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Creating the Ultimate Toolbox

How do you know that you are using the wrong tool for a particular challenge? Many financial planners run into similar situations—not knowing what tools they need and when to use them in order to be successful. So why is understanding what tools you need so important? Because financial planners and agents who do not understand the appropriate tools to use, why and when to use them and how to use them effectively are doomed to come up against repetitive obstacles.

Abraham Maslow said it best when he said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

Creating the Ultimate Toolbox

Recently, I’ve had a number of my clients request the Advisor Solutions’ “A-to-Z” Assessment Test which is an assessment to help individuals determine which tools they need in order to overcome their particular challenges. It has become abundantly clear that it doesn’t matter if I’m speaking to a first year rookie or a twenty-five year veteran, everyone has challenges but they don’t realize there are solutions.

Let’s take a look at a step-by-step approach to creating the ultimate toolbox.

Step 1: Confronting the Challenge(s)

Few planners want to confront their business challenges head on. The following is an example:

Marie is a rookie planner with less than two years in the industry, who after taking the assessment test admitted that when a prospect tells her that they “already have a planner” she simply asks if she can keep them on her quarterly mailing list. In other words, she is not getting past this objection which makes her sales efforts that much more difficult.

Jayne is a financial planner with 30 years of experience who spends most of her day putting out fires and dealing with client servicing. Whenever a client calls and needs something she stops what she is doing to address the client’s request. In other words, she is not prioritizing her interruptions which make her time management system reactive rather than proactive.

Although each of these clients is very different in terms of experience and client base, they do share a commonality: they have accepted their challenge as “just the way it is” and believe that there is nothing they can do about it.

Step 2: Search for the Solution(s)

Unfortunately, both of these planners would have continued in their limiting belief of accepting their situation had they not yearned for solutions.

After several weeks of coaching, Marie ended up with a system for handling objections using a tool called the Objection Resolution Model, a four-step process for overcoming any objection. Once I explained the model and role played numerous objections for her she realized that this was a much better solution than simply keeping people on her mailing list.

Jayne now has a system for prioritizing interruptions and tasks using a tool called the Adviser Solutions’ Time Matrix To-Do List which labels whether tasks are now, today, this week or whenever items.

It didn’t take long for each of them to realize they could take control of their situation by simply finding the correct tools.

Step 3: Applying the Tools and Evaluating the Results

Knowing what to do and actually doing it can be two very different things. That’s why it is so important to apply the tools that you find right away and to continue to use them until they become a habit.

Next, you must evaluate the process. Both planners did and have now created a new normal.

What’s in Your Toolbox?

The aforementioned tools are just two of 26 I’ve explained in my book 101 Advisor Solutions: A Financial Advisor’s Guide to Strategies that Educate, Motivate and Inspire! Just think what you could do once you mastered all of these tools. So, what’s in your toolbox? If you still have challenges than you need solutions for now is the right time to create your ultimate toolbox.

If you would like any of the tools mentioned in this piece, request them for free from our Melissa Denham, our director of client servicing.

Dan Finley
Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.


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Top Post of 2017: 7 Deadly Sins of Website Design

Editor’s note: To close up the year we’re going to post the top three blog posts of 2017. New content will resume in the new year. This post by Samantha Russell of Twenty Over Ten is about the top mistakes people make when designing their websites. We hope you enjoy it again and that you have a Happy New Year.

 

Thinking of revamping your website? Creating a new website can be tricky and overwhelming. From choosing the design to perfecting the content, the difficulties financial advisers face when trying to create a new site can seem endless—but there is hope. As you embark on your website design journey be sure to avoid these seven cardinal sins.

1.) Lack of content. While a simplistic site can be advantageous, too little content on your website can be detrimental. If working with a copywriter, you should come prepared and be able to articulate who you are, the services you provide, what those services cost and why you are passionate about your work. These are basic content areas that prospective clients visiting your site will be looking for and if not easily found, may cause them to leave your site look elsewhere.

2.) Impersonal. When a consumer chooses a financial adviser, they decide who to work with based ultimately on how they feel about the person providing the service. It is for this reason that the “About” or “Bio” page of an adviser’s website is almost always the second most-visited page after the homepage. You don’t need to overshare. Getting too personal right away might scare away prospective clients. However, in an industry that relies so heavily on trust, it is especially important to be personable. Simply including a photo of yourself and basic personal information can go a long way in making people more likely to trust you with their finances.

Prospective clients want to know who you are, why you do what you do, what your philosophy/approach is, and hear your story. If you can take it one step further and include a quick video introduction of yourself, even better. At the very least, include two great photos—one headshot and one more informal picture—such as you with your family or enjoying a hobby.

3.) Unidentifiable CTAs. Why do you want a website for your business? What’s the point? Whatever your answer may be—whether it’s to have people contact you, sign up for your newsletter or blog, take a risk assessment, etc., the point is for prospects and referrals to vet you and then take some sort of action step. If your call-to-action (CTA) is too difficult to find (or worse—you don’t have one at all), visitors likely won’t take any action at all. For this reason, it’s critical to make it immediately clear what the next step that you want them to take is.

