Our 2021 Wish For Everyone

We believe that 2021 will see a strong resurgence of environmental awareness.  We hope that reading this will inspire you to get personally involved. NOW is the time to start remediating all that has been done to our planet and the people on it.

We, as a firm, are working very hard to do just that!  We want to lead by example and demonstrate some steps we have taken in the last year which we are particularly proud of. Taking the first step is important, but we want to come back and report on our continued efforts.  If we can do it so can you! There are no secrets here!

In our office and at my home, you will find evidence of our commitment to Sustainability. If you haven’t seen my first post, click here to learn about my new Prius Plug-In Hybrid. I’m thrilled to report that between 12/21/19 and 12/21/20 I have only used ⅔ of a tank of gas!  The Pandemic helped, but so did the fact that I am only 10 miles from my office! What’s even more amazing is the fact that this car actually cost almost the same as the regular Prius I had at the time I bought this one!

Another step I took at home in 2020 is the solar panels I installed on my roof. This is an excellent example of using Other People’s Money (the best kind of money) to enhance financial wellness, as my utility company installed them, they guarantee them and will repair them as needed for the next twenty years. They also stay with the house if I choose to sell it. I put no money down to get them installed, and for the use of my roof, I get “credits” against my electric usage. This is an easy step that anyone can take!  

You will find the same focus in our office.  We have LED Lights throughout (in fact, we just replaced the last legacy fluorescent bulb when it failed), we chose to locate our office next to the town’s recycling center, use reusable personal items, and our electricity is generated by Wind Power through a firm called Arcadia Power, who lets us track our usage and compare ourselves to typical consumers in our area. In addition, through our use of Docusign for all of our paperwork, we have reduced our waste significantly. Here’s a quick look at what we DIDN’T use in 2020 across our organization just by using Docusign for all of our paperwork:

To quote an old saying, “you can tell about them by the company they keep”. Let’s look at this list! A good starting point is our membership in the Principles for Responsible Investment and support for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  We Also belong to US SIF, the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, as well  supporting the Ceres Charitable Foundation and Environment America.  Lastly we are an award winning Certified B Corp whose mandate is to make our business a BENEFIT to consumers World Wide. (click here to see our scores and how they have changed over time). 

One of our main goals for 2021 is to continue to work with more organizations working to advance solutions to environmental and social issues. In this regard, we would like to take our clients and friends along with us, figuratively if not in person!  Let us be your leader, all you need to do is follow our progress on our blog and take inspiration from our Impact Reports.

Here’s to a year of global recovery!!

Tips for Small Business Owners

So, how’s business going? It’s a tough time! Especially if your customer base is stuck at home working remotely and ‘self-quarantining.’  For some 50 years now I have been in a business where, traditionally, I went out to the client; they did not come to me!  Talk about a Paradigm Shift!

However, there is an old saying that Crisis and Opportunity are two sides of the same coin. The opportunity right now is to assess where you are, how you WANT to work, and put the building blocks in place to assure future success!

Let’s face some facts.  Many small business owners started their business with NO BUSINESS EXPERIENCE!  They started the business because they had the skills and the knowledge to do what the business demanded. In my case that is helping people get their Financial House In Order! Furthermore, if you are good at what you do, your business will grow quickly and thrive.  Then what do you do?  There is an actual limit to the amount of business that can be generated and when you hit that limit you will find that every day is the same as the last and you are in the middle of a whirlwind!  Your success at this point can actually Bankrupt Your Future!

Michael Gerber in his book The E Myth helps with this process of assessment.  He coined the phrase, “Owners must work ON their business, as well as IN their business! This is the ‘secret sauce; that makes all of the difference.  Working IN the business means doing all of little daily jobs: answering the phone, writing quotes or invoices, selling the product, packaging the product, keeping the books….you get it I’m sure.  Working ON the business means doing the short, mid and long term thinking that will make the business succeed and flourish in the future.  This means things like: Branding, Good Will, Promotion, Advertising, Technology and Efficiency, Staffing.  This is the Strategic part of the business plan, NOT the Tactical part of the plan.  Look at the Blue Ocean, Red Ocean materials, they will help!

The solution to this dilemma is to get organized!  You’ve heard this before, I know, it comes out as PLAN YOUR WORK, AND WORK YOUR PLAN!  You get to the point where you are too busy to not plan!  To forget a major tactic or strategy means you will crash and burn, when you could have captured the field!

Here’s an outline of the planning process I have used for years to keep my business under control.

  • 1st Hour of the day: Package the work of the day Do Not Do It!: What MUST be done today? =  List 
  • 2nd Hour of the day: Staff meeting, Prioritize everyone’s work = List 
  • Check off work items as accomplished, try NOT to add new work. 
  • New work gets prioritized and placed in the proper day and time. Do Not do the work now!
  • Capture all work onto lists: White Board or Planner Pad (https://plannerpads.com/)
  • Monday Morning: Prioritize and add work items to proper day’s list
  • Wednesday Morning, or whole day; This is my strategic/tactical planning day- few interruptions
  • Friday Afternoon:  Look back at week, capture and place items undone for next week.  Build beginning of Next Week’s Plan = List in appropriate place

(The Planner Pad is made to accomplish all of this and not let you forget anything really important!)

Enjoy Your Success! You will be surprised how much you can get done in the same number of hours!

A tip for Financial Advisors, And an Insight for The Consumer

For years I have been a watcher of the facial expressions and the body language of Financial Advisors and their prospective clients who are together for their first-time visit. In fact, I was a Sales Trainer for 15 years!  There always appears to be a series of ‘tug-of-wars’ at play in these first-time encounters. The potential client is assessing the advisor on multiple criteria, from competence to likability.  The advisor is assessing the prospective client as well, from likability to sophistication in financial matters.

Everyone hates Jargon!

The truth of the matter, from the point of view of the prospective client is, “THEY DON’T CARE HOW MUCH YOU KNOW, UNTIL THEY KNOW WHO MUCH YOU CARE (about them and their situation/problems!).  I have seen numerous advisors go almost immediately into a jargon-based summary of their brilliance and their acumen as Investment Managers.  The Jargon is specifically used to impress the other person, AND, to show who in the room is the PROFESSIONAL and who needs to be listened to. This immediately relegates the other person to the back seat of this relationship, and it is assumed that they will stay that way forever!  There is no caring here, just a professional advisor and the client who needs his expertise.

On the other hand, the reverse is true when the relationship’s whole focus is on solving the financial issues that brought the people to the advisor in the first place.  New clients, in my mind, seek me out because they have serious financial problems that they want to solve.  Generally, the motivation, spoken, or unspoken, is FEAR AND ANGST! Their financial house has some serious weaknesses that they need to get fixed.  I would suggest that NO jargon be used, empathy be demonstrated clearly, and that listening intently is the main tool used throughout the interview!  It is also true that well placed “war stories” of other folks in this predicament make a tremendous impression!

The bottom line is that people come to us because there is something wrong in their financial life.  They, therefore, need to be treated with compassion and caring.  We need to be the caring MD with a great bed-side manner, NOT the 5:00 O’clock expert on the stock market’s gyrations! THEY DON’T CARE HOW MUCH YOU KNOW UNTIL THE KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CARE!