Wednesday, October 19, 2016

HB Publishing eBook Authors Gain National Exposure (pre-publish)

As many of you know, we help wealth advisors, estate planners, CPAs and other professionals build their thought leadership status through a variety of channels, including eBooks. Sure, there is some blood, sweat and tears involved in the process, but you don’t have to wait until your book is completed to start building the buzz and reaping the benefits.

Today, Blake Christian, CPA, a tax partner of Long Beach, CA-based HCVT was featured in a US News & World Report story How to Create a Foolproof Withdrawal Plan for Retirement Assets. Earlier this month, Anthony Glomski, founder of Los Angeles-based AG Asset Advisors was featured in a Yahoo Tech story How to Invest in the App Market also picked up in US News. Our outreach efforts to the national media are working, because journalists know that HB authors (a) know their stuff and (b) come to interviews well-prepared to deliver comments in a concise, media-friendly format. We’re not talking superficial soundbites, but economical, carefully crafted responses that invite future discussion.

Christian’s book, which is focused on helping professional service providers become more entrepreneurial without being reckless is due to be released in January 2017. Glomski’s book, which is focused on preparing successful entrepreneurs—particularly those in the tech sector—prepare for life-changing liquidity events is due out in December. Another of our clients, who prefers to remain anonymous due to her work with recent widows and divorcees, picked up at least one new client last year (before publication) with each new chapter she sent out to her trusted network for review.


As with investing, past performance does not guarantee future results. But by starting with your end goals in mind, you’ll significantly increase your chances of attracting the right kinds of clients and media exposure—and keep your supply closet free of boxes full of dusty, unread copies of your book.

Our blog and website has more.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Performing Under Pressure.

Lessons from Joe Maddon, Carson Wentz and Christopher Columbus

Last week, we talked about the benefits of worrying productively. Here we’ll talk about preparation and staying cool under pressure. Global explorer Christopher Columbus wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries of what was possible 500 years ago--and he had less navigational technology than you have in your car today. “By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions,” he famously said, “one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.”

Speaking of breaking barriers, we know a number of you on this distribution list hail from Chicago and Philadelphia. Go to any game in those towns—or listen to local talk radio—and you’ll experience both the vitriol and eternal optimism of each city’s diehard sports fans.

Let’s start with the 2016 Chicago Cubs who put together the best regular season record in Major League Baseball this season. They’ve won each of their playoff games so far and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, putting  them in prime position to win the World Series for the first time in 108 years.

Meanwhile in the National Football League, the surprising Philadelphia Eagles, a long struggling franchise that’s NEVER won the Super Bowl and which was widely expected to go nowhere fast this year, is off to a 3-1 start (one point away from 4-0), led by a brand new head coach, a brand new offensive coordinator and a rookie quarterback out of North Dakota State. That’s right, North Dakota State—not exactly an NFL breeding ground for talent.

What do Chicago and Philly fans have in common? They know not to get their hopes up too high, no matter what the stats, odds makers and TV pundits indicate about the strength of their teams.
Wentz became the only rookie ever to win his first three regular season games without throwing an interception. He finally allowed a pick in his fourth professional game last weekend, but still managed to rally the team from deep deficits several times, before falling short by a point. He has become so popular in the Philadelphia metro area that there is already a clothing brand bearing his name and billboards all over the tri-state area announcing, “Welcome to Wentzylvania!”
Maddon, the bearded, heavily be-speckled 62 year-old manager of the Cubs, is no fluke, either. Earlier in his career he guided the usually woeful Tampa Bay Rays to the 2008 World Series—where they lost to guess who? The Philadelphia Phillies, That right, the Fightin’ Phils, who won only the second world title in their 134 year history.
In Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Maddon placed a sign on the wall between the team’s clubhouse and the dugout that reads—“Don’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” Unlike most head coaches, Maddon doesn’t impose dress codes, penalize players for being late or issue military-issue rule books about how to conduct themselves or manage their time—“What can you really be late for in the grand scheme of things” he once famously said. “All that stuff is nonsensical.” As he told The New York Times last weekend, he has only two rules—batters must always run hard to first base and pitchers must do more than simply throw—they need to field their positions too. “The word pressure should be an absolute positive and not a negative.” Why does he say that? “Because if people are throwing that pressure at you, that means there’s really something good attached to whatever you’re trying to accomplish.”