4.) Ineffective CTAs. On the flip side, it’s just as harmful to have too many CTAs. Too many CTAs compete for users attention and can be overwhelming. If you hit your site visitors with too many CTAs at once, they can end up leaving without taking any of your desired next steps. Imagine visiting a site that immediately has a pop-up inviting you to “Get My Weekly Finance Tips Directly to Your Inbox.” Under the pop-up is a button encouraging you to “Download 5 Tips to Retire By 60” and this is located right next to another button that says, “Schedule Your Free Initial Portfolio Review.” All of these CTAs are too much all at once, cluttering a site and making it feel spammy. Having multiple CTAs is fine, but they should be placed throughout your website more naturally, on different subpages and allowing visitors to “find” them as they peruse your content.

5.) Too Much Static Content. Some static content is a good thing—it ensures that your marketing team doesn’t have to be churning out new material 24/7 and it can be comfortably consistent for visitors. However, relying solely on calculators, stock trackers and pre-written articles or content won’t cut it. If static content is the majority of the content on your website, chances are that is feels outdated and impersonal to visitors. Instead, try to find a nice split (rule of thumb is at least 50/50) between static and dynamic content. Try writing content that focuses on the services that you provide and describes how you’re different.

6.) Contact Forms. One of the biggest and most common mistakes in web design are sites that make it too difficult for prospective clients to figure out how to reach you. This includes having super long contact forms that no one wants to take the time to fill out, not having your contact information (phone number or email address) easy to find, and having incorrect or outdated contact information or no contact information at all. Stick to the basics – if you’re using a contact form, only ask visitors for the bare essentials (name, phone number, email, reason for inquiry). Additionally, it’s a good idea to include a distinct “Contact Us” page on your site to ensure visitors see it and make sure your contact information is up to date. Just remember, a web contact form is not a lead gen strategy!

7.) Not Setting Deadlines. Developing a schedule for yourself is the best way to prevent succumbing to this seventh deadly sin. Map out when that first website content draft is due, write down the date you need to send your designer feedback on layout and images and communicate to your website designer your desired site launch date. Not including deadlines for yourself—or not abiding by the deadlines you’ve set—promotes procrastination and makes it difficult to pick back up where you were in the process. Developing a strong, realistic timeline for yourself helps ensure that your website design process goes as smoothly as possible.

 

Sam_Russell_Headshot
Samantha Russell is the director of sales and marketing at Twenty Over Ten, a web development company that creates tailored, mobile-responsive websites for financial advisers. She’s spent the last five years empowering advisers to market themselves effectively online using digital tools. With a background in marketing, social media and public relations, Russell focuses on helping business owners understand the value of their online presence and connecting them with the marketing tools and digital solutions they need to effectively manage their brand and engage clients.

 


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Create the Courage to Make Lasting Change

During recent group and individual coaching sessions, I’ve noticed a common denominator between those who have experienced success and those who haven’t. Successful individuals are able to embrace change—be it the activities they are incorporating into their days, their acquisition of new skill sets or an increase in their overall awareness and accountability—and how it affects their business. Those less successful tend to fear change and mask their fear with excuses or procrastination.

In order to gather the courage to implement change regularly into the way you manage your business, you must first make a choice that where you are now isn’t where you want to be. You then need to decide to find alternatives to what is currently not working for you. Next, you must take action and tweak and evaluate on a consistent basis in order to end up with positive outcomes. All of this might seem simple in theory, but in reality, it’s difficult for many people I know.

3 Steps to Create Courage to Make Lasting Change

The following discusses each step. See if you can relate to what the adviser is going through when applying the process.

Step 1: Choose to Change. I have countless stories of advisers who say, “I know what I need to do, I just need to do it,” but then don’t. The interesting thing about this statement is that it actually reflects two important points. The first, “I know what I need to do,” reflects a level of awareness of what their solution is. The second part, “I just need to do it,” reflects the fear of not implementing the solution.

So why do people let fear paralyze them? Let’s discuss.

Take Bill K., a 25-year veteran adviser client of mine. In our initial coaching session he admitted that he hadn’t prospected in over a decade and that any new business that he had gotten was from clients as referrals. After additional conversations, he realized that he’d become comfortable only working with his client base and the thought of prospecting again filled him with anxiety because he remembered the amount of rejection he had experienced in his earlier years. Unfortunately, Bill didn’t have a choice because his employers had created new minimum gross production levels and he was never going to reach those targets unless he gathered additional assets.

Now, he was faced with two options, he needed to either prospect or eventually be forced to find another job. So, he chose to change and add prospecting back into his daily work.

Step 2: Find Direction. When faced with this type of situation, most advisers know the outcome that they want but don’t know the required steps to take them there. That’s why Bill called me. He needed a step-by-step process for gathering assets.

