roberts recalled. "I grabbed the phone and called my partner: 'What happened? The shafts are bending like pretzels!' " It turned out to be a major manufacturing error, and Roberts decided it was time to find another business.
He found work as a copy writer in a Philadelphia advertising agency where one of his accounts was the Muzak Corp. and in 1951 he was offered a position as marketing and advertising director for that company.
After 2-1/2 years of commuting from Philadelphia to Muzak's New York City office, Roberts took a job in charge of marketing and advertising at Philadelphia-based Pioneer Suspender Co. — the nation's second largest manufacturer of men's fashion accessories such as belts, cuff links, tie tacks and suspenders. Roberts asked for a right of first refusal if the owners ever decided to sell, and when they did in 1955, he bought the company.
Roberts got needed financing from the Philadelphia National Bank by convincing the lender that if the business was sold to someone who moved it out of Philadelphia, 200 to 300 jobs would leave with it.
In 1961 Roberts, suspecting that trends in men's fashion such as beltless slacks did not bode well for his business, sold Pioneer and became a venture capitalist. That led to his meeting Dan Aaron, a cable television veteran who was brokering cable systems.
Aaron pitched Roberts on buying a small community-antenna TV system in Tupelo, Miss., in 1963 that had around 1,200 subscribers. Roberts agreed, provided that Aaron would run it, since Roberts knew nothing about the cable TV business. But Roberts saw a similarity to the operation of Muzak, where he eventually became a partner in several of its franchises: "You put in the equipment and every month they send you money."
"Ralph is not one to go into anything (in) which he didn't have expert partners," Julian Brodsky, who was Comcast's head of financing, said in 1999.
Ever the marketer, Roberts desired a new name for his company, then called American Cable Systems. He wanted an invented word like Xerox ( XRX) or Kodak ( KODK) so it could be registered as a trademark. "A name that isn't an actual word is easier to remember and to advertise," Roberts said. He created the name Comcast in 1969 and incorporated it in Pennsylvania.
Roberts and Aaron expanded Comcast by acquiring several cable systems throughout the United States. But Roberts insisted that each new entity be responsible for its own financing obligations. That way if a cable system failed it didn't affect the rest of the company.
Comcast went public in 1972 and by 1988 became the nation's fifth-largest cable-TV company with more than 2 million subscribers. With the onset of the digital age in the 1990s, Microsoft ( MSFT) founder Bill Gates made a billion-dollar investment in Comcast. Meanwhile, Comcast invested in content such the Golf Channel and QVC.
Under the direction of Ralph and Brian Roberts, Comcast bought AT&T's ( T) Broadband cable systems for $45 billion in 2002. The purchase made Comcast the nation's largest cable operator with 21 million customers.
In 2011, Comcast and General Electric ( GE) completed a $6.5 billion transaction that formed NBCUniversal, creating a global media and technology company. Comcast had a 51% ownership stake and picked up the other 49% in 2013 for $16.7 billion.
Through it all, Roberts, a dedicated family man, strove to infuse a family atmosphere into Comcast and set an example of kindness and compassion.
Comcast Chief Communications Officer D'Arcy Rudnay, who worked with Roberts for 12 years, said, "I never heard Ralph raise his voice, ever. Ralph was a most respectful and gentle human being and an extraordinary leader."
"How do you maintain a family culture when the company is so big?" Ralph Roberts said. "By being warm and friendly. … I urge employees to get to know the people in their own part of the company. That's your immediate family. Be kind, do favors, and offer help to those who may be having problems."
Among Ralph Roberts' numerous honors: He was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2003 he received the Steven J. Ross Humanitarian Award given by the UJA-Federation.
In 2009 Ralph Roberts and his family established the Roberts Proton Therapy Center to treat cancer patients.
Ralph Roberts' Keys
Founder of Comcast who served as its president, 1969-1970, chairman of the board, 1969-2002, and chairman emeritus, 2002-2015. Under Roberts it became one of the largest broadcasting and cable television companies in the world.
Overcame: Unfamiliarity with the cable TV business.
Lesson: It's not what you know; it's what you learn.
"I used to tell our people, 'It's OK to make mistakes. I make them every day because I'm doing too much, too fast. We all are. But let's learn from our mistakes and try to make sure they're not too big.' "
Kennedy On Respect
If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safer for diversity. John F. Kennedy, 35th U.S. president
O'Connor On Diligence
Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom. Sandra Day O'Connor, former Supreme Court justice
Michaels On Comedy
If your culture doesn't allow you to laugh at the leaders or things that your eyes and ears tell you are actually happening, that's not good. Lorne Michaels, TV producer
Cook On Impact
You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change. Tim Cook, Apple CEO
Orman On Priorities
People first, then money, then things. Suze Orman, financial advisor
Athletes talk about letting the game come to them. Similarly in today's business climate, you can let the customer come to you. But you have to entice them to do so with relevant content.
Today's consumer now goes online to research. They compare vendors and prices, and seek advice from peers on social media, says Iliyana Stareva, author of " Inbound PR."
In response, Stareva notes, many marketers have switched to an inbound approach that brings consumers to them.
Tips on doing so:
Change your perspective. Pull instead of pushing. Rather than sticking to old outbound tactics of direct mail or interruptive advertising, create relevant content that attracts people to your business, Stareva says.
She adds that a thought leadership blog and an engaging Facebook ( FB) or LinkedIn page are far more effective nowadays. Why? Because individuals decide whether to stay in the loop with what you're doing or not.
Outbound sales and marketing "tries to force people, and it no longer works," Stareva states. "Inbound, on the other hand, attracts them through valuable content designed specifically for them and shared on the channels that they use. When you leverage your owned media, you let your content be your 24/7 sales rep all year round, saving you time and bringing you results."
Personalize content. Your storytelling must always answer the question, "What's in it for me?" from your stakeholder persona's perspectives, not yours, Stareva says.
She says that 80% of people make purchasing decisions without ever speaking to a company representative. This means "they want you to help them make that decision through valuable content created specifically to answer their questions throughout their decision-making journey," she said.
Be aware of what your content really stands for and how you can make a difference in your audience's lives, says Justin Champion, author of " Inbound Content."
Doing so "will set the tone for your entire content marketing strategy," he adds.
Optimize your message. Creating content that enhances search engine rankings is another way to bring your customer to you.
And the best way to get your content ranking on search engines is to solve problems for the reader, Champion says. This as opposed to just optimizing your content for search engines.
Once you have a quality piece of original content that isn't just saying what everyone else is, "keep growing it to be best in class," he says. And make an effort to improve your website's domain authority by becoming a great link builder.
"This is what gets your content higher rankings on search engines."
Choose quality over quantity. It's better to have less but more in-depth content instead of a library of high-level underperforming content.
Champion reports 20% of HubSpot's ( HUBS) content accounts for 93% of their leads.
"Most people focus on creating content consistently as opposed to doubling down on creating quality content," Champion adds. "More content does not equal higher search engine rankings."
In fact, shallow content can hurt your domain authority.
Stay fluid. You don't just create content and then stagnate if you want to keep customers coming to you.
"If you make a plan and are consistent in approach, then you're giving yourself the best chance at achieving ROI from your content efforts," Champion said. "You'll have the opportunity to grow an expansive library of content, making you and your business content-wealthy."
He calls inbound marketing campaigns short-term strategic initiatives that are meant to support a long-term content strategy. "Consider launching one per quarter, every three months," he said. "Doing so will help you build a valuable and sustainable content machine."
Always test. What do customers want? Ask them.
"You should always be looking for opportunities to improve your content," Champion said. "The best way to do this is start with your current audience. Consider asking for feedback on the content they've consumed — what they like and what they want more of."
Anna Sutherland Bissell had the makings of a master brand-builder well before she took over the reins of the Bissell Carpet Co. following her husband's death in 1889.
Bissell (1846-1934) became one of America's first female CEOs and demonstrated strong leadership skills and marketing savvy from the start of the carpet-sweeper manufacturing business that she co-founded with her husband Melville. He invented an innovative, one-of-a-kind carpet sweeper and the couple patented the device and began selling it in 1876. Their company was incorporated in 1883, and the sweeper caught on in a big way.
Anna Bissell, meanwhile, learned every aspect of the business from sales and advertising to production. She traveled with her husband from town to town on sales calls to stores, becoming a top-notch salesperson and brand promoter.
When her husband died, Anna was left to raise four children alone. But she was well-prepared to take on the challenge of leading the company, drawing on leadership skills, entrepreneurial instincts and marketing prowess to build on the success that she and her husband established. Her goal: transform the company into a megabrand.
"She possessed a successful combination of intelligence, logic and intuition, and provided ethical leadership," Bissell company representatives told IBD in an email interview. "Anna was an extremely caring person, not only as a business leader but within her community."
Bissell was president and CEO of Bissell Carpet from 1889 through 1919. She remained chair of the board until 1934. During that time she developed and built the carpet-sweeper maker and marketer into a leading international brand. (The company's name changed to The Bissell Corp. in 1923 and to its current one, Bissell Inc., in 1959.)
Thanks to Bissell's strong leadership skills, aggressive marketing, insistence on product quality, and a big push into international markets, by 1899 she had created the largest corporation of its kind in the world and the world leader in home-cleaning appliances.
Bissell laid the groundwork for the success of what today continues as the family-owned Bissell Inc. Bissell is the top-selling brand in floor-care appliances based on NPD Group unit sales, according to the company website. Anna Bissell was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of fame in 1989.
"Anna Bissell built a reputable company with great, high-quality products and a heritage that her descendants are proud to continue," said the company's archivists.
Confidence And Drive
Bissell achieved great success as a business leader drawing on her own resources and self-confidence.
"Anna Bissell's success was due to her hard work, intelligence, personality, and inspiration of those around her," the archivists added. "She was clever, sure and not discouraged by hard work."
A 1904 article in the Michigan Artisan described Bissell's leadership style this way: "She takes a deep interest, constantly keeping in close touch with the business, and by her kindly ways and sincere consideration for all her employees, inspires results that, without such influence, could hardly be achieved."
As CEO, Bissell took responsibility for every aspect of the business. For example, in 1884, before her era as CEO, the company's factory burned down and was not fully insured.
"Anna showed great leadership and secured loans from the bank 19 days after the fire," said the archivists. "She was willing to pledge all her assets to secure the future of the company."
Adds Jo Ellyn Clarey, researcher and past president of the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council: "She was savvy and determined as a leader, and I would say that she had good common sense. And she was bold. From the beginning she was a partner in the business."
Bissell's ability to build a megabrand was sharpened by her partnership in the business.
"She was always interested in her husband's activities and studied his business as many women study French," wrote her daughter Anna Bissell McCay in her book, "Recollections of Anna Bissell McCay." "She took no small part in the early development of the business, traveled extensively in the company's interest, and secured the first order John Wanamaker (department store) of Philadelphia ever gave for carpet sweepers. There was no detail of the business with which she was not familiar."
Added Sally J. Bjork, former project curator of the Bissell Collection, in a 1991 speech entitled "Anna Sutherland Bissell: Pioneer Businesswoman," presented by the Public Museum of Grand Rapids: "By understanding the market, and knowing what it would take in creating demand for their product, Bissell achieved tremendous success under the management of Anna."
Bissell Explores New Territory
As CEO, Bissell wasn't afraid to tread on new territory to achieve success. That included building the company and the product into an international brand with a big push overseas.
"The keys (to building the company into an international brand) were surrounding herself with great people and establishing trading offices in New York and Paris to give the company a worldwide reach," said the archivists. "It was also important to have a product the public wanted to buy at a variety of price points, provide a quality product that stores wanted to sell and employ great salesmen to spread the message around the world."
She also "vigorously defended" the company's patents and never lost a lawsuit, they added.
"She was an interesting combination of shrewdness and caution," researcher Clarey told IBD. "She was notorious for protecting their patents. She is credited with establishing guidelines for their trademarks and their patents. And she wasn't afraid of legal action to protect their patents. "
Bissell found ways to be creative and innovative with the product, despite the fact that when she was CEO, Bissell Carpet only made sweepers.
"The company was innovative in that it was continually finding different designs, woods, and iterations of the sweeper to market to every type of household in the world," said the archivists.
She was also innovative on the labor front.
"Anna was known as a progressive executive, who showed concern for her employees, introducing innovative labor-relations policies, employee compensation, insurance, pension plans and paid sick leave long before these practices were widespread," according to the company's website.
Such labor policies and practices may well have helped motivate employees and develop loyalty.
Bissell was not only strategic as a leader, she was also a hands-on executive.
"Anna was involved in every aspect of the business," said the company archivists. "She traveled extensively in the company's interest."
In terms of community leadership, Bissell was active in many civic and philanthropic organizations, especially in programs for the welfare of children. Among them was the Bissell House, which she funded and established. She also sat on the board of the D.A. Blodgett Home for children, among other involvements.
Bissell was able to strike a balance between raising a family and being a business leader.
"She was a devoted wife and mother and society leader," wrote McCay in her book.
And Bissell showed her true character when she took over the company's helm.
"In many texts, the era and her gender were often referred to as a setback," said the archivists. "But Anna Bissell's legacy refutes that notion."
They cite this statement from Bjork's speech: "Anna revealed her true courageous and progressive character. She could have, as some women if her era might have done, looked to the gender stigmas of Victorian times and handed the position over to a male, or sold the company. … She took control of the company and carried on the policies that brought the company into its initial success."
Took over the reins of Bissell Carpet Sweeper Co. as a widow and built it into the largest company of its kind at the time
Overcame: The challenge of building a megabrand and being a female executive during Victorian times
Lesson: Believe in yourself and your capabilities and you will achieve success.
"Trusting her own judgment even in the face of discouragement, she had great self reliance, believed in enterprise, and had faith in her own resources." (McCay)
Years ago, many advisors would set minimum asset requirements to accept new clients. If you had enough money, you could come aboard.
Today, taking only those individuals with assets above a certain amount remains somewhat common. But exceptions abound.
Bob Veres, a popular commentator on the financial planning industry, believes that the revenue model of charging a percentage of assets under management — and limiting your incoming clients to those with, say, at least $500,000 or $1 million in assets — will fade in time.
"How many professions out there, when the consumer asks how much the service will charge, does the professional answer, 'I'm not sure. How much have you got?' " said Veres, author of "The New Profession." "Now it's time for the (financial planning) profession to take the next step and charge based on the time spent, the services required and the value of those services — the way doctors, lawyers and accountants do."
For advisors who abandon minimum asset requirements, the shift can prove rocky at first. They need to reconfigure their firm to handle a more diverse mix of clients and a different set of needs.
Navigating the transition starts with a firm grasp of how you spend your time during a typical workday and how you seek to provide value and differentiate your service. It also helps to analyze your client base and determine what motivates you to excel.
"It can be an enjoyable relationship to work with the mass affluent (those with $100,000 to $1 million in liquid assets)," said Dennis Nolte, a certified financial planner in Winter Park, Fla. "It can be easy to do business with them."
Pros And Cons
Over his 29-year career in financial planning, Nolte has accepted clients regardless of asset size as well as tried raising his minimum requirement from zero to $500,000. During that two-year experiment, he says he "gave away the lowest 20% of my book of business" to focus on wealthier clients.
When he served only high-net-worth individuals, Nolte says he spent much of his time "putting out fires." And he missed helping a wider range of clients address their comprehensive financial planning needs.
"When the phone rings and you have only big clients, the relationship can be more stressful," Nolte said. "There's also more at risk if you have fewer large clients than more small clients. And the bigger ones can be more demanding."
He adds that minimum asset requirements can work well for advisors who thrive on assisting affluent clients who face complex financial decisions. Some planners prefer the intensity and intimacy that flows from providing sophisticated advice to well-heeled individuals and their families.
"If your goal of your practice is to get deep into client relationships, a smaller practice with higher minimums can make sense," he said. "And if too many people with less assets are taking up your time," that's another signal to consider setting asset minimums.
On the other hand, managing a practice where you only accept newcomers with high assets comes at a cost. You may need to lavish those clients with perks — from golf outings to wine tastings — and create an opulent office environment that reinforces your commitment to exclusivity.
Younger Clients, Lower Costs
Even for those advisors who stick with minimum asset requirements, the rules need not apply to all. Advisors can make adjustments on a case-by-case basis.
"In theory, any advisor with minimums can make exceptions," said Mike Giefer, a certified financial planner in Minneapolis. "Every office has some degree of flexibility."
Founded in 1994, Giefer's firm has generally required $1 million in assets to accept new clients in recent years. In 2016, it introduced a program called "Foundations" to appeal to clients' offspring.
"A lot of our clients' children were in their 20s and 30s, and we wanted to add value to their lives as a service to our existing clients," Giefer recalled. "Foundations was a more natural approach than carving out lots of one-off exceptions. Formalizing the process made it more efficient for us."
Giefer cites technological advances as a key to serving a broader range of clients while maintaining profitability. His firm uses Schwab Intelligent Portfolios as a robo-platform to help bring on and serve younger professionals.
"It's less client complexity from a planning standpoint and less manual effort on our end," he said. "For those younger clients, we settled on 65 basis points instead of a 1% asset-under-management charge. There's some upfront time involved to set up their accounts and set up a plan for them. But after that, it's about executing that platform, so we don't need to charge as much over time."
Brown On Goals
The only thing that stands between you and your dream is the will to try and the belief that it is actually possible. Joel Brown,entrepreneur
Cote On Leadership
To lead, you have to address what people really want to know in a simple, transparent way. Just treating people with respect makes a big difference. David Cote, former CEO, Honeywell
Dubyak On Commitment
When the job becomes so much more than a job — when you apply your full emotional, intellectual and psychological energies toward a cause — you are fully invested in its success. Michael Dubyak,former CEO, WEX
Bariso On Trust
One of the quickest ways to gain someone's trust is to help that person. Justin Bariso, author
Hollingworth On Courage
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. James Neil Hollingworth, writer
When Goldman Sachs sought the right name for its new online banking service in 2016, it could have dreamed up a trendy-sounding moniker like Venmo or Zelle. But it settled on Marcus instead.
Marcus, as in Marcus Goldman (born Mark Goldmann), founded the storied financial firm in 1869, and he certainly didn't carry a smartphone. But the business philosophies Goldman espoused in the 1800s — which turned his firm into one of the longest-lived amid the tumult of Wall Street — apply as much now as they did then.
"Inspired by Marcus Goldman, we put our customers at the center of everything we do," Goldman Sachs spokeswoman Maria Gonzalez told IBD.
Scores of rival firms like Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns have faded away. But Goldman Sachs is still standing. It is valued at north of $80 billion. The investment bank is a key player in most major financial transactions ranging from underwriting to complex trading. The who's who of financial heavy hitters have crossed through Goldman's doors at some time. Notable alumni include former U.S. Secretaries of the Treasury Robert Rubin and Henry Paulsen, and current Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Recipe For Success
But it all started with Marcus' simple rule for success in business: Be willing to look for opportunities and adapt to meet them.
"I think it is a great compliment to him that so many people still call the firm, 'Goldman' even though nearly a century has passed since a Goldman was there," Charles Ellis, financial consultant, historian and professor at Yale University and Harvard University, told IBD. "He was clearly brilliant and creative in finance during times when financial creativity was unusual."
Goldman modified his personal business strategies and approaches several times during his life before hitting upon historic success, creating a recipe that's worked since, including:
Build new skills even if they don't yet fit your interests. Goldman built businesses by finding people with problems and helping to solve them — a result of how he grew up, Sheri Caplan, financial writer and author of the essay "Marcus Goldman," told IBD. "Goldman's upbringing resounded in his business approach," she said.
This was a skill he first learned in part from observing his father. Goldman was born in 1821 in Trappstadt, Germany. He watched his father master the art of bartering to get better prices for cattle sold at market.
The ability to adapt served Goldman well after leaving Germany for better opportunities in the United States. Upon reaching Philadelphia at age 27, Goldman looked for work. His landlady's son, Manfred Muller, peddled consumer goods like tobacco. But he was limited to what he could sell from the first floor of their boardinghouse. So for three years, Goldman drove a horse-drawn wagon through the town's streets selling a broader array of items, according to " When Money Was in Fashion," by June Breton Fisher. This experience helped Goldman improve his English and learn how to sell directly to consumers.
Another, more dramatic transition would come next. Goldman noticed the throngs of German immigrants arriving in Philadelphia in need of low-cost but durable clothing. Again, he saw an opportunity. Goldman financed the purchase of a sewing machine at what today would be hundreds of dollars. Goldman morphed from a dry goods seller to clothing retailer on High Street, going as far as to Americanize his last name by dropping the second "n" in Goldmann. The clothing business boomed. Goldman again found a market others missed or failed to see much value in.
"Arriving penniless in the U.S. as a young man, he relied upon himself but observed others' successes and examined opportunities available to him," Caplan said.
With capital from his first successful business and the ability to spot markets, Goldman would make another change that would prove even more lucrative.
Find a niche, especially one others think is too small. Eyeing faster growth in New York, Goldman saw a new opportunity to reinvent himself again in 1869. He sold his clothing business and moved with his family. This time his goal was tapping the world of finance. "Exactly why Goldman decided to become a banker is not entirely clear, but it is not difficult to understand how he might have arrived at the decision," Caplan said. Other successful German-Jewish families jumped between retail and finance, so there was a precedent to follow.
Goldman's skill was the ability to find a niche. From a modest office on Pine Street in Manhattan, Goldman specialized in the unglamorous business of "trade bills."
Jewelers, tanners and other retailers in New York received IOUs from their customers worth upward of tens of thousands in today's dollars. These promissory notes strained retailers' cash reserves, as many would have to pay for their raw materials in cash, only to get these IOUs in return. Traditional banks didn't want to bother with what were trivial accounts for them. Goldman saw this as an opportunity.
Working alone to keep costs down, but dressed sharply in a Prince Albert coat and tall hat, Goldman paid merchants cash for their promissory notes at 8% to 9% below face value, according to Ellis' "The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs."
Merchants were thrilled to get quick access to cash at better terms than banks would provide. He could then sell the notes to commercial bankers at a 1.5% commission. "Goldman excelled at identifying business opportunities and market niches," Caplan said.
Stay close to customers. Goldman wasn't the only person "note shaving" at the time. But he used personal techniques to do it a little better than most. Staying close to customers — literally and figuratively — was one of his secrets. Rather than dashing between customers to buy notes, he walked the streets. This way he noted other shopkeepers with short-term financing needs, Fisher says. Business was strong — by the 1890s, Goldman's firm "was the nation's largest dealer in commercial paper," Ellis said.
This closeness to customers gave Goldman the ability to pioneer what would become the commercial paper market. This market has grown into an important corner of the fixed-income market. Today it is valued at more than $1 trillion, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Know when to bring in a team. Goldman's own work ethic and ability to keep costs down got him far. For many years, he had just one employee — a bookkeeper — and did most of the work himself. But to reach his stretch goal, buying a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, he'd need a larger team. Goldman recruited Samuel Sachs, the son of a family friend, to join the firm. Goldman would become Goldman, Sachs & Co. as more family and friends joined. By 1896, Marcus joined the NYSE, well before his death in 1904. "Goldman prized and rewarded ambition, hard work, and family," Caplan said.
Avoid the trappings of success. Goldman remained focused on keeping and building on his success. During the early days of his firm, Goldman's business was marked by a shingle that simply read, "Marcus Goldman, Banker and Broker." Goldman focused on investing, not spending, even as his wealth grew. He'd bristle at conversations about the latest (and expensive) fashions with the response, "Money is always fashionable," Caplan said.
He shunned publicity, preferring quiet hard work. By the time Goldman died, the financial firm he founded was one of the most successful in history. Yet the New York Times announced his death in a sparse obituary. It stated the basics and: "It is earnestly requested to send no flowers."
Goldman's legacy is a firm of influence and prestige few can emulate. "Goldman emphasized client service and reputation in his business dealings while disdaining publicity, and these values permeated the culture of his firm," Caplan said. "The firm's prestigious image remained largely unscathed."
And now one of Goldman Sachs' latest offerings for consumers bears his name. "In 1869, Marcus Goldman set up shop, beginning a long history of bringing financial expertise to clients," Goldman Sachs' Gonzalez said. "Today, the variety of financial services and products from Marcus by Goldman Sachs puts technology and 148 years of financial expertise to work for our customers."
Overcame: Religious discrimination in native Germany.
Lesson: Look for overlooked areas of growth, and develop the skills on the fly to prosper.
"Goldman excelled at identifying business opportunities and market niches. His strong work ethic, tenacity, intellect, and ambition underpinned his success." (Sheri Caplan, financial writer)
Of all the topics that arise in client conversations, Social Security can pose particular challenges for advisors. Planning when to claim benefits can stoke confusion and spark debate.
For starters, advisors often educate clients about the basics of this federal program. Many individuals may not realize that Social Security is more than a source of retirement income and that some disabled adults and children can qualify.
Others assume that they must wait to reach a certain age, such as 65, to receive Social Security retirement benefits. Depending on a client's age, advisors may walk them through the pros and cons of taking these payments as early as age 62.
Some clients are surprised to learn that their nonworking spouse is eligible for Social Security. Even spouses who have never generated an income can qualify for benefits.
"A lot of clients don't understand spousal benefits," said Keith Fenstad, a certified financial planner in Houston. "When I tell a client that your wife who has never worked will get up to half of your full retirement benefit, they often reply, 'Really?' "
Bob Phillips, a 61-year-old certified financial planner in Indianapolis, helps clients focus on the interplay between spousal benefits and their timing in claiming Social Security. Because people are living longer, he explains to clients that after the first spouse dies (typically, the male with higher earnings), the surviving spouse will receive the deceased spouse's higher benefit for life.
"By delaying getting benefits, your surviving spouse can get more later on," he said. "We view it as a kind of insurance policy."
Will Social Security Survive?
For many individuals, the core issue is when to claim Social Security. They may attempt to calculate how long they must live to break even, depending on the age they choose to sign up for benefits.
"They tend to go through this mental exercise," Phillips said. "Often, it's based on how well they feel medical-wise. But that's a mistake."
Instead, he redirects clients to assess their long-term financial situation and cash-flow projections for the rest of their lifetime. From there, it becomes easier to integrate Social Security benefits into their future.
For some clients, the concern isn't when to claim benefits but whether the money will be there when they need it. Skeptics sometimes tell Phillips that they want to take it at age 62, before the funds run out.
"The biggest misconception is fear that the Social Security system will collapse," he said. "So we talk about it from a historical perspective. We believe the program will change at some point, but Congress has never changed it for anyone in the system or close to retirement."
Even if clients are reassured about Social Security's solvency over the coming years, advisors may still need to address other issues. In 2015, Congress eliminated the "file and suspend" claiming strategy that proved a complicated but attractive option in certain cases. This simplifies the decision on when to claim benefits for two workers in a married couple, although it still requires rigorous analysis.
Part of an advisor's role is to expand a client's understanding of Social Security, to examine claiming options more broadly by considering a wider range of variables. This leads to more informed judgments on how to maximize the benefit over time.
Fenstad, 48, likes to look at the big picture when advising clients on Social Security. One factor he weighs is the recent performance of the stock market.
"Everybody looks at the break-even point," he said. "But I don't know if everybody looks at where they are in the market cycle in terms of when to begin collecting Social Security."
He posits that because the current equities market continues to hover around all-time highs, one can argue that an investor's expected return on investment might be lower over the next five or seven years. In August, headlines about the longest bull run in U.S. history left many Americans wondering how much longer this period of steady gains has left.
Today's investors who opt to sell equities at a high might use those funds to cover living expenses in the near term. This in turn would allow them to defer receiving Social Security benefits for a few more years and thus receive a larger benefit.
He adds that clients' health history, along with longevity data from their family, play a vital role as well in determining the best claiming strategy. A 64-year-old who has survived three heart attacks and whose parents died young may be better off taking Social Security sooner rather than later.
Some lucky go-getters pursue a lifelong passion. Their career choice is never in question. They know exactly what they want to do with their professional life — and they love every minute of it.
But for many people, one career is not enough. At some point, they grow restless and realize they want to dive into a new discipline or turn a favorite hobby into a viable source of income.
When mid- or late-career executives decide to recalibrate their goals, perils lurk around every corner. These executives can wind up regretting a job switch after it's too late. Or they might develop a newfound appreciation for what they gave up. To navigate a successful career transition:
Stay in the game. If you can afford to take time off, do so. But don't overdo it or you might struggle to re-enter the working world.
"Put some distance between what you were doing and what you will be doing, but not too much," said John Taft, vice chairman of Baird, a wealth management firm. He was chief executive of RBC Wealth Management from 2005 to 2016.
Now 63, Taft spent the first month after leaving his CEO post in an unfamiliar role, wondering what to do next. He took the summer off and then began networking.
"I stayed in the flow as much as possible," he recalled. "I told people, 'I'm looking at options and I'd love to pick your brain.' "
Craft your storyline. Succinctly describe your career arc and your goals. Weave them into a narrative that's simple, memorable and easy to follow.
"Have a hypothesis that you can explain to people," Taft said. "But it has to be flexible."
He told others that he was taking a sabbatical and didn't intend to retire for good. This helped him — and his network — frame his situation and explore potentially rewarding opportunities.
Wait to pounce. If you're unaccustomed to idleness, it's tempting to leap at the first offer that comes your way. But a little patience can pay off in the long run.
"Don't jump at opportunities just because somebody is interested in you," Taft warned. "Just because an opportunity is there doesn't mean it's the right one. A mentor told me, 'Don't swing at the first pitch.'"
Adjust your attitude. Once you reach a certain age, you might fear that your best years are behind you. If your career stalls out, beware of lapsing into negative thinking.
"It's easy to think, 'Nobody wants me. I'm too old,'" said Mark James, founder and president of Hire Consulting Services in San Diego, Calif. "It's better to think, 'There are so many opportunities for somebody with my experience. It's a buffet out there.'"
Replicate your triumphs. When you're at a career crossroads, set new goals based on past victories. Look for ways to harness your strengths and relive moments of professional glory.
"Reflect on your big wins and how they made you feel," said James, author of " Keys to the C Suite." "Then think of how you can do that again," perhaps as a consultant or executive-for-hire.
Survey your peers. Solicit input from colleagues who know you well. Invite them to offer insight into what you should do next.
"It's hard to be objective about yourself," said Nada Norval, senior vice president of Ratliff & Taylor, a talent management consultancy in Cleveland, Ohio. She suggests asking them questions such as, "What's my best skill?" and "What do you think I do really well?"
When reflecting on their career, many financial advisors can cite the immortal words of Frank Sinatra: I did it my way. In learning how financial advisors grow their business, they blazed their own path — acquiring knowledge, gaining clients and building a business. But they also forged alliances along the way to strengthen their skills and expand their services.
At some point, almost every advisor weighs whether to enter into a professional partnership. It can be a formal transaction such as merging with another advisory firm, or an informal arrangement with a referral network of experts to serve clients.
Some advisors split new revenue that flows from a partnership or simply bring in a younger partner to create continuity for future generations of clients. Regardless of the type of partnership they pursue, advisors often find these decisions harrowing. Find the right pairing and you can propel the business to new heights. Pick the wrong partner, however, and you might face a stressful emotional and financial setback.
Despite their technical know-how, advisors may lack a clear understanding of how to evaluate a potential partnership. As resourceful entrepreneurs, they often possess a strong do-it-yourself streak and grow accustomed to following their gut instincts.
Today, Kurtz is 67 and has recruited financial advisors of different ages to appeal to every generation of clients. Solidifying partnerships with his team has helped him achieve his goal of creating a business that can thrive over the long term.
"A huge part of a successful partnership is having the capacity to be vulnerable," he said. "I don't know everything. You have to admit when you need help," and enlist others who are suited to fill those gaps.
"In the Lone Ranger syndrome, you are always in control," Kurtz said. "But if you partner with other advisors, you have to watch if you're crushing their potential or suffocating what they could be."
To establish a fruitful partnership, Kurtz emphasizes the value of articulating a shared mission. All partners need to buy into it and work for the greater good.
"Laying out a 50-year vision for the business is very important," he said. "From the start, we asked ourselves, 'What's our purpose?' Even today, we talk about it all the time. You all have to be on the same page."
On a practical level, partnerships with trusted peers offer a host of advantages. The right allies can elevate your game, motivating you to raise the bar and deliver even better results than you might have produced on your own.
Judicious partners can also serve as a sounding board as you engage in strategic planning and weigh major decisions. You become smarter by harnessing their expertise and experience.
"Through partnerships, you gain diversity in your business," Kurtz said. "You get a different way of looking at things. You get enhanced understanding of technology" and other critical areas.
On the other hand, bringing in partners can lead to discord. When arguments erupt, you need to set ground rules to work through tensions in a calm, respectful manner.
"Everyone has to be vulnerable and understand everyone else's vulnerability," Kurtz said. "That makes it a level playing field. And as long as you describe your (collective) purpose, you can go back to that purpose when disagreements arise."
How Financial Advisors Grow Their Business By Teaming Up
Some planners find that they provide better service when they pair up. When meeting a client, two advisors can detect subtle cues that one might miss.
Erin Hadary, a certified financial planner in Denver, Colo., often conducts client meetings with her colleague — another advisor — seated at the table. She says the arrangement works well because they complement each other and work together to host more substantive conversations with clients.
"My business partner and I go into every client meeting with a game plan of who will ask what questions," she said. "We rotate through different topic areas. I may focus on budgeting and cash flow; he may focus on retirement planning. When one of us is asking a question, the other is watching (the client's) body language."
Before entering into the partnership, Hadary didn't just rely on her favorable impression of her colleague. She also sought input from a reliable source.
"I talked to his wife for several hours and really drilled down," Hadary recalled. "How you treat your spouse is important. And it goes both ways: I've had a best friend since I was four. My business partner has met her."
On the surface, researching a prospective partner is a straightforward task. You can get references, conduct background checks and review an advisor's Form ADV (filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) and other regulatory information.
Intangibles factor into the equation as well. Hadary notes that it helps "to have a natural friendship" with the person with whom you partner.
When Rick Buoncore purchased a capital management firm in 2007, he proceeded to expand it by recruiting other advisors. He wanted partners who would fit well within the organizational culture of the Cleveland, Ohio-based business.
"We look for the like-minded and the like-hearted," he explained. "You have to make sure you view the world the same way and view taking care of clients the same way."
He says that in initial discussions with potential partners, he probes to determine how an advisor might benefit the firm's clients. But if the advisor prefers "to talk about how am I going to get paid, that's a red flag," Buoncore says.