Different approaches; same goal

Maddon’s seemingly laid-back approach to winning disguises his decades of experience and his obsessive attention to the nuances of the game. Wentz is a 23 year-old, whose intelligence and single-minded preparation make him seem abnormally mature for his age. In a
recent interview Wentz said it’s easy to block out all the distractions and media attention because he has to work so hard just to learn the new system. He and his coaches, break Wentz’s day into tiny micro-assignments and tasks, with the single goal of getting ready for just one thing—the next game. “Have a routine, get involved in the process. Commit to the process,” said new offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, who brought in a precise weekly routine to follow in which every scenario is covered separately, in the film room and on the practice field. They even gave Wentz precise times of day for arriving at practice and eating his meals.

Wentz, who didn’t have the same kind of routine in high school or college, welcomed the regimen according to reports. Rather than feeling micromanaged, Wentz believes the regimen helps him avoid feeling overwhelmed, which is what has ruined so many highly drafted college quarterbacks trying to succeed in the high-pressure NFL.

Maddon and Wentz each have different ways of dealing with the relentless pressure of their “win or else” professions. They each have different ways of shouldering the burden of their sports obsessed cities’ hopes and dreams.

blog and website has more


“Pressure lives in the future, not the present tense,” Maddon quipped. “If you can live in the moment, then you can enjoy the pleasure of it.” Wentz said he’s simply too busy preparing to worry about the pressure. It works for them.

Keep that in mind the next time you get ready to deliver a big presentation, speak to the national media or pitch a very large client. It’s far better to try and occasionally fail than to continue down the straight and narrow where your horizon remains perpetually flat.
Happy Columbus Day.


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Not Worried? Maybe You Should Be

As our firm’s CWO (Chief Worry Officer), I tend to obsess about worst-case scenarios. Will our computer network go down during crunch time? Will we miss our flights? Will a big client merge and drop us? Will our rent go way up when the building renovations are completed? Is Client B having trouble paying its bills? Will a key person leave us to accept a new job?

It might sound like paranoia to some of you, but I’d rather “hope for the best, plan for the worst,” to borrow a maxim from British novelist Lee Child. Based on the number of you scaling back, hunkering down or putting projects on hold before the dark cloud of Presidential election uncertainty is lifted, I’m guessing we’re not alone. A new white paper released by Liberty Mutual Insurance found that two out of five Americans are worried about something every day. Sometimes worrying can help solve your problems — and sometimes it just leads to more worry, researchers concluded.

Or, as former heavyweight boxing champ, Mike Tyson famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get a punch in the mouth!” If you’re not worried about keeping pace with technology, robo-advisors, new fiduciary rules and relevance with the millennial generation, etc. then maybe you should get fitted for a mouth guard and some 12-oz. gloves. Hopefully, you won’t need ‘em, but why not have them on hand.

“People have a love-hate relationship with worry,” said Michelle Newman, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Pennsylvania State University, in a recent New York Times interview. “They think at some level that it helps them,” Newman added.

The belief that worrying helps to prevent bad things from happening is more common than you might think. Researchers say this thought process is bolstered by the fact that we tend to worry about rare events, like plane crashes, and are reassured when they don’t happen--but we worry less about common events, like car accidents.

OK. So, is worrying futile? “Some worry is actually good for you,” argued Simon A. Rego, a cognitive behavioral psychologist also interviewed in the aforementioned Times article. Rego, who specializes in anxiety disorders and who has analyzed decades of research on worrying said it’s what we call “productive or instructive worry,” which can help us take steps toward solving a problem.
That kind of proactive approach to worrying is a lot more empowering than simply buying insurance with a “better safe than sorry” attitude.

I help coach one of the best 13-and-under baseball teams in southern New England. We’re not big. We don’t have any future Major Leaguers on this team. But, we’ve got 13 kids who can play a variety of positions, keep their egos in check, their parents in the stands and work together when the pressure is most intense. We’ve won about 120 out of 145 games together and numerous local, state and regional titles. Sunday, we were riding a 17 game win-streak. Our ace pitcher was on the mound, throwing a no-hitter with a 3-run lead in the last inning. Were we packing up the bags ready to go home? Nope! We’ve got two relievers warming up in the bullpen just our stud on the mound got into trouble. I can assure you, our other three coaches make me seem like a laid back hippy by comparison. Turns out we didn’t need the relievers, but if not for a diving catch by the center fielder and a great backup by the shortstop, it could have easily been bases loaded with the cleanup hitter at the plate.

As a former boxer and wrestler, I’d rather have my guard up all the time than take a haymaker to the chin from seemingly out of nowhere. That’s not negativity or pessimism—that’s good old fashioned pragmatism and one of the most important ingredients for business survival.

Our blog and website has more.