We first discussed his current business model and I was surprised to learn that he had virtually no assets in a fee-based platform. His concern was that he didn’t know how to convert his book so he’d never even tried. After reviewing his book, he determined that he had 72 households that would be good candidates to convert to fee-based and if that happened it would increase his turnover ratio which would get him ¾ of the way to his production goals for the following year. So we mapped out a process for converting his book.

Then, we strategized about his referral campaign to try and duplicate his top clients. We role-played a client-centered dialogue and he eventually felt like he had direction.

Step 3: Take Massive Action. All the planning in the world won’t help you if you don’t actually move forward with it. So, I decided to turn Bill becoming overwhelmed by compartmentalizing his goals into daily action steps, then even further into hourly activities so that he could focus on each campaign every day while still doing his regular business.

After Bill had his fee-based conversion campaign down he began converting his book. In addition, he used the client-centered referral dialogue that we had role-played, which got him actual referrals. Within three months he had transitioned most of the households earmarked for the campaign and was gathering assets from new clients. Taking massive action paid off for him.

Why Courage is the Key

The most important piece about Bill’s story is not his destination, but his journey. He began by realizing that he was being forced to get out of his comfort zone. It took real courage to reach out to me and admit that he didn’t know what to do but that he was willing to change. He was open to learning new processes and desired to take a leap of faith and apply them.

If you are ready to take your business to the next level, schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with me by emailing Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

 Dan Finley
Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.

 

 


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Telling It Like It Is: What’s Your Truth?

Sometimes, it is just plain hard to see the truth—especially when we have a particularly difficult situation to confront. At times like these, everyone else seems to have 20/20 vision, while we may be blinded to what’s right in front of us.

In my experience, advisers are not immune to this difficulty, particularly when it comes to their business. Let’s take a look at some common scenarios I’ve seen over the years. As you read, I encourage you to ask yourself, does this sound like me?

The lingering practice. An adviser reaches a stage in his career where he is allowing his business to linger. It has gone beyond having a “lifestyle practice,” although those are the words he uses to describe it. The practice has been shrinking for years, the adviser has slacked off on staying up to date with industry developments and he has become sloppy in his interactions with clients. In fact, he has become quite lax in managing the business itself. Still, the adviser thinks he can continue down the same road, unable to see a reason to change.

The faux mentor. An adviser tells herself that she is acting as a mentor to an associate adviser. But what is she really doing? Simply providing a salary and a desk in the office. Of course, young advisers don’t learn by osmosis! They need face time with their mentors, as well as structured practice and feedback.

Business development (in)activity. An associate adviser believes he is actively pursuing business development. The reality, however, is that he is spending his time reading journals and perusing social media. There is no networking, no asking for meetings and no pursuit of new business. If questions about this lack of business activity come up? The adviser is quick to point out that he is busy servicing clients or analyzing the market.

Poor people management. A firm has high staff turnover, but the founder tells herself that this is due to a competitive marketplace, incompetent employees or poor hiring decisions. The core issue, however, is that the firm does not have strong people management practices in place. Performance reviews are given lip service, job descriptions do not exist and a culture of motivation is sorely lacking.

The flip side. Of course, “telling it like it is” may look quite different from the examples above. Plus, there is a flip side to consider: many advisers are (too) hard on themselves. For example, take the adviser who focuses only on the problems and all that is wrong. In fact, he is an excellent adviser to his clients, as well as an excellent CEO of his business. This, too, is a truth that should be acknowledged.

What’s Your Truth?

A hallmark of a good consultant is telling the truth. A hallmark of a great consultant is asking the questions that help you discover the truth for yourself. So, what are the hard truths you need to face? If you can’t find them, I encourage you to enlist the support of a great consultant to help you dig just a bit deeper.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.


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Dos and Don’ts of Passing Down Your Practice

The average age of financial advisers in the U.S. has climbed north of 50 years old and approximately 43 percent of the total population of advisers are between ages 55 and 60. With so many advisers nearing retirement, the industry is facing a crisis when it comes to succession planning.

Typically, when the owner of a financial advisory practice wishes to retire, they’re faced with one of two choices: they can sell their firm to an institutional buyer, such as an RIA rollup shop, private equity firm or a regional acquirer; or they can bring in a junior partner and gradually introduce them to his or her clients and transition the book of business over bit by bit.

Ideally, firm owners prefer to transition their book of business to a junior partner over a five- to 10-year period. However, throughout my career helping small business owners transfer ownership of their firm and retire, I have found that financial planners ironically have some of the worst track records when it comes to successfully planning and executing an ownership transfer.

In this light, here are a few dos and don’ts when transitioning ownership of your business to a younger partner:

Don’t delay. It’s never too early to start the succession planning process, which can take more than a decade from start to finish. It takes years to introduce a new partner and provide them with the training and resources necessary to keep the business afloat. Too often do I see advisers continue to work into their senior years only to realize they have no exit strategy in