Louis Diamond says the best partnerships flow from diligent preparation. Advisors lay the groundwork by clarifying their goals, researching their options and selecting potential partners in a deliberate, disciplined manner.
Diamond, 27, is executive vice president of Diamond Consultants, a recruiting firm that specializes in advisors. His mother, Mindy Diamond, founded the company in 1998.
Before joining the Morristown, N.J.-based firm, he was a consultant at Ernst & Young and worked in wealth management at Morgan Stanley and UBS. His current role involves working with advisors going independent or changing firms, as well as those who run their own firm as they explore growth opportunities in the financial advisor business through mergers, acquisitions and recruiting.
Building A Successful Financial Advisor Business
In this interview with IBD, Diamond discusses how advisors can increase the odds of orchestrating mutually beneficial partnerships. Finding a good match requires patience, preparation and the ability to empathize with others and offer them a pathway to attain greater success.
IBD: When advisors consider partnering with another advisor, how do you suggest they begin the process?
Louis Diamond: The advisor should take a lot of time to be very clear on what's to gain from the partnership. What are you looking for? What's in it for you? What's in it for the other side?
IBD: Most advisors know to ask themselves these questions, right?
Diamond: Many advisors don't think about what's in it for the other side. You can have the best idea ever for a partnership. But you'll only convince the other person if you do the pre-work that shows how you've thoughtfully considered their side and how they'll gain.
IBD: But what if you're not sure what they want or what they'll gain?
Diamond: You may have to have a series of conversations to find out. Many advisors think they don't have time for these conversations or assume they already know what the other side wants. But you can assume a lot of things that turn out to be wrong. It's better to ask lots of questions and get to know someone personally and professionally rather than jam in what you think they want without asking them first.
IBD: What kind of questions should you ask?
Diamond: It depends on the type of partnership you're considering. But in general, we're talking about questions such as, "What's your ideal succession plan?" and "How can your clients be better served in the future?"
IBD: You said that advisors should know what they're looking for in a partnership. Isn't that obvious?
Diamond: It might be, but they still need to think about it to focus their time more productively. For example, are you looking to expand your capabilities and partner with someone with a complementary skill set? Or are you looking to retire and want a younger advisor for your succession plan?
IBD: How about midcareer advisors who are simply looking to grow their practice by partnering with other advisors?
Diamond: It's important to be realistic and self-aware of what you're looking for. If you're just looking to acquire another advisor's book of business, you might want to go beyond that.
IBD: Why is that important in the financial advisor business?
Diamond: If you just want to acquire a book of business, it's a low probability that you will be successful because everybody is looking for that. So it's better to research advisors out there and show how you can marry what you do with what they do so that it will work out better. For example, you want to be able to say, "You're a great stock picker. So am I," or, "You want to help your best clients as you retire. I can accommodate that."
IBD: If you see a good fit and convince the other advisor that a partnership makes sense, what's the next step?
Diamond: Weigh options on how to structure the partnership agreement. Will you approach the new partnership as a true merger where both sides share in the combined revenues of the practice? Will you fully acquire the business and pay the other advisor a salary? Or are you just sharing in new revenue that's generated after the partnership is inked?
IBD: What are some pros and cons of these structures?
Diamond: A pro of an incremental revenue share is you're not 100% betting on the partnership and it's easier to unwind it if necessary. You each run your own business and do a revenue split for each new client that each of you bring on. Or for every new client or existing client, you decide to team with another advisor. It can be a 50/50 split or 80/20 or 60/40 or whatever you both agree on.
IBD: What structure tends to work best?
Diamond: In many cases, the best way to partner is to merge everything together so that everyone has the same interests and rows in the same direction. There isn't a magic bullet because each partnering opportunity is unique.
IBD: What traps do advisors fall into when entering into partnerships?
Diamond: They might chase an opportunity just because it's a large opportunity or they see easy money to be made. It's better to partner with someone who does less business but who is better aligned to your culture or your practice. Focus on the fit, not the financials.
IBD: Any other traps you'd warn advisors to avoid?
Diamond: Be patient. Don't rush into it. Don't try to partner with the first person that comes along. Be thoughtful and thorough. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince.
Excelling as an advisor requires a multitude of skills. Mastering all the intricacies of the job takes years of experience. Fortunately, there's an easy way to accelerate your learning curve: Join a financial advisor networking group.
Decades ago, financial advisors had few options if they wanted to confer with their peers. They might grab lunch with a few colleagues from time to time, but there were only a handful of organizations that offered a framework for planners to meet and compare notes.
Despite the growth of these networks, some advisors resist joining. They may figure that their involvement will prove a time suck, feel uncomfortable discussing details of their business with potential rivals or prefer to save money by forgoing membership dues.
Yet for many planners, gaining access to their peers provides a wealth of knowledge. They can exchange information on everything from technology platforms to staffing tips.
Better yet, financial advisors often gain a motivational edge by partnering with peers. If other planners hold you accountable for delivering on your commitments — and you know you'll meet with them again soon and report on your progress (or lack thereof) — then you're more likely to follow through.
Three Wins, One Loss
Newly minted advisors find peer networks particularly rewarding. Facing the many challenges of launching a practice becomes easier when you learn how others are persevering through the startup phase.
Clinton Kane, an advisor in New Hartford, N.Y., launched his firm in January 2018. He meets once a week via videoconference with five planners across the country in a study group that started earlier this year. They were introduced through the XY Planning Network, and all of them are in the beginning stages of building a business.
"We start every meeting with three wins and a loss from the previous week," Kane said. "That exercise alone helps us reflect on both the progress we're making and the challenges we face. We offer ideas and suggestions to each other and push ourselves."
From an information standpoint, joining a peer group can help advisors gain insight from a vast pool of more experienced colleagues. Many associations establish online chat rooms in which a member can pose a question and get wide-ranging input from other advisors on topics such as compliance, marketing and handling difficult clients.
Members can also raise their visibility as part of a larger association. Peer networks usually offer an online search tool to help consumers find financial planners.
Sometimes, advisors simply want to ally themselves with an organization that's aligned with their values. When Tom Duffy, a certified financial planner in Tinton Falls, N.J., joined NAPFA in 2011, he had converted his firm to fee-only and liked how the association promoted the fee-only model.
Financial Advisor Networking Gets You Off The Island
Tracking financial planning trends demands ongoing vigilance. Eager to stay one step ahead, financial advisors may conclude it pays to join an organization that gives them access to the latest industry news.
Duffy says he joined FPA to monitor such changes. Like other large groups, FPA hosts conferences in which members mingle with each other, attend educational workshops and browse vendors' new products and services.
Because financial planning can seem like a solitary profession, some advisors participate in peer networks for the camaraderie. They welcome the chance to interact with like-minded practitioners who share their love of the business.
"If you don't meet with your peers, you're an island," said Steve Craffen, a certified financial planner in Oakland, N.J. "For me, it has been invaluable to learn from other advisors" as part of NAPFA.
He adds that by sharing your experiences, you can solve problems and operate more efficiently. Otherwise, you risk isolating yourself.
"How do you really know that you're doing things the right way unless you're talking with your peers?" Craffen said. "You need to compare your practices and ideas to what others are doing" to identify the best path forward.
Craffen notes that clients tend to feel reassured if their advisor belongs to a professional organization. A longtime NAPFA member, he has taken on a series of leadership roles in the group.
"It shows clients that they're talking to someone who cares about the industry," he said. "It gives us more credibility."
Even the smartest financial advisors know that they don't know it all. That's why they join forces with a team of experts to round out their client service.
Advisors who provide comprehensive financial planning typically turn to attorneys, accountants, insurance agents and other specialists who offer their counsel. Working together, they coordinate their communication and pool their knowledge to assure the client receives the proper guidance.
Because client needs can vary, relying on outsiders becomes a critical part of an advisor's job. But planners enlist these experts in different ways.
Advisors with large practices might hire lawyers on a full- or part-time basis to handle trusts and estate planning — or recruit a certified public accountant to prepare clients' tax returns. Others strike up informal partnerships with local experts and refer clients to them.
"It's all about finding someone who shares your attitude of service," said Eric Hutchinson, a certified financial planner in Little Rock, Ark. "You want to work with people who have that like-minded attitude."
If you send clients to outsiders, disclose the nature of your relationship. Explaining that no money changes hands — that you are not compensated and there are no referral fees — assures clients that you intend to match them with the most qualified professional to address their needs.
Experienced advisors learn that an expert's technical competence does not in itself guarantee a positive outcome. Personality matters as well.
"Sometimes, even if someone like an attorney comes well recommended, they're not of like mind," Hutchinson warned. If they lack people skills or a commitment to serve clients fairly and responsively, your referral can backfire.
Cultivate Stars For Team Of Experts
Once you identify an outside expert who's a star, take steps to solidify the relationship. Ideally, you want these standouts to treat your clients as a top priority and go out of their way to accommodate them.
Consider the principle of reciprocity. As Robert Cialdini wrote in his classic 1984 book, "Influence," individuals tend to want to pay back a favor that you initiate.
"Discover what needs they have in their practice and look to fill their needs in some way," Hutchinson said. "Help them do their job."
In 1986, for example, Hutchinson identified a local CPA who could help his financial planning clients. To strengthen his relationship with the accountant, Hutchinson offered to create a seminar on tax reform for the accountant's clients.
"I rented a hotel ballroom and sponsored the cost of the program," he recalled. "About 40 to 50 of the accountant's clients showed up. They loved it. So did the CPA and his staff."
In the years that followed, the accountant provided exceptional service to Hutchinson's clients. The partnership thrived because both parties valued it highly.
"Some other advisors don't take the time to begin a relationship with that professional," he said. "But by taking the time, you're on a whole different footing with that person" and you can exchange referrals with more confidence.
As your practice grows, you may be tempted to bring an expert in house. As long as these individuals complement your business model and share your commitment to clients, they can provide enormous value and help differentiate your firm.
On the other hand, recruiting these specialists carries some risk. A hiring mistake can prove costly and stressful.
Peter Traphagen, a certified financial planner in Oradell, N.J., recalls hiring a young attorney about 20 years ago with the goal of having him grow with the firm. Within six months, however, it became clear that the attorney lacked sufficient grounding in estate planning, contract law and real estate to contribute to the firm's success.
"He didn't develop into the individual we wanted," Traphagen said. He adds that bringing in an attorney increased his overhead because in addition to funding the newcomer's salary, the firm incurred costs for legal software and continuing education.
Finding reliable partners to help you serve clients is only half the battle. You must also foster a fruitful working relationship with your team of experts.
"You have to be respectful of their time," said Jesse Brown, a certified financial planner in Houston. "It's better to plan ahead rather than bring in an outside expert" at the last minute.
Brown notes that accountants are busy during tax season, especially during years when tax reform occurs. Expecting them to drop everything to tend to your client can leave everyone aggrieved.
After you refer a client to experts, follow up and gather feedback. This helps you assess their performance.
"I always ask my clients about their experience with that expert," Brown said. "It reflects on us as well."
The run-up to getting married or buying a home can prove a hectic whirlwind of activity. Preparing to launch your own financial planning practice can prove equally stressful. But there are ways to ease the path in learning how to become a financial advisor.
There's an excitement that comes with opening your firm. But the process involves a series of steps that can test the patience of even the most resilient advisors.
Financial planners must gain certain regulatory approvals before they can accept clients. The requirements — and the hassle factor — can vary based on the state in which they're licensed.
Planners can navigate the process on their own or hire a compliance specialist to guide them through it. Joining an organization of other advisors, such as the XY Planning Network, provides access to helpful resources.
"It helps to make friends with other advisors in your state so that you can see what their experience was like going through the registration process," said Shane Mason, a certified financial planner in Brooklyn, N.Y. That's especially true if they've adopted a similar business model and fee structure to what you have in mind.
Researching licensing requirements in your state and earning professional credentials can pave your road to success. The more you learn, the better equipped you are to hit the ground running.
"It's a struggle to be an advisor without your CFP (certified financial planner) and having your CFP makes it easier to get registered," said Mason, who earned his CFP in 2015. He started to lay the groundwork to launch his firm in December 2017 and opened his doors in April 2018.
How To Become A Financial Advisor: Keep On Tweaking
Financial advisors who pride themselves on doing everything themselves can get overwhelmed by the flurry of to-do items they must address. That's why many of them enlist the help of compliance experts.
Mason says he spent between $1,000 and $1,500 for a consultant to guide him through "the slew of logins to set up, deadlines to meet and paperwork to fill out." Even with that assistance, he faced some frustrations dealing with the state.
"It's all done via snail mail," he said. "You have to keep calling to follow up to see if they received your paperwork. I called and they didn't get it the first time, so we had to resend."
Once you're finally cleared to take on clients, prepare to track your internal systems and make tweaks as necessary. With each passing day, you'll probably identify ways to improve.
"For your first 10 or 15 clients, be ready to work overtime as you onboard them," Mason said. "Don't be married to your process. We've changed it a lot and it has taken a lot of iterations. We haven't taken a day off yet."
If you enjoy making big decisions on the fly, you'll love opening your own advisory firm. New planners who manage assets must determine how they want to structure their firm — whether to set up shop as a registered investment advisor or work with an independent broker dealer. You'll also need to select a niche to pursue, which technology platforms to use and which functions (if any) you wish to outsource.
Narrow Your Focus
In the early going of learning how to become a financial advisor, the race to attract clients takes center stage. After spending time and money ramping up to launch your firm, your focus shifts to revenue generation once you're cleared all the hurdles.
For those financial advisors who transition from a large firm to running their own small business, they may retain some clients from their previous job. But while falling back on a few loyal clients can provide a nice cushion, it can also breed complacency.
"It can be tough balancing your existing clients you bring over with bringing in new clients," said Breland Booth, an advisor in Birmingham, Ala. "I wish I had a better marketing focus with more dialed-in processes for both new and existing clients from the start."
Booth, who opened his firm in late 2017, acknowledges the challenges of devising a sound marketing strategy. Even if you uncover an underserved niche and seek to target a small but promising target market, complications can arise.
"A big issue in your first year is wanting to offer people everything," Booth said. "It's better to offer them what you're best at and then build on that and add on as you go."
Like Mason, Booth encountered some snags in filing the proper paperwork with state regulators. He found that frequent communication led to quicker resolutions.
"Some advisors told me not to call the state too much because you'd just annoy them," Booth said. "But I've found the opposite is true. They want to help, but things can take a long time. Because I kept contacting them, we were able to solve things" with less delays.
A career arc can bend in unpredictable ways, requiring adjustment in your financial advisor strategies. Some entrants into the field start by joining one of the leading financial giants. Then they undergo training and slowly advance to working with clients.
Many advisors thrive at large financial services companies, benefiting from the support and infrastructure that these employers provide. Others may eventually shift gears and move to smaller firms, and some entrepreneurially minded advisors decide to venture out on their own.
For self-starters who yearn for independence, making the transition can be rocky at first. They need to gird for the challenges of running their own firm — from administration to compliance to marketing. And they will find themselves facing a series of negotiations: to depart on good terms; to lease or buy office space; and to secure the goods, services and people they need to set up shop.
"You have to evaluate the decision very carefully," said Faith Harrington, an advisor in Portsmouth, N.H. "It's an enormous amount of work. You have to line up a lot of things in your mind and consider the timing and impact on your clients."
In May 2018, Harrington and her longtime business partner, Constantine Harris, moved from a large financial company to join Steward Partners Global Advisory, an independent partnership.
During their roughly yearlong planning process, they decided to schedule it after tax season. They also sought to explain to their clients why they were making the change.
"Your clients need to hear a good, compelling reason why you're doing this," Harrington said. "We articulated it to everybody, mostly by talking to each of them one-on-one."
Financial Advisor Strategies: Client Communication
Strict rules limit the type of client data that outgoing advisors can take with them. It is important to understand these restrictions from the outset.
If clients follow you to your new home, expect to burn the midnight oil managing the transition. Leaving a large company not only means losing access to details of client accounts but also severing ties with that firm's proprietary research and affiliate relationships.
"It can be jolting to clients when their money is in motion," Harrington said. "The best thing you can do is hand-holding. If I had more hours in the day, I'd have spent time in more conversations with them, almost a play-by-play of each step in the process."
For some advisors, the move to independence flows from a desire to exert more control over their brand. They may want to pursue a promising niche, and prefer to market to that target audience more freely on their own.
"When you decide to leave (a large firm), you have to have a vision for what you want to build," said Isaiah Douglass, a certified financial planner in Noblesville, Ind. "Do you want a practice where you get 75 or 100 clients and you're done? Or do you want to build a big firm with more staff? For me, I wanted to build an organization that's larger than myself and make it sustainable."
A New Brand
Armed with a clear vision, you can make more informed decisions about how you want to structure your new firm and the best ways to invest in it. If you're intent on operating a boutique practice with a finite number of clients, for example, you may spend less on back-office support.
"I was willing to spend more on technology, such as CRM (customer relationship management) and performance reporting, for a greater runway for growth," Douglass said. "I wanted a robust system built for a longer-term growth trajectory and much more clients."
When he worked for a large firm he did not need to devote much time to branding, he says. The company handled most of that.
"Your messaging changes when you have your own firm," he said. "It's no longer 'I have access to all these analysts and different reports.' Instead, you want to tell the story of 'why.' Why are you different? What is your personal brand?"
Transitioning to independence exposes you to new ideas, methodologies and strategies. An openness to experimentation can help you assess the best tools to fit your needs.
Brian Jones left a big firm to launch his own practice in early 2018. An advisor in Elko New Market, Minn., he faced a considerable learning curve with technology platforms such as his new custodian's system.
"There's a lot of work on the front end on how to set things up," Jones said. "I'm still learning."
In terms of startup costs, he recommends that financial advisors "budget a little more" than you initially think you'll need. To save money and become an educated consumer, you'll want to sample lots of tech tools and test the latest features.
Laszlo Bock's story is the story of the American dream.
Bock, 45, was born in Romania. He and his parents fled the oppressive Nicolae Ceausescu regime. They wound up briefly in an Austrian refugee camp before making it to the U.S. when Laszlo was 2.
He went on to earn an MBA from Yale University (1999) and hold a succession of increasingly important jobs. Eventually, he landed the top HR post — senior VP of People Operations — at Google ( GOOGL). The former Google exec also wrote a best-selling book, "Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead."
Next up for Bock: Growing his startup Humu, a firm that will spread the principles he learned and created at Google to other corporations.
Ironically, early on it did not appear Bock was headed for a stellar career in human resources. His first job was at a more traditional MBA destination, consulting company McKinsey & Co.
"Consulting was like finishing school for MBAs," Bock said in a telephone interview with IBD. "I felt I had a lot to learn. The courses I enjoyed the most (at Yale) were statistics and operations management. And McKinsey promised to move you around so you get to learn a lot of different things. It seemed like a great place to keep learning."
In 2003, he decided to switch careers. "I could have done what other consultants do: go into sales or marketing or strategy and spend 20 years in a company and become a CEO. Or I could go in a different direction: go into HR, never become a CEO, but have an impact."
By impact he meant changing a corporate culture. "I realize that what frustrated me most in business was the disconnect between the values leaders espoused and what they actually delivered," Bock said.
At the time, the two companies considered to have the best human resources departments were PepsiCo ( PEP) and General Electric ( GE). So Bock cold-called four HR execs at each of the two companies. But he got only one return call, from GE. Six weeks later, he was named vice president of compensation and benefits at a division of GE Capital.
In 2006, Google hired him for a position he admits "I was not qualified for. I didn't have the right experience, and then we did some really cool things."
This was just two years after the company's IPO. Google was in many ways typical of Silicon Valley employers. That is, it "had a lot of good instincts, but not a lot of rigor," Bock said. "There were fun things (like) a communal (and free) lunch table." But there was also "a hiring process that ended with college-faculty-like tenure." And there was waste: "I took $50 million out of the food program and no one felt the difference," Bock said.
Democratizing The Workplace
But the thrust of Bock's philosophy had little to do with saving money. His major thesis was that the days of hierarchical, exclusively top-down management were on their way out; that offering higher pay gets you more, not better, applicants; and that part of the responsibility of managers is not just to lead, but also to provide an environment that will attract top candidates.
This has manifested itself in several ways, including democratization. The company has largely eliminated perk differentials that once existed between staff and top management. There are no executive dining rooms and no reserved parking spots. The company's deferred compensation program is open to everyone, not just senior executives.
Also, many key decisions now reflect data — "the wisdom of the crowds," is how Bock puts it — not a manager's gut. Consider hiring, where we tend to like people like ourselves.
Now the in-person interview process not only includes a candidate's potential manager and his/her peers, but possible subordinates as well, each of whom rates the prospect.
The interviews are structured with a list of questions provided in advance and designed to reveal the attributes a job calls for.
The process can take as long as six weeks, a seemingly long time. But the Google philosophy is not just to hire, but to also set a high bar and hire objectively — not based on a single manager's decisions. And that takes time, not only for the interviews, but also the evaluation process that follows.
Managers hated not being able to hire their own people. Interviewers were upset that they had to follow a preset formula for interviews and the subsequent evaluation. But Bock refused to give in to the pressure. And ultimately most managers recognized that the quality of new hires was improving.
Promotions, similarly, are based on reviews by committees that include employees' peers. Employees rate managers too.
The latter was part of Project Oxygen, which Bock considers the greatest achievement during his tenure at Google. Ironically it started as a test to prove that managers don't matter and turned out to reveal the exact opposite.
Follow The Data
In 2007, the company began an annual survey called Googlegeist to measure employee happiness. Intended to give Googlers an opportunity to influence the direction of the company, Googlegeist usually contains about 100 questions. Answers are in the form of a five-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Some of the questions — they change every year — deal with managers.
Despite the widely held Dilbert suspicion that managers stand in the way of innovation, results showed that good managers' teams tend to be more productive.
The survey revealed eight attributes the best managers shared. Bock's team designed a questionnaire that gives employees an opportunity to provide anonymous feedback on how well their supervisors connect with those attributes.
The results are provided to managers in an Upward Feedback Survey. The results do not influence performance ratings or compensation. Instead they serve as a guide to improvements. Developmental courses are available for those who need them.
The program is a significant success in that many Google managers even share the results with their teams. Jonathan Rosenberg, a Google senior VP of product management, noted in an email interview:
"The Project Oxygen work run by Laszlo's team was an aha (moment) in that it revealed what many people knew but hadn't put into practice: that for managers to scale their own impact they had to see themselves as the sum of their people's work, and not just their individual work product. Lots of things resulted from these findings, but many of them were around information flow — managers must be great communicators and prioritize information sharing to succeed and help their teams succeed. A lot of it comes down to communication."
Bock admits his innovations were greeted with a measure of skepticism. But he feels disruption of the prevailing wisdom was necessary. "For decades and decades we've been managing people the same way," he said. "If all that stuff worked, we'd be living in Utopia, and every manager would be enlightened."
His ideas must work, because during his tenure Google was recognized as an exceptional employer over 100 times.
Which leaves only one question unanswered: What in the world does Humu stand for? Wait for it: Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, the state fish of Hawaii. According to a company spokesperson, "It keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously, but we also like the way it sounds. (It) reminds us of humanity, humility, humor, all key elements of the team."
Introduced data-based decision making in personnel matters at Google.
Overcame: Skepticism and reluctance to communicate among his co-workers.
Lesson: Stay the course and don't give in to pressure.
Quote: "If you believe people are fundamentally good and worthy of trust, you must be honest and transparent with them."
The authors are co-founders of The Culture Works, a training firm. They drew from their database of more than 850,000 employee surveys to identify the traits of today's best team leaders. Up to 80% of employees' days are spent working in teams in the average company, they've found.
Former NBA All-Star center Mark Eaton, the author of "The Four Commitments of a Winning Team," says "the term 'team' is used in virtually every business, but what does it really mean? And how do I better my team and become an All-Star performer?"
Eaton is a motivational speaker who advises corporations about teamwork. He defines it as "a group of people who commit to each other."
Tips on creating winning teamwork:
Understand generations. Autonomy is one of the stronger motivators for baby boomers and Gen X workers, but younger colleagues rank it near the bottom, Gostick says.
Younger workers want coaching and mentoring about their careers, he adds. For millennials, "recognition from their bosses and co-workers is three times more important than it is for older workers."
Know your job. "You need to narrow your focus and intensify it," Eaton said. "Focus on your core skill set."
By doing so, you become most valuable to your team.
Legendary NBA center Wilt Chamberlain counseled a pre-NBA Eaton to focus on defense and protecting the basket. That was "one task that I could be great at," Eaton realized.
Take direction. Eaton did not play much in college. But he "continued to inquire what I could do better," he said. "My coach gave me a list of things, and I did them every day."
It paid off a year later. Eaton's skills improved. And an NBA coach who watched him work out drafted him.
"How clear are you about other people's priorities, and how well do you execute their requests?" Eaton asks. It's all part of being a good teammate.
Encourage openness. Feeling comfortable to express one's views, taking smart risks, and being given roughly equal time to speak up are hallmarks of today's best teams, Gostick says.
"The most innovative teams we studied have regular, intense debates," he said. "As long as discussions are respectful, and everyone gets the chance to contribute equally, most people thrive on this kind of debate — finding it important to getting to the route of problems and working out solutions."
Set ground rules. When it comes to managing robust debate within teams, Gostick and Elton recommend these:
Challenge the position not the person. Don't make it personal.
Come to the debate ready to present facts and data, not supposition.
Debates are opportunities to find the best ideas, be enlightened and learn — not score points.
Make people look good. When Eaton joined the Utah Jazz, they had a very bad team. "Our coach Frank Layden convinced us to stop fighting with one another and that the individual accolades would show up if we would trust and support each other," Eaton said. "He said no one cares if you are scoring a lot of points on a losing team. Everyone wants the players from a winning team."
Eaton said they listened. And the Utah Jazz went from being a losing team of obscure players to a winning one full of NBA All-Stars.
The key is to evaluate your own ability to make others shine. "How focused are you on making the people you work with look good on a scale of 1 to 10?" Eaton asks. "How could you improve that number?"
There was one fundamental problem looming over Domino's Pizza ( DPZ) when Patrick Doyle became its president and CEO in 2010; the pizza chain's pizza wasn't considered very good.
Domino's had made its name on price and delivery, but many consumers felt the pizza's crust had become akin to cardboard, and the sauce was ketchup-like. Complaints ranged from the pizza was, well, terrible, to microwave frozen versions were a better option. Topping it off with the economic downturn, Domino's franchisees were struggling.
Doyle, who joined Domino's in 1997, listened to and implemented the advice of his chief marketing officer, Russell Weiner; his VP of advertising, Karen Kaiser; and their outside ad agency, all of whom advised transparency. And then Doyle didn't mince words with the public.
"The way you deal with this problem is to walk out and talk about it," Doyle, 55, told IBD.
"If you spend tens of millions of dollars on advertisements talking about how lousy your product is and that you need to change it, it's really easy and credible inside the organization to say this is the example of how we want to go after everything.
"I can't take credit for the idea. I wholly acquiesced to doing it. It made a lot of sense."
Doyle put together the equivalent of a pizza-improvement task force, including the people who provided the chain's cheese, dough and sauce. He told the team that nothing was off the table, including scrapping their entire pizza recipe if necessary.
"The bar we need to get over, is we need to have a materially better-tasting, higher-quality pizza than what we have today or that our competitors have," Doyle recalled saying. "And we need to be able to prove that through a blind taste test. That was our standard."
The team went to work for over a year. They tested lots of different kinds of cheeses, sauces, doughs and flavor profiles. Ultimately everything was changed, and Domino's had its improved recipe.
Eating It Up
The new recipe was a hit. Under Doyle's other initiatives and leadership, which culminated with his decision to step down this past July, Domino's became the largest pizza company in the world based on global sales. Its stock price increased 2,100% during his tenure. That rise returned $3.4 billion to shareholders.
Domino's has some 15,000 stores in over 85 international markets. In 2017 its global retail sales doubled from when Doyle became CEO, to over $12.3 billion.
"If there is one thing we did particularly well at Domino's," Doyle said, "it's how we thought about investment and risk, and how that has driven growth in our business. We are simply not afraid of making mistakes. We have moved and changed this business at a pace that is dramatic and very unusual for a more traditional business."
"A real strength of Patrick's is he's very analytical and he's real comfortable managing data and making good business judgments based on really sound data and facts," said David Brandon, Domino's chairman, who managed Doyle for 11 years. "Patrick is also a really nice, compassionate, good person. Everybody likes him."
"Patrick is highly competitive, yet down to earth and approachable," said Tim McIntyre, Domino's executive vice president of communications, investor relations and legislative affairs.
Born in Midland, Mich., Doyle earned an economics degree from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
He started his career in finance at First Chicago Bank. Then, after five years, his wife encouraged him to take a chance and join medical device maker InterVascular, where he'd be based in southern France. Doyle next worked for Gerber Products before joining Domino's in 1997 as senior VP of marketing.
Upon assuming the CEO's mantle at Domino's, Doyle set three goals:
First, he wanted to create a far better customer experience that was going to generate better returns for their franchisees. While a better tasting product was the first step, it wasn't the only one.
"There was a really dramatic opportunity in technology to significantly change the customer experience and make it really easier and quicker for people to order," Doyle said. "It made our stores more efficient. Suddenly people realize that you're serious about doing something different."
Digital sales increased to 65% of Domino's total sales during Doyle's time as CEO.
Further, the average profit per store for franchise owners grew from $49,000 a year to more than $136,000 a year.
The second goal was Doyle wanted Domino's to be the largest pizza company in the world by 2020. In 2010 Pizza Hut was 50% bigger than Domino's, with $3.9 billion more in global retail sales. By 2017 Domino's had surpassed Pizza Hut in sales, with $12.3 billion.
Doyle spearheaded Domino's international expansion efforts, adding 5,000 stores, an increase of more than 130%.
"Patrick has a way of setting big goals and getting people to believe they can be achieved," McIntyre said. "He is the consummate optimist: If you believe it, you can achieve it."
Doyle's third priority was to have a leadership team and successor in place to drive Domino's to even greater heights. New CEO Richard Allison was promoted from within as was Russell Weiner, now chief operating officer of Domino's and president of its Americas division.
Extra On People
Outside of positions that require technical and functional expertise, "the advice I always gave is: Hire attitude and teach skills," Doyle said. "You can teach people most of what they need to know to be successful in their jobs.
"What generally can't be fixed is a bad attitude, people who are difficult to work with and not excited to be a part of the organization."
Doyle says No. 1 with all effective leaders is getting the right people around them. "I am very strongly in the camp of leading through relationships, leading through trust, getting people working together and empowering them as a result of that," he said. "If you get that right, then the organization can move dramatically faster."
"Patrick trusts the people around him to get the job done," McIntyre said. "He has never been one to micromanage or keep people off-balance by second-guessing them. He's always there if you need his help, but it's important to him that you have the freedom to perform."
Doyle says he spent the vast majority of his time as CEO on people; in groups, one on one, with franchisees, communicating what it was Domino's was trying to get done, and recruiting talent into the organization.
"He's just a very effective leader," Brandon added. "People respond to him. There's a high level of trust in him both as a person and as a leader. He's been able to build and retain terrific teams throughout his career at Domino's."
In looking back at his tenure as Domino's CEO, Doyle feels there is one overriding lesson to pass on: "Find things that are broken and fix them. We knew we were great at service and delivering pizza to people, but we knew that we had big perception issues around the quality of our pizza. We decided to take it head on, and doing that dramatically changed the trajectory of our business."
Doyle says there are a lot of organizations that know what their problems are but don't take them on because they just look too big and too difficult.
"It's as simple as identify where the opportunities are, and with conviction go after fixing them," Doyle said. "You just do that over and over and over again as an organization and you're going to have success."
Overcame: Changing the negative perception of Domino's pizza.
Lesson: Be transparent and keep it simple.
"It's just all too easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize. You need to be the person who is diving in."
Financial planners spend much of their day advising clients on money matters. But sometimes, the advice gets personal.
Depending on your client relationships, you may feel the urge to dish out advice on topics ranging from dating to vacationing to raising children. Clients usually welcome such input, especially if you've earned their trust and respect.
The trick is to give advice that sticks. Butt into their lives too aggressively and clients may resist your guidance. That's particularly true if you volunteer too much unsolicited advice.
Tactful advisors set appropriate boundaries. When it comes to financial issues, they will share their expertise freely. But they tread delicately with everything else.
The nature and scope of your advice largely reflects the baseline that you establish with clients from the outset. If they confide in you about personal dilemmas that don't involve money, they may want you to serve as a sounding board.
"I'm always asking new clients about their hobbies, career and how happy or not they are in their life," said Caedmon Bear, an advisor in Walnut Creek, Calif. "I set the groundwork for giving advice on how they can be more happy in their life."
For clients who prefer to limit conversations to financial matters, advisors must stick to business. Even if they're tempted to offer more intimate input — on marriage, family relationships, etc. — they should refrain or risk overstepping their bounds.
If you decide to get personal, proceed with care. Just because a client praises your financial advice does not mean your child-rearing or dating tips will be equally well-received.
Beware of lecturing people on right and wrong. Clients may chafe when told what they should or should not do.
"Rather than say, 'You should do this,' I might ask probing questions like, 'Have you thought about … ?' or 'Ideally, what would you like to happen?' " Bear said.
He adds that he's genuinely interested in listening to their answer. Depending on their response, he may withhold the advice that he was thinking of sharing.
"When you ask probing questions, you don't want to have an agenda," he said. "People can pick up on that. It's better to just ask open-ended questions. It's called 'beginner's mind.' "
In some cases, what starts as a strictly financial discussion with a client can morph into something more personal. Advisors need to determine if they're qualified to venture well beyond their training and expertise.
Clients may simply want to unload their anxieties and frustrations — without expecting you to reply with practical feedback. Nonjudgmental listening can in itself prove invaluable.
Bethany Bristow, a certified financial planner in Brooklyn, N.Y., wants clients to feel comfortable initiating a personal conversation. Her openness and empathy help her create rapport.
"I see the financial planning space as a safe space," she said. "People come to you with their problems."
She recalls a client who expressed concern about spending money on fertility treatments.
"She was paying for freezing her own eggs and delaying motherhood for her career," Bristow said. "She had paid for one cycle, and she wanted to know if she could afford to pay" for a second or third cycle.