Have a Happy New year. Enjoy the MLB playoffs and remember the 3rd week of October is National Estate Planning Awareness Week, courtesy of our good friend Val Sabuco, Executive Director of The Financial Awareness Association.


TAGS:  Productive worry, Lee Child, Michelle Newman, Simon Rego, Mike Tyson

Friday, September 23, 2016

How Financially Literate Are Your Clients’ Kids?

This recent piece in USA Today got me thinking, What Schools Teach Kids About Money Is Scary. I know many of you won’t admit to reading USA Today unless you’re stuck in a long airport delay. But a LOT of people DO read this paper and it tends to have a good finger on the pulse of the American public.

Guest author, Peter Dunn, suggests a hypothetical 13-week money skills course for teens and pre-teens. Perhaps it’s too basic for many of your clients—but not too basic for their kids and grandkids. And if your clients review Dunn’s tips, they might pick up a refresher or two for themselves.

Week 1 is very important because Dunn stresses the importance of one key point: “Your financial life is not about money; it’s about behavior.
Our client Gary Klaben frequently reminds followers of his blog that “Saving First, Spending Second” is the most valuable money habit you can have.

Dunn also stresses the importance of budgeting and goal-setting in the early weeks of the course—how to manage debt and how to watch out for all the little nickel-and-dime luxuries we pay for that can blow a big hole in our budgets. Around week 7, Dunn would introduce the power (or danger) of compound interest. I would personally introduce compound interest earlier in the course since compounding is your friend as a saver/investor but your bitter enemy as a debtor. Also, most middle- and high-schoolers can do the basic compounding math ( I have one of each).

Our own blog and website has more.

In Weeks 8-10, Dunn would devote a fair amount of time to student loans. That might be too much, other than helping them kids understand that you want to avoid student loans as much as possible. If for no other reason than you don’t want to take on debts on bad terms that can stalk you throughout your adult life. I don’t think students younger than high school juniors and seniors can grasp this concept until they may have to face the reality of NOT being able to attend their first, second or third choice of colleges for financial reasons—not because they didn’t have the grades or extracurriculars. We do give Dunn kudos for this point however:  
Saving for a purchase almost always makes more sense than borrowing, especially on lower-price items.”

Finally, the topic of insurance. Life insurance is a tough concept for kids, teens and young adults to wrap their heads around. They think they’re invincible, so why pay a lot of money for something they’ll never need? However, we do like Dunn’s suggestion of teaching kids about insuring their material possessions because at that age, loss of a mobile device, ear phones or even a car can appear to be a life shattering event.
For more good resources to share with kids and grandkids of clients, we recommend Gary Klaben’s Grown Up Money blog and The Financial Awareness Foundation website founded by our good friend Valentino Sabuco, CFP®, AEP®.


Even if kids, teens and young adults in your lives know how much their parents make or what their house is worth, you can’t expect them to know how little of that wealth can be utilized as spendable cash—my dad makes $100K, why can’t he buy a $100K used Ferrari? But, you can teach them about the value of delayed gratification by working and/or saving for the things they really want. When a price tag is expressed in terms of hours bussing tables or how many lawns need to be mowed, then we assure you, financial literacy will kick in—fast!

And remember, the 3rd week of October is
National Estate Planning Awareness Week, courtesy of Val Sabuco. And if for pre-teen kids in your life, consider giving them a Savvy Piggy Bank which has separate compartments for Saving, Spending, Donating and Investing.


TAGS: teaching kids financial literacy, Peter Dunn, Gary Klaben, Valentino Sabuco

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Entrepreneurship: Best Thing for Your Health

Hopefully tropical storm Hermine didn’t disrupt your Labor Day weekend plans. Based on the volume of emails I received over the long weekend, I know many of you were catching up on work last weekend and it wasn’t just because you were cooped up inside riding out the weather. Kudos for your dedication. Shame on you for not giving yourself a mental break.

Most of you reading this post are successful business/practice owners. You’ve long known that long hours, unpredictability, high stress and marital strain are part of the entrepreneurial lifestyle. And while that may sound like a recipe for poor health, you might be surprised to learn that entrepreneurs WAY FEWER sick days than their corporate paycheck cashing neighbors. How can that be?

Health of entrepreneurs vs. employees

According to the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, entrepreneurs have what workologists call “active jobs” and may benefit from positive health consequences. The research compared entrepreneurs' health with employees' health in a national representative sample studying mental disorders, blood pressure, well-being (life-satisfaction) and behavioral health indicators such as sick days, physician visits, etc. Researchers found that entrepreneurs showed significantly lower overall somatic and mental morbidity, lower blood pressure, lower prevalence rates of hypertension, and somatoform disorders, as well as higher well-being and more favorable behavioral health indicators.
Entrepreneurship is not easy, but we control our own destiny. “Being one’s own boss means almost unlimited decision autonomy, freedom of choice in the tasks we take on, schedule flexibility, and the utilization and development of skills,” researchers concluded. And in today’s corporate world, you have almost the same amount of stress, uncertainty and anxiety as you do in the entrepreneurial world, without the autonomy, pride and sense of fulfillment. Consider these stats:

  • 41 percent of American employees didn’t take a single vacation day in 2015, according to a Skift survey
  • 55 percent of American employees didn’t use all of their vacation days in 2015, according to a recent Project Time Off study.
  • More than one-third of employers require employees to work on Thanksgiving, according to a 2015 Bloomberg BNA survey
  • Nearly two in five organizations (39%) will require some employees to work Christmas or New Year's, BNA reports.
  • 41 percent of employers will have some staff working on Labor Day.

  • About a quarter of Americans feel that corporate budget cuts/corporate restructuring will limit their job growth potential over the next five years, according to a Labor Day Job Growth Survey published this year.

All this for the “security” of a steady paycheck in a world in which the vast majority of American workers are “at will” employees who can be terminated with or without cause (i.e. for just about any damn reason your employer stats) on two-weeks’ notice? Now that’s a risky career path!


You may have been toiling at your desk on Labor Day, but at the end of the day you chose to do so—you weren’t been forced to do so. BIG DIFFERENCE! It wasn’t so much work as it was growing or maintaining the enterprise you’ve built. Our advice: don’t work for the man—be the man! And never forget to show your grit.

If you’re energy’s sagging a little bit today, that’s to be expected. Don’t reach for another can of RedBull or coffee. Check out Lolly Daskal’s insightful piece for Inc. Magazine recently 10 Things That Mentally Tough People Do.

Our blog and website has more.


TAGS: Lolly Daksal, grit, working on Labor Day, owners don’t take sick days, Skift Survey, Project Time Off

Friday, August 26, 2016

Don’t Automatically Take the Easy Way

In today’s era of Uber, Waze, Amazon and Netflix, it’s tempting to seek out the easiest, most convenient solution to any need or challenge we have in our work and personal lives. Even fitness apps and wearables—from FitBit to stay-at-home group spinning rides—are taking some of the work out of workouts.

But the easier way isn’t always the better way according to astronauts, Mark and Scott Kelly. The 52 year-old twins, who have logged a combined 576 days in outer space, delivered a rousing keynote speech at the American Society of Association Executives annual conference I attended last week in Salt Lake City. Yes, there’s an association for association professionals—33,000 members strong.

Many of you are financial professionals. If you’re not working with trade associations in your area—you’re missing a huge opportunity. More on that in a future post. Meanwhile, many of the lessons the Kelly brothers learned from the NASA training program are transferable to your practice.
As President John F. Kennedy famously said during the Kelly’s formative childhood years in the late 1960s: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” By going into space, the Kellys said they were able to accomplish something really hard. But in order to be as successful, they had to set goals, plan, test the status quo and take risks along the way – all skills that you can relate to.

ASAE President, John Graham, told me during an exclusive interview that the two biggest takeaways he got from the Kelly brothers’ keynote were: a)
just because you are not good at something initially, doesn’t mean you can’t get good at it and improve and b) you should simply focus on what you can control.

Control what you can control

Scott put this mantra into action when his sister-in-law and Mark’s wife (Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords) was shot in the head by a protestor in 2011. Scott was up on the International Space Station at the time. While he couldn’t be with his family during the tragedy, he was able to complete his mission and take care of his crew. In a time when there are a million distractions during each day, the Kellys said focusing on what you can control is key to accomplishing your goal.

Be a leader, not a dictator

We all know about the importance of teamwork, but Mark said that as a commander on the space shuttle, he made sure to select team members who would not be afraid to question his decisions. Let’s face it. Many of you with your own firm have decent-size egos. Surrounding ourselves with “yes” people, will not make your organization better. “Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of your team,” he added, “and know when to be a coach and when to be a dictator.”