This led to a soul-searching conversation about single motherhood by choice. Bristow says she sought to offer emotional support as well as practical suggestions on how her client could tap resources to learn more about her options.
With Age Comes Wisdom
When advisors conclude that they're unable to offer constructive advice on nonfinancial topics, they find gentle ways to redirect the discussion. They may acknowledge their lack of experience with the subject matter or offer a referral to a more knowledgeable source.
"If I know the client is expecting a certain answer from me, and I can't honestly give the answer they're looking for, I'll politely decline (to give advice)," said Michael Garry, a certified financial planner in Newtown, Pa. "I don't want to start an argument. So I may say, 'I'm not sure I'm qualified to weigh in on that.' "
Over his 20 years as an advisor, Garry has learned not to jump at every opportunity to dish out personal advice. Instead, he will respond with compassion without rendering a verdict.
"As a young guy, I was too sure of the advice I'd give," Garry said. "Now that I'm 51, I hope I have more wisdom than when I was 31."
He says he's more apt to pose thoughtful questions that lead clients to draw their own conclusions. And if they want to vent, he knows to listen with attentiveness.
Bezos On Change
What's dangerous is not to evolve. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO
Ellington On Drive
My attitude is never to be satisfied, never enough, never. Duke Ellington, musician
Ash On Goals
Don't limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve. Mary Kay Ash, cosmetics entrepreneur
Gandhi On Honesty
A "No" uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a "Yes" merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. Mahatma Gandhi, statesman
Hill On Setting Examples
When your best player's working harder than everybody and holding everyone accountable, that's a winning culture. Grant Hill, basketball player
Most companies put plenty of rules in place to keep their people in line and doing what the leaders want. Not Netflix ( NFLX). It gives its people responsibility and holds them accountable to get the job done.
"We assume these are intelligent adults," Patty McCord, former chief talent officer at Netflix, told IBD. "Why have rules that treat them like children?"
Here's how to instill responsibility in your group.
Value people. One of the key tenets at Netflix is to avoid rules. Leaders trust their people to make the right decisions. That's why they were hired. McCord asks why someone with a Ph.D. in math would need to ask for a finance person's approval for a purchase of more than $10,000. They'll just do three $9,000 purchases.
"You're forcing people to game the system and make infantile decisions," said McCord, who wrote the book, "Powerful."
Be direct. Netflix calls it radical honesty. People don't beat around the bush. Be direct and willing to say things like, "I don't think you're fully informed" when discussing a matter with a colleague. The leaders need to set the tone by doing it without attacking anyone.
"It should always be with the thought that the outcome is that we'll do better," McCord said. "Then it's not personal, it's not you picking on me."
Find purpose. Donna Hicks, author of "Leading with Dignity" and associate at Harvard University's Weatherford Center for International Affairs, focuses much of her philosophy on dignity, both yours and that of others. Leaders need to strive to honor others' dignity by valuing and appreciating them. To do that, own up to missteps, she says.
"When you violate others' dignity and don't take responsibility, you violate their dignity and yours," she said.
Overcome nature. Say you make a mistake by putting a policy decision in place that hurts the entire organization. Admit the error. And tell your people how you'll correct it.
"Part of our biological tendency is we don't want to look bad," Hicks said. "Our hard-wiring does not lead us to take responsibility. It takes strength to be vulnerable."
Find your part. When people make bad decisions, Netflix flips it to have those employees' managers look at what context they set that caused a smart person to make a bad choice.
"Management is responsible for creating the culture by articulating what the company does and giving context to it," McCord said.
Reap the rewards. Blunt talk and taking responsibility breed efficiency and build trust, McCord says.
"There's less gossiping, and you can go faster if I trust you to do the right thing," McCord said.
Gain respect. When you own up to a misstep, your people are far more likely to feel empathy than to condemn you, Hicks says. Take responsibility if you've caused people harm.
"When leaders do that, people soften up," Hicks said. "It brings people closer."
Open up. Create an environment where people feel safe to speak up if their dignity has been violated. Make yourself vulnerable by talking about what you could have done better.
"That's the secret to rebuilding trust when it's broken," Hicks said. "We think vulnerability makes us weak. But the fact is it makes people become more engaged and feel there's a purpose to their job. That's invaluable."
Give feedback. Netflix promoted honesty by starting a feedback system called Start, Stop, Continue. It encouraged people to tell anyone else at the company something they'd like them to start doing, something they should stop doing and something they should continue doing.
"We said if we feel transparency and honesty are important to us, it should be done openly," McCord said.
Practice and learn. It doesn't always come naturally to own up to your mistakes. Hicks says it's vital to work on it. Try it on your significant other or kids. You'll get used to admitting errors.
Advisors often rave about all the technology tools they use to run their businesses more efficiently. But the cost of software can add up.
Managing your investments via technology requires diligent research and an attention to detail. That's especially true when purchasing subscription-based software services.
Some of these services come with automatic renewals each year. Miss the window to cancel and you can get stuck paying for something that you no longer want.
To avoid getting ensnared in such situations, you may prefer to opt out of auto renewal. Software providers will then invite you to renew in the months before your term expires.
For newly independent advisors, tracking their tech bills can pose a challenge if they're accustomed to working at large financial services firms that handle purchasing and paying for such tools. Investigating your options — and understanding the various levels of service — can prove invaluable but deplete your time and energy.
"In your first year on your own, you can get roped into annual contracts," said Charles Shipman, an advisor in Westport, Conn. "It's important to know the terms. You need to read the renewal fine print and stay on top of it."
For products that automatically renew, Shipman sets a reminder on his calendar one month before the one-year anniversary. That way he can assess whether he wants to lock in another year before it's too late.
Pick Your Tier
Despite his best efforts to avoid overspending, Shipman has found that these platforms are occasionally more trouble than they're worth. He cites an example of a monthly subscription for software that he canceled via email. A few months later, he noticed on his credit card statement that the software provider continued to bill him.
"They had confirmed receiving my email but kept charging me, so I contacted them and challenged it," he recalled. "They demanded that I resend my email to prove that I didn't want to renew. So make sure you archive all emails with fintech providers. Now, if any software has a subscription with an annual auto renewal, I tell them I'm not interested."
As an added precaution, Shipman conducts an annual audit of all his tech tools. He assesses to what extent each service provides value, asking, "Is it doing what I wanted it to do?" and "Is the cost worth the benefit?"
He adds that some software is sold in tiers for beginners, intermediate and advanced users. As part of his audit, he analyzes whether to switch tiers — either to downgrade to save money or upgrade to address his changing needs.
"You may have paid more for an advanced tier with a particular client in mind," he said. "But your client base changes all the time, and you may no longer need to pay more."
Some advisors will put a new tech service to the test before committing to ongoing payments. After a trial period they're better equipped to make a prudent buying decision.
"Some (software) companies offer a free or light version," said Tricia Rosen, an advisor in Andover, Mass. "That lets you see how it integrates into your other technology, and if it works well you can get hooked on using it."
Track Every Software Tool
Because tech platforms are constantly changing, advisors must monitor not only their evolving needs but also what enhancements the latest release offers. A purchase that made sense a year ago may prove outdated today.
"Some (software) companies are more aggressive about adding features that advisors are looking for," Rosen said. "As they add features, there can be overlap with something you already purchased, so you have to reevaluate what you have."
As your practice grows, your tech spending can grow as well. Maintaining a simple system to track your costs can help you stay one step ahead.
Kevin Mahoney, a certified financial planner in Washington, D.C., likes to ask other advisors for input before committing to a certain technology. They compare notes on different services, often after sampling the software for free.
Mahoney also keeps a whiteboard in his office that summarizes all the tech services he uses. This gives him a visual roadmap of what technology he has purchased and how he harnesses it.
"It helps me keep tabs fairly easily of what I'm paying for," he said. "I'm very focused on where each piece of technology fits in the whole process. The goal of the whiteboard is to help me be aware of how I use each tool. Having it all written out keeps me organized and reduces the odds of duplication of tools."
If anyone has a license to brag, it's Ray Dalio. The founder of the world's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, is not only one of the world's 100 wealthiest people — he also predicted the global financial crisis of 2007.
He's even played a role in designing financial instruments ranging from inflation-protected bonds to a poultry-related futures strategy that allowed McDonald's to launch the Chicken McNugget.
Yet Dalio, when studying what made him successful, thanks his most epic failure. A market call he'd made 40 years ago was so off the mark — he predicted a depression right before a massive bull market that kicked off in the 1980s — that it practically wiped him out.
"At one point, I'd lost so much money I couldn't afford to pay the people who worked with me. One by one, I had to let them go," Dalio explains in his book, "Principles." He even had to borrow $4,000 from his dad to hold him over until he could sell his second car.
Why would failing so miserably lead to success? This paradox is the core of "Principles," a meticulous blueprint for success he created over decades of analysis and meditation. Picking himself up from his colossal mistake, Dalio realized that striving for goals and failing sets up a cycle of improvement. By learning from mistakes in painstaking detail, modifying future decisions and repeating the process, you reach what you want from life.
"I think he has been so successful precisely because he has a set of defined principles that he lives and works by," says Robert Johnson, professor of finance at Creighton University.
Better yet, Dalio says lessons he's learned about success can help anyone reach a higher level. "To do exceptionally well you have to push your limits and that, if you push your limits, you will crash and it will hurt a lot," Dalio says in "Principles."
"You will think you have failed — but that won't be true unless you give up."
How can you apply Dalio's Principles to your life? Here are five steps from his years of reflection.
Start with a lofty, but realistic, goal. A concrete and well-defined objective sets the direction of your life. People often chase too many things. Finding out what you have passion for — but something that's still rooted in reality — is the key to forming an obtainable goal.
"Life is like a giant smorgasbord with more delicious alternatives than you can ever hope to taste. Choosing a goal often means rejecting some things you want in order to get other things that you want or need even more," he wrote.
Dalio's goal? He wanted to build an investment career, but on his terms, not as a suit on Wall Street. He long bristled under rules at school and being told what to do, but realized he would excel when on his own. The same kid — a son of a musician — who refused to mow the lawn on demand hustled on a newspaper route, shoveled snow for money and worked at a local restaurant.
Goals must be realistic, too. Dalio found his calling in the financial industry when he was 12 years old. He'd invested in his first stock, Northeast Airlines, because shares were trading for below $5 apiece. "It was a dumb strategy, but I tripled my money," he says. It was then he saw he could make money doing what he enjoyed. "I was hooked."
Fail well and take meticulous notes when you do. Dalio turned failing into an art form over his decadeslong career. Watching other wealthy investors stumble and lose everything, Dalio understood the importance of constant improvement — even when on top. In his mind, success results from a series of decisions with increasingly improved outcomes. While avoiding bad decisions isn't possible, developing a system to better address your next decision is essential.
Dalio, who is Bridgewater's co-chief investment officer and co-chairman, sees failures as almost predictable and started to look forward to them as an opportunity to refine his strategy. "I began to experience painful moments in a radically different way. Instead of feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, I saw pain as nature's reminder that there is something important for me to learn," he says.
Dalio's biggest mistake of his life is probably what ultimately put him on a path to success. What was this error? Dalio had gained recognition following a successful career trading commodities and setting up his own firm, Bridgewater, out of a two-bedroom apartment.
Following Mexico's 1982 sovereign debt default, Dalio appeared on financial television to give his view on the markets. He declared a depression was coming. He was sure of it — his research pointed to a collapse in the system. But he was dead wrong. Instead of crashing, the stock market rallied. And an 18-year period of prosperity ensued. The mistake turned off clients. And money flowed out of his fund in the early 1980s.
But here's the key to Dalio's success: He didn't fold. He studied why he was so wrong and what he missed, and started programming his findings into a computer. This painful experience improved Dalio's ability to understand factors that affect markets. He also discovered how computer systems could help predict markets reliably and take out human shortsightedness and bias. He began building computer systems to scan markets for patterns, which put Bridgewater at the forefront of "quantitative" investing.
Value truth over ego. Admitting you're not always the source of every best idea is central to success. Dalio hires and consults with smart people who disagree with him. The goal is to be so open-minded that you can listen to others' views to get to reality. "I just want to be right — I don't care if the right answer comes from me," he says.
To succeed, members of Bridgewater had to be completely frank with each other. Dalio started to write down the company's "Work Principles," giving employees a procedure to share thoughts openly, discuss them and vote on what's best. All these rules were written down. "Even prior to publication of (his) book, he had a document of over 100 pages, summarizing the principles, that was required reading for new employees," Johnson says. "When people know exactly what is expected of them, and don't have to guess about the culture of the firm, they are able to focus on the work at hand."
Dalio's ability to find the best answer, even if it comes from elsewhere, is a key to his success, says Marcel Muenster, a managing director of several startups who has studied Dalio's leadership style.
"Don't just make decisions based on your own biases," Muenster says. "Be open-minded enough to be challenged by others who have a better understanding. The collective wisdom of yourself and people you surround yourself with will lead to better decisions."
Quantify whatever you can. Success isn't an accident — it requires careful accounting of what works and what doesn't. Dalio learned this by studying the commodities markets. Predicting livestock price changes was complex. So Dalio took the time to find all the arcane drivers of prices, including the ratio of acreage of planted grain to rainfall levels.
He brings the same precision and analysis to other parts of his life. With employees, Dalio stored their strengths and weaknesses on "baseball cards." These cards allow Bridgewater to find the people with the right skills for specific projects. "Just as you wouldn't have a great fielder with a 0.160 batting average bat third, you wouldn't assign a big-picture person a task requiring attention to details," he says.
Dalio also took the time to quantify and study the habits of other great idea-shapers. He's studied everyone from Steve Jobs of Apple ( AAPL) and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com ( AMZN) to Reed Hastings of Netflix ( NFLX), as well as Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King Jr. Dalio asked several successful people he knew — including Microsoft's ( MSFT) Bill Gates, Elon Musk of Tesla ( TSLA), Hastings and Twitter's ( TWTR) Jack Dorsey — to take personality assessments. Dalio studied the results to find common traits and help with hiring at Bridgewater.
Avoid stagnation and evolve. Dalio forms much of his worldview by studying the natural world. He sees the physical sciences as a benchmark of the way things work. Dalio studied psychology to better understand how the mind functions and to be a better manager and father. He studied biology to understand how organisms morph over time to ensure their survival. Dalio sees the process of evolution as the one system that endures over time — and the one worth mimicking when striving for lasting success. All systems break down over time, unless they change.
"Evolving is life's greatest accomplishment and its greatest reward," he says.
Overcame: An off-the-mark market call for a depression right before the bull market in the 1980s that practically wiped him out.
Lesson: Don't fear failure. Expect it and begin to enjoy the lessons it teaches.
"I can say that being strong is better than being weak, and that struggling gives one strength."
"If you want to succeed in a world where buyers are more informed and empowered than ever," due to the internet, "you'll need to change the way you sell to match how people buy," said Signorelli, who is also director of HubSpot's Global Sales Partner Program.
Tips on remaking the customer experience in the self-service age:
Humanize connections. Modern sales representatives must "personalize, personalize, personalize," Signorelli said.
"What really matters the most," he emphasized, is "having an open and genuine conversation with someone. Ditch the script. It'll reframe how you think and behave in every conversation, for the better."
Demonstrate your worth. If a salesperson "cannot provide insight or information that a prospect could otherwise find on their own, they have no reason to speak with you," Signorelli said. "Period."
Data from marketing firm Corporate Visions shows that 74% of buyers choose the sales rep that was first to add value.
"Pay close attention to what your prospects share with you," Signorelli said. "And use this insight to your advantage."
Pounce on opportunities. When today's internet-savvy buyer actually wants to speak with a sales rep, "they want to speak right then and there, not wait for a callback, Signorelli said.
This is so important that the business responding to a buyer's inquiry first ends up winning the customer's business 35% to 50% of the time, Signorelli says. "The best sellers leverage technology to engage buyers quickly through the buyer's preferred communication channel."
Bliss adds that 77% of global consumers think more favorably of a company when they receive proactive alerts and notifications from it.
Seek caring employees. Know the human behind the resume. Why? Because they are the ones most in contact with your customers.
Bliss points out that companies such as Southwest Airlines ( LUV) spend significant time with candidates to know their life priorities.
Be there. Bliss cites PetSmart's ( PETM) Chewy.com. It provides 24/7 customer service by person, chat or email. "Service is delivered from people who care and who know the answers," Bliss said. "They've earned sales of over $2 billion, up from $26 million in 2012."
Bliss suggests evaluating how long you put customers on hold and rethinking the concept of work hours. "Are you working on customer time, or company time?"
"Failure to empathize or take the customers' situation seriously is one of the most-cited reasons for customers to walk away from a company," she added.
Give to get. Lemonade Insurance wanted to remove the imbalance that sometimes defines the insurance experience, Bliss says. So its claims process includes an honesty pledge — by which it chooses to believe customers' words
Bliss advises that you complete a customer trust review. "Look at all your paperwork — is there any fine print that reads like it was written to protect you from customers?"
And move your people from being " 'policy cops' to people able to honor customers," she said.
The cards were stacked against Rebecca Lukens when she honored her husband's deathbed request and took over the Brandywine Iron Works & Nail Factory in 1825.
At the time, the ironworks was in debt. Lukens (1794-1854) was raising young children and was pregnant with another. That meant she faced running the business and her household alone. And the fact that a woman would be heading an ironworks didn't help matters.
Still, motivated by her Quaker faith, perseverance and courage, Lukens overcame the adversity. She drew on her leadership skills to pursue her goal of continuing and improving the business she had built with her husband as his partner.
"As a leader, she was resilient, courageous and had a strategic outlook," LeAnne Zolovich, educational services manager at the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum, told IBD. "She was a practical person and a sharp judge of character."
Lukens was proprietor (or what we would call the CEO today) of the Brandywine Iron Works in 1825 through 1847. Later she became a silent partner with her son-in-law Abram Gibbons. She fully retired in 1850. During that time, Lukens not only got the business out of debt, she also strengthened its reputation for making quality boiler plates (the pieces of iron that were formed together to create boilers for steam technology) and built it into a powerful force in the industry. Fortune inducted her into the Business Hall of Fame in 1994.
She became one of America's few female iron masters and the country's first female industrialist.
Lukens demonstrated strong leadership skills from the very start of her tenure. She laid the groundwork for what eventually became Lukens Steel.
"She demonstrated she had the ability to run the business, and the business grew at a rate that (her husband) Charles would not have imagined," author Susannah Brody told IBD. She was very successful in business, and she was also a leader in the community as an orthodox Quaker."
Lukens forged success while facing many personal and professional obstacles. But she never gave up. She pushed forward to meet the challenges head on, drawing on her survival instincts to find courage.
"She was like George Washington at Valley Forge," Gene DiOrio, historical advisor to the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum, told IBD. "She faced a million instances where rather than give up and walk away, Rebecca stayed with the problem and worked her way through it. She was a shining example of courage."
Staged A Turnaround
Among the challenges was the fact the business was in debt when Lukens took over, Zolovich says.
Lukens, a savvy business manager and strategic thinker, moved quickly to get her house in order. She got out of debt by taking out lines of credit from local businessmen, some of whom were associates or friends, at decent rates, says Zolovich.
"She also invested in her employees and the mill to increase production and make quality products," she added.
Lukens implemented many changes to make the mill more profitable and competitive, including improving the mill's working conditions.
At the physical site, she rebuilt the dam, installed a new water wheel and built larger furnaces, which allowed her to increase production, says Zolovich. Lukens also adopted new technology as it became available.
On the business side, Lukens pursued specialty markets.
"Rather than just making iron and sell it, she would go to customers and ask what they wanted specifically, and then make that for the customer," Zolovich said.
Zolovich says Lukens ensured the business was profitable and that it didn't operate at a loss.
"If she had to stop production to avoid losing money, she'd do that," she added. "And she made sure she manufactured quality products."
Lukens motivated employees by treating them well and gaining their loyalty. She built housing for them. And she made sure they always had income, even during troubled times, says Zolovich.
That strategy came into play during the major recession known as the Panic of 1837, which wreaked havoc on businesses, including the Brandywine Iron Works.
Lukens invented new jobs and tasks to stay away from layoffs and keep workers committed. At times when production stopped at the mill, Lukens hired her workers to work on the farm she owned, do maintenance on the equipment, or repair the damn.
The strategy paid off.
"When the economy recovered she still had skilled, experienced iron workers at the mill," said Brody. "So she didn't have to find new ones or train new workers. From the perspective of the workers, you can imagine how they felt about her. They didn't lose their jobs and they didn't lose their pay."
Lukens was a hands-on executive, who knew how to delegate responsibility. She didn't handle the smaller, day-to-day operations of the mill, says Zolovich. Her brother-in-law, Solomon Lukens, oversaw the employees and daily production. In today's terms, he would be plant manager.
Her management style was apparent when she was dealing with suppliers and insisting on quality materials.
"She was there supervising and making sure her workers produced quality products," said Brody. "That's what they were known for — quality and being very reliable."
There were times when Lukens returned the iron and refused to pay for it because the iron they produced didn't meet her standards, says Brody. And the suppliers ended up suing her.
Lukens found strength and courage in adversity. One obstacle was the fact that Martha, her mother, "did not fully support her ownership and operations of the ironworks," says Zolovich.
Zolovich says another major challenge was the fact Lukens took over the business as a single mother, who took care of her children by herself and never remarried.
But Lukens found a balance between leading a business and taking care of her family.
She recognized the importance of family: "Rebecca made sure to successfully care for her family and never let the business take over life," said Zolovich.
Then there was the challenge of being a female executive in a male industry.
"While there is actually no record from Rebecca that she was discriminated against, she was a woman in a male industry at a time in history when women rarely worked outside the home, no less owned an iron business," said Zolovich.
That didn't stop Lukens from being a mighty contender.
"I believe she felt herself capable of doing whatever a man would have done in the same position," said Brody. "And she was very successful at it."
Adds DiOrio: "Many other women would have said 'this is beyond me' and quit. But she was a very responsible person who had a family. And she also felt responsible for the workers at the ironworks. And she took on a management position as a woman at a time when it was definitely a man's world."
Lukens possessed qualities and values that made her a rare woman in business and helped her overcome the challenges.
She benefitted from her upbringing. She was highly educated. Lukens attended school until she was 18, which was longer than many boys and girls of that era, says Zolovich.
Her father, Isaac Pennock, prepared her to eventually take over the family's iron business. Lukens' Quaker faith influenced her upbringing and principles. For one, Quakers accepted the education and employment of women, says Zolovich.
Further, Quaker culture emphasizes the "Rules of Discipline," which asks Quakers to use "friendly action" when conflict arises.
"The general idea was Quakers were expected to use mediators to solve conflict or friendly action if they had to solve it themselves," said Zolovich.
She says Lukens followed these rules when she faced legal transactions.
In terms of leadership style, Lukens was not a risk-taker, but she was courageous, says Zolovich.
"Was taking over an iron business a risk? Absolutely," she said. "But Rebecca was a woman of her time in the sense that home and family were equally, if not more, important than the business. She was conservative in her decision-making and did not risk herself, her family, her business or employees."
Still, she was aware of the changes in technology and transportation brought on by the Industrial Revolution.
She took a chance in adopting the railroad as a means of transportation for her products.
"She was very wise and immediately used the (Philadelphia & Columbia) railroad to expand her market when it became active in Coatesville in 1834," said Brody, noting that in the past, the product was shipped by horse and wagon.
The railroad allowed Brandywine Iron Works' product to reach markets throughout the U.S. It extended from New York, Washington, Baltimore and as far as New Orleans, says Brody.
"That's how she became known as the premier boiler plate maker," she added.
Believed In Herself
Lukens was an assertive business leader and a shrewd business manager. She knew how to price her products well.
"She had a strong ability to determine prices for her products — high enough to make a profit, yet not so high to go above the market," according to an article on the museum's website entitled "Rebecca Lukens — Forged in America."
She was also adept at dealing with suppliers.
"She knew how to purchase supplies at the right cost," said Zolovich. "When dealing with suppliers, if she was given a price that was too high, she'd go back to them and negotiate a lower price."
The Brandywine Iron Works saga can be traced to Rebecca's father, Isaac, who established it in 1810. Her father taught Rebecca, the eldest child, the iron business. While home from school, Rebecca joined her father at the ironworks, according to the museum article.
Rebecca and her husband took over business operations by 1817. Rebecca's husband operated the business until his death. Then Rebecca took over.
And what a success she was. By the time Rebecca retired, many American ironworks went out of business, says the museum article. But the Brandywine Iron Works made it through the recession "with strength and success."
Steel came decades later in 1881, when the site rolled its first steel. The name changed to Lukens Iron & Steel in 1890, then to Lukens Steel in 1917. Bethlehem Steel bought Lukens for $740 million in 1998.
Took the reins of Brandywine Iron Works & Nail Factory as a single woman, rescued it from debt and built it into a powerful force in the industry.
Overcame: Running a business and raising a family alone as a widow and being a female executive in a male industry.
Lesson: Push forward to meet the challenges head on and find strength and courage in adversity.
"'I will not dwell on my feelings, when I begin to look around me, but necessity is a stern taskmistress (and) my every want gave me courage."
David Rae is harnessing the power of niche marketing to grow the financial advisory firm he launched last summer.
Already, the Los Angeles-based advisor's clients number some 100 households. Although many had followed him from his previous advisory job, his media blitz, including appearances on "The Today Show" and "Nightline" also caught prospects' eyes.
Rae's new firm, DRM Wealth Management, also has a cachet: It serves a gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual or questioning (LBGTQ) clientele. Rae often meets with clients at his home in L.A.'s upscale Beverly Grove.
Over in Boston, Eric Roberge, founder of financial planning firm Beyond Your Hammock, also serves a niche audience. He targets clients in their 30s and 40s who have at least a six-figure income and an active lifestyle. "Many of my clients travel multiple times during the year," Roberge says.
Roberge, 38, personally relates to his clients and their issues. "I am a high-income earner but not yet rich," he said. "I want to save and invest for the future but also live well today."
These are two profiles in a rising trend: advisors angling for clients based on their demographic and personal traits. These include clients' age and generation, gender, sexual preference, marital status, religion and/or activities.
Today, "there's less emphasis on defining the clientele financially and a growing interest in clients' personalities, lifestyles, hobbies," says Vanessa Oligino, director of business performance solutions at TD Ameritrade Institutional.
Sure, the practice of serving clients in a defined demographic may shut out many potential clients. But proponents say its benefits can more than compensate. The strategy not only stamps advisors with a strong identity in a crowded field, but can also tap into underserved markets. And since advisors would be zeroing in on a target audience, it could help them streamline their marketing and client servicing — saving time and money.
Beyond that, there's the personal draw of dealing with clients advisors understand and enjoy.
Relate To Your Clients
"I love this job," says Michelle Morris, owner of BRIO Financial Planning, which specializes in serving single women. "My clients appreciate the fact that I listen to them and address their issues in ways others may not have in the past."
New data from TD Ameritrade Institutional underscore the popularity of niche marketing. They also highlight the dip in more traditional categories such as clients' assets or occupation. In the TD Ameritrade report 2018 FA Insight Study of Advisory Firms, "levels of investable assets" tied for first place (61% of survey respondents) as advisors' most popular client niche. But that 61% was down from 70% in TD Ameritrade's 2010 report.
During the same time span, the niche category of "occupation" fell to 30% from 40% in popularity among advisors surveyed. Clients' "income" as a niche dropped to 29% in the latest survey, vs. 43% eight years earlier. In contrast, 59% of respondents now have a "lifestage" client niche — up from 54% eight years ago, according to TD Ameritrade.
The firm's 2018 FA Insight Study cites a payoff from niche marketing. According to the report, advisory firms that "truly serve target markets" had a median 35% higher growth in clients than firms that didn't, while revenue growth and profit margins were a respective 25% and 17% higher.
As Haleh Moddasser, partner at Stearns Financial Management, sees it, "If (advisors) pursue their passion and are authentic, I'm convinced they will be more successful." And evidently, she's embraced that credo. Moddasser is an advisor to women clients — especially divorcees over age 50. She's also the author of "Gray Divorce, Silver Linings" and is a divorcee herself.
How can advisors find and nurture the right niche — especially one (or more) targeting personal traits?
If you're an established advisor looking to add a niche, consider the characteristics of your current clients. If you see a common theme, consider building a niche around it, says Dan Sondhelm, CEO of Sondhelm Partners, which provides growth solutions to financial firms.
Understand your target audience, experts say. Read up, or attend related classes, workshops or webinars. Join organizations, such as the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, for educational and/or networking opportunities. And in your promotional material, clearly display any relevant credentials. In the demographic/personal area, these might include Certified Divorce Financial Analyst or Certified Senior Advisor. Check Finra.org for a list of professional designations for financial professionals.
Get specific. The more finely you hone your niche — with perhaps more than one client specification, such as pre-retirees living in the Midwest — the easier it will be to reach your target audience, experts say.
If you're starting an advisory business, seek practice management experts that can help with everything from defining the clientele to building revenue, suggests Kenton Shirk, director of wealth management research and consulting at Cerulli Associates. Locate such experts through home-office programs and third-party consulting firms.
Innovators may be brilliant. But that doesn't mean they're adept at communicating their breakthroughs to others.
It's not enough to come up with great ideas. To make a lasting impact, you need to induce others to buy into your grand vision.
The challenge gets harder when you face off against skeptics who resist change or favor a different option. They may reject your innovation unless you pry open their minds to consider your case.
To persuade others to embrace your inventive solution, tailor your argument to appeal to your audience. Highlight what they will gain and make it easy for them to hop on the bandwagon. To win them over:
Forge a connection. Regaling people about the beauty and benefits of your innovation has its limits. Regardless of how well you deliver your pitch, the real test is whether you engage others and make them feel like participants in the creative process.
"People who invent something aren't necessarily good communicators," said Alex Goryachev, managing director of innovation strategy at Cisco Systems ( CSCO). "Communication requires listening."
Soliciting feedback from others, especially potential resistors, helps you build trust and connect with them. When you're ready to release your prototype, they're more apt to feel like a part of your success if they were involved along the way.
Balance passion with humility. Driven by passion, innovators might assume that their enthusiasm will prove contagious. It might, but you still need to admit what you don't know and show a willingness to bend and accommodate others' preferences.
"If you have passion, you have to channel it in the right areas," Goryachev said. "You need a certain discipline so that as you listen to others, you're able to pivot" to integrate their input, refine your thinking and meet their needs.
Enlist colleagues. If you've invented something that's revolutionary, you may figure you're the only person qualified to talk about it. But you may attract more fans by joining forces with others who can reach out to key constituencies.
"Build a diverse team and play to your strengths," Goryachev said. "I often see founders who insist on communicating themselves (about their innovation). Sometimes it's better to step aside and bring in an expert to communicate" on your behalf, especially if you're not accustomed to interacting with certain groups such as the media or institutional investors.
Keep it human. Innovators can get so enamored of algorithms, systems and technology that they overlook the human factor. If you keep emphasizing how your breakthrough harnesses the latest tech advances, you can lose potential allies.
"Often, I see (innovators) focus on features and technology," Goryachev said. "Rarely do I see them focus on what problem they're solving and why. So start with a business need rather than making a business case for your technology."
Tell a story. Help others understand how you developed your idea. Trace your thought process in an engaging manner and create a narrative arc that led to your brainstorm.
"Tell a very simple and convincing story about your innovation," said Jessica Baxmann, who leads communication for the chief innovation officer at SAP ( SAP), a Germany-based software firm. "Ideally, create pictures in people's mind."
To craft your story, she suggests asking a colleague to interview you about how your innovation came about. What was the genesis of your idea? What barriers arose in pursuing it? How did you overcome them?
"[Strive for] open, honest communication where you explain why you proceeded in a certain way," Baxmann said. "Make the process transparent" and you'll captivate a wider audience.
Before Neil Simon was a successful playwright, he was a successful television comedy writer. He won Emmys for his work on ''The Sid Caesar Show'' (1957) and ''The Phil Silvers Show'' (1959). But he was unhappy.
He compared TV writing to a kind of warfare: He constantly had to battle to make his voice heard in the raucous room where writers devised skits and comedy bits for ''The Sid Caesar Show. '' Besides, Simon's dream was to write plays.
If he didn't devote himself full time to his real goal, ''I realized I'd never do it,'' he said. ''I'd stay in television the rest of my life. ''
So the New York native gave up his steady TV gigs and began working on what became ''Come Blow Your Horn. '' The play premiered in 1961, ran for close to 700 performances and was the first in a string of hits that would earn him numerous laurels, including three Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize (in 1991 for ''Lost in Yonkers'') and the Kennedy Center Honors (1995).
REMEMBERING NEIL SIMON: IBD is honoring the memory of the playwright and comedy writer who died Aug. 26 at age 91 by posting this article that originally published in the Oct. 7, 1999, print edition.
Simon also wrote two volumes of memoirs, ''Re-Writes'' (1996) and ''The Play Goes On'' (1999), as well as numerous original screenplays and adaptations of his plays.
His body of work is not only large and much admired, but it's accessible to the masses in the way that Shakespeare's work was accessible 400 years ago.
Neil Simon Biography: Finding Ideas
Simon looked for and found inspiration everywhere. He once visited his older brother, Danny, who was recently divorced and was rooming with another divorced friend. While others might have seen an apartment in chaos, Simon saw a play. It became ''The Odd Couple. ''
''I'm reminded of the scene in 'The Treasure of Sierra Madre' where they want to give up looking for the gold, and the old man is jumping up and down yelling, 'You can see where it is. It's right here!' People don't see it (the gold) very often,'' Simon said. ''You have to be ever vigilant, see that there is something here. ''
Though he learned the formula for hit plays early in his career, he always moved in new directions, expanding his horizons. Doing the same thing over and over, he decided, would make him stale. He preferred to push boundaries. Simon's plays became more introspective, more layered, more meaningful.
''If I had stayed writing light comedies, I'd have been through 15 years ago,'' he said. ''It wouldn't have sustained me or the audience. The plays had to become more profound, because I was getting older and more profound. ''
However, by ignoring a proven formula, Simon was courting failure. His audience might walk away disappointed because he hadn't delivered what they expected — a Simon play sans message but full of belly laughs.