Sweat the details

Those of you with accounting backgrounds are often chastised for this trait but the Kelly’s said NASA’s philosophy is to worry about everything. It’s all about protecting its astronauts from any possibility and you should take the same approach with clients. As Mark explained, the level of risk flying a space shuttle mission is high – about the same as storming the beach at Normandy on D-Day – and NASA takes that risk seriously. With your practice, you’re the captain, so it’s your job to look at every minor detail or decision and consider the consequences to your staff and members.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough

Many of you had to overcome plenty just to get through school. We know many of you struggled through well-paying, but unsatisfying corporate jobs before setting out on your own and it wasn’t just a string of successes without a few stumble along the ways. There were numerous times when the Kellys, and even their classmates and trainers, wondered if the space program was really right for them.

But they pushed on, inspired in part by their mother, a New Jersey secretary and waitress, who failed a grueling physical fitness test numerous times before becoming one of the state’s first female police officers. Long story short, the Kelly brothers made it through the space training program and left a pretty significant dent in the universe. Keep banging away and have a great weekend.

Our blog and website has more.


TAGS: NASA, Mark & Scott Kelly, astronauts, perseverance

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Less Is More in the 'Excess of Everything' Age

What we can learn Olympic boxers, cyclists, amateur fly-fishermen and backyard trampoline enthusiasts.

On the advice of our client, Gary Klaben of Chicago-based Coyle Financial Counsel, I picked up a copy of Matthew May’s The Laws of Subtraction. I was trying to squeeze in a little R&R in the deep woods of western Michigan where my wife’s family maintains a fishing cottage about 7 miles and several dirt roads from the heart of one of the 10 poorest counties in the U.S. It’s on the banks of a renowned fly-fishing and salmon-fishing river, but Internet access and cell service is spotty.

For Type A’s like myself, it can be maddening to be unplugged from the grid, and also very difficult to find a gym, swimming pool or reliable paved road to work off your excess energy. At first I tried to fight the swift flowing river, but you just can’t swim, paddle or fly cast upstream for long before you eventually run out of energy and start sliding backwards. You also realize that your body is naturally conserving energy for your return to the frenetic world back home—just like your brain is.

Waking up at the crack of 10 am (we’re in the far, far western edge of the eastern time zone), you also realize how information-overloaded we are the rest of the year. As Matthew May would say, we’re caught up in “the age of the excess of everything.”

According to May, you need to start
removing all the “excessive, confusing, wasteful, unnatural, hazardous, hard to use, or ugly” things that cloud our decision-making process.  We don’t need more premium, bonus or enhanced features—WE NEED LESS!

Our take? Start cutting back on email and text messaging every day and then try a 24-hour technology fast every week or at least limit your email/texting time to 3 intervals per day. Then start eliminating non-essential meetings, conference calls, commuting, air travel, HR trainings and other time-sucks. Then eliminate all the planning and confirmations needed to schedule the aforementioned. Guess what? All of a sudden you can think.

Laws of subtraction in sports

If you’ve been following the Olympics, you see the laws of subtraction at work. Believe it or not, it’s actually safer for boxers NOT to wear headgear because researchers found that
head guards create a bigger target for boxers, who in turn attempt more head blows. Experts say head gear also gives boxers a false sense of security. Still not convinced?  Well several studies, including one commissioned by the International Boxing Association, (IBA) found that the number of acute brain injuries declined when head guards were not used. And the IBA found that the number of times a fight was stopped because of one boxer receiving repeated head blows fell 43 percent in bouts without head guards compared with fights with head guards.

If you follow bicycle racing, you’ll also notice that the elite riders—who sometimes pedal over 100 miles per day—ride in Spartan saddles with holes or deep slits in the middle. You’d think that with all that riding they’d want seats with extra padding, but it turns out that minimalist seatsdo more for rider comfort than heavy padding does and reduce the risk of prostate and sterility issues.

How about the backyard trampoline? We’ve always had one in the back yard and never bothered with protective netting around it (sorry homeowners insurance). Without a net, kids are less likely to take excessive risks and less likely to get the elbows, ankles or new braces caught up in it.

Not to be a spoiler, May offers 6 laws for eliminating mental clutter and simplifying your life:

Law #1: What Isn't There Can Often Trump What Is

Law #2: The Simplest Rules Create the Most Effective Experience

Law #3: Limiting Information Engages the Imagination

Law #4: Creativity Thrives Under Intelligent Constraints

Law #5: Break Is the Important Part of Breakthrough

Law #6: Doing Something Isn't Always Better Than Doing Nothing

It’s a quick and easy read if you can find the time. If you can’t find the time, we suggest you make the time to do so. As regular readers of this blog know, we recommend getting started on your New Year’s resolutions around Thanksgiving time. By the same token, August is the new September. Don’t wait until after Labor Day to start getting focused for Q4.