Willing To Risk
''The trouble is when you deviate from what you did that was successful, they knock you down,'' he said. But Simon felt the risk was worth it. ''I always felt you can't be afraid to fail. You have to look failure in the face and say, 'I'm going to do my next play, and I'm not going to play it safe.' ''
Finding ideas for projects was never a problem. In ''The Play Goes On,'' he wrote that they came to him in torrents, like a waterfall. Picking which ideas to work on was a bit more complicated, and he never made that decision in the heat of the moment. He'd draw back and wait until he felt he could be objective.
Usually he'd write an outline or actual pages of a play ''and just let it sit there.'' He'd put that effort in a drawer and take it out weeks later to see whether the subject still resonated with him.
Simon surrounded himself with people he trusted and who shared his worldview.
''I've been lucky,'' he said. ''But I've also been smart. If you're not smart, you pick the wrong people. I was always very discerning about what (would-be producers' and collaborators') aims and goals are.
''If they were looking for quality material that also had commercial possibilities, they were OK,'' he said. He dismissed those looking for a quick buck.
His best advisor was his gut.
''It's a dangerous thing to turn power over to someone else,'' Simon said. ''You've got to trust yourself. There are so many people who'll say no to what you're doing. Even in the face of that lack of encouragement, if you feel it's good, you have to persevere. There probably aren't too many experts out there who know more about what you're doing than you do. ''
Importance Of Appreciation
Simon believed that everyone, even a successful playwright, needs to be told he is appreciated. In ''The Play Goes On,'' he wrote, ''Creation needs to be nurtured by those who hold the creation and the creator in esteem, because I'm an authority on how quickly confidence, with no one to bolster it, can disappear on a daily basis. ''
But don't look for empty praise, he once cautioned. ''You need encouragement, but you need it from the right people. By encouragement I don't mean people who just say a play is good, but (those) who'll tell me it's good and this is what you can do to make it better.''
When he was growing up, Simon made it a point to read the great humorists, such as Robert Benchley and Ring Lardner. But he discovered that nothing on the printed page taught him more than real life.
''I learned a little about craftsmanship by reading the masters,'' he said. ''But you learn a lot more by observing people. You can have all the craftsmanship in the world, but if it doesn't have the essence and vitality of reality, you have nothing.''
Navy pilot John McCain knew what he needed to do. When his North Vietnamese captors dangled freedom in front of him, McCain said no.
His stubbornness only invited torture. He was savagely beaten by 10 guards as they laughed. His broken arms were cinched around the back of a chair. He was starved and isolated. But McCain didn't want to be released and go home. He knew that would be wrong — it would violate U.S. military rules, which dictate that prisoners of war return in the order they are captured. He also didn't want the North Vietnamese to look good by releasing McCain, the injured son of the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific.
So he stood his ground.
''The prison experience taught me in spades to hold true to the things you believe are right,'' he told Investor's Business Daily in a 1999 interview. ''When I'm down at the old soldiers home with my feet up on the railing, the only question I'm going to ask myself is: 'Did I try to do the right thing?' ''
It's a principle he continued to practice. During his 31 years as U.S. senator from Arizona and two terms in the House of Representatives, McCain, a Republican, earned a reputation as a maverick, upholding his convictions even if they angered his constituents and colleagues.
REMEMBERING JOHN McCAIN: In memory of the politician and war hero who died Aug. 25 at age 81, Investor's Business Daily is posting, with minor updates, this article originally published in the April 27, 1999, print edition.
In 1983, his first year in Congress, McCain objected to President Reagan's decision to deploy U.S. troops in Lebanon. Soon after, terrorists bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 soldiers.
In 1995, McCain backed the Clinton administration's decision to renew relations with Vietnam, resulting in condemnation from Republicans and other war veterans.
''He puts principle ahead of politics,'' Carl Smith, who flew with McCain in the Navy, said in an April 1997 article in the National Journal.
John McCain Biography: Navy Career
Before entering politics, McCain served 22 years in the Navy and earned multiple decorations.
He was in a bombing mission over Hanoi on Oct. 12, 1967, when his jet was downed by a missile. He ejected, shattering a knee and breaking both arms in the process. He fell into a shallow lake; Vietnamese soldiers fished him out, smashed his shoulder and wounded him with a bayonet.
McCain was taken to a prison in Hanoi, where his wounds were bandaged. But he was told medical treatment would stop until he provided military information.
Determined to uphold the military code, McCain gave only his name, rank, serial number and birth date. The guards became livid and beat him.
''That just knocked me out, so the interrogations were fairly short,'' McCain said in ''The Nightingale's Song'' by Robert Timberg.
He remained a prisoner for the next 5-1/2 years. To survive and maintain his morale, McCain used various strategies.
John McCain: Self-Respect As POW
He often talked back to his captors, an exercise that ''got him through the night, kept him sane, helped him maintain his self-respect,'' Timberg wrote.
Once, McCain lashed out at a crowd of North Vietnamese dignitaries who entered his cellblock.
''It was some of the most colorful profanity that you would ever hope to hear,'' fellow prisoner of war Jack Van Loan said in Timberg's book. ''He was calling them every name in the book, and telling them that he was not going home early, that he wasn't going to ask for amnesty and not to ask him again to get out.''
Communication with inmates was critical, McCain said. Alone in his cell, he developed a tapping code to talk to other prisoners — one for an ''a,'' two for ''b'' and so on. He began learning the names of POWs being held by North Vietnam, memorizing them by building word associations. For example: Brudno with ''brute'' and Baker with a loaf of bread. During one period in solitary confinement, he memorized the names of 335 POWs. This helped McCain and other inmates smuggle out a roster of American POWs to the U.S. government.
He used his memory to keep his morale up. He and fellow inmates recited by heart and went over the meaning of passages from Shakespeare's ''Hamlet'' and ''Macbeth.'' They recalled famous lines from sea battles, such as John Paul Jones' ''I have not yet begun to fight,'' and speeches by Douglas MacArthur and Winston Churchill.
McCain's captors demanded that he confess to war crimes against the North Vietnamese but he refused. His defiance resulted in daily beatings that sometimes left him lying in a pool of his own blood. After years of this abuse, McCain did confess. He was finally released on March 14, 1973, shortly after the U.S. agreed to end its role in the Vietnam War.
McCain: 'Be Tougher, Be Stronger'
He credited his survival with his mental attitude during his imprisonment. ''Be tougher, be stronger'' than normal, he said.
After his release, McCain became the Navy's attache to the Senate. Watching policymakers up close sparked a fire under him — he decided he wanted to make a difference in the way the country was run. He ran for Congress from Arizona and won in 1982.
Having just moved to the state, he was branded a carpetbagger. But he refused to be labeled that way. Arizona Republic columnist John Kolbe recalled McCain's reply when he was once called an interloper.
''I grew up as a Navy brat, and we lived all over the world,'' McCain said. ''In fact, the longest time I lived anywhere in my life was Hanoi.''
Kolbe noted: ''There was a moment of silence where people sort of processed what he was saying. To this day, it remains the most effective response to a potentially troubling (accusation) that I've ever seen by a politician.''
Avoiding Personal Attacks
After serving two terms in the House of Representatives, McCain ran for and was elected to the Senate in 1986. Known for being even-tempered, he had a method for talking to colleagues on Capitol Hill when the air became contentious.
''When you get into heated discussions about issues and debates, never, ever get personal,'' he said. ''I can get into the fiercest debate with somebody, and he'll forget it the next day. But if I impugn his motives or integrity, (he'll) never forget it. Too often in American politics, we do that.''
McCain relied on a line he first used in the Navy — ''take a steady strain'' — as a guideline for handling both successes and failures. It means staying on an even keel emotionally, whether things are going well or poorly.
''I really learned that in prison,'' he said. ''We would get our hopes up that we were going to be released, and then they'd be dashed. I determined that the best thing was to wait until I saw an American uniform at the airport in Hanoi.''
McCain transformed his POW experience into a positive force in life. ''You either go in one of two directions,'' he said in Timberg's book. ''Either you go forward and try to rebuild your life — not just the material part, but the spiritual part, too — or you look back in anger. If you look back in anger, it can be not only nonproductive but self-destructive.''
Family values are often cited by top leaders as a reason for their success.
But CEO Larry Mendelson took this farther than most by teaming up with his sons Eric and Victor to transform HEICO ( HEI) from a small player into one of the leading names in aerospace.
Indeed it was the 80-year-old's boys, who were attending Columbia University at the time and inspired by the '80s leveraged buyout boom, who went to their father and asked him to help them take over the Florida company.
"They were doing research and it was in the midst of the 1980s when the LBO boom and the Michael Milken stuff was going on," Mendelson said. "They saw all this activity up in New York and said, 'Dad why don't we take over an industrial company and build it as a family business?' I had been in the real estate business, and I said 'OK that sounds like a good idea, why don't we do that.'"
Mendelson had already built valuable business experience as a certified public accountant for Arthur Andersen. He had also branched out on his own as a successful real estate developer, before launching what would be his third, most successful, career.
When the New York-born mogul and his sons took over HEICO in 1990, it was worth just $25 million. Today the company, which manufactures replacement parts and systems for aircraft, has a market cap of $10 billion.
"The firm essentially had one product line. It had a combustor for JT8D engine," Mendelson said. "And of course we knew you can't run a big successful company on one product. So we theorized if we could get FAA approval for the single combustor, why couldn't we get FAA approval for multiple products?"
In their first year they managed to get four approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration for replacement parts. Now they get 300 to 400 every year.
A further hurdle was persuading aircraft operators to actually use their parts. They faced resistance even though they were cheaper than replacements from the likes of General Electric ( GE) and Pratt & Whitney.
"The (original equipment manufacturer) is a tough competitor," Mendelson said. "They would say, 'Why would you want to buy products from that little company in Florida? You can't rely on them. They're not safe.' Of course that was not true as the FAA had approved them. But competitors will say anything. It is like politics. The other side will accuse the other one of anything. It doesn't have to be true. But they'll say it anyway."
A key moment came in 1996 when they started doing business with German aircraft maintenance giant Lufthansa Technik, which has a reputation for only using top-quality parts.
"OEMs could no longer tell the customer you can't trust HEICO's parts because Lufthansa was considered the best quality German engineering, repair and overhaul" company, Mendelson said. "Lufthansa did great because they got parts at a significantly lower cost, and Heico gained credibility plus a good customer. That was a major help for us."
Another challenge they faced in their early days at the company was a $100 million lawsuit from United Technologies ( UTX), which accused them of stealing trade secrets and unfair competition.
"They were so big they were hoping the legal fees would put us out of business," Mendelson said. "Very interestingly, we had an insurance policy, a strange policy, which probably paid $18 million or $20 million in legal fees over a period of close to the first 10 years," Mendelson said. "We prevailed in the lawsuit, and there were never any damages. But that was a very tough time."
The firm, which was founded in 1957, has massively expanded since Mendelson's early days. Nowadays its products are found in aircraft, spacecraft and a plethora of defense equipment. It operates in two segments, with a Flight Support group and an Electronic Technologies group.
Keeping It In The Family
A key reason for their sustained success is the strong management team, which is led by Mendelson and his sons Eric and Victor, who serve as co-presidents.
"They had worked with me in the real estate business since they were young kids, so going into business with them later in life was a natural progression. Working with them is a pleasure," Mendelson said.
Victor Mendelson said he got the best training possible in business, thanks to his father.
"He would take us to his developments and he would ask us for our input on any range of topics, whether it was sales, architecture development, marketing, management, and then he would let us work in the business and treat us as adults. That had a tremendous impact on our confidence," the 51-year-old said. "He didn't instruct us, but he guided us and showed us the path by example."
Nowadays they follow a strict collective responsibility policy. No major decisions are made without unanimous approval. They believe this ensures no one is ever left feeling disenfranchised by the decision making process.
Eric Mendelson, 52, said their family's investment and ongoing control of the company is a major reason for its excellent performance.
"Without the family dynamic, Heico would be a very different company. And I do not believe it would have experienced the success that it has today," Eric said.
Larry Mendelson believes that placing trust in employees, and giving them a stake in the firm, is one of the key secrets to its success. A select band of staff members who have been at the company the longest have been given shares worth $1.5 million to $6 million. Many more have stock worth up to $1.5 million. And these perks are not just funneled to executives, but also to secretaries, factory workers, shipping clerks and others.
"One of the basic philosophies we had to make sure is our employees, we call them team members, are owners too," Mendelson said."It makes me very happy to know that these people who have worked so hard and done good things and made millions for shareholders are making millions for themselves."
The Mendelson family has also been richly rewarded for their decades of hard work. Their original $5 million stake of the company is now worth around $800 million.
Another important factor to the company's success is the level of trust management shows in their staff.
Mendelson says micromanaging workers is anti-productive, especially when you have talented engineers and managers bustling with creative spirit and expertise.
"When you get on an airplane you don't say to the captain, 'Let me see what you're doing, are you going at the right compass angle?' " he said. "It's the same thing in running a business – when you have competent, trained, knowledgeable people, let them go. The only thing Eric, Victor and I really say is, 'How can we help you?' "
Learning Through Experience
Mendelson's love of initiative translated into his parenting style. He encouraged his sons to think for themselves, and helped them develop a sense of entrepreneurship.
One memorable moment of parenting was when his boys, who were only 13 and 15 at the time, decided they would attempt to flip an apartment at one of Mendelson's developments so they could buy a BMW with the profits. However the buyer they secured backed out of the deal at the last minute, leaving them at risk of losing their deposit. Despite his wife's begging, Mendelson refused to bail them out.
"I said, 'Arlene this is the best lesson that could ever happen, because if they went to business school for 20 years they would never know the real life experience,' " Mendelson said. "You study a book, but you don't get that feeling inside your bones when a deal doesn't work out."
Eventually his boys managed to find another buyer, though they made a more modest profit. This still allowed the pair to buy a car, though it was a Ford Mustang rather than the BMW they had hoped for.
Land Of Opportunity
Due to his success, Mendelson has been able to travel all over the world. But he believes people who live in the United States are extremely lucky due to the plethora of opportunities available to honest, hard-working people.
"The whole trick is to get an education and work hard," he said. "Do those two things, and I think anybody can make it in this country."
Transformed a small company into a leading multibillion dollar business.
Overcame: A market dominated by original equipment manufacturers.
Lesson: Set yourself a goal and stick to it.
"If you do what you love doing, set yourself a goal and then devote yourself to accomplishing that task, I believe in most cases you are going to succeed."
Eager to develop their technical skills, advisors may overlook the marketing side of the business. But once they launch their practice, branding takes center stage.
Successful planners build a brand based on a consistent, captivating message. They ensure that every aspect of their operation reinforces their value proposition — the key deliverables that appeal to their target clientele.
Crafting a clear message sounds simple, but it's often challenging for advisors who lack experience in marketing and self-promotion. They may assume that their knowledge speaks for itself and their background and credentials establish their expertise.
"The actual services that we're providing, no one's creating the wheel here," said Devon Klumb, an advisor in Cincinnati. "We're all kind of doing the same thing. For us, branding is looking different than everyone else."
When Klumb entered the business a few years ago, he followed the basic playbook in describing his firm's services. But he soon realized this approach failed to set him apart from other advisors.
"It was 'we work with individuals and families' and other standard nomenclature that every advisor uses," he recalled. "We learned we needed to change that" and strike a more distinctive tone.
Rather than focus on how they help people address their financial planning needs, Klumb and his colleagues positioned themselves as professionals who could relate well to their clients. They wanted to emphasize that they shared their clients' age, outlook and sensibilities.
"We shifted our philosophy so that we're more like our clients," said Klumb, 26. "We've learned to present ourselves more like the people we're meeting with. We don't wear suits. We're relaxed and casual. We say our job is to listen to you and not put you in a box" as opposed to segmenting clients and making assumptions about each group's aspirations, concerns and preferences.
At its best, branding enables advisors to communicate whom they serve and what differentiates their firm. It's not enough to pick the right niche; the real test is connecting with that target audience and assuring them that you're ideally suited to address their needs.
Using images that engage your niche heightens your connection. If you seek to attract physicians, for example, you'll want to lace your website with symbols of the medical profession.
Yet some advisors mismanage their attempt to reach the type of consumers they covet. Rather than stick to a clear message, they strike discordant notes by including a mishmash of photos or testimonials from clients who fall outside the scope of their desired niche.
"A big lesson I've learned is the importance of narrowing in on a niche and reinforcing your brand," said Samuel Deane, a New York City-based advisor. "Our niche is millennials so we reinforce that brand by online onboarding" that's designed with young go-getters in mind.
Deane, 26, says a key to effective marketing is crafting a brand that appeals to your niche. This includes tailoring every aspect of the client experience — from newsletter content to personal outreach — so that it drills home the appropriate themes through evocative imagery.
Eager to win over millennial clients, Deane says that his goal is to "provide financial services better, faster and cooler" to them. Beyond harnessing technology to maximize convenience for his clients, he also aims to add an aura of luxury to their perception of his practice.
Upon establishing a new client relationship, he writes a personal card welcoming them to his firm accompanied by a gift: a bottle of Champagne.
"People drink Champagne in a celebratory moment," Deane said. "It makes them feel good and look forward to their luxurious future with an advisor."
Knowing that millennials place a high value on making a social impact, Deane highlights the role of philanthropy as it intersects with financial services. He promises to donate 10% of his firm's revenue to provide pro bono financial planning to low-income families.
"It's a message that resonates with our niche," he said.
Another element of his marketing strategy involves educating millennials on money matters. In early 2018, he wrote a short e-book with 10 steps for young professionals to enhance their financial planning.
He says that nearly 1,000 people have downloaded the free e-book, giving him a rich source of prospects to contact. Through his follow-up emails, Deane has gained around 12 clients to date.
"We know a lot of millennials don't have life insurance or an emergency fund set up," he said. The e-book cost Deane less than $200 to produce, making it an effective educational and marketing tool.
She asked 900 people with full-time jobs and families to keep track of their time for a day. "The strategies I learned can help anyone feel less busy while getting more done," she told IBD.
Tips on taming time:
Monitor it. When we don't know where our time is going, it's easy to feel overwhelmed, Vanderkam says. "When we do know, we can change what needs to be and celebrate what's working. Time discipline leads to time freedom."
Vanderkam has been tracking her time on weekly spreadsheets for three years.
"I promise the results will be enlightening," she said. "Just as we seek out good data for making business decisions, time data leads to better life choices."
Make life memorable. When it's not, it feels like time is slipping through our fingers, Vanderkam says.
She advises that each day you ask yourself this question: "Why is today different from other days?" If you don't have a good answer, "see if you can plan a mini-adventure in your life."
It doesn't have to be elaborate. "Maybe you call a few colleagues and try out a new restaurant for lunch," she said. "Maybe you surprise your spouse with movie tickets on a Monday night! Maybe you take your family to the park after dinner instead of just watching TV."
The key is this, she said: "if you do something memorable, you will remember it. And that will make you feel like you have more time."
Target productive periods. Good time management includes considerations of when we are at our peak energy mentally, physically and emotionally. Experts from neuroscience, medicine, business and psychology confirm this.
Camuto suggests starting with the big picture view of a day, week, month and quarter. "What is most important in a day? This type of big picture prioritization is not about quantity but about quality – top goals, projects, work relationships, business growth/development or crisis trouble shooting," she said.
Define wins. Camuto views her day as a success if she meets her three most important tasks, even at the expense of eliminating less vital ones that were planned. "As leaders, focus, delegate and help your teams do the same," she said. "There is good science behind this approach."
The skill of prioritization is critical, she adds. "Walk in to work with the mindset that you will have enough time to do the most important things. The day will probably not be perfect, but you will succeed and have a good one if you understand the following:"
What work is most important and requires your peak focus?
What time periods are usually your best times for focus?
What relationships need attention?
What meetings are a waste of your time?
When will you take breaks to refocus and re-energize?
Manage your phone. People have available leisure time but choose to chop it up with frequent glances at their phones, Vanderkam's research found. Then, an hour that could be spent more productively "disappears into unnecessary email deleting, headline checking and social media perusal."
Try putting your phone in airplane mode occasionally to remove "the temptation to check mindlessly," she said. "You'll likely feel like you have more time."
Let it go. Problematic expectations eat up time, and ruminating keeps us from enjoying the time we have, Vanderkam says.
Try being understanding with yourself, she advises. "Rather than lament all you're not getting done, celebrate what you have accomplished," Vanderkam said. "This will likely inspire you to take a few more small steps, rather than giving up entirely."
Aretha Franklin had been recording albums for more than a decade when she sat down at the piano in a Muscle Shoals recording studio in Alabama on Jan. 27, 1967.
She'd had some hits and been recognized as a powerful singer, yet she'd never really found her niche. Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler had an idea: Rather than try to shoehorn her into a particular format, why not just let Aretha be Aretha?
Franklin agreed. She stepped into the recording booth, took in a breath, paused and let loose from the very bottom of her soul.
After all those lost, frustrating years recording pop and jazz, it was like a dam had burst. Two hours into her first Atlantic session, Franklin had recorded the soul masterpiece, "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)."
REMEMBERING ARETHA FRANKLIN: IBD is honoring the memory of the legendary singer who died this week at age 76 by posting this article that originally published in the Oct. 17, 2006, print edition.
Wexler was stunned when he heard the recording. "I couldn't believe it was that good. I said, 'That's my first record with her, and it can't be this good,' " he commented, according to Mark Bego's "Aretha Franklin: Queen of Soul."
But it was — and it was no fluke. In the following years, Franklin dominated the music world like few women before or since, racking up one classic hit after another and earning the title "The Queen of Soul." Regarded as one of the top vocalists ever, she's had 17 top 10 pop hits, 12 gold records and five multiplatinum records. She's also won 18 Grammy Awards, more than any other female artist.
Franklin realized she'd struggled to make her mark because others were calling the shots. Only after she decided to follow her instincts did she come into her own.
After "I Never Loved a Man," she remained the central orchestrator of her own sound, the essential contributor and final arbiter of what fit or did not fit her musical persona," Wexler said in his memoir, "Rhythm and the Blues."
Aretha Franklin Biography: Family Background
Music came naturally to Franklin. She had a magnificent voice, and she grew up in a world saturated with the best of gospel and soul music.
Her excellence came from her ability to absorb the best of what she saw and heard. Franklin was born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tenn. Her family moved shortly after that to Detroit. Her father, C.L. Franklin, a Baptist minister, took over a congregation in a hard-hit urban area. The church soon rocked to the sounds of heavenly testifying.
Franklin listened to her father and memorized the cadences and rhythms he used when he preached and sang. She applied them when she sang.
"Most of what I learned vocally came from him. He gave me a sense of timing in music," Franklin said of her father, according to Phil Garland's "The Sound of Soul." "Timing is important in everything."
His wasn't the only influence. The Franklin household could count as family friends a who's who of musical greats. Gospel legends James Cleveland and Mahalia Jackson, jazz master Art Tatum, soul legend Sam Cooke and numerous Motown stars-to-be such as Smokey Robinson, Otis Williams of the Temptations, and Diana Ross and Mary Wilson of the Supremes regularly dropped by. Franklin made a careful study of all of them.
Franklin's sisters were talented musicians in their own right. Erma Franklin recorded the original version of the soul classic, "Piece of My Heart," later a hit for Janis Joplin. Carolyn Franklin wrote several of Aretha's songs. Both sang backup on several of Aretha's classic recordings.
Aretha Franklin: Early Recordings
Studying wasn't enough, however; Franklin had to practice what she heard. She taught herself the piano at age 10 so she could imitate the notes more accurately. She learned tunes by copying the musical houseguests and adding her own flourishes.
Her father tried to get Franklin to take piano and voice lessons, but she was intimidated. She hid whenever the teacher came by, preferring to learn instinctively.
"We'd poke our heads into the music room and (be) amazed," recalled Smokey Robinson in his memoir, "Smokey: Inside My Life." "Seated behind the baby grand was a baby herself, singing like an angel."
Franklin learned about live performance firsthand. She began spending her summer vacations traveling with her father's gospel choir. On the road, Franklin watched the older singers and mimicked their movements. If a move felt unnatural to her, she dropped it.
In 1956, at the age of 13, she recorded her first album of gospel music, "Songs of Faith," for Chicago's Chess Records. A few years later the prodigy was signed to Columbia Records by legendary talent scout John Hammond, whose other discoveries included Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
But Columbia didn't know what to do with Franklin. Natural talent, musical chops and good influences meant little when she wasn't using them effectively.
"I was being classified as a jazz singer, and I never, ever felt I was a jazz singer," Franklin was quoted as saying in Bego's book.
Still, she tried to fit the mold. She sang every way she was instructed, but the sound was never quite right. After seven frustrating years in which she recorded jazz, pop, show tunes and blues, Columbia let her contract lapse. Atlantic Records then picked her up.
By then, the 25-year-old diva was considered almost a washout.
Perseverance And Success
Franklin vowed to prove everyone wrong. She carefully chose songs that suited her voice. When she couldn't find them, she wrote them herself.
In every song, Franklin searched for an emotional connection with the lyrics. If she understood the emotion expressed, she could infuse the sound with the feeling and translate it to listeners.
"I sing to the realist, people who accept it like it is," Franklin said in Craig Werner's history of soul music, "Higher Ground." "I express problems. There are tears when it's sad and smiles when it's happy. It seems simple to me, but for some people I guess feeling takes courage."
Knowing preparation would make her recording sessions smoother, Franklin worked out all the arrangements for her songs herself before she entered the studio. She made sure she knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it.
Once Franklin walked into the studio, she explained to each musician exactly how his or her part should sound. She did the same with the backing vocalists. To ensure they all understood, she sang their parts for them in the run-throughs.
Recognizing that music often narrates people's lives, Franklin chose her lyrics carefully. Many of her songs carry an uplifting message.
Aretha Franklin Bio: Musical Influence
"Those records were so damn good because she took care of business at home," Wexler said in his memoir.
She kept her success in perspective and was careful never to move too far away from the sources of her inspiration. At the height of her early fame in 1972 she recorded "Amazing Grace," a live album of gospel music that's widely regarded by critics and fans as one of her finest efforts.
Her influence has radiated to every form of music. It even touched the political sphere. Much of her gutsy, determined music served as a soundtrack for the civil rights era. As Werner noted:
"Aretha's voice illuminated the gospel vision that sustained the foot soldiers of the movement, the ordinary people whose tears, sweat and — far too often — blood changed America in ways that seemed impossible ... a generation before."
Like doctors, advisors often get asked for free advice. Respond the right way and you can woo a new client.
When you run into friends and acquaintances, they may pepper you with questions about their 401(k) or hot stocks. They perceive you as an expert and fish for information on the fly.
Giving a friendly, knowledgeable answer increases the odds that they'll decide to retain your services. But if you're curt — or unwilling to engage in any way — you can miss a chance to turn a casual conversation into a prospecting opportunity.
Experienced advisors capitalize on these encounters by highlighting a few salient points. They may introduce some helpful ideas or make a practical suggestion and then encourage a follow-up meeting.
"In times of market volatility, we can be the center of attention at a party," said Tom Sedoric, an advisor in Portsmouth, N.H. "I may mention a few themes like tax efficiency and living in a global economy. But because we're planners first and investments complement the planning process, we can't extract as much from them in a social setting."
Nevertheless, Sedoric welcomes these inquiries and seeks to provide general guidance. After 34 years in the business, he knows not to dig for details and get too specific.
Identify A Need
When you encounter people in public who want to pick your brain or get advice, it helps to uncover their underlying need. Some investors simply want reassurance that their current strategy meets your approval. Others may be grappling with an unresolved financial issue that's nagging at them.
Sedoric says that some people "want us to hold their hand," while others may face "a trigger event" that prompts their question. Identifying the circumstances surrounding their situation — from a recent inheritance to a pending business or real estate sale — can lay the groundwork for a more productive discussion at a later date.
For those hunting for investment ideas, many advisors prefer to redirect the chat and establish rapport. For example, they may ask about the individual's dealings with other advisors or their track record as stock pickers.
"I try to put the question back on them and find out their goals," said Ed Iannaccone, a certified financial planner in Paramus, N.J. If they open up, he might suggest they schedule a brief phone call so that he can learn more.
Iannaccone distinguishes between those who genuinely want help navigating their financial situation — and who honestly share their hopes and concerns — from seekers of stock tips who lack any interest in furthering the relationship.
"There are two categories," he said. "They really want help or they just want to extract free information. If they have a pressing concern or an event that's imminent in their life like they're retiring in six months, that tends to lead to an appointment."
Propose Next Steps
For some advisors, the real value of these chance encounters is turning them into prospecting opportunities. By probing and dangling a few enticing bits of information, advisors can parlay quick conversations into lasting client relationships.
Matt Oechsli, an author and speaker who helps advisors refine their marketing strategy, suggests redirecting an individual's casual inquiry so that you gain more insight. If you're asked about retirement savings, for example, respond with a genial question of your own such as, "Has your advisor reviewed your financial plan recently?"
"You're potentially creating dissatisfaction," said Oechsli, founder and chief executive of the Oechsli Institute in Greensboro, N.C. "By planting a seed of dissatisfaction and getting them talking, you can get to what we call a mini-close" by proposing an upcoming meeting.
Rather than give out your business card and invite the person to call your office for an appointment, Oechsli recommends that you schedule it right there. Say, "Let's grab a cup of coffee" and firm up the day and time of the meeting before you part.
"That's better than hoping they'll follow up," he said. "Follow-up is sometimes shaky."
Prospecting gets easier when you can succinctly describe your approach, philosophy or advisory process. Providing a clear overview of what you do, how you do it and why it matters can set expectations and persuade others to advance to the next step.
Above all, avoid debating investment tactics or criticizing other advisors. Getting into arguments rarely results in a fruitful new client relationship.
Look for an opening to say, "I think I can help you," Iannaccone says. That sets the stage for further discussion, and it works better than lecturing others on what they don't understand or mistakes they've made.
Shortly after she started T3 (The Think Tank), an Austin, Texas-based advertising agency, Gay Gaddis was asked to do pro bono work for the local Salvation Army. It was the early '90s. There'd been a downturn in the Texas economy, and many donors were not able to fulfill pledges made in better times. The organization was in dire straits.
She came up with a great idea: a simple, all-type ad that said:
"To you it's a newspaper. To the homeless it's a blanket."
But to make it work required a center spread in the local newspaper, the American-Statesman. So Gaddis met with the editor who loved the concept, but claimed that he couldn't donate the centerfold she requested. He offered two tabloid-size pages, but they were obviously too small, the size of rags, not blankets. She told him: "I need the centerfold of the main section."
And then she sat there, said nothing, and waited. And waited. Finally he relented, proving one of Gaddis' basic rules of negotiating: He who speaks first loses.
It's one of several helpful pieces of down-home advice in her book " Cowgirl Power: How to Kick Ass in Business and in Life," a "Lean-In" for country girls (and guys). It's filled with the rules she followed as she built one of the largest female-owned advertising agencies in the country, with annual revenue of $38 million.
Gaddis grew up in modest circumstances in the small town of Liberty, Texas, where she began riding horses and herding cattle when she was just 6 years old. But she also demonstrated creative skills early on and eventually won an art scholarship to the University of Texas.
After graduation she held a series of jobs in advertising and public relations, some better than others. In her first, she found herself in "Mad Men" territory — ignored, given menial jobs and the recipient of blatant sexist comments.
In another she found herself writing copy for a product called Buck Magnet, which she discovered was simply doe urine. But she approached that assignment with the same vigor she gave to larger, more mainstream clients.
And in each job, she learned a little more about both the creative and financial ends of the business. And she gained confidence. In 1989, disappointed in the direction the agency was taking, she proffered her boss a new business plan.
"I thought I was going to reinvent the agency business," she said in a telephone interview with IBD. The boss disagreed and turned down her proposal. Humiliated and angry, she quit.
Striking Out On Her Own
Once she decided to leave, opening her own shop was an easy choice. "The economy was so bad, I probably couldn't have gotten another job anyway," she said. Fortunately, she had worked out an agreement with her employer that, in exchange for a percentage of earnings for a few years, she could take a passel of clients with her.
The process actually illustrates two of Gaddis' mantras.
The first was to develop an area of expertise. Hers was marketing hospitals. By 1989, she was probably the most knowledgeable person in the state in this area and had loyal clients in many major Texas markets.
The second mantra: Negotiate from a position of strength. She knew — and her boss knew — that if she left, her hospital clients would leave with her.
At the urging of her husband, Lee, Gaddis came up with a simple, if slightly PG-rated business plan as she created her own agency: "I want to do kick-ass work for clients who want to kick ass."
To accomplish that goal, she decided to take a holistic approach to the agency business. She did not want to do just advertising, but the entire marketing area, whatever worked best for the client. So she made nontraditional — especially for the time — hires: architects, psychologists, presentation experts and, generally, people who could think on their feet.
Gaddis recalls when the first big potential client came in to interview the agency, the phones outside her office were ringing off the hook. After the meeting concluded, Gaddis asked her assistant who called. No one, she said. She just kept calling herself to make the office seem busy.
Not surprisingly, T3 soon built a reputation for not allowing budget constraints to stand in the way of outstanding creative ideas. Consider the work the agency did for a company called US Brick.
"A brick is a brick to most people," Gaddis said. "The competition was using (then-Dallas Cowboys quarterback) Troy Aikman and they had more money for bigger television spots. It was daunting to compete."
T3 took a two-tier approach. First they created a 15-second commercial using stock footage of a building imploding and added a tag line: "Looks Like They Should Have Used US Brick."
T3 also hired a local mural artist to paint the company's vans to look like bricks, even mixing sand in with the paint to give the vans a brick-like texture. The vans were now moving billboards and won the agency a national advertising award.
Taking It To The Next Level
Quality work soon attracted larger clients. In 1993, the agency was asked to take on a small project for Dell. The company was having difficulty managing its direct-mail database and was looking for help. Gaddis' company came up with suggestions for technical improvements — but didn't stop there. Unbidden, they offered creative ideas, and Dell gave them a shot. The campaign worked, and T3 started picking up additional Dell assignments.
Not surprisingly, Gaddis offers a cowgirl explanation of why she provided Dell with more than the company asked for:
"We over-deliver for big new accounts to get them in. We're like coyotes. They start eating the underbelly first and [then eat] the rest of the kill from within. Once you are in, you really have the opportunity to stand out and be really creative."
In 1996, Dell decided to start selling its computers online. Although that seems so obvious now, people at the time — both clients and staff — thought Gaddis was nuts when she decided to buy into the concept. In the same way she developed expertise in marketing hospitals a decade earlier, she committed to the internet.
"We found people who were fascinated by the internet, a few geeks," Gaddis said. "We got help from people from Dell. We would trade people back and forth. Their analytics guy worked in our office for a while.
"It was amazing the way we jumped into the internet."
Today, digital marketing campaigns for Fortune 200 companies ranging from Pizza Hut to Home Depot are at the center of T3's business.
Providing A Progressive Workplace
One of the areas that Gaddis feels has fueled her growth is that she has created a happy work environment. For example, early in her agency's life, four of its 24 employees got pregnant within four weeks of each other. "It must have been an ice storm," Gaddis suggested.
She didn't want to lose them for the duration of a maternity leave or — potentially worse — forever if they decided not to come back to work. So, thinking outside the box, she allowed new parents — men and women — to bring their children to work. "It's not licensed day care," Gaddis said. Parents were responsible for their children, and "over the last 27 years over 100 employees have taken advantage of the program," called T3 & Under.
It's made all the difference in the world for Kelsi Brown who works in the company's human resources department. "It was a lifesaver," she told IBD.
"It was a great thing from the perspective of a new mother to have that option. We always prep managers that the parents/employees are not necessarily going to be operating at full speed. In my situation, it was a lot of communicating about my daughter's nap and feeding schedule.
"Without this program, I don't know what I would have done. But this certainly made me more comfortable."
The program has had a positive impact in a number of ways. For one thing, there has been a substantial amount of positive publicity about it, including several appearances on national TV. And clients noticed. But, most important, the infants were not disruptive. On the contrary, they seemed to help bond everyone.
Positive attitude is something she encourages. She refuses to tolerate people who behave badly: They are dismissed as soon as they show their true colors. To avoid hiring mistakes, prospective employees go through an interesting vetting process. They meet with representatives of human resources but also with members of the team they'll be working with if hired.
"We want to know if a person is going to fit in," Gaddis said. "They'll take them to lunch, and no matter what skills they have we won't hire them unless other people say we want this person on our team. Because then they are a stakeholder in his or her future.
"We don't want to have to (fire the wrong hire). That's the last thing you want to do. You want to get the right person to begin with."
Overcame: Industry bias against women to build a holistic approach to advertising.
Lesson: Develop an expertise and believe in yourself.
"I found that an agency that works on just one piece of business can't attract the best people. We'd become a one-trick pony and that would kill us."
When facing a tough decision, you want to clear your head, assess all relevant facts and arrive at a sound conclusion. But you can still make costly mistakes along the way.
Top leaders fight off cognitive traps that can result in faulty decisions. They guard against biases and maintain a keen awareness of how they think and process information.
When grappling with a high-stakes decision, adopt a learning mindset. Extract lessons from the outcome — positive or negative — so that you approach the next decision with more confidence and knowledge. Watch for these potential pitfalls:
Blinded by rightness. It's great to exude can-do optimism and self-assuredness. But if you render every big decision with the certainty that you're right, you're setting yourself up for a fall.
"The worst habit is making up your mind before you have all the facts," said Tom Redman, founder of Data Quality Solutions, a consulting firm in Rumson, N.J. "That happens to people who think they already know everything."
The more experience you have, the more likely you may be wedded to your rightness. That's why Redman might challenge those who proclaim, "I've been doing this for 30 years, and I've seen everything that can happen."
Limited by groupthink. Decisions are easy if everyone around you nods and agrees. But surrounding yourself with like-minded minions constrains your ability to hear all sides of a case.
"Bad decision-makers only seek advice from people who think exactly the way they do," Redman said. "Rather than test your thinking, you'll just reinforce it."
Stymied by data. Rarely do leaders make decisions with every conceivable piece of information at their fingertips. More often, they must make do with some but not all of the data they'd ideally like to see.
"You can reduce uncertainty by getting more data," Redman said. "But that can lead to analysis paralysis where you delay, delay, delay for fear of being wrong."
Overwhelmed by too many decisions. At some point, effective leaders learn to delegate. They assign lower-level tasks to underlings so that they can concentrate on what matters most.
Some poor decision-makers, by contrast, insert themselves into even the least significant issues. Unable to prioritize, they insist on making every decision.
"My job is to focus on six important decisions a year and let others deal with the rest," a senior executive told Redman. As a result, the executive maximized his productivity while boosting morale among his subordinates who thrived on their own.
Biased by beliefs. Long-held, deeply rooted opinions can exert more influence than you realize. They may serve as a lens through which you see and interpret the world — and lead you to make misguided decisions through what's known as confirmation bias.
"It's when you seek information, data and anecdotes that support what you already believe and what you already want to do," said Rich Horwath, founder and chief executive of the Strategic Thinking Institute, a Chicago-based leadership development firm. "And you discount any information, data and anecdotes that's not what you believe and not what you want to do."
Wise leaders welcome differing perspectives and consider them with an open mind. They seek out diverse views and "treat others as teachers," Horwath adds.
Ensnared in the status quo. Botched decisions can flow from the sunk-cost effect, when you're unwilling to pull the plug after months of committing to the wrong course of action.
"It's continuing to invest in it only because you've invested in the past," Horwath said. "If you stop, you acknowledge you've made a (mistake)," and that can prove too painful to bear.
Cal Turner Jr. figures that Dollar General ( DG) probably wouldn't exist today if not for the doggedness of his grandfather, who launched the family's first retail business, and his father, who founded what became Dollar General.
"My grandfather and father were two of the most persistent people," Turner, author of "My Father's Business" and retired CEO of Dollar General, told IBD.
Here's how to get people on your team to keep grinding and battle back from adversity.
Always fight. Turner's grandfather, Luther Turner, opened a single store in the 1920s in Scottsville, Ky., where Cal Turner Jr. grew up. He led it through the Great Depression before his son, Cal Turner Sr., opened a wholesale business with his father in 1939 that later became Dollar General. They faced plenty of obstacles getting the business off the ground during World War II and later, including facing a Teamsters strike.
"Their mission was survival," Turner Jr. said. "They always seemed to feel just a step ahead of going under. There was an intensity of work, where they felt they had to do it well and do it right. The company would not exist without the initial tenacity of Luther and Cal."
Show the way. Set the example for your people by refusing to give in when challenges arise and things go awry.
"Make sure as leaders you'll persevere no matter what the challenges are," said Pete Luongo, the Dayton, Ohio-based retired CEO of the Berry Co., a Yellow Pages ad agency. "You can't lead where you're not willing to go."
Build a bond. Give people a reason to care about the company, or the notion of persevering through tough times won't spread through the organization.
"One thing common to all generations is people want to be part of something bigger than themselves," Luongo said.
Take responsibility. Don't point fingers when trouble arises. Instead, view the challenge as a way to learn how to do something better next time.
"When something goes wrong, we're not going to look for someone to blame," Turner said of his philosophy. "We're going to look at it as a learning and development opportunity. If you don't have that in your organization, your obituary is close to being written."
Choose wisely. Hire people who will persevere through tough times. After BellSouth acquired Berry in 1986, the firm lost several accounts, Luongo says.
"We said to our people, 'If we don't turn this around, we're going to be out of business,' " Luongo said. "Every day was halftime, down 13-6."
The employees fought to overcome the setbacks and rallied the company.
Stay steady. Don't change your demeanor when problems arise. People tend to put on the pressure amid adversity. But Luongo says if you do that, your people will realize you're acting differently and that you lack a process to manage through trouble.
"If the leader panics, they panic and lose trust," Luongo said.
Deal with problems head-on. Turner faced what he calls "the toughest decision of my life" in the late 1980s. His brother, Steve, was COO. Turner felt his brother wasn't taking control of the company's merchandising and operations as he should have. And they had frequent personality clashes. Steve wouldn't resign. The company was on the brink of bankruptcy. Turner had to fire his brother even though it would hurt him and the family.
"When I understood what had to be done, I developed the spine to get it done," Turner said.
Get help. Turner faced adversity when he took over as CEO. He felt as if he remained in his father's shadow.
"I wanted to be my own man," he said. "I handled it by saying, 'I got this job because I'm the boss' son. I consider myself unqualified, and I need your help.'"
He sought input from his people, who were inspired to pitch in.
Many advisors provide retirement planning, tax planning and estate planning. As clients live longer and incur more medical bills, health care planning plays an equally important role.
Helping clients anticipate and address health care issues requires a different set of skills for advisors. The landscape is constantly changing, from insurance reforms to home care options to new medical tests and treatments, posing an ongoing challenge to planners who want to stay a step ahead of the latest developments.
Out-of-pocket costs are tough to predict, especially for clients under age 65 who do not qualify for Medicare. And broaching sensitive health topics with anxious clients can test an advisor's ability to communicate with empathy and tact.
Nevertheless, advisors who offer health care-related services seek to deepen their impact and deliver much-needed support. Budgeting for such care — now and in the future — is increasingly viewed as a critical part of comprehensive financial planning.
"As a fiduciary, I recognized that health care can be a major expense," said Jim Shagawat, a certified financial planner in Paramus, N.J. "I figured that here's a way I can make a difference for 20, 30 or 40 years of my clients' lives."
Like many advisors, Shagawat seeks to demystify health savings accounts for clients while helping them navigate the complexities of the health insurance marketplace. But he knows his limits.
"There's no way I could keep up on everything going on with health care without a consultant," Shagawat said. So in early 2018, he contracted with an outside firm to provide his clients with more advanced and customized health planning expertise.
Fix Billing Errors
For Shagawat, offering his clients free access to what he calls a "health care advisor" rounds out his array of services. He encourages them to meet with the consultant to manage their medical expenses and devise a strategy to address concerns ranging from assisting their special-needs children to affording expensive prescription drugs.
He pays a retainer to the consulting firm based on the number of clients who use the service. Neither he nor the consultant sells insurance.
"That way, our advice is objective," he said. "And our clients save time, money and get peace of mind knowing that they've implemented the right health care strategies."
The consultant works with Shagawat's clients to find an appropriate health insurance plan, qualified medical providers and discounted prescription drugs. In some cases, the consultant even reviews their medical bills.
"A lot of people get medical bills and pay them without checking for errors," Shagawat said. "Yet some hospital bills charge for extra days or extra tests that a doctor orders and then a nurse cancels," and the consultant flags such inaccuracies.
Shagawat finds that some clients pondering early retirement in their late 50s and early 60s worry about managing health care costs and obtaining insurance before they can enroll in Medicare. Once they sign up, they may struggle to select the best Medicare supplement insurance plan. Matching them with the consultant gives them the tools to make smart moves.
Advisors who do not enlist a consultant to help clients with health care planning still need to tackle difficult conversations about medical matters. Individuals facing a grim diagnosis may experience a flurry of emotions.
Ideally, advisors anticipate such adverse situations and discuss them when clients are healthy. Running through a series of worst-case scenarios — and assuring clients that there's a plan in place for even the most serious calamity — can contain the fallout if it occurs.
"It's the psychological part, not just the medical part," Shagawat said. He adds that beyond the shock many people undergo when learning of their grave condition, cripplingly high health care costs are a primary cause of personal bankruptcy.
Paul Sarama, an advisor with Steward Partners Global Advisory, treats health care costs as a key factor in planning a client's financial future. He wants to minimize the likelihood that clients will recoil if they face an unexpected health crisis later in life.
"Because health care is such a big expense, we include it as a line item in a client review," he said. Over a 20-year period, he may calculate an annual increase in health care costs that ranges between 5% and 5.9%.
"We'll add these assumptions into our retirement spending projections," he said. "It adds clarity to the future, and while clients are slightly shocked at the costs over time, they appreciate" knowing they can withstand a medical blow without derailing their overall financial plan.
Estimating potential health care costs is fraught with uncertainties. Expenses not covered by Medicare, such as hearing aids and most eyeglasses, can add up. And for the roughly half of seniors who need long-term care, the price tag for paid assistance can add tens of thousands of dollars.
Johns Hopkins cardiologist Dr. Helen Brooke Taussig broke barriers and defied conventional wisdom to pursue her goal of helping patients who lacked medical treatment options.
A pioneer and innovator, Taussig (1898-1986) founded the field of pediatric cardiology. She tread on new territory to devise breakthroughs in diagnosing and treating children with congenital heart disease. Among her many achievements, Taussig helped develop the groundbreaking surgical procedure known as the "blue baby" operation.
Taussig was determined to challenge the status quo. She overcame personal and professional obstacles, including an initial rejection to medical school due to gender discrimination and hearing loss. And she drew strength from her struggle.
Passion also motivated Taussig. She was in constant pursuit to fill the void of what was missing in pediatric care.
"To be a leader, you have to recognize where the gaps are," Dr. Anne Murphy, pediatric cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, told IBD. "She recognized there was a gap in caring for these patients with heart defects that caused them to be blue due to low oxygen in the arteries. And she made the effort to work with others to make a difference. She inspired the people she trained to do the same and make a difference."
In so doing, Taussig left an indelible mark on the field of medicine.
"Her fundamental concepts have made possible the modern surgery of the heart which enables countless children to lead productive lives," reads the inscription on the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, presented to Taussig in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Followed Her Passion
Taussig never relented in her quest to find solutions.
"She was passionate about her patients," Murphy said. "To be able to look your patient in the eye and say, 'A few years ago, we didn't have anything we could do for you, but now we're looking toward a different future,' is what I think motivated her, from everything I heard from people who worked with her directly. That's what drove her."
Taussig studied afflictions that had no medical remedies. This focus led to breakthroughs. Taussig co-developed the blue baby operation performed in 1944 with Johns Hopkins surgeon Dr. Alfred Blalock and his surgical technician, Vivien Thomas.
"It is very much believed she was a wonderful, gentle person," said Murphy, who worked with many of Taussig's colleagues in the 1950s. "But to survive in the academic environment in those days and to get things to move forward, she had to be tough, in my opinion. She really believed she had to offer help to blue babies, who had no other options. She really wanted to be able to offer some hope and to move the field forward."
Taussig received her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1927. The journey that led to her concept for the blue baby operation started in 1930. That's when Taussig accepted an offer by Johns Hopkins Chief of Pediatrics Dr. Edwards Park to head Hopkins' new pediatric cardiology heart clinic.
Dr. Park, who was an academic mentor for Taussig, urged her to use the clinic's radiographic equipment to study congenital heart disease, wrote Murphy in a paper she co-authored with pediatric cardiologist Dr. Kathryn Neubauer entitled "Helen Brooke Taussig: Pediatric Cardiology Leader and Innovator."
Taussig soon developed an interest in congenital heart disease and the "blue babies" seen at the clinic. She became unstoppable in pursuing a course that transformed the care of children with congenital heart disease. Taussig laid the foundation for today's heart surgery.
Pioneered New Approaches
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, there was no way to treat congenital heart disease. There were no surgeries, and the diagnostic tools were minimal.
But Taussig challenged proven science and experimented in unknown territory. Taussig's study of afflictions that had no medical remedies led to breakthroughs.
"Part of (Taussig's) work was to try to characterize how children with heart defects presented themselves through clinical manifestations," Murphy said. "The way it's been described to me talking to her colleagues is she recognized that blue babies had heart defects in which there was decreased blood flow to the lungs. She reasoned that if there was a way to produce more blood flow to the lungs, this would help these children who were blue."
Then Taussig worked on a way to produce more blood flow to the lungs of these children.
Murphy says Dr. Robert Gross was the first to do a surgery where there was an artery that remained open after birth and caused babies to breathe more quickly and not grow as well.
"He figured out you could ligate (close off) this artery," Murphy said.
After learning of Dr. Gross' surgery, Taussig thought that "diverting an artery to supply more blood to the lungs might help her patients who were cyanotic because of reduced lung blood flow," according to Murphy.
"Taussig proposed her idea to Dr. Gross, who said he was not interested in her idea," according to Murphy's co-authored paper.
Taussig wouldn't accept defeat. She pushed forward. She took her idea to Johns Hopkins surgeon Dr. Alfred Blalock, who was receptive to the idea.
"There was a very nice collaboration between Dr. Blalock and Vivien Thomas, who was known as a brilliant technician, to develop this procedure before the approach was used to treat a child," Murphy said.
The historic surgery was performed on an infant on Nov. 29, 1944.
"The infant survived to go home from the hospital, but died at a second surgery a few months later," according to Murphy's co-authored paper.
After two more successful surgeries were performed, Taussig and Blalock published their work, "The Surgical Treatment of Malformations of the Heart" in May 1945.
Dr. James Moller, pediatric cardiologist at University of Minnesota Medical Center, describes the procedure this way: "They took a major blood vessel that went to the arm and divided it and turned it down and hooked it into the blood vessel going into the lungs," he told IBD. "And children flocked to Hopkins to get this done."
Added Murphy: "The success of this technique came from moving forward with it in patients, which was an incredible feat. Any surgery performed on a child in the 1940s was a drastic procedure. The surgery involved a large incision in the chest of these very little babies, who were extremely ill."
Taussig founded the field of pediatric cardiology by challenging the status quo.
"Taussig is recognized as the founder of pediatric cardiology because of her ability to characterize and understand the heart defects in patients, who were living, while in the past they had been described using an autopsy," Murphy said. "She began to understand it in terms of patients she was caring for in her clinic. That was her legacy."
Another reason Taussig is considered the founder of pediatric cardiology: "She was the first person in the world to have a precise interest in children with heart disease," said Moller. "She was dedicated to studying congenital heart disease in children."
Paved A Way
Taussig developed a teaching regime at Johns Hopkins and drew people from all over the world to train, Murphy says.
"She really trained the first generation of pediatric cardiologists," she said.
Taussig also published in 1947 the first textbook exclusively on congenital heart defects: "Congenital Malformations of the Heart."
This textbook continued to be the bible of pediatric cardiology for decades, according to Murphy's co-authored paper.
Taussig was born in Cambridge, Mass. Her father was a well-known professor at Harvard. Her mother studied biology at Radcliffe College. She died when Taussig was only 11.
Success did not come easy for Taussig, starting with an early childhood handicap of dyslexia, causing her "difficulty with reading comprehension throughout school," according to Murphy's co-authored paper.
Her father helped her with her reading and homework, the paper says.
Taussig started at Radcliffe College and then transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, where she received her A.B. degree in 1921. Then she started to think about a medical career. She met with the dean of the Harvard School of Public Health to discuss her career only to learn Harvard would allow women to attend medical classes, but would not admit women as degree candidates at the time.
As Taussig became more interested in pursuing a career as a doctor, she realized Harvard wasn't the place for her. She decided to go to Boston University, where women were welcome to take pre-med courses and earn credit for them, the paper says.
Paid It Forward
After completing her pre-med requirements at Boston University, she went to medical school at Johns Hopkins University, which has had a policy to admit women and men equally since its founding.
"She clearly did what the founders wanted, which is to move forward not just in patient care and academics, but in moving medicine toward the future," Murphy said.
For Taussig that meant "moving toward the future of heart surgery in general and for children with birth defects in particular," Murphy said.
But Taussig faced many other obstacles along the way. She also had to overcome hearing loss, which she developed early on as director of the pediatric cardiology clinic. This caused problems using the stethoscope. She tried hearing aids and other methods to overcome the problem.
"None if these worked as well as when she learned to 'listen' with her hands, a talent she perfected over the years by laying her hands extremely gently over a child's chest, feeling murmurs other physicians could not hear with a stethoscope," according to Murphy's co-authored paper.
While Taussig is best known for co-developing the blue baby operation, she made many contributions to general pediatrics, pediatric cardiology and medical education.
In 1962 she traveled to Germany to investigate claims that Thalidomide was causing birth defects. The drug had been prescribed as a sleeping aid. The drug was taken off the market in Europe.
Taussig's reports to the medical profession in the U.S. and her testimony before Congress were key in blocking FDA approval for Thalidomide's use in the U.S.
Taussig's career in medicine spanned a lifetime. She remained the head of the Harriet Lane Cardiac Clinic until 1963. She also served on the faculty of the school of medicine from 1930 until 1963, when she became professor emeritus.
Taussig was killed in an automobile accident at age 87.
Co-developed the groundbreaking surgical procedure known as the "blue baby operation" and founded the field of pediatric cardiology.
Overcame: Obstacles including dyslexia, hearing loss and an initial rejection to medical school due to gender discrimination.
"No," he said in a phone interview with IBD, "I don't think calling me kind of crazy is accurate."
The issue was raised because of Itzler's idiosyncratic life. For example, over the last 25 years he's run more than 36,000 miles (including 50-plus marathons), participated in marathonlike bike races, and paddled 30 miles around Manhattan in a stand-up paddleboard competition.
He hired a retired Navy SEAL to live with him for a month of intensive no-nonsense training. That became the basis of his best-selling book, "Living With a Seal: 31 Days Training With the Toughest Man on the Planet."
More recently, perhaps just to relax (though he denies it), he spent a month in a monastery, the subject of his just-published "Living With the Monks: What Turning Off My Phone Taught Me About Happiness, Gratitude and Focus."
"I'm not crazy in my head," he insisted. "Maybe in everybody else's."
As proof, Itzler points to his many business accomplishments. He co-founded Marquis Jets, a private aircraft leasing company he subsequently sold to NetJets. There was Zico Coconut Water that he helped take national and subsequently sold to Coca-Cola. And there is his newest venture, 29029 Everest.
For that, he rents a mountain resort for a long weekend and runs a music festival type event. There's music, of course. There's food, of course. But there's also climbing. Participants walk, run, crawl up a peak, take the gondola down, and repeat until they've climbed 29029 feet, the height of Mt. Everest.
Thinking about that venture he reconsiders. "I guess you could say I'm a little crazy," he admitted.
But crazy or not, it's hard to deny his serial successes, built in large measure on a willingness to go with his gut. "For me, it's a passion for doing what I enjoy and asking how do you do it differently. Where's the white space?"
From Jingles To Jets
Itzler, 49, grew up on Long Island, N.Y., in the 1970s, "in the middle of the evolution of a whole new [hip-hop] culture and rap music," he said. "It was very easy to get caught up in that. I took a liking to it and gravitated toward it."
Shortly after graduating college (American University, B.A., '90), Itzler landed a contract with a record label. In 1992 he released his first album, which contained a song he wrote — wait for it — "Shake It Like a White Girl" that would prove his one and only rap hit. But it provided him with a vision for a different kind of musical success.
A New York Knicks fan, he was sure the team could use a theme song. "To convince them [in 1993] I made a demo on my own nickel," he said. "I wanted to go into them with something solid, not just a PowerPoint demonstration. I took the risk of writing the song and playing it for them."
The Knicks bought it and the song, "Go, New York, Go," has been its anthem ever since. After expenses, he barely broke-even, but that was OK. "I didn't do it for the money. That one decision was pivotal." It provided entry into an entirely new industry, the white space he spoke about earlier.
The Knicks song's success "put me in the media spotlight. It taught me a lot about how to market and negotiate; I cut a bad deal for myself, but it showed me I was in the right lane," Itzler said. "It gave me confidence in my ability and showed me I could take a project and get it sold. And I learned all these lessons when I was 21 years old and then it became supersuccessful."
The following year he wrote, produced and sang a similarly themed jingle for the NBA, "I Love This Game," which won him an Emmy Award.
Not only had he found the right lane, but he was all by himself on a straightaway driving a Maserati. So, in 1995, he co-founded Alphabet City Sports Records. The company ultimately wrote theme songs for 50 sports franchises (as well as private companies such as Foot Locker ( FL) and Coca-Cola ( KO)) that combined music and usually archival footage of great plays members of that team made.
He learned something from his Knicks and NBA experiences. Now not only was he paid to write and produce, but he also kept back-end royalties, a portion of the CD and DVD sales purchased by fans.
Just three years later, he and his partner sold the company to SFX Entertainment for, he says, $4 million in stock and cash up front, plus a percentage of future earnings.
It was around this time that Itzler and his Alphabet City partner (and childhood friend) Kenny Dichter took their first flight on a private jet. At the time there were only a couple of ways (other than an invitation to someone else's jet) that people could share in the experience. The first, of course, was to be superwealthy and purchase your own plane. You could charter your own plane, though that, he says, was always hit and miss, "a process that has a lot of moving parts or inconsistencies."
Or you could sign up with a company like NetJets, but that required a five-year commitment. If only there were something easier, he thought, sensing white space. What if, instead of a five-year commitment, you only needed to buy 25 hours in advance, like a Starbucks card, he wrote, only for planes. But how to do that.
Relationships And Experiences
The biggest player in the field was NetJets, and here karma played a role. Some years earlier, while still in the music business, a friend asked if he could get tickets for a Christina Aguilera concert for the daughter of someone Itzler did not know.
Not only did Itzler get tickets for the man and his daughter, but he also arranged for the young girl to be on stage as a backup singer (with her mic turned off). The next day, that man called to thank Itzler, telling him "If there's anything I can ever do ..."
That man was Jim Jacobs, now president of NetJets, proving what goes around comes around. He called Jacobs, reminded him of their connection and arranged an appointment with Jacobs and NetJet CEO Richard Santulli. Itzler didn't know much about the private jet business, but his philosophy was get your foot in the door and figure out the rest later. Another Itzler maxim: Nothing happens unless you ask for it.
The meeting did not go entirely as planned. Santulli said he'd never let two 29-year-olds use any of his 500-plane fleet. But Jacobs saw merit in their proposal. He told the pair to tweak their ideas and he'd try to get them another appointment.
A week later they were back at NetJets headquarters, with a living presentation. Instead of presenting dry statistics, they brought along contacts they'd made at Alphabet City: a New York Giant football player, members of a rap group, a well-known NBA agent and a successful Wall Street guy. They all said while they never would purchase a NetJets fraction, they'd likely buy a 25-hour or so jet card every year.
It took additional meetings, but eventually the NetJets brass bought into the concept, which, given the company's excess capacity, proved a win-win for all. Itzler's company, Marquis Jets, sold time on NetJets aircraft in 25-hour increments. After a 10-year-run, the pair sold the business to NetJets (a Berkshire Hathaway company) for an undisclosed amount. "I'll put it this way," Itzler said. "We were extremely profitable. We did cumulatively $5 billion over the 10 years."
His next endeavor was to form The 100 Mile Group, an incubator in search of more white space. Again, he found it in his private life.
"I ran a 100-mile marathon, and I was powered by coconut water. I'd done a lot of research on hydration and what to drink when you are this exhausted. After completing this race I was inspired by my success drinking pure coconut water."
His first plan was to start a company importing coconut water, but that proved unfeasible. Instead, he partnered with Zico, a small brand.
Marc Adelman, COO of 100 Mile Group recalls, in 2009 "we created a partnership. What we added was marketing, various forms of influence marketing. We brought in a lot of celebrity endorsers Jesse knows and we did some guerrilla marketing."
Itzler was also "instrumental in helping Coke come in because we were talking with Coke about another deal."
In 2012, Coke bought out the partners for what Itzler described only as a "sizable amount."
Adelman, a childhood friend, says the Zico deal is typical of Itzler's successes: "I think it's his relationships and how he connects with people. If you meet him in person you can feel his energy. He's a very dynamic person who lights up a room. He's very determined and creative and combine that with his dynamic energy. It's hard to describe, but that's why he's successful."
Used his life experiences to discover areas where his entrepreneurial skills could disrupt the marketplace.
Overcame: Skepticism from many who doubt new ideas.
Lesson: Keep trying.
Quote: "I love diving into the unknown. That's been my M.O. ever since I was a kid. It's just the stage has gotten bigger. That's all. The theme has been there since I was 8 years old."
To manage a growing firm, senior advisors typically hire junior associates and groom them. But another option has caught on.
In recent years, the emergence of virtual paraplanners has created a new pathway for young go-getters to gain exposure to the advisory business. Rather than take a full-time job at a firm, paraplanners provide administrative support to advisors on an hourly or per-project basis.
They may bill themselves as "virtual assistants" who handle a range of functions such as taking notes in client meetings and entering data into financial planning software. While the arrangements vary widely, many paraplanners work between five to 30 hours a week at a firm.
For experienced advisors, outsourcing back-office functions can lead to staffing flexibility and cost savings. It's also a recruiting tool, as some paraplanners want to advance their career and transition into full-time advisors.
For new entrants into the field, paraplanning gives them a chance to gain valuable experience and learn the business from the ground up. Because they often work from home, paraplanners can also pursue educational or professional development opportunities while expanding their network of advisors around the country.
"For a lot of veteran planners, hiring a junior planner is a big leap," said Matt Fizell, a virtual paraplanner in Madison, Wis. Outsourcing administrative tasks to a paraplanner is less of a commitment.
Because some paraplanners are adept at technology, they can double as consultants and teach older advisors how to maximize the latest tools. If they help with onboarding new clients, for example, they may make better use of customer relationship management (CRM) platforms.
Blaze A Career Path
Once you hire a full-time junior planner, retention can pose a challenge. Newcomers can parlay the experience and training they receive from you and hop to a different firm.
"A lot of advisors lack clear processes and a clear path forward when hiring new planners into their firm," Fizell said. "You want to have a clear vision of what you want the new planner to do and a clear understanding and timeline of when the new planner will be client-facing, as opposed to just bringing in someone because you're too busy."
If you're unable to provide that clarity, paraplanners might make sense. They can usually dive right in and provide instant support.
Jennifer Pritchard, a Houston-based certified financial planner, graduated from Texas Tech University's financial planning program in 2014. From there, she spent a year as a virtual paraplanner, dividing her time among three different advisory firms.
"All three firms needed someone for one-third time," she said. "My duties included data gathering, data input and helping with account opening, maintenance and coordinating with the custodian. It was a positive experience and I learned a lot, especially from sitting in on client meetings and creating a financial plan."
Today, Pritchard is a full-time financial planning associate at a Texas advisory firm. Separately, she's helping grow Simply Paraplanner, an online job board to help firms hire virtual paraplanners.
For paraplanners, starting out in the trenches gives them a close-up view of what it takes to build a successful practice. They gain a better understanding of how to enhance client service, facilitate regulatory compliance and improve internal efficiency.
Better yet, they see how communication affects the advisor-client relationship. Firms that retain well over 90% of their clients tend to maintain close touch with them through a range of channels on an ongoing basis.
"My best learning experience is how we communicate with clients," said Yesenia Ramirez, 26, a junior associate advisor at a 10-person firm in Plantation, Fla. "It's a business of soft skills."
Ramirez, who recently passed her certified financial planner exam, adds that paraplanners and other newcomers who spend at least some time interacting with clients can develop vital communication skills that they'll need to advance in the profession.
"It's hard to learn how to empathize and build that rapport with people when you're spending all your time in the back office," she said. "And when you're in client meetings, it's better to be able to ask questions and follow up with the client. If you're just there as a fly on the wall, you're not gaining as much confidence."
For senior advisors, paraplanners can provide a fresh perspective and propose ideas to harness technology more effectively or improve workflow processes. Even if younger aides lack decades of experience mastering technical skills, they may have a firm grasp of how millennials think and feel about money.
Paraplanners or junior associates might ask a managing partner, "Why do we do it this way?" Responding with openness to their ideas and opinions can pay dividends, Fizell says.
Lifelong learning not only assures that you stay relevant, it also provides fuel to excel.
Follow these tips to become a dynamic learner:
Learn from mistakes. It's easy to look at someone else's failures and say: OK, I won't do that, and I'll do this instead. But it's hard for many to admit their own shortcomings. Reverse that instinct to learn from mistakes more completely, says author Bradley Staats, who wrote " Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive."
"It's a huge challenge," Staats told IBD. Business leaders must normalize failure to encourage others to learn from mistakes, he says. "Leaders have a responsibility to share when something goes wrong."
That's not to say that immoral or illegal acts can be simply chalked up to mistakes that can be repeated over and over.
"I don't mean to say you can do whatever you want," Staats said. "But you have to acknowledge that when you're doing complex, novel things, they are not going to go well all the time. When we admit that to ourselves, we are open to trying new things and learning."
At Pixar, Staats wrote, co-founder Ed Catmull used to say: "Mistakes aren't a necessary evil. They aren't evil at all. ... Failure is painful, and our feelings about the pain tend to screw up our understanding of its worth."
Instead ask why you might be responsible for the error. Even if you just ask yourself and not out loud.
"Commit beforehand by writing down what you think is going to happen," Staats said. "Afterward go back and look at it. This holds you accountable."
Ask questions. Don't rush to get answers. You risk missing a larger or more important point.
"Someone throws something out there, and we need to immediately know the answer," Staats said. "Some organizations judge you by the speed with which you reply to emails. But when you're doing something new, you need to dig in, look for what don't we know. (This process) fills in the blanks in knowledge and uncovers voids we didn't see before."
Asking questions also makes it easier for others to help you. Staats lists many examples of amazing innovations that resulted from a simple question. Among them: Edwin Land's daughter asked him why she couldn't see a vacation picture right away. So he invented instant photography at his company, Polaroid.
The key as a leader is to ask questions and listen. "In too many organizations when we get an answer, especially from senior management, we leap to execution," Staats said. "As the saying goes: When a leader says I think, the thinking stops."
Recharge and reflect. In many industries, the work is never-ending. And Americans are notorious for taking very few vacation days. But many studies show that taking time to recharge frees up the brain to see new perspectives.
"Whether it's mediation, mindful exercises or sitting with a journal, it's such a small action that has such a big effect," Staats said. "When we move and when we stop and think, we activate different parts of the brain. Both are important."
Some top CEOs make it a priority to take time off. Virgin Group's Richard Branson recently told CNBC that vacations are not just about resting. Taking a break from the work routine and meeting new people can inspire you in unexpected ways, he said. Branson said he leaves his smartphone at home or in the hotel room as much as he can. By eliminating the daily stress of work life, he said he's more likely to get new insights into old problems and flashes of inspiration.
Taking time to reflect rather than charging ahead with action is also crucial to learning the entire scope of what you're doing. Reflection often leads to better decisions.
Reflective leaders include Abraham Lincoln, who once said: Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax. And Warren Buffett has admitted he isn't as busy as some other legendary workaholic CEOs who work 80-hour weeks. He has stated that he's spent 80% of his career reading and thinking.
Specialize and generalize. Be the expert at something. But understand that no one person has all the answers. As you work across an industry, you hone your skills and acquire new ones. You also get to know other specialists. Understanding the various components of expertise helps you make the necessary connections to thrive.
"Innovation is not all brand-new ideas; it's existing ideas combined in different ways," Staats said.
You are more likely to reassemble things in innovative ways if you are both a specialist in one area and a generalist in others.
"The generalist alone doesn't bring enough detailed knowledge to the table. And the specialist brings little skill to bring ideas together," Staats aid.
Keith Krach made his mark with new technologies but built his foundation on old-fashioned values.
And he was willing to risk his future to stay true to them.
Krach, 61, was one of the co-founders of Ariba in 1996. The company is the world's first and today largest e-commerce network. Krach served as its chairman and CEO from 1996-2003. Ariba, which at one time under Krach achieved a $40 billion market cap, was sold in 2012 for $4.3 billion to SAP SE ( SAP). Ariba's software revolutionized business-to-business e-commerce. Currently some $1 trillion of it goes through the Ariba network annually.
Among his numerous honors, Ernst & Young named Krach the National Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Before all of that, Krach was General Motors' ( GM) youngest-ever vice president at 26, but "I wanted to leave the nest to build something of my own," Krach told IBD. "Silicon Valley was becoming a mecca for innovation, and I just knew I had to see what I could accomplish there."
So he left General Motors in his rearview mirror. "When I let folks at GM know my plans, they all thought I was crazy," Krach said. He took a job with a small Silicon Valley software company in 1987 as their No. 2 executive. Not a week into his new gig, he came face to face with a crisis.
That's when the CEO gave Krach a directive of what to specifically say at a board meeting. "And I said 'I will not!' " Krach recalled. " 'That would be lying!' "
Krach felt he'd made the biggest mistake of his life, joining a company "where my values were not the same as the CEO's," he said. "I knew if I stayed there I wasn't living my values." His nine months there before leaving "was the worst period of my life," he said.
"Growing up in a small town in Ohio, going to Purdue, working at good old General Motors, the values were just always there," Krach said. "I just couldn't even imagine someone not having them. I missed it. That was a huge defining moment in my life. It taught me to never take values for granted. I'd never start a company without defining values clearly."
After leaving the computer company, Krach became one of the founders of Rasna Corp. in 1988. Rasna put mainframe computer power on a workstation. It was sold to Parametric Technology (now PTC ( PTC)) in 1995 for $500 million.
After Ariba, Krach became the chairman of DocuSign ( DOCU) in 2009, a position he will be leaving Jan. 1, 2019. The company provides secure electronic signature technology to facilitate contracts and other documents. From 2011-17 Krach served as DocuSign's CEO. In 2016 DocuSign was No. 3 on Forbes' list of the World's Best 100 Cloud Companies and earned a Best Places to Work Award from Glassdoor.
From 2011-14 Krach served as board chairman of Angie's List ( ANGI), and it was under his leadership that the company went public.
He says what's built Silicon Valley is "companies taking advantage of a paradigm shift" in technology. "Most important is to invest in technologies, and commit to policies that drive innovation and productivity. This is what digital transformation is all about. And speed is the ultimate currency," he said.
Taking a global view, he said: "It's absolutely essential that we pick up the pace of innovation. We can't be shy about digital transformation. We've got to embrace it."
The playbook that he's used for leading four companies and serving on the boards of several others is to build a high-performance team.
"There are three ingredients," he said. "One, is hire the best people. Companies with the best teams win. Two, is get them to work as a team, get them to focus on a mission that is a noble cause. And the third one is to set a crystal-clear direction.
"I also believe in setting big ambitious goals, because small goals don't stir the heart of women and men."
"Keith can make a team feel like they can do anything," said Edward Kinsey, Ariba's former CFO. "He knows how to make people stretch. He's evaluated them, he knows what makes them tick, he looks at them based on what he believes they can do, and then he drives them to that performance."
Krach has learned "when you delegate responsibility you've got to delegate the authority that goes with it. And the key thing is people help support what they help create."
Marc Carlson, who has worked with Krach at seven companies including General Motors, Ariba and DocuSign, says three attributes stand out about Krach. "Character, as in, do the right thing; global vision; and then the third thing is joy. Keith is just a joyful, happy person who truly enjoys what he's doing and helping others. It's so authentic it's contagious."
"What matters most in life is what you do when nobody is looking," Krach said.
Parents Know Best
Krach was born in Lakewood, Ohio. His first and most valuable mentors were his parents, Elda and John.
His positive-thinking mother gave him a foundational principle. "She says: 'People can deny your logic, but they cannot deny your enthusiasm or your passion,' " Krach said. "So I'm a very passionate person."
Krach's machine-shop-owner father mixed humility with a great sense of humor. He was beloved by his employees. He set an example that Krach adopted: "Ego is your enemy; humility is your friend." Krach says his father preached to always be yourself and never lose your integrity.
Krach earned a B.S. in industrial engineering from Purdue University in 1979 and an MBA from Harvard University in 1981.
Assembling a team of different temperaments, talents and convictions is the secret sauce for building a high performance organization, Krach says. "Diversity of thought is the catalyst for genius."
When putting together teams, Krach feels that while IQ is important, AQ (a designation he's given for the adversity quotient) is even more so.
"When the going gets tough, that's when you see what you're made of," Krach said. "Can you handle stuff under pressure and stay cool?"
To determine AQ, Krach asks potential executive team members what's the toughest situation they've faced?
To help them open up about tough situations, Krach relates his own. "I'll tell them about times that I've really gotten smacked and really show my vulnerability."
He feels that perhaps the most important skill in business is building trusting relationships early on. "And I think that formula for vulnerability is a key one," he said.
Today And Tomorrow
Krach is passionate about mentoring. He's proud that Ariba spawned several CEOs of public companies.
"Keith uses a Biblical phrase that he lives every day," Kinsey said. " 'Just as steel sharpens steel, so does one man sharpen another.' He uses that when he's building leaders and when he needs help."
"You can always learn something from everyone," Krach said. "And I'm an extremely curious person. I think as much with my heart as with my head. That's kind of my leadership style."
Krach'supcoming project will be his nonprofit Virtual Mentor Network.
"My legacy is defined not by the companies that I've built," Krach said. "My legacy is defined by the leaders whom I've mentored."
Ariba co-founder, CEO; DocuSign chairman, CEO
Overcame: Leaving the security of General Motors after becoming its youngest VP ever to take his chances in the emerging Silicon Valley technology space.
Lesson: See and evaluate new opportunities with an eye on the future.
"You're not going to get anywhere in life without taking risks. When you're taking a big risk there's usually a big upside, but there also is a (possibility) of failure. But either way it's a win, because when you have a failure, it's when you learn the most."
For some clients, their advisor doubles as a therapist. They grapple with psychological issues about money while gaining financial planning and investment management expertise.
In recent years, research in behavioral finance has given advisors a fresh set of tools to help clients wrap their minds around money. By applying the latest findings, advisors enable clients to rethink faulty assumptions, resolve family conflicts and make sound decisions tied to saving, spending and investing.
Some advisors dig into behavioral finance principles on their own. Others partner with outside experts who track the latest advances in the field.
Ian Weinberg, a certified financial planner in Woodbury, N.Y., enlists a consulting psychologist to help clients address challenges related to money and family dynamics. The planner has worked with the psychologist for about 18 years.
"He's helped our clients — many of whom are family stewards and business founders — gain a better understanding of how to break the ice in discussing family wealth and succession with their children," Weinberg said. "He's also helped us get a handle on how people digest financial news, especially in volatile periods."
When meeting new clients, Weinberg has incorporated the psychologist's input to refine his interview process. He likes to ask, "When you think about your wealth, what concerns, needs or feelings come to mind?"
"Sequencing is critical when asking questions," Weinberg said. "It's following up and asking 'Why is that so important?' and 'Is there anything even more important to you?' A lot of times, they don't reveal their embedded concerns until 30 minutes into the interview."
The 4 Rs
Behavioral finance explores the interplay of instinctive feelings and rational thought. Advisors learn how emotional and cognitive biases can affect our financial judgment and decision-making.
"We feel quickly, but it takes a while to think about what we're feeling," said Andi Kang, a certified financial planner in Costa Mesa, Calif. "Our first response is very emotional vs. the cognitive, logical response."
Armed with this knowledge, Kang understands when clients react emotionally to bad news such as a sudden market decline. She strives to prepare them for such jolting events and shift their focus to long-term results.
She also encourages clients to apply a four-step process to bypass their emotional impulses in favor of making prudent financial decisions: recognize, reflect, reframe and respond.
Recognizing your thoughts and emotions helps you gain situational awareness. Reflecting on your overriding values — the big picture that serves as your backdrop for interpreting a situation — provides perspective. Reframing allows you to view negative self-talk in a more positive yet still logical manner. Responding so that you're consistent with your values and long-term goals creates a better outcome.
"It's all part of understanding the behavioral triggers that can lead to an emotional response, like panic over a big, unexpected or alarming (financial loss)," Kang said. "We help clients prepare for and understand those risk triggers" and make smarter decisions as a result.
Like therapists, advisors might dig into the past to unearth formative experiences that shape clients' actions and attitudes. Heightening clients' awareness of how they perceive money — and how a childhood memory leaves a searing impact — can lead to psychological breakthroughs.
Michelle Arpin Begina, a New York City-based certified financial planner, has a longtime interest in behavioral finance. She completed Kansas State University's financial therapy graduate certificate program in 2017.
"I explore the 'moneyhood' that clients grew up in," she said. "We're influenced by major turning points in our life, whether negative or positive. At these momentous occasions, we form beliefs" about money. Examples include children learning of the bankruptcy of the family business or observing how their parents negotiate the purchase or sale of their home.
Begina cites a client in her late 60s who recalls her father winning the lottery more than 50 years ago. At the time, her father assured her, "You'll never need to worry about money again." But the funds soon evaporated.
"In financial therapy, these moments are called 'flash points,' " Begina said. "They tend to leave a deep emotional impact on people."
Another element of behavioral finance involves increasing the odds that clients will follow through on sound advice. It's not enough that clients accept an advisor's recommendations; the real test is whether they remain on the right path years later.
"Adherence strategies train advisors to get clients not only to take our advice but how to make it stick," Begina said. "It's just as important to understand how we can help clients stay the course."
Begina accomplishes this by asking clients forward-looking questions such as, "Over the next 20 years, what can stand in the way and derail your retirement goals?" Once they answer, she'll ask, "If that happens, how can I support you?"
"When you start your morning with intention you can bring your morning wins with you into the rest of your day," Spall said.
Tips on creating and sticking to routines that become part of you:
Make it doable. Keep your morning routine short and easy to accomplish, especially in the beginning, Spall says.
This greatly increases the chances of you sticking to it. Make changes to your routine slowly, and give each change a fair shot.
"If you make too many changes to your morning routine at once you're likely to come up against a wall," Spall said. It's fine also to just introduce one new habit into your routine every two or three weeks.
Target biggest returns. Do your most important work first. "You've heard this one before, but it's something that has come up time and again when speaking with successful people about their morning routines," Spall said.
It's the low-hanging fruit, so grab it. Doing the highest-yield work first thing in the morning or shortly thereafter "dramatically increases the chances of you getting it done," he added.
Another nice benefit: It makes the rest of your day easier as you don't have your "unfinished most important thing hanging over you unfinished for the rest of the day," he said.
Stay the course. Morning calls, meetings and the unexpected means doing your most important work first isn't always possible, but it's the ideal you should strive for.
"If you aim to complete your most important work first thing in the morning every day this week, and you only do so three out of five days, I'd still call that a win," Spall said.
Schedule disconnections. Aaron Edelheit, author of "The Hard Break: The Case For The 24/6 Lifestyle," points to Brad Feld, a successful entrepreneur, author, blogger and venture capitalist running a half-billion-dollar investment company, who takes a digital sabbath. Feld is a co-founder of the Foundry Group, a venture capital firm.
Every week Feld takes one day and turns off his phone and computer, cutting the cord from technology. "Feld says that by taking a digital sabbath he is 'doing the best work I've ever done.' In fact, he has seen such positive outcomes from taking a day off that he now takes a week off every quarter."
Unwind. Studies from Stanford University, the University of Michigan and the University of London have shown that a walk in a quiet, relaxing setting significantly improved cognitive performance, Edelheit says.
Creativity can be boosted by 60% just by taking these walks, he adds. Einstein was famous for taking walks when stuck with a problem to figure out. Steve Jobs believed in taking walks, the power of reflection, and taking a break from work. Ludwig van Beethoven and Charles Darwin are two other creative people who regularly took walks.
Your brain is more likely to process information and find patterns the more it is able to reflect and have downtime, Edelheit says.
Get enough shut-eye. Don't overlook the importance of an evening routine. Avoid playing catch-up with your day at night. "Getting to bed at a good hour will help ensure that you wake up refreshed and ready to get started on your morning routine the next day," Spall said.
The evening is the perfect time to get some nagging tasks done around your home. And it is the time to write your to-do list or schedule in items on your calendar for the next day, he says. The evening "is your time to relax!"
When returning to the United States after spending time abroad, your perceptions change. You see the world differently, and that fresh perspective can help you forge stronger connections with those around you.
Advisors gain a better understanding of wide-ranging cultures through their travels. Better yet, they apply what they learn to deepen their client relationships.
Consider your communication skills. It's easy to assume that prospects and clients can decipher your financial jargon.
Ed Cofrancesco knows better. An advisor in Orlando, Fla., he lived in the United Kingdom for nearly three years during a stint as a relationship manager for a global bank.
"I was pleasantly surprised at how well versed the people in the U.K. were to the U.S. and global markets," he said. "I'd talk with U.K. cabdrivers about market news and interest rate moves."
Back in America, Cofrancesco realized he needed to do a better job educating clients on the financial markets. If he lapsed into using too much lingo, he might confuse rather than enlighten them.
"I tell my colleagues all the time, 'Never assume what people know,' " he said. "Don't throw a term out there like 'ETFs.' Instead, find out if they know the term. If not, help them become familiar with it."
Spending Vs. Saving
Clients' attitudes about money can vary widely, especially if they were raised with different expectations or values. Advisors who have lived abroad gain exposure to a range of outlooks.
For example, Cofrancesco found from his travels that many Europeans reside in countries that provide social insurance programs. Public awareness of such benefits affects citizens' saving and spending habits.
"(Europeans) may count on their version of Social Security," he said. "Because they're more dependent on their government system, they're not saving for their retirement" in the same way that Americans should do.
As a result, he tailors his approach to retirement planning for clients who have moved to the U.S. from afar. He's more apt to explain how Social Security works — and its long-term viability — to these international clients.
Cofrancesco took away another lesson from his U.K. experience: Americans are more lavish spenders.
"We're way too materialistic of a society in the U.S.," he said. He cites examples of drivers who feel compelled to buy a new car every few years or a groom who buys his bride a diamond engagement ring worth three months of his salary.
Cofrancesco adds that he likes to share stories about the frugality he witnessed overseas "to heighten Americans' awareness" of the importance of managing their household budget with prudence.
Make Each Day Count
By immersing themselves in different cultures, advisors also develop a thirst for learning. Their inquisitiveness carries over into how they relate to clients.
Part of any advisor's job is extracting personal information from clients. This requires posing a series of sensitive questions.
Moving to the Dominican Republic in his early 20s, Andrew Sivertsen spent a year living with a host family. He enjoyed getting to know them and seeing the world through their eyes.
"It was an extremely warm, inviting culture," said Sivertsen, a certified financial planner in Moline, Ill. "It made me a better listener as I asked questions and learned from them."
He credits his travels with helping him "fully engage in clients' lives." In every conversation, he strives to learn something new about them and focus his attention on the here-and-now.
"It's important to listen in the moment, not think about what you're going to say or do next," he said. "It's all about curiosity."
He was struck by how people in the Dominican Republic lived each day with a heightened sense of appreciation and vigor. They often focused on "the most important thing to do right now," he says.
More than a decade later, Sivertsen, 35, fondly recalls their seize-the-moment mentality. And it has influenced how he advises his clients.
"Many people intend to retire in 10 or 20 or 40 years, so there's a long-term plan in play," he said. "But I'll also ask about their short- and intermediate-term goals. If someone hates their job, I may ask, 'Why wait to fulfill your dreams?' "
Sivertsen serves on the board of directors of a school in the Dominican Republic, so he revisits the country every year. Because many families get by on a modest income, they marvel at his profession.
"You Americans have so much money that you need a financial planner," they say with a smile. But these comments stick with him.
"We're blessed to live in a place where we have that," he said. "It makes you focus on the positive, not the negative."
Covering a Super Bowl and giving birth were not mutually exclusive to Andrea Kremer.
She is the Emmy Award-winning longtime television sports journalist who will be honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.
As the chief correspondent for the NFL Network since 2012, Kremer, 59, not only covers the game on the field, but tackles the important issues off it; such as the health and safety of the players. She further takes a deep dive into interview subjects and issues as a correspondent for HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."
While she has earned a reputation for getting the story, Kremer became one in January 2000. She unexpectedly went into labor a month early right before Super Bowl XXXIV. Yet just four days later, after giving birth to her son, she was back on the air covering the big game for ESPN. She did her prep work from her hospital room.
The experience taught Kremer "a seminal lesson," she told IBD.
"Whether the story is traumatic or tragic or joyous — whatever it is, somebody is going through this in their life, but a journalistic entity wants to make it their story," Kremer said. The experience further enhanced her empathy and respect for her subjects. "It's our story, but it's their life. And now I had lived it!" She now knew what it was like to be the story.
Kremer reflects that she's done many unique and special stories of which she's proud. She's interviewed sports figures dealing with death, loss, drug addiction and other heart-wrenching situations. In some cases it's the only time these people have talked about it.
"People are really baring their souls and I've been asked a lot: Why do you think they talk to you?" Kremer says. "I think there's a variety of reasons but I'd like to think they knew that I respected the situations. I respected them. And having lived that, it put it in a whole different realm."
Reaching The End Zone
Kremer has covered more than 25 Super Bowls. She also covered the NBA Finals, MLB's League Championship Series, college football bowl games, Stanley Cup Playoffs, the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and the Olympics.
Kremer has received two Emmy Awards in her career, in 2001 and 2005. For her story on NFL defensive player Dexter Manley's substance abuse and addiction issues, Kremer earned a Prism Award in 2005. In 2012, she helped Real Sports earn a Peabody Award with her story on the abuse of the drug Toradol in NFL locker rooms. Kremer has reported on sports personalities and stories dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault.
The Los Angeles Times named Kremer "the best TV interviewer in the business of covering the NFL." TV Guide, which named Kremer as one of TV's best sports correspondents, said her work is "distinguished by her eagerness to calmly ask tough questions and her refusal to pursue the same old story."
In 2014, she was the first inductee into the Cynopsis Sports Hall of Fame. In 2017 she was inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
This past June, Kremer was named the 2018 recipient of the prestigious Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, given by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The award recognizes "longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football," wrote NFL.com. Kremer will be honored during the NFL's 2018 Enshrinement Week in early August.
"I've been doing this a long time and I'm very proud of my longevity, but I'm really proud of my consistency," Kremer said. "If I felt my work was diminished in any way, I just wouldn't do this anymore."
A residual benefit for her has been hearing from multitudes of colleague she's worked with over the years. They've said things like, " 'I wouldn't be where I am in my career if I hadn't worked with you,' " Kremer said. "I'm glad I've done stories that have resonated, but this acknowledgment that I've made an impact on people individually I've worked with has meant the most to me."
"Andrea possesses many skills that have allowed her to become a top-flight journalist, but if I had to name two they would be work ethic and the constant pursuit of perfection," said Fred Gaudelli, the executive producer of "NBC Sunday Night Football." "The bigger the challenge, the deeper Andrea digs in, and she just won't quit until the story is presented as creatively and accurately as possible."
Fellow longtime TV sports journalist Pam Oliver told IBD: "Andrea prepares and goes above and beyond. She's exacting, she's demanding of the people around her. Andrea's all about accurate information, and she's a great interviewer."
"The key to being a great interviewer is natural curiosity and a real true devotion to listening," Kremer said. "A lot of people say they listen but they don't really understand how to listen. They are thinking about whatever is going through their mind, the least of which is the follow-up question."
A Sporting Life
Born in Philadelphia, Kremer had a love of sports from an early age, both watching and participating.
"My parents were quite supportive," she said. "I watched everything that I could. Football definitely had a special place for me."
On the participation side, Kremer danced ballet for about 20 years and pursued field hockey, tennis and swimming.
"The great thing about ballet is that it really taught me discipline and the ability to compartmentalize," she said.
Kremer graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1982 as the sports editor of the Main Line Chronicle, Pennsylvania's largest weekly newspaper.
In 1984 she left the Chronicle to join NFL Films as its first female producer. There she found her first mentor in the business with the late Steve Sabol, who with his father Ed founded NFL Films. A picture of Steve Sabol adorns her office. In addition to producing, Kremer directed, wrote and edited. She was in her early 20s and working seven days a week.
"It would be late on a Saturday night and there would only be one other light on in the entire building and that was Steve's light," Kremer said. "That really resonated with me, and the lesson became don't ask somebody to do something that you haven't done yourself or you wouldn't do yourself."
She joined ESPN in 1989. It was a time when women were not readily accepted as sports broadcasters. In one instance she learned she wouldn't be considered for a position because the hiring authority wouldn't hire a female.
Though devastated, she persisted. "I tried never to let any obstacle hold me back," Kremer said. "I felt I needed to put blinders on at some point. And I think you just know that as a woman in this profession, your margin for error is infinitesimal. … You just have to work to be better and smarter and more correct all the time."
"There is no one whom I have ever worked with who wanted to get it right more than Andrea Kremer," Gaudelli said. "She holds herself to the highest levels of accountability."
Oliver points to Kremer's relentless pursuit of a story. "Andrea will fly to a city to try to convince someone in person to please sit down with her. And pretty soon, she's got the interview."
It's all part of Kremer's success philosophy. From the great athletes and coaches she's interviewed (such as Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps) she's found that high achievers in sports have a single-minded sense of purpose and a steely focus, and they are intense competitors.
"Don't accept no," Kremer says. "Don't let anyone tell you no. The easiest thing is for people to say no, because if they say yes then they have to take the next step. Most people aren't willing to do that. So you can't take no for an answer. You can try to negotiate things, you can stay pleasantly persistent, you can stay on somebody's radar, but you just can't be deterred. Be determined and don't take no for an answer."
Recipient of two Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, given by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Overcame: Bias against women in sports broadcast journalism.
Lesson: Let your work speak for itself.
"Somebody once said to me I came out of the womb determined."
Entrepreneurs start with a dream. Turning it into reality requires a series of concrete, carefully crafted goals.
To advance from an idea to a viable enterprise, you need a roadmap. A business plan provides that direction. It also offers a framework to follow through and a basis for measuring your progress.
Eager to attain your vision, it's tempting to plunge in without a rigorous plan. But taking a seat-of-your-pants approach adds to the risk. To write a business plan that guides your success:
Keep it simple. Fledgling entrepreneurs may assume a business plan should be a lengthy, data-laden document. But brevity and clarity can work to your advantage.
"Don't be intimidated," said Noah Parsons, chief operating officer of Palo Alto Software in Eugene, Ore. "We recommend a lean plan, a one-page outline of your business concept."
This succinct version starts with a vision statement and pinpoints the problem your business will solve, the potential market for your product or service, competitors and sales goals. Download a free template here.
Think like a customer. Among the key elements of your business plan is defining the problem that you'll solve. That's harder than it sounds. You not only need to identify a glaring issue that consumers face but also propose a creative, cost-effective way to address it.
"A lot of entrepreneurs think of the solutions that they're offering, instead of what problem does my widget solve for my customer," Parsons said. "You need to get inside the customer's head and know how you will make customers' lives better."
He suggests talking to potential customers, heeding their input and easing into your market. Rather than act on your assumptions, determine if your gut instinct is correct. Contact a sampling of would-be buyers to validate your hunch.
Reduce uncertainties. Some parts of a business plan involve predicting the future. How will competitors react to your pricing strategy? How many people will buy what you sell? To what extent will the cost of equipment or raw materials vary in the coming years?
While it's impossible to answer these and other questions with certainty, you can build a plan around conservative calculations. Use recent data, demographic trends and purchasing patterns to refine your estimates.
"Setting sales goals may seem like the hardest thing to do because there's a fear of getting it wrong," Parsons said. "New entrepreneurs have to be comfortable making their best guess."
Research what's next. Once your business is up and running, you'll begin to gain a clearer understanding of how to advance from startup to second-stage growth. At some point, you may want to draft a more detailed business plan that answers questions that potential investors and future employees will ask. Examples include fleshing out your target market, your sales and marketing strategy, and the evolving structure of your company.
"You'll want to have a management and operational plan," said Warren Daniel, regional director of the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center in Dover, N.H. "That changes with the economic cycles. In a growth period, it's harder to hire" so you'll need to think through how to recruit staffers in a tight labor market.
Keep updating. Treat your business plan as a work-in-progress. With each passing month, you'll want to review it and possibly rework it to reflect the myriad challenges that you'll confront.
"I look at a business plan as a living document," Daniel said. "As your business grows, it will change."
Older advisors often share bits of wisdom with newly minted planners. But seasoned pros might also learn something from upstarts.
Shaped by their tech-savvy upbringing, financial planners in their 20s and 30s are eager to dish out advice to their more experienced colleagues. You just have to ask them.
These newcomers realize that they don't know it all. As much as they welcome supportive guidance from veteran advisors, they may chafe if treated with bossy condescension.
"Mentoring young planners using encouragement and trust will breed confidence," said Jeff Realejo, a 25-year-old certified financial planner in Pompano Beach, Fla. That's better than telling them what to do and how to do it.
For example, asking, "Why don't you try this?" is more effective than declaring, "You should do it this way." Granting them the autonomy to make their own decisions — and learn their own lessons — contributes to a richer, more rewarding work environment.
If you've developed a well-oiled machine after decades of building a successful practice, you may figure there's no reason to alter a winning formula. But fledgling planners may offer useful suggestions to stay one step ahead as you navigate your business into an uncertain future.
"The pace of change is rising rapidly, especially if you want to attract younger clients," said Ashley Foster, a certified financial planner in Houston. "If you've been doing something for 30 years and it has been working for you, you may not want to change. But change will pass you by whether you like it or not."
Embrace The New
An increasing number of millennial clients — born in the 1980s and early 1990s — prefer to interact online. Advisors with easy-to-access digital platforms can appeal to this demographic.
Foster, 34, would advise his elders to embrace new technology now, not later. Waiting to apply the latest tech tools "until something begins to disrupt your livelihood" is misguided, he warns.
He recommends that older advisors ask two questions when weighing an investment in technology: "How will it help me operate more efficiently?" and "How will it help provide more value to my clients?"
"Using new financial planning software instead of relying on outdated and less comprehensive software can save you time you'd spend creating spreadsheets," Foster said. "I'd say be open-minded about changes to our industry, not just technological but also regulatory and business-model changes. Don't look at these changes as a roadblock; look at them as an opportunity."
Foster's prior business partner, an advisor for 50 years, initially resisted some of these changes. But Foster gradually persuaded him to come around — and he's now enjoying helping clients with a fresh emphasis on holistic financial planning.
To improve their daily business operation, Foster recommends that longtime advisors rethink workflow procedures and client service delivery. He cites advances in customer relationship management (CRM) platforms.
"A lot of advisors either use Microsoft Office/Outlook as a CRM or nothing at all," he said. "It may have worked for them in the past, but today there are many customizable CRM solutions built specifically for financial planners to help them increase productivity."
The Right Culture
Misconceptions abound about integrating cutting-edge technology. Some advisors assume the transition from aging systems to agile ones will prove long and frustrating.
"Don't think that technology is too hard or will take too much time to learn," said Lucas Casarez, a 31-year-old certified financial planner in Fort Collins, Colo. "This may have been the situation in the past with old legacy systems. But in the last four or five years, advances have made the technology easier" to adopt.
Embracing low-cost automation can win over both junior associates at your firm and your clients. Aside from efficiency gains, going paperless can signal to your team that the firm wants to evolve with the times.
For example, Casarez favors e-signature apps. He says that DocuSign "is so easy that clients in their 60s and 70s can use it and they like it."
He also urges older advisors to cultivate wet-behind-the-ears planners by creating an appealing organizational culture. Providing ongoing constructive feedback on their performance and affording them ample pathways to learn and grow on the job will solidify your relationship with them.
"The younger generation is more focused on values than dollar signs," Casarez said. "It's the same with culture. If they feel your firm is doing the right things — reinvesting in the community through volunteerism, reinvesting in employees by sending them to conferences and helping them earn professional designations — they're more likely to buy into the culture and stay over the long term."
Jon Ayers knew Idexx Laboratories ( IDXX) had rich potential as soon as he came on board the pet health care company.
"When I got here I felt there was a gold mine of opportunity," Ayers, who joined Idexx as chairman, president and CEO in January 2002, told IBD.
Ayers also knew he needed to change Idexx's existing corporate mindset to tap into that opportunity.
"Before I came here, the consensus was the growth in pet health care diagnostics had seen its day and was over," Ayers said. "I thought that was completely wrong. In fact, I thought there was an enormous opportunity to bring new innovation and growth to that business which was growing at 3% to 4%" a year, he said.
So Ayers, a veteran business leader, combined his love of animals and interest in biology with his strong management skills to develop a strategy that would change that mentality and prove the naysayers wrong. At the core of this strategy is a focus on investing in constant innovation to provide veterinarians with cutting-edge diagnostic and information management tools that enhance the health and well-being of pets.
Guided by this approach, Ayers and his team have transformed Idexx into a leader in pet health care innovation. And it's also led to the introduction of groundbreaking and lifesaving diagnostic products.
A New Mindset
Ayers' strategy at the outset was aimed at moving Idexx into growth mode.
"When I came in 2002, I saw quotes that the company's growth in its diagnostics business could be three to four times what it was," Ayers said. "Now the business is growing at double-digit rates and is five times larger. And we're still in the same business. What changed was this mentality that you couldn't grow the business," he said.
Idexx's strategy, business and organization have been completely transformed under Ayers' leadership.
In the process, Ayers and his team have propelled impressive financial growth and gained the attention of investors. Idexx revenue grew to $1.969 billion in 2017 from $400 million when Ayers took the helm in 2002. Over the last 16 years, revenue has grown at an average annual compound rate of 10.7%. Idexx's market cap has rocketed from around $1 billion in 2002 to roughly $18 billion today. Since Ayers became CEO in 2002 through the present, its stock price has surged at a compound annual rate of 23%, at a time when the S&P 500 grew at 5.3%, the company says. Idexx joined the S&P 500 in January 2017.
Focus On Innovation
"We feel like we're just getting started, even though we're growing aggressively," Ayers said. "We are five times bigger than we were 16 years ago. And it's not through acquisitions. We're growing at a rate that is faster than it has been for the last 10 years. We've seen the company's acceleration in growth coming from the focus on innovation in pet health care."
Idexx's diagnostic and IT-based products and services for the veterinary market are part of its Companion Animal Group (CAG). It represents 87% of the company's business. Idexx's innovations in animal health care diagnostics includes tests to detect Lyme disease, heartworm and intestinal parasites; and most recently, a test that finds kidney disease early enough to treat it.
Ayers' focus on innovation is one of his core principles and key to his management philosophy.
"We bring innovation to new markets around our core focus of animal health care, specifically diagnostics," Ayers said. "My philosophy is to focus on doing a few things really well and continue to improve. We focus on innovation that creates growth. There's enormous opportunity in animal health care. We're bringing a tremendous amount of innovation that provides insights into the status of the pet's health."
Idexx's position in pet animal health care has soared.
"They are easily the dominant leader in animal health diagnostics globally," Canaccord Genuity analyst Mark Massaro told IBD.
He estimates Idexx has over 50% of the in-clinic animal health diagnostics market in the U.S.
Passion Fuels Growth
Massaro attributes the company's success to Ayers' strong leadership supported by his best-in-class management team.
"Jon Ayers has a unique passion for animal health that is unrivaled in the entire industry," Massaro said. "He is easily the most successful evangelist for animal health I've ever seen. He is an outstanding ambassador for a higher standard of care to test cats and dogs all over the world. His focus has never been limited to the U.S. Nearly 40% of its revenue is outside of North America."
Ayers' love for animals and inspiration for enhancing their health starts with his two cats, who have a variety of long-term medical conditions that have benefited from Idexx's diagnostics.
"I don't think they'd be alive today if it hadn't been for Idexx," Ayers said. "I like to understand the business through the eyes of a pet owner. We sell to veterinarians. But pet owners are ultimately behind the demand. If you're a pet owner, you really have a strong appreciation for the value we're bringing to the market."
Another one of Ayers' core principles is focus.
"I like to say: Ten things half done equals nothing done," Ayers said. "If you focus on doing a few things well, it will achieve better results. A lot of CEOs think they have to grow through acquisition. We grow organically at Idexx. We don't want to do anything that's outside of our core businesses and get distracted. Innovation is a team sport, and it starts with the CEO. Everyone is part of the team."
Ayers came to Idexx rich with leadership and business experience. He held various leadership posts at United Technologies ( UTX) and its business unit Carrier Corp. He served as president of Carrier from 1999 to 2001. He was vice president of strategic planning at United Technologies from 1995 to 1997. From 1986 to 1995, Ayers held various positions at Morgan Stanley ( MS) in M&A and corporate finance.
William Blair analyst Ryan Daniels gives Ayers, 62, high marks for his leadership.
"I covered Idexx for more than a decade and have traveled with Jon," Daniels said. "I always said he is in the upper-echelon of the executives I have worked with in my career. He has surrounded himself with a great group of executive leaders. I am always tremendously impressed with the strong executive team and how collaborative Jon is in working with them on key strategic decisions."
Daniels says one example of that collaboration was when Idexx decided to go from a hybrid sales distribution model where it used a variety of distributors to sell the CAG group's products in the U.S. to an all-direct product distribution model.
"It was a very controversial move," Daniels said. "They had a leadership position and had a lot of exclusivity with a lot of distributors."
Ayers was fully aware the move was controversial. But going direct fit in with his growth strategy.
"When we made the move in 2015 there were a lot of people who were skeptical about that shift, and many people said we made a big mistake," Ayers said. "We had every confidence that by getting closer to our customers we would be better able to help our customers adopt our products, and services behind our innovation, at a faster rate."
And so it has.
"We had developed a lot of new products and services," Ayers said. "But the vet needs to understand the medicine behind it. By moving fully direct we could spend more time with customers, form deeper relationships."
Since it went direct, Ayers says the company has seen its growth rate accelerate. Ayers says that in the first quarter of 2018 recurring (CAG) diagnostics revenue accelerated to 13% growth organically.
"That was a consequence not only of having innovation, but bringing our customers closer with our direct sales force," he said.
Secrets To Success
Ayers' advice to MBA graduates? "Take every job you have as a learning opportunity toward the goal that you seek. Work on self-development through your experiences through your entire life. No one else will do it for you. So take responsibility and seek those learning experiences."
That's what Ayers has done throughout his career.
"I learned so much in every one of my jobs," Ayers said. "I've been at Idexx for 16 years, and I'm still learning."
Transformed Idexx into a leader in pet health care innovation.
Overcame: Slow-growth mindset in animal health care industry.
Lessons: "Take every job you have as a learning opportunity toward the goal that you seek."
Lombardi On Teamwork
People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses or the problems of modern society. Vince Lombardi, football coach
Rowling On Taking Chances
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default. J.K. Rowling, author
Disney On Challenges
I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn't know how to get along without it. Walt Disney, entertainment magnate
Powell On Consistency
If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude. Colin Powell, secretary of state
Rockefeller On Goals
Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great. John D. Rockefeller, oil executive
"We have recently entered into an era when lessons of the past seem no longer to provide effective guidance," Tuff said. Best practices in many companies have become "bad habits, and they may create blinders to impending disruption. To survive and thrive in a digital era, companies need to blow up the playbooks of the past in order to build something new and better."
Tips on knowing when and how to shake things up:
Trigger new perspectives. The average life span of a company listed in the S&P 500 in the early 1960s was about 60 years. Today, it's under 20.
This is partly because those once-successful companies clung on to their tried-and-true methods that worked well before. Instead they should have brought "a beginner's mind to the challenge," Tuff said. "Ironically, the best way for any company to stave off disruption from startups and unforeseen competition is to approach its business as if it is the underdog rather than the incumbent — and to continually refresh and renew."
Microscope status quos. Regularly ask: How does your company do things? How do you approach the competition?
"Then you need to figure out which orthodoxies are legit," Tuff said. "Some will need to exist: There are good regulatory and safety reasons that some playbooks need to remain sacrosanct. But not many will pass the test.
"When you have a hunch an orthodoxy might be challenged, ask: What would it look like if we didn't do things that way? Do we see evidence of companies — in our industry or elsewhere — that don't follow the same rule?"
"Companies should hire people who poke holes in the status quo," she said. "When Catchafire founder and CEO Rachael Chong is deciding who to hire, she gives candidates problems the organization has struggled with or is currently facing. And then she looks for people who think differently from her and her team. She hires people who are going to challenge her and disagree with her thinking." Catchafire connects skilled volunteers to nonprofits.
Be nimble. Experience provides confidence to make quick decisions on the toughest problems, Gino says. "But a narrow focus on what we already know cuts us off from all we have left to learn, hindering creativity," she added.
An example she uses: In January 2009, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger had 208 seconds to make a decision after his plane was disabled by a flock of geese. "Landing at the nearest airport was the most obvious answer," she said. "But he put aside more than 30,000 hours of flying experience and kept an open mind."
Sullenberger quickly determined he'd never make it to an airport and instead made a daring water landing in the Hudson River.
Shake things up. Stability can be overrated, Gino says.
Whether in leadership or work it's easy to fall into "comfortable, almost mindless routines," she added. "That pattern allows people to make predictions about the future — to know how work will look tomorrow."
People find more joy in work when they are allowed and encouraged to come up with better ways of getting things accomplished. As a result, they are engaged, and the data show "they are more than three times as creative as their disengaged counterparts, and perform 20% better than them," Gino said.
Howard Carter and his team dug through hundreds of boulders in Egypt's Valley of the Kings for about five arduous years, looking for the lost tomb of Tutankhamun. His research told him the tomb was there. But no one — not even he — could find it thousands of years after the child king's death. Carter's once enthusiastic financial backer was losing patience.
But in one of history's greatest examples of persistence with a massive payoff, Carter removed rubble that revealed the entrance of the tomb on Nov. 25, 1922. His discovery is still considered the most significant archaeological feat in modern times, Tarek El-Awady, curator of the "King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" exhibit, told IBD in an email sent from Egypt. "Howard Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun still stands as the greatest discovery made by man," El-Awady said.
The valuable treasures Carter found still draw crowds to museums around the world. But what Carter did to achieve his goals and persevere is equally priceless, including:
Combine your talents to create a unique skill set.
Carter was never formally trained as an archaeologist or even a scientist. He was the son of an artist and an artist himself. But he learned about archaeology on the job after he was hired at the age of 17 to draw Egyptian artifacts for a wealthy family. His skill as an artist won him a spot traveling to Egypt alongside some of the best archaeologists of all time, including Percy Newberry. From them he learned how to carefully excavate and catalog a dig's artifacts. This knowledge, paired with his previous training as an artist, created a powerful blend of skill sets that few in the world possessed. "He learned a lot on the job. You can't learn it until you're standing there having to do it," Pearce Creasman, associate professor and director of the Egyptian Expedition at the University of Arizona told IBD. "He put all the pieces together and learned from all these people and added his special skill (of drawing) to the mix."
Carter's skill set was so unique that he commanded respect on digs and was later named chief inspector for the Egyptian Antiquities Service — a position that would set him up for success later.
Record and remember everything you learn.
From Newberry and others, Carter learned the importance of being highly detailed in cataloging everything he found. His journals of findings are richly illustrated in painstaking detail — a standard practice in archaeology today — but perhaps seen as excessive or even obsessive in the day.
To capture every detail, Carter developed a breakthrough system of classifying digs that culminated with the King Tut discovery. Every group of objects found was designated with a number from one to 620, Nicholas Reeves and John Taylor wrote in "Howard Carter Before Tutankhamun." Smaller groups of items found were then notated with single or multiple letters, such as a, b, c, aa, bb, cc and aaa, bbb, ccc.
Again, this was Carter applying his talents to something he learned from someone else. Carter "learned excavation with British excavator Flinders Petrie, who taught him the importance of small finds," Brian Fagen, an archaeologist and emeritus professor of anthropology at University of California, Santa Barbara, told IBD. "Researchers working on the tomb still consult his notebooks, which are an exceptional record, far ahead of their time."
Learn from "experts" but trust your instincts.
Carter closely observed and took valuable tips from "experts." But just as importantly, he knew what to ignore, too. Theodore Davis, a wealthy U.S. attorney and successful archaeologist whom Carter was working with, declared in the early 1910s that all the great finds in the Valley of the Kings already had been found.
Carter disregarded Davis' "expert opinion." Carter's own experience proved to be just as precious, if not more than Davis'. Carter "was a maverick operator, stubborn, ambitious and brimming with self-confidence," William Cross, author of "Carnarvon, Carter and Tutankhamun Revisited: The Hidden Truths and Doomed Relationships," told IBD. "His know-how, spark and ingenuity convinced him that the tomb of Tutankhamun was somewhere in the Valley of the Kings."
After Davis gave up on the dig, Carter had to find another backer to fund a continued search.
Bet on yourself — but make sure you have a backer.
Carter quit his stable job as an inspector for the Egyptian archaeological service in 1905 to free up time for his search. Some of the hardest years of his life followed.
Carter's quest for the tomb was almost an obsession. But he knew that to complete it he would need financial backing. After Davis left the quest, Carter teamed up with a new financial supporter, wealthy Briton Lord Carnarvon. The difficulty was convincing him to keep writing the checks even as Carter found nothing year after year.
When Carnarvon grew frustrated and was about to cut off Carter's financing, Carter modified his approach to appeal to Carnarvon's sense as an investor. In those times, archaeologist teams kept half of what they found and returned the remainder to Egypt. Carter knew the cost of financing another dig was a fraction of the reward possible if they found the tomb. He explained the economics to Carnarvon and said if he wouldn't pay to keep digging, Carter would from his own pocket. The pitch was so compelling — blending economic reasoning with scientific precision — it convinced Carnarvon to keep writing the checks. "He got one guy to buy in and sometimes that's all it takes, is one person to make something really big happen," Creasman said.
Carter's sharp tongue might have made it difficult to sell his idea, but he "was smart enough and eloquent enough in tales about Tutankhamun's lost tomb to be enticed and trusted by millionaire investors looking to cash in on antiquities, and the glint of gold to come," Cross said.
Don't just picture success. Visualize how you'll get there — long term.
Just imagining your success isn't going to do much. Success comes to those who visualize how to get there. Carter provides an example. While still antiquities inspector, Carter looked back and examined all the successful digs in the Valley of the Kings. Not just his, but everyone's. Most archaeologists randomly dug. But Carter applied his detailed grid-block system of analysis to past discoveries. This allowed him to build a holistic picture in his mind of what was explored, and what wasn't. By "retroactively applying to all the work done in the Valley of the Kings … he knew areas that other people had missed," Creasman said. By studying past records, Carter knew others "dug 10 feet to the right and 20 feet to the left, and 15 feet over here. They had not dug everything, everywhere."
Perhaps it was another example of how Carter elevated archaeology by blending facets of his unique mind as an artist would. Carter's attention to detail allowed him to visualize what parts of the valley were "clean territory — an area no one has ever excavated," Creasman said.
"He had this map in his head, along with internal motivation," Creasman said. "I haven't done everything I can do until I've done this. When people obsess on a thing, they can't let it go."
Enjoy your work. Passion drives persistence and success.
Carter loved his life's work — ever since starting out as an artist. That passion drove him to keep looking and learning. Others who were purely driven by money would have given up. "Working in the Valley of the Kings is like magic, the silence and the absolute power of the cliffs surrounding the valley makes every Egyptologist willing to spend his entire life working and working, running after a dream that might or might not ever come true," El-Awady said.
His passion yielded success even when he wasn't trying. In addition to exploring and drawing, Carter loved horses and riding the west bank of Luxor, El-Awady says. "One of his greatest discoveries happened when the leg of his horse got stuck in a hole that turned out to be the symbolic burial of King Mentuhotep II (Dynasty 11)," El-Awady said. "In this tomb, the beautiful statue of the king was discovered."
Carter brought "long-term planning, the need for a disciplined approach to finding and excavating sites, and the necessity for recording everything with photographs, drawings, or in writing," Fagen said. "He really was one of the first modern archaeologists, with a unique eye for detail, and always a mind for the long-term outcome of the project."
For many advisors, prospecting is the lifeblood of their business. Whether they're just starting out or decades into their career, they routinely ask clients for referrals.
Through email reminders or direct requests, these advisors often emphasize that the best compliment a client can give them involves referring friends or family to sign on. It's standard practice — and clients are accustomed to such entreaties.
To cast a wider net, enterprising advisors raise their profile in the community. They may lead public seminars on financial topics, write a column for the local newspaper or appear on radio shows as a money expert.
Through their outreach, advisors seek to attract prospects in need of financial advice. The more interested parties who call for introductory appointments, the more people these advisors can convert to clients.
But some advisors blaze a different path. Rather than succeed by following the conventional playbook, they adopt unusual prospecting strategies.
"I rarely ask for referrals," said James Hegland, an advisor in Rochester, Minn. "Yet I get them all the time, and I don't do any advertising."
Instead, Hegland is a prodigious sender of friendly letters. He jots handwritten notes to a wide range of acquaintances, including clients, which convey admiration, support or other positive sentiments.
"I'm always looking for people doing great things or attempting to do great things," Hegland said. "Then I write encouraging or complimentary things to them."
Hegland keeps his letters short and sweet. And he never raises business matters or even hints that he'd like the recipient to refer others to his firm.
Notes That Stick
Warmly personal notes can resonate with readers. Because writing letters is becoming less common, they stand out more.
For example, Hegland wrote a congratulatory message to a client's young son who became an Eagle Scout. A few days later, the client called and told Hegland, "This is one of the most meaningful notes my son has received."
Within weeks, Hegland gained a new client as word spread of his kind act. He says this often happens because recipients — and their families — tell others.
Hegland began sending handwritten notes on a more regular basis in 2012. He estimates that he has mailed over 700 letters each year since then.
When he chats with clients and others, he might inquire about their family or show interest in other aspects of their life. Their responses often trigger a follow-up note.
If a client mentions that he recently took a long hike with his children, Hegland will promptly jot a note, "I'm so proud of you for hiking five miles with your kids." It not only shows that he listened, but also that he likes what he heard or finds it inspiring.
He adds a few eye-catching touches to his letters. For starters, he writes "personal" on the lower corner of the envelope. He also uses stationery — and even stamps — with splashes of orange to add a distinctive flourish.
"I'm very particular about all of this," Hegland said. "And I never enclose a business card or anything else" with the letter.
Throw A Party
For some advisors, prospecting and socializing go hand-in-hand. Hosting festive gatherings for clients and other guests leaves a lasting positive impression, which in turn can generate leads.
Megan Jones, an advisor with AE Wealth Management in Topeka, Kan., throws an annual birthday party for all clients who turn 70-? during the year — to celebrate the age they start taking required minimum distributions from their tax-advantaged retirement accounts. They bring their children and grandchildren and enjoy cake and refreshments.
"We give them a funny cone hat to wear when they come in," Jones said. "We had someone post a Facebook photo of her husband wearing the hat. Others saw it, including someone who contacted us and became a client."
To attract prospects to her firm, Jones also leads monthly "lunch and learn" programs in her office's conference room. Along with guest speakers, she covers a range of educational topics including estate planning, tax reform and market updates.
For many advisory firms, local engagement doubles as a prospecting tool. By banding together to volunteer on a project, from providing services to the homeless to sponsoring a road race that raises funds for a nonprofit organization, advisors build their visibility while giving back to the community.
At its core, prospecting flows from strong client relationships. By maintaining strong connections with clients on an ongoing basis — through periodic calls, emails and other communication — advisors reinforce their value. This in turn triggers referrals, as clients are more likely to share their positive experience with others.
Leadership isn't about being the person who has all the answers. Quite the opposite. There's nothing wrong with asking for input, seeking help and admitting you don't know it all. It pays to show you're vulnerable.
"A leader who acts like he has all the answers isn't approachable," said Steve Arneson, who runs his own Boulder, Colo.-based executive coaching and leadership consulting firm. "But if you're open-minded and not afraid to ask for help, then people know they have the opportunity to weigh in."
Here's how to build that environment.
Get participation. Make sure your people are involved in key decisions. Seek help, input and feedback. Say you're looking at both sides of an issue and want to hear what they think.
"You have to get past, 'I have all the answers,'" Arneson said.
Set aside ego. Confidence is vital for a leader. But that doesn't mean you know everything. Arneson said the most confident leaders are also often the most likely to show they're vulnerable. They're not afraid to open up, even about their faults.
Gain strength. The power inside people can only truly be unleashed if they bring everything they have to their role, says Barry Kaplan, a partner in New York-area executive coaching firm Shift 180. Openness plays a big role.
"That includes talking about things that might be dangerous or risky," Kaplan, co-author of "The Power of Vulnerability," told IBD.
Be clear. Build an open and trusting environment by first talking about it. When Kaplan works with companies, he often has people write down something they haven't shared before but that's important to the business. It might be about saving money or why one person hasn't been fired. Then talk about that point in a forum where there is no fear of retribution.
"There's a lot of pent-up truth that's ready to be unleashed," Kaplan said. "There's courage involved in being vulnerable and speaking my truth. But if I'm authentic it makes me feel good about myself."
Stay true. Be consistent in how you act and treat people. And stick to your values while doing that.
"That produces a track record of behavior that people can bank on," Arneson said. "Then when they walk in on Monday morning, they know who they're getting."
Spread the word. Build authenticity into your group's culture by displaying it yourself, so others see it starts at the top. Talk about it every chance you get: in meetings, through a CEO blog and at employee celebrations.
"The cool thing about authenticity is you don't have to think about it," Arneson said. "It just comes naturally."
Win faith. If you're open about your weaknesses, you'll earn trust among your team.
"Then you'll create a powerful team because people will have each other's back," Kaplan said.
Take the lead. If the company chief doesn't show vulnerability and authenticity, others won't either. But if she does, it'll spread fast.
Kaplan once worked with the leader of an auto parts company who was at a crossroads about whether to shut the doors or keep investing. The boss spoke openly to his people about his dilemma. They opened up about their fears and their staunch belief the company could recover from its slump. The boss decided to invest more in the company.
"His people believed more in him because he was willing to say, 'I don't know,'" Kaplan said. "He couldn't have been more real. And they ended up having their best year ever."
Reap rewards. Once you open up to the point that you build trust, the benefits pour in.
"Then you have an environment that's going to lead to improved performance," Kaplan said. "One new idea leads to creativity and innovation, or you can cut your losses earlier if your company was going to do something that doesn't work."
What makes someone a successful leader? Is it a defined vision for the future or the ability to rally people around you? The following leadership quotes from some of the world's most inspiring groundbreakers in business, sports and politics may provide a clue about what sets someone apart as a powerful leader — and what doesn't.
From the motivating words of Steve Jobs to the wisdom of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, here are 28 quotes about leadership that may inspire and motivate you to become an effective leader in your own life.
Inspiring Leadership Quotes From Business Leaders
Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected. Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder
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
Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish. Sam Walton, Wal-Mart founder
As a leader, you need to care deeply, deeply about your people while not worrying or really even caring about what they think about you. Managing by trying to be liked is the path to ruin. Dick Costolo, Twitter CEO
Good management consists in showing average people how to do the work of superior people. John D. Rockefeller, industrialist
My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they're having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society. Larry Page, Google co-founder
Running a big organization is not a job for the smartest person; it's a job for someone that can mobilize others. Ed Clark, former TD Bank Group CEO
Every move leaders make, every decision, every glance, every word is scrutinized, dissected, torn apart and reconstituted in the break room. Inconsistent behavior, from good to bad and back, is possibly the worst condition of all. Duane Dike, executive
Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes. Peter Drucker, consultant
When most people say they want autonomy, they really just want anarchy, with no accountability. David Cancel, CEO, Drift
I firmly believe leadership is not just an important thing. It's the most important thing. Les Wexner, chairman and CEO, L Brands
Treat employees like they make a difference, and they will. Jim Goodnight, executive
People cannot be managed. Inventories can be managed, but people must be led. Ross Perot, businessman
I am still learning. That is an important mark of a good leader ... to know you don't know it all and never will. Anne Mulcahy, former Xerox CEO
It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed. Harvey Firestone, tire entrepreneur
Great Leadership Quotes From Sports Coaches
There are guys that give you that quiet leadership that in a way is more powerful, because it's not quite out there as much, but it's that quiet push that sometimes can maybe have a little more impetus. Bill Belichick, head coach, New England Patriots
I've always felt that it's better if other people follow me because they want to follow, not because I've been put up there as the leader and they have to follow. Tony Dungy, football coach
The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example. John Wooden, basketball coach
A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, just by example. Joe DiMaggio, baseball player
The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team. Phil Jackson, basketball coach
Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you're in control, they're in control. Tom Landry, football coach
To be successful in coaching you have to treat your team like a family. The leader needs backing from everyone. Morgan Wootten, basketball coach
Never criticize, nag or razz a teammate. John Wooden, basketball coach
Famous Leadership Quotes From Politicians
The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things. Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. president
The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army or in an office. Dwight Eisenhower, 34th U.S. president
Diversity in counsel, unity in command. Cyrus the Great, statesman
A leader has two important characteristics: First, he is going somewhere; second, he is able to persuade other people to go with him. Maximilien Robespierre, politician
Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't. Margaret Thatcher, British prime minister
In the first year of the American Revolution, George Washington led the rebel militiamen to victory, driving the British out of Boston in March 1776.
But over the next six years, he guided his relatively small Continental Army mostly in defeats and retreats. Moreover, he struggled to keep his inadequately supplied men from starving, freezing or being killed by the world's most powerful imperial force.
"Washington fought this protracted war with immense patience and skill," wrote Thomas Fleming in " The Strategy of Victory: How General George Washington Won the American Revolution." "His use of the militia as auxiliaries to the Continental Army regulars was inventive. … His surprising conclusion that self-interest more than patriotism was the prime factor in persuading men to remain loyal as the years of war accumulated was a profound insight crucial to recruiting a strong officer corps. But his strategy of victory came breathtakingly close to running out of time."
Washington (1732-1799) was born into a moderately prosperous plantation-owning family in Westmoreland County, Va. At 17, his brother's influential father-in-law decided to include him in a county surveying party. This enabled him three years later to buy 1,500 acres of his own.
"Although Washington received what today we would consider only an elementary school education, he read widely, including works of history, philosophy, politics, and etiquette," Jeanne Abrams, a history professor at the University of Denver and author of " First Ladies of the Republic," told IBD. "He was also ambitious, hardworking, determined and a man of great integrity. He made it a point to listen to divergent opinions before making a final decision and he accomplished this in such an affable manner that people did not always realize the steely strength of his will."
At 21, Washington obtained a commission in the Virginia militia, with a dangerous mission to carry a message 250 miles through wilderness in the middle of winter to French forces in the Ohio Valley. He was to inform them that they were encroaching on British territory. The journey took four months. His party of seven was ambushed on the way back. Washington escaped by improvising a raft and swimming in a freezing river. The following April, he led 150 men to protect a fort being built at Pittsburgh. Washington displayed bravery in two battles, which helped trigger the global Seven Years War (known in North America as the French and Indian War).
In 1755, despite suffering from malaria, Washington was the senior American aide to Gen. Edward Braddock on an expedition to expel the French from the Ohio Valley. At the Battle of Monongahela, the French and their Indian allies ambushed the British-American troops. They killed a third of the 976, including Braddock. Washington's courage in leading the survivors to safety won him the leadership of America's first full-time regiment. This role taught him the importance of training and discipline.
As America's most famous soldier, Washington was the logical choice as commander in chief for the colonists after heavy-handed British tax legislation provoked the rebellion starting in April 1775 at Lexington and Concord. But the initial success of militias caused the rebels to become overconfident about their ability to defeat battle-hardened British veterans and Hessian mercenaries. The amateurs fled fierce bayonet charges. Recruiting became harder after defeats. Yet members of Congress feared that a professional army might empower a dictator. So when Washington asked for 60,000 troops, only 20,000 were approved and barely supplied.
Struggle For Independence
After the British landed 32,000 soldiers near New York City in the summer of 1776 and crushed its defenders, Washington led a three-month fighting retreat with the 10,000 under his direct control into New Jersey. The state promised to send 17,000 members of its militia. But only 1,000 responded. By December, the patriot force was down to 7,000, just across the freezing Delaware River from Hessians in Trenton. The loss of New York had been partly due to an American intelligence failure, resulting in the organization of a patriot spy ring. But the day after Christmas, it would be British intelligence that would be deficient.
Steering their boats amid the ice in early morning darkness and a sleet storm, Washington personally led a surprise attack on the Hessians. The attack killed or wounded 106 and captured 868 with their armory, while 400 escaped. Two Americans died and four were wounded. On Jan. 3, 1777, again using stealth, Washington led from the front to achieve victory at Princeton. This time the attack killed or wounded 170 Redcoats and captured 200 to just 80 American casualties. Inspired, thousands who had intended to leave the rebel army because their contracts were up re-enlisted. Meanwhile, the enemy retreated to New York.
The rest of the year brought losses to both sides. The British occupied Philadelphia, the headquarters of the Continental Congress. The Americans won the Battle of Saratoga, N.Y. Washington, unlike most military commanders in history, wintered with his troops at Valley Forge, Pa., starting in December 1777, where 2,000 died from disease or exposure. For the next three years, the patriots suffered for lack of everything from food to ammo. They lost the South. They were only occasionally paid in nearly worthless dollars, and witnessed mutiny, treason and attempted coups against Washington.
Path To Independence
The turning point for independence came in 1781. Washington appointed his best general, Nathanael Greene, as the southern commander. He led a campaign of attack-and-retreat, like his mentor, against superior forces under Lord Charles Cornwallis, who finally marched to the coast at Yorktown, Va., to get reinforcements. But long-promised French warships arrived to keep the British navy away. The Franco-American army of 18,000 beat the 8,000 Redcoats into surrendering on Oct. 19. The war was effectively over because the British public was tired of the loss of treasure and lives.
Washington learned other lessons along the path to victory that have wider leadership application:
Strategic retreats to regroup and rethink are better than risking all on major engagements.
Small wins that keep morale alive are vital.
Don't make decisions when your emotions are high.
The supply chain is critical to front-line success.
Increase the odds of success through continuous improvement.
Don't ignore public and government opinion when they have influence.
Less-experienced individuals can work well with veteran professionals in appropriate roles.
After The War
After the peace treaty was signed in 1783, Washington retired. However, the inadequacy of the Articles of Confederation to enable Congress to pay war debts led to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Washington was elected the first president two years later.
"Washington's highest priority was preserving the independence of a young and fragile country," said Alvin Felzenberg, author of "A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr." "That meant maintaining a friendly distance from three powers that remained a presence in North America and in the Caribbean: France, Great Britain and Spain. War with any of them might result in the recolonization, so he fought hard for the Jay Treaty with Britain in 1795 because he felt it would take at least two more decades before the U.S. was strong enough to win another war with United Kingdom. That it nearly lost the war that commenced in 1812 underscored the soundness of his policy."
Washington stepped down from his second term in March 1797, dying less than three years later. He was the only major Founding Father to arrange in his will for the freeing of all his slaves following his death and the death of his wife.
Led the British colonies in America to independence and became the first president of the United States.
Overcame: Few resources to sustain a professional army to fight Britain's battle-hardened veterans.
Lesson: Success often depends on the ability to be resilient in the face of repeated setbacks.
"To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace."
Like psychologists, advisors can find themselves in intimate conversations with clients. To do their job, they need to listen raptly and gather highly personal information.
Some clients speak freely about the most sensitive issues. Others prefer to avoid certain topics altogether.
By building trust and not passing judgment, advisors learn more from even the most reluctant clients. The key is making individuals feel comfortable opening up and revealing their innermost secrets.
"Advisors need to create a safe atmosphere," said Lynn Dunston, a certified financial planner in Denver, Colo. "We're letting them know we want to interact on a human level."
When leading these get-to-know-you meetings, Dunston begins by making three points. He assures them of confidentiality, emphasizes he won't judge what they say and thanks them in advance for sharing.
"They usually respond with a sigh of relief and say, 'That's good to know,' " he said.
His third point — thanking them for confiding in him — wields a special power. Many clients appreciate a sincere expression of gratitude and feel less guarded as a result.
"I want them to know that I'm honored to hear their stories," Dunston said. "And when they share their stories, I thank them again. It shows I don't take that for granted. And that brings us closer."
Dunston has learned that by remaining quiet, clients are more apt to talk. Even if they veer off-topic, he stays silent and does not interrupt.
Set The Stage
Because financial planners spend much of their day dishing out advice, it's natural to want to offer guidance to clients grappling with difficulty. But if they feel hesitant opening up, it's often best to restrain the urge to advise.
Clients may need time to weigh whether to broach a painful subject, such as their troubled marriage or a family tragedy. Advisors who strike an attentive pose signal that they are ready to listen.
"I learned early in my career to match and mirror clients' body posture," Dunston said. "If they lean forward, I lean forward. It signals, 'I hear you. I'm with you. I want to hear more.' "
The setting also plays a role. If clients feel relaxed in your environment, they're less likely to withhold sensitive information.
Shelly Terzolo, an advisor in Syracuse, N.Y., meets with clients around a table rather than from behind a desk. She offers them a beverage and lets them steer the conversation.
"I don't start off by opening a folder with a long questionnaire," she said. "I just have a notepad and a pen, and I'll move it aside to set the stage for them to feel comfortable in the space."
She has found that some clients are less inclined to open up if they see her writing notes as they speak. By maintaining friendly eye contact, she strengthens her bond with them.
Watch Body Language
Part of the challenge for advisors is prompting clients to flesh out their thoughts and feelings on a delicate matter. In many cases, individuals will not tackle a tender subject head-on; instead, they will hem and haw until they feel ready to address the core issue.
With a compassionate nod of the head, Terzolo shows her sympathy while allowing clients to elaborate. Her goal is to assure them that she cares and wants to help.
"I don't want them to feel bad that they brought it up," she said.
Flexibility pays off as well. Advisors may plan for a meeting to focus on investment strategy, but a preoccupied client may raise an entirely different and more personal concern.
"You can't say to someone who talks about some trauma or horrible situation with their family, 'Oh, that's too bad. Let's get back to that $4 million in your 401(k),' " said Nancy Coutu, a certified financial planner in Oak Brook, Ill. "I might be the first person they've told this to."
At the same time, Coutu knows not to press clients to divulge more. Observing their nonverbal cues helps her build rapport and avoid awkward moments.
"I read body language," she said. "If they're wrestling in their seat and not making eye contact, I'll move on and not keep asking about that. I may come back to it later."
Coutu lays the groundwork for more searching conversations by having new clients complete a questionnaire and bring it to their first appointment. Glancing at their responses might trigger an icebreaker such as, "I see you have five kids."
"Rather than dive into money, I start by acknowledging the information they've already shared," Coutu said. "What's important is do they have a problem that I can solve?"
What's the No. 1 skill employees are lacking? Effective communication, according to a recent LinkedIn survey.
"The ancient art of persuasion is no longer a soft skill. It's your competitive edge in the age of automation and artificial intelligence," said Carmine Gallo, author of " Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great." Gallo is also president of Gallo Communications Group, a keynote speaker and Harvard instructor.
Tips on reaching people:
Keep it basic. Great persuaders use simple words to explain complex ideas, Gallo says.
He points to co-founders of a fast-growing startup in the health insurance space, who Gallo interviewed for his book. "They decided to write all of their material using third-grade words. Most of your customers don't understand your subject as well as you do. Use simple words to sell your ideas."
Spin yarns. Humans are hard-wired for storytelling, Gallo says. "Stories inform, educate and inspire," he said. "Stories are the single best tool we have to transport our ideas to another person."
Richard Branson, the billionaire Virgin-brand founder, told Gallo that storytelling can be used to drive change. Do that with your customers and within your organization by "seeing yourself as the chief storytelling officer for your brand or department," Gallo said.
Great storytellers have an unfair advantage. But you can learn to tell good stories.
Tell personal stories of overcoming hurdles. Share customer case studies. Inform about your company's history. Storytelling is "an unfair advantage that you can use to stand out in a sea of average," Gallo said.
Refresh presentations. Stick to a 10-minute rule, Gallo says. Studies show that most people tune out of a lecture or presentation after 10 minutes.
"After the 10-minute mark, you must re-engage your audience with stories, videos or demonstrations to maintain their interest," Gallo said. "Above all, make sure you hit the most important points in the first 10 minutes."
Be genuine. Honesty is always the best policy, because people will know where they stand. And they will have been provided a direction to improve.
That's from Sandy Brown, commissioner of Major League Lacrosse, the premier professional outdoor lacrosse league.
Acknowledge people. Offer a pat on the back for a job well done. "A little encouragement goes a long way," Brown said.
Be polite. No matter the subject matter of an email, always end with "many thanks," Brown said. Extend an olive branch even in the most difficult emails. And "for those emails that are even the most mundane, it shows that you care," Brown added.
It's also his policy to return emails within 24 hours, or better yet within the same day. "This says a lot about your dependability," he said.
Be present. FaceTime is a useful tool. But actual interaction is still crucial.
"Moreover, these opportunities do not always happen organically — sometimes you have to create the chance to get in the same room with your important constituents," said Scott Ferguson, CEO of World Trade Centers Association, a trade group.
Take initiative. Check in with employees across the organization. "Empathize with their concerns and jointly problem solve," said Tim Chen, CEO of NerdWallet, a personal finance website and app.
"Not only does this approach help leaders recognize the root cause of organizational issues, it also makes employees part of the resolution process," he said.
Master metaphors. Business magnate and investor Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway ( BRKA) can hardly get through an interview without using them and analogies to explain his investing decisions, Gallo points out.
"The human brain thinks in analogy," Gallo continued. "We process our world by comparing something new to something we've seen before. A great persuader understands this and will use metaphors and analogies to make the abstract understandable."
When advisors plan a client's financial future, they may assume a steady income stream. But in rare cases, a client stumbles upon an unexpected fortune.
Whether they receive a surprise inheritance or hit the jackpot in some other unpredictable twist of fate, individuals can find themselves facing a host of challenges. Advisors step in to provide perspective and sound judgment.
To help clients manage unforeseen wealth, advisors wear many hats. Aside from offering tax planning and investment advice, they may serve as a sounding board as clients adjust to a new reality.
"Money changes people," said Joe Wirbick, a certified financial planner in Lancaster, Pa. "Their family dynamic changes. Their kids act differently. Their friends act differently. It can get ugly."
Over a decade ago, he worked with a client who won the lottery. The client used some of the money to build his sister a house.
Everything started off amicably, but the sister kept expanding the square footage well beyond what they originally agreed. As the construction cost soared, Wirbick's client pulled the plug.
This led to a feud, and the siblings stopped speaking to each other.
"If you don't earn money slowly over time, you don't know how to handle it when it comes all at once," Wirbick said. "You are not equipped to manage that money."
His client started attending a support group for lottery winners, where they heard cautionary tales of how others had squandered millions. Wirbick recalls that his client couldn't believe that another support group member spent $50,000 on a toilet seat embedded with gold coins.
What Matters Most?
Advisors can play a stabilizing role in keeping their clients grounded after gaining great wealth. That's especially true if they've known the client for years and earned their trust.
"I've seen too many people give away their money to their kids or grandkids and, 15 or 20 years later, they may not have enough for themselves," Wirbick said.
He gives three pieces of advice to those who acquire a huge windfall: It's important to be a good steward of the money, the dollar amount is not as large as it appears on paper, and try not to let everyone know.
On a deeper level, advisors strive to enable clients to extract more meaning from their newfound wealth. Doubling as life coaches, they offer guidance on how to harness the money to leave a lasting legacy.
Michelle Maton, a Chicago-based certified financial planner, cites a client who sold a painting for vastly more than she paid decades earlier. Maton posed a series of questions such as, "What have you always wanted to do?" and "Who will this impact?"
"That clarifies their values," Maton said. "It uncovers what's really important to them. Say their family is really important. They have a choice of buying a fancy car or taking the family on a big vacation every year."
When basking in sudden wealth, clients can look to their advisor to take on a new role as a family mediator. Financial planners often lead meetings to educate family members on the repercussions of having so much money.
Wait To Spend
"With my clients, we discuss what expectations family and friends might impose on them and what expectations they impose on themselves," Maton said. "I tell clients that they can say to their adult children that I've set this rule (about disbursing funds), that they can make me the bad guy."
In addition, advisors can provide a calming influence amid the turbulence that accompanies a planeload of money. Their ability to assess the situation with clear-eyed understanding produces an invaluable benefit.
"The first thing we say to a client is, don't do anything until we develop a plan for what the money would be used for," said Ryan Dennehy, an advisor in San Ramon, Calif. "There's no rush. The worst case is to lose it in a casino right away."
From his experience with two clients who hit the jackpot — one in a lottery, the other in a lawsuit award — Dennehy prioritizes debt avoidance. He cautions clients to resist the temptation to finance their high-ticket purchases.
"You can buy so much more if you finance it out, but that's what gets people in trouble," he said. For newly rich clients, he recommends that they spend $1 million in cash to purchase a home outright than buy five $1 million properties — paying a total of $1 million and borrowing the rest.
"Those mortgages stack on top of each other," he said. "People can get themselves into financial trouble more quickly than they can get out of it."
Leonard Cohen had most of his life savings stolen. But rather than being fazed by it, he started over — at 73 years old.
And it set the stage for a final act for the ages.
Cohen (1934-2016) was the influential singer-song writer who for five decades stood the test of time. He's in both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The latter said of Cohen: "Simply brilliant. His music and words will resonate forever."
He's been compared to Bob Dylan as far as influencing his generation. "Cohen's haunting bass voice, nylon-stringed guitar patterns … shaped evocative songs," Rolling Stone magazine said.
When Cohen's former manager, Kelly Lynch, embezzled over $5 million from him — most of his retirement money — he took her to court in 2005. He was awarded $9 million in a civil judgment in 2006 but received nothing from Lynch.
"I had to go to work," Cohen said in 2005, as quoted in " Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen," edited by Jeff Burger. "I have no money left. I'm not saying it's bad; I have enough of an understanding of the way the world works to understand that these things happen. ... I said, 'Let me start fresh at 70. I can cobble together a little nest egg again.' "
"Perseverance and talent aside, Cohen succeeded by being his own inimitable self rather than chasing after success," Burger told IBD. "He cared about success only to the extent that it allowed him to put food on the table and keep working. He was never particularly interested in wealth or fame. He was genuine to the core."
In 2008 Cohen undertook his first world tour in 15 years. It lasted until 2013 and encompassed close to 400 performances. He performed to the largest audiences he'd ever had. And the three studio albums he released in the last five years of his life were the most commercially successful records of his career.
"He was also the rare artist of his generation to enjoy artistic success into his 80s," Rolling Stone said.
Cohen was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. He was 73. He was appointed Companion of the Order of Canada, that nation's highest civilian honor, in 2011. He also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award that same year.
"I just set out to write what I felt as honestly as I could, and I am delighted when other people feel a part of themselves in the music," Cohen said, as quoted by Harvey Kubernik in " Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows."
"If there's a universal lesson in Leonard Cohen's life and career," Burger said, "it's that perseverance can pay off. And it's never too late to score a major success. Cohen's first album didn't come out until he was 33, (and he) didn't really begin reaching mass audiences until 40 years later."
"I was in it for the long haul," Cohen said in 1993 at age 58. "And the long haul for all of us is a lifetime." He added that "any artist should be better with time; there's more experience, more maturity, hopefully more vision."
Born to a well-to-do family in Westmount, Quebec, Cohen lost his father at age 9. He wrote a farewell to him "and sewed it into his bow tie and buried it in the garden where the pansy (flowers) grew," Cohen said. "He always used to wear a pansy in his lapel. That did something good for my head so I kept on writing."
He also learned to play the guitar as a teenager and started a folk group.
Cohen went on to become a poet and novelist. In 1956 his first book of poems was published. He won the McGill University Literary Award. In 1959 he earned a grant from the Canada Council that funded a European writing excursion. He earned another one in 1961.
He went on to write other books of poetry and novels. But while he was getting published and his work was well-received, he wasn't making much of a living from writing.
Discipline And Drive
A return visit to New York City in the mid-1960s left him influenced by the Greenwich Village folk-song culture. He decided to put his poems to melodies. Cohen's big break came in 1967. Judy Collins recorded two of Cohen's songs, "Suzanne" and "Dress Rehearsal Rag." Other artists such as James Taylor and Willie Nelson were soon asking Cohen to write songs for them.
He quickly moved on to performing. By the end of 1967 he recorded his debut album, "The Songs of Leonard Cohen." And in 1969 he recorded "Songs from a Room," which featured "Bird on a Wire."
Singing and songwriting brought him acclaim and financial success. He continued to record through the 1970s. His popularity declined in the 1980s. But his 1984 album "Various Positions" included what would become Cohen's signature song, "Hallelujah." Although the song didn't receive acclaim until the mid-1990s, "Hallelujah" has since been sung by hundreds of artists and has been featured in films and TV shows.
"I've only learned one thing writing songs and that is, if you stay with it long enough the song will yield," Cohen said. "But 'long enough' is beyond any reasonable length of what long enough might suggest to you. You might think it's a few months — it might be a year or two."
He said songwriting was a long and difficult process for him. It made him "run through word after word after word and test every idea. I have to write perfectly many verses that get thrown away because they are imperfect for a particular song; and it takes time and patience and tears to get there."
"Leonard certainly had a drive, this need to take notes, to write, to study to somehow make sense of (life)," said Cohen's foremost biographer, Sylvie Simmons, to IBD. She authored " I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen." "He was a student. He studied very deeply right up until the end of his life. Leonard was a very disciplined man. He had this drive and this discipline to get through almost any obstacles."
Cohen's 2008-2013 tour was one of the biggest-grossing ones in music history, Simmons says. "Leonard was met by a tsunami of love everywhere he went. Even then he was showing this kind of humility of taking his hat off and holding it over his heart when different band members were playing things on their own. He always liked to give the credit to other people."
"The hardest thing about touring with Leonard was that he spoiled me for everyone else," said Perla Batalla, a backup singer for Cohen before embarking on a successful solo career. "He treats everyone in his universe with the same degree of respect and kindness."
Cohen said he was writing all the time. He wrote right up to his death. Simmons says Cohen carried a little black notebook everywhere so when an idea or inspiration popped into his head, he captured it on paper. It was all part of the process for him.
"I've accepted the fact that I sweat over every word," he said. "But why shouldn't my work be hard? Almost everybody's work is hard. One is distracted by this notion that there is such a thing as inspiration, that it comes fast and easy. And some people are graced by that style. I'm not. So I have to work as hard as (anyone) to come up with the payload."
Inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Recipient of Companion of the Order of Canada and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Overcame: Setbacks in his career and life.
Lesson: If you believe in what you're doing, stay true to yourself.
"At times when commercial defeats and setbacks happened, I wasn't too troubled, because I knew the worth of the work, and I look back on a lot of my songs and poems and feel good about them because a lot of them have lasted."
Cal Turner was raised in Scottsville, Ky., a spit of land roughly 60 miles north of Nashville, 120 miles south of Louisville and home back then to about 2,000 folks. It was the values Turner (1915-2000) learned in this small town that formed him and ultimately led to the creation of the Dollar General. The retail giant now has around 6,000 stores nationwide and annual sales of about $6 billion.
According to Cal Turner Jr., who took over the reins of the company from his dad in 1977 and is the author (with Rob Simbeck) of the just-published memoir, "My Father's Business," Turner was convinced that living in a small town made you a better person.
"Your behavior and values are different in a small town," Turner said in a phone interview. "Everyone knows you and is keeping an eye on you. Small towns encourage good behavior."
It was "a vision and value system" instilled by family patriarch John Luther, a dirt farmer with a third-grade education who actually turned his lack of schooling into a plus. As Turner writes, "He was convinced that everyone he met was smarter than he (was), and he needed to learn something from each of them."
In 1939 he opened J.L.Turner & Son, Wholesale Dry Goods, Shoes, Notions and Hosiery. His son Cal did much of the buying. Cal instinctively could pick out merchandise that his retail customers (and, in turn, their customers) would like. He also knew how to strike fair bargains with his suppliers.
In his book Cal Jr. quotes Paul Polizzi, a manufacturer's rep, describing Cal Sr.:
"He was an outstanding negotiator, but a fair negotiator. He knew the perceived value of a product and what his customers needed and wanted. When he saw a good buy, he jumped right into it."
Junior agrees with that assessment: "He thrived on negotiating," he said. "He was the quintessential people person."
Vendors loved dealing with him because he paid his bills on time and never sent back returns. That helped him get the best price.
Turned Mistakes Into Opportunity
Ironically, it was one time that he overbought a product that eventually led to creation of the Dollar General stores. It was a sizable order of ladies' panties that he couldn't unload. He decided that the retailers he was selling to were less of a pipeline to consumers and more of a bottleneck.
"We realized you had to go directly to the consumer," Cal said. "We decided we had to have more outlets to get rid of our (buying) mistakes."
Because he knew it well, he decided to serve the value market. He planned to open what he called junior department stores in communities like Scottsville around the South. In these stores, salespeople helped customers and then escorted them to the cash register.
And because they knew Cal Sr. well, roughly three dozen merchants became willing partners. The Turners opened stores in Tennessee and Kentucky. They were wholesalers for all the stores. But the stores themselves were 50-50 partnerships.
Still, Tuner had definite ideas of how the stores should be run. He insisted they be clean, with all the merchandise displayed. He hated walking into a store and finding goods in the stock room. And he preferred the front doors open, a welcoming sign for potential customers.
By the mid-1950s, the stores were grossing $2 million (almost $18.5 million today). Turner was looking for ways to make that number grow further. He became intrigued by Dollar Day specials, a marketing tactic used by several big-city department stores.
He figured since the stores were spending a lot of money advertising the specials, they had to be drawing in a sizable number of customers who clearly loved that price point.
That's what gave him the idea to open a store where everything always costs $1. It simplified operations and lowered his expenses. His management team told him it wouldn't work. But Turner was a classic entrepreneur who operated from his gut. And his gut told him he was right.
The first Dollar General store opened on June 1, 1955. He'd converted an existing store that was failing. In the first 10 months it did $1.1 million in business. Others soon followed.
Since this was a new concept, Turner decided to buy out his former store partners. When he first formed the partnership, he understood that for it to work, both partners had to be committed to the stores' success. So he presciently added an intelligent and fair buyout agreement to each contract.
If party A wanted out, party B got to name the price for the other half of the business. For example, say B offered $20,000 for A's share. If A thought that was too low — if he felt for that half the business was worth $30,000 — he would immediately be allowed to purchase B's half of the business for $20,000. That way, both parties would be assured that the correct price was offered. No one would underbid knowing he could lose his half of the business.
"It was a point of great pride with my dad that while he dissolved all the partnerships, each partner was still his friend," Cal Jr. said. "He attributed that to this agreement."
If Turner made the right call on how to happily dissolve a partnership, he wasn't exactly on target with the everything-for-a-buck concept. That became clear when he sold shoes for $1 each, and people with different size feet left him with unmatched pairs. So, ultimately, he had to abandon the everything-for-a-buck strategy. But everything in the store went for even dollar amounts, and higher-priced items were a step up in value.
For example, Turner refused to pay more than a dollar a square foot annually in rent. He didn't care about location. At the low prices he was charging, he understood customers would find him.
Turner also paid attention to the tiniest details. Early on, he'd be on the phone with each store manager after closing Saturday night. He needed to know what sold, what didn't and what the cash flow would be the following week.
Even as the chain grew and managers sent in paper (or later computer) reports, he might circle a utility bill and send it back asking why a manager was heating the outdoors.
He cut expenses where he could. But the bottom line was value for his patrons. One example was his decision to stock irregulars — or slightly flawed — clothing from brand-name manufacturers. He knew Dollar General customers appreciated well-made clothes. And he recognized that an irregular from a good manufacturer was likely better made than the best quality clothing from one not so good.
Stonie O'Briant was an executive vice president of Dollar General. He spent about three decades sitting in the office next to Turner's. He saw that Turner was willing to spend money when necessary. The pair would go out on 30, 40 or 50 store visits a year.
"If he went into a store that was struggling for whatever reason, he'd encourage the manager to do whatever he thought necessary to make it right, even if it cost a little extra money," O'Briant said in a phone interview. "Sure, he was budget-conscious, but he wanted the manager to know that he had the support he needed."
Asked why he felt Turner was successful, O'Briant summed it up in two words: common sense.
"He'd come into my office every morning for about 30 minutes to have a business discussion.
"I spent a lot of time in retail, and I pride myself on having a lot of common sense when it comes to people and processes. And he'd come up with ideas, and I'd constantly be asking myself, 'Why didn't I think of that?' "
Founded value chain that became a $6 billion behemoth.
Overcame: Discouragement from peers who thought they knew better.
Lesson: Go with your gut.
Quote: "If I control my expenses better than the competition, I just have to buy as well as he does and I got him."
Coming up with brilliant ideas is hard enough when you have lots of time. But when you're under pressure to produce breakthroughs, tension can mount.
Leaders know they cannot demand instant innovation. Instead, they need to nurture a supportive environment for employees to think creatively and experiment freely.
If you're seeking quick results, create a sense of urgency without setting unrealistic expectations for your team.
To encourage innovation when facing a ticking clock:
Tamp down the frenzy. Even if you're privately worried about an approaching deadline or a looming competitive threat, convey outward confidence in your colleagues to come through in the clutch. Calmly explain the need for fast output without adding to everyone's anxiety.
"When the brain is under stress, it can't operate as creatively," said Stephen Shapiro, author of " Best Practices Are Stupid." To optimize innovation, he suggests alleviating stress for you and your team by taking walks, yoga classes and relaxation breaks.
Simplify the issue. Potential innovators operate best when they understand exactly what they're trying to accomplish. Make their job easier by directing their attention to what matters most — and jettisoning the rest.
"Get your team to rally around the problem that you want to solve," said Shapiro, a professional speaker based in Orlando, Fla. "The brain loves focus. Otherwise, we innovate by meandering all over the place."
Adopt counterintuitive measures. If you're under the gun, you may demand that employees crank out dozens of ideas immediately. But insisting that they meet a certain quota is misguided.
Shapiro cites a leader who asked associates to propose 40 new product ideas within a week. They couldn't deliver so much output, so soon.
"He then decided to take them to lay on the grass with notebooks, look up at the clouds and jot their ideas," he said. "That worked better because they were able to focus on quality, not quantity."
Convey excitement, not desperation. When racing against time to devise innovative solutions, emphasize the positive aspects of the situation. Talk about what's to gain by capitalizing on opportunity rather than conjuring negative outcomes and cautioning your team to avoid a calamity.
"When leaders keep saying 'Stakes are high' and 'Time is tight' it doesn't produce the results they want," Shapiro said. "When pounding people with a threat, they can't be as creative."
Ditch formalities. When confronting a time crunch, abandon standard operating procedures — and free your team to brainstorm in new ways.
"Innovation is unpredictable and can be messy," said Amy Radin, author of " The Change Maker's Playbook." "So set aside the things that have always been done, the processes that are based on predictability and avoiding risk."
If you usually spur innovation by holding highly structured off-site meetings, for example, replace those retreats with a series of smaller test runs. Staging more short-term trials — and pulling out early if initial results prove underwhelming — encourages bolder experimentation.
Rather than have your team present new ideas using an elaborate slideshow, try sharing ideas in five-minute standup gatherings. That way, you let employees articulate succinctly why their suggestion has merit — and avoid long meetings driven by dense slides.
Maintain an open mind. Beware of letting your preconceived notions color your judgment. Consider proposals that initially strike you as too vague or imprecise — and give people a chance to run low- or no-cost pilot projects.
"You have to trade off precision for speed," Radin said.
In any given year, there's no shortage of conferences for advisors. The big question is whether to attend, given the time and expense.
Sponsored by professional associations, financial services firms, tech suppliers and other groups, these multiday conferences often feature prominent speakers, training workshops and vendor booths. Advisors may also get continuing education credit for attending certain programs.
Advisors rarely take the decision to attend lightly. Because they often need to travel long distances, they miss opportunities to confer with clients and run their operation if they're out of the office.
"It costs you money to go, the time off work and the lost momentum of your business," said Tom Mosley, an advisor in Anaheim, Calif. "So you need to make sure you get the most out of it."
Mosley estimates that he's attended more than 125 conferences over his 23-year career. A former football coach, he creates what he calls "a game plan" before every trip.
In the weeks beforehand, he reviews the conference's calendar of events along with the roster of attendees and vendors. Then he drafts a written list of individuals he wants to see and specific questions to ask them.
"It takes reflection to decide what you want to accomplish when you're there," he said. "Your day can get so cluttered, so it helps to have an agenda going in."
If he knows a digital marketing firm will have a booth, he will visit with a prepared set of questions. Or if a representative from a particular life insurer will attend, he might seek information on a new product from that carrier.
Start With Goals
When weighing whether to go to a conference, many advisors assess their likely return on investment. That's especially true if they run their own firm and pay for team members — from junior associates to marketing specialists — to attend as well.
For Mosley, the decision involves two steps. He starts by reviewing his annual goals for his firm. If a conference promises to help him advance any of those goals, he's more apt to show up.
In 2018, for example, he has three goals revolving around marketing and lead generation, staffing additions and refining internal processes. As he scans conference descriptions, he says he evaluates to what extent he "can move the ball downfield" on his three current objectives.
When traveling to the East Coast, he arrives a day ahead. This enables him to spring into action the next morning with a full night of sleep, as sessions or breakfast meetings often start early.
To retain what he learns throughout the conference, Mosley brings a stack of index cards. When he hears a great idea, he writes it on a card.
"I may have 30 index cards with me after a conference, so on the plane home I'll read through them and add notes on how we can implement an idea," he said. "Then I discuss them with my staff and we commit to follow through on what I've learned."
If you want to extract the most knowledge from a conference, stay alert. Drink lots of water and listen with curiosity to presenters. Ask questions and huddle afterward with experts to clarify how you can apply learning points.
For many advisors, the highlight of a conference is mingling with peers from around the country. They share best practices, discuss industry trends and compare notes on tech tools.
After a long day of meetings and presentations, Mosley gathers with other advisors to socialize. He finds such interaction invaluable.
"It's great to listen and learn and work through some of the challenges you face," he said.
Informal chats with advisors — as well as guest speakers and other attendees — can produce both professional insights and personal friendships.
"It can be tempting to go from one speaker to the next and ignore everybody around you," said Alvin Carlos, a certified financial planner in Washington, D.C. "But I like to use the breaks between sessions to talk with the people sitting next to me. And at meals, I'll sit with others and try to have meaningful conversations."
Carlos usually attends one or two conferences a year. While he earns continuing education (CE) credit in some sessions, he chooses topics based on overall relevance to his business.
"Don't just focus on CE credit," he said. "I've found sessions very valuable where I don't get CE credit, like focusing on ways to delegate to staff and provide more value to clients."
In 2015, there were 35,584 businesses that only employed their owners. Yet each still brought in $1 million to $2.49 million in annual revenue, according the U.S. Census Bureau. And the number of businesses reaching those revenue figures represented a 33% increase since 2011.
Replicate your efforts. Expand capacity beyond what a single individual can typically do, Pofeldt says.
How? Hire employees? Not necessarily. Instead consider enlisting contractors, outsourcing and automating some of your work, says Pofeldt. "Most high-revenue, non-employer business owners are using some combination of all three strategies," she said.
Specialize. Pofeldt quotes David Fairley, founder and president of internet-business broker Website Properties, who says "the average person can be successful pretty easily by creating something very niche-oriented. The more of a niche, the better."
Fairley has helped clients sell successful internet stores. Many of them market items like gumballs, sleep masks, muck boots, fairy figurines and decorative mailbox flags.
Invest in you. Attend conferences. Work with a business coach. These "may seem like luxuries. But among entrepreneurs who break $1 million in solo businesses, these are common practices," Pofeldt said.
Take Ben and Camille Arneberg. They founded the fast-growing Amazon store Willow & Everett. When they launched the business, they put $5,000 into inventory. They raised some of it from friends and family.
"The Arnebergs looked at their startup costs as an investment in their own education," Pofeldt said.
Ben Arneberg: "You pay thousands of dollars for a college course. We said, 'Let's spend $5,000. We're going to learn a lot. Even if it all goes down the tube, that experience will be invaluable.'"
It was Jan. 17, 1991. America was at war in Iraq. The mission: Operation Desert Storm. Lockheed's F-117 Nighthawk, the first stealth fighter, showcased America's superior air power to Saddam Hussein and the rest of the world.
The unconventionally shaped stealth plane would make 1,300 sorties, hitting 1,600 high-value targets during the campaign. It accounted for 40% of all targeted damage, without a single hit by enemy fire.
Stealth played a key role in the military's second offset strategy, where a small number of high-tech platforms could beat the massive military hardware the Soviets boasted. Stealth marked a new era in air warfare and is a foundation of U.S. air supremacy to this day.
But the game-changing F-117 wouldn't have been possible without Ben Rich, the second director of Lockheed's secretive Skunk Works, who took a major risk despite the discouragement of some of the brightest minds in aerospace.
Rich was born on June 18, 1925, in Manila, Philippines, to a British hardwood lumber mill superintendent and a French linguist.
As tensions rose in the Pacific, his family moved to Los Angeles just months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. There he went to work with his father in a machine shop to help support the family during the war years. His shelved his dream to go to college to become a doctor.
At 21 Rich was finally able to attend college. He graduated in 1949 with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He later received a master's degree in aerothermodynamics from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he met his first wife, Faye.
The postwar recession made jobs scarce. But Rich managed to find an engineering job at Lockheed ( LMT) in 1950. Because he wasn't earning enough to support his growing family, he gave notice after just four years of employment. He was all set to take over his father-in-law's bakery-delicatessen. At the last second, Rich changed his mind. Truth was, he liked building airplanes better than selling deli meats.
Soon after deciding to stay at Lockheed, he joined Skunk Works at the request of founder Kelly Johnson.
Skunk Works, formally called the Advanced Development Programs, is Lockheed's legendary research and development lab. Created in 1943 to develop the company's top-secret technology during World War II, it was the birthplace of the P-38 fighter. Employees at the secretive unit refer to themselves as "Skunks."
The division started in a circus tent outside the main Lockheed building in Burbank, next to a smelly plastics factory. Their unique moniker comes from a stinky concoction make by a bootlegger in the "Li'l Abner" comic strip.
Under Johnson, Rich worked on the highflying U-2 spy plane, which the Air Force plans to keep flying for more than 100 years.
He also designed the air-inlet control system for the SR-71 Blackbird, which can fly three times the speed of sound. In his autobiography, "Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed," Rich called his contribution to the SR-71 the most "exhausting, difficult and nerve-wracking work" of his career.
Rich won the American Institution of Aeronautics and Astronautics Award in 1972 for the Blackbird's propulsion system. His work on the F-117 would win Rich aerospace's top award, the prestigious Collier Trophy, in 1989.
Kelly Johnson tapped Rich as his replacement in 1975. Rich was a popular choice. Most of the Skunks chose to stay during the major transition.
"Tip your hat to someone like Ben keeping an operation going after such a strong leader like Kelly," said Larry Pellett, the current director of major projects at Skunk Works. Rich asked Pellett to join Skunk Works after seeing him give a presentation in 1989.
Johnson was an autocratic leader. He was very hands-on with his technical workers. He reworked submitted designs, striking fear into some of the younger employees. But Pellett said Rich's success resided in the fact that he never tried to be like Johnson. Instead he adopted his own managerial style.
"There is a joke among Skunks that Kelly managed with his bad temper, and Ben managed with bad jokes," Pellett said. "He was the cheerleader, the facilitator that built the team up."
Other employees felt the same way about Rich's brand of leadership.
"Ben kept a close eye on all our problems, but he was never a second-guesser," Alan Brown, Rich's program manager, said in Rich's autobiography. "Rich let us do our thing and smooth our way with the Air Force and Lockheed management."
Rich took the reins during a tumultuous time for Lockheed. Spending on the unpopular Vietnam War was winding down. And the company found itself in the midst of a bribery scandal.
To add to the company's woes, Lockheed hadn't won a fighter contract since the F-104 Starfighter, built during the Korean War. But a major breakthrough was on the horizon.
The aviation community considers Rich the father of stealth. But the idea came from an unlikely source. Pyotr Ufimtsev, a Soviet scientist, theorized about stealth technology in a 1962 paper called "Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction."
The paper outlined equations on how to calculate radar cross-sections, an object's ability to reflect radar. But the Soviets deemed the paper impractical and of little use.
Ufimstev's discovery would have stayed buried in a Soviet library, if not for Rich.
Denys Overholser, a radar specialist, brought the research paper to Rich just six months after Rich took the helm at the Skunk Works. Overholser suggested the company use the equations to build their own stealth plane that could evade the Soviet Union's radar.
"I take credit for immediately recognizing the value of the gift I was handed before it became apparent to everyone else, and for taking major risks in expanding development costs before we had any real government interest or commitment," Rich said in his autobiography.
The result was a model made from a series of flat surfaces that looked like a cut diamond. It was nicknamed "Rich's Folly" and "Hopeless Diamond," among other things. The oddly shaped plane is now sometimes compared to a flying Darth Vader.
Despite having a working model, Lockheed hadn't been invited to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) competition to build a stealthy plane. All development contract money had been awarded by the time Rich heard of the contest.
Rich convinced DARPA head George Heilmeier to let Lockheed join the competition. Rich also smartly rejected DARPA's pro forma $1 offer. Instead he submitted his proposal for free, ensuring the technology would remain the property of Lockheed.
Never straying too far from Skunk Works, Johnson caught wind of the stealth plane. He furiously told Rich to shut down development. Johnson erroneously believed missiles were the future of warfare. The ugly, flat-paneled airplane would never fly, he thought.
Larry Kitchen, Lockheed's president at the time, was also a skeptic. He said the company needed "real projects, not pipe dreams," Rich recalled in his autobiography.
But Rich persevered despite the naysayers. He believed in the game-changing technology. Rich spent nearly 1 million dollars of Skunk Works' development cash on the stealth project. He envisioned huge military and financial returns in the future.
"I never wavered from believing that stealth could create the biggest Skunk Works bonanza ever," Rich wrote.
Despite being shut out of the DARPA competition at first, "Rich's Folly" eventually beat Northrop's submission. After two successful experimental prototypes, built quickly from off-the-shelf items at Skunk Works, the F-117 program was born.
But while Rich was about to make a major military breakthrough, he suffered a major personal loss. His wife Faye passed away in 1980. Rich pressed on in his work to manage his grief.
The F-117 first flew in 1981 and entered service in 1983. Kept in the dark, the plane wouldn't see its first mission until 1989 in Panama. It wouldn't become an international sensation until the Gulf War. And as the first F-117s took to the skies over Iraq in 1991, Rich and his Skunks celebrated his retirement.
Rich had some setbacks during his time at the Skunk Works. Lockheed lost out on the B-2 bomber contract to Northrop ( NOC) because he refused to overpromise on price and capabilities. The B-2 would become a casualty of a "death spiral," where decreased military spending by Washington led to less planes being purchased, leading to a higher cost per plane. The B-2 would eventually go on to cost billions of dollars more than first budgeted as Congress kept cutting the number of planes ordered.
"I never lied to a customer or tried to dodge the heat when we screwed up," he wrote. "I knew how other companies operated, and I was convinced that our reputation for integrity would gain more business than we would ever lose by turning away questionable ventures. And I was right."
Rich died of cancer on Jan. 5, 1995, but his legacy lives on at Skunk Works. Stealth brought Lockheed back into the fighter jet business. The company built the F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters. The latter accounts for a quarter of Lockheed Martin's yearly revenue.
Following Rich's belief in the need to find the next revolutionary advancement, Skunk Works is developing the next disruptive technologies, from hypersonics to artificial intelligence, in an effort to stay ahead of growing advances by U.S. adversaries like Russia and China.
Engineer who believed stealth technology would be a game-changer on the battlefield
Overcame: Skepticism and the shadow of his revered mentor.
Lesson: Recognized the power of a new technology and stuck to his project despite doubts from respected members in his field.
"I was convinced that our reputation for integrity would gain more business than we would ever lose by turning away questionable ventures."
The 30th annual Morningstar Investment Conference 2018 (MIC) is one of the premier brainstorming gatherings for financial advisors. The three-day event opens June 11 in Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center.
MIC 2018 will offer financial advisors advice about growing their practices, learning new investment strategies for clients and finding new sources of income for clients in a yield-starved world.
Keynote speakers include Charles Schwab ( SCHW) Chief Executive Walt Bettinger and Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics. Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson and GMO co-founder Jeremy Grantham are also scheduled to speak.
For more information about the Morningstar Investment Conference 2018, visit MIC 2018 website.
In addition to the speakers noted above, industry notables also slated to participate in panels include David Herro, portfolio manager and Chief Investment Officer of international equity at Harris Associates; and Diana Strandberg, director of International Equity at Dodge & Cox.
Financial advisors in attendance will have a chance to beef up their research and client-presentation skills. In a series of presentations, Morningstar experts will go over their firm's latest research and tools.
MIC 2018 attendees can also network with fellow financial advisors — or simply check out what's new in the FA and wealth management industries. More than 100 organizations, including asset management firms, fintech companies and media groups, will host display booths in the exhibit hall.
Financial advisors are going to school the week of June 11 in Chicago. They'll be attending one of their industry's biggest annual teach-ins: the Morningstar Investment Conference 2018 (MIC) Monday through Wednesday at McCormick Place Convention Center. Advisors will hear presentations about building their practices, learning new ways to enrich clients and discovering how to milk income for clients from a low-rate world.
Keynote speakers at this 30th annual edition of the MIC 2018 will include Charles Schwab ( SCHW) Chief Executive Walt Bettinger; Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics; Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson; and GMO co-founder Jeremy Grantham.
In addition, industry notables appearing on various panels include David Herro, portfolio manager and chief investment officer of international equity at Harris Associates; and Diana Strandberg, director of international equity at Dodge & Cox.
Herro and Strandberg's panel, on Wednesday morning, is titled "Global Equity Investing in a World of Blurring Borders."
The three-day Morningstar Investment Conference 2018 will feature more than 60 speakers in formal sessions, with additional presentations taking place in informal side appearances, which are not on the official agenda.
"The financial services industry is at an inflection point given the increasing role of technology, a hunger for best-interest solutions, and a younger generation of investors on the horizon," Morningstar CEO Kunal Kapoor said in a release.
He added, "This year's conference features timely themes such as the drivers of investor success, taming technology in the modern advisor landscape, the future of diversification, the role of machine learning in asset management, and more."
On Monday, several Morningstar experts will speak on such topics as data that can help shareholders choose a mutual fund and sustainable investing.
The conference shifts into high gear on Tuesday.
One breakout session is titled "The Bond-Pickers' Guide to Fixed-Income Strategies." Scheduled panelist Elaine Stokes told IBD before the conference that economic stimulus in the form of tax cuts and government spending on infrastructure should extend the cycle.
Stokes, who is co-manager of seven Loomis Sayles funds, including $12.4 billion Bond Fund (LSBDX), said, "Investors should skew to short and short-intermediate bonds."
She added, "The other thing you can do is be more flexible. Instead of buying long high-quality U.S. bonds, which are very affected by (Federal Reserve rate) moves, look at convertibles, emerging-market debt or other non-U.S. bonds."
"Manager Selection From A Practitioner's Perspective" is a panel devoted to practice-building. Speakers are slated to discuss how an advisor should select a money manager. Panelist Phil Huber, chief investment officer of the Chicago area's Huber Financial Advisors, told IBD that he looks for mutual fund managers whose expenses are in the lowest third of their universe. Second, he prefers managers with a track record of at least five years. Third, in fixed income, he wants managers whose rolling three-year returns outperform their benchmarks 80% of the time. Fourth, in stock funds, he wants managers whose five-, seven- and 10-year records top their categories about 60% of the time.
'The Human Element'
Bank of America's Anna Snider, another participant on the manager-selection panel, told IBD that you can run computer screens to identify managers who meet various objective criteria, but don't overlook "the human element in selecting managers."
Snider said, "At the end of the day, you want to trust them and trust that they are communicating what's going on in a portfolio — what the risk is, positioning, changes that might be happening on the management team." Nothing does that as well as human judgment, says Snider, who is head of due diligence for the chief investment office of the bank's Global Wealth & Investment Management division, which includes Merrill Lynch and US Trust.
Snider added, "Make sure the client understands the role of each portfolio manager. ... The client should know how the parts (of an overall portfolio) fit toward the client's overall goal."
Participants in the panel, "Defensive Equity Investing," are slated to talk about where advisors and their investor clients can look for yield without excess risk at a time when interest rates are rising.
Darby Nielson, head of Fidelity Investments' equity quantitative research team, told IBD that one solution for many investors is to find acceptable yield from dividend stocks that are not treated like bond proxies.
The strategy that an investor chooses depends on his or her priority. "When I think about choosing a defensive equity strategy, it depends on whether you want yield income or low volatility," Nielson said.
Additional Tuesday panels include "On the Cutting Edge of Retirement Research," "Smart Plays in Developing Markets" and "Making Sense of the Multitude of Multi-Factor ETFs."
Also, panels devoted to "Crypto, Blockchain, and Lamborghinis, Oh My!" and "Show Me the Income" are on the curriculum.
Wednesday sessions include a panel scheduled to discuss whether growth strategies are poised for a comeback and another about how advisors should make decisions about investing in new technologies.
James Murphy, manager of $5.6 billion T. Rowe Price Tax-Free High Yield Fund (PRFHX), is due to be on the panel "Tax-Free Yield: Finding Opportunity and Avoiding Potholes in Munis Bonds."
Murphy told IBD that he has grown more cautious about general obligation bonds due to fiscal difficulties in Puerto Rico and Detroit. Now he leans toward revenue-backed bonds for not-for-profit hospitals, transportation projects and toll roads.
"There's terrific underlying credit quality in the hospital space," he said. When he was a hospital analyst in the late 1990s, the average cash-to-debt ratio was 70%. Now it is close to 100%, he said. "There's been significant balance-sheet improvement."
In addition, most hospitals offer defined contribution retirement plans to employees, rather than defined benefit plans. "That diversifies them away from the underfunded pension headache," he said.
Shape Of The Conference
Morningstar ( MORN) expects this year's conference to draw higher attendance than last year's did, which 2,200 people attended. More than 1,300 of last year's attendees were advisors and affiliate firms. Morningstar expects more than half of this year's attendees to be advisors and affiliated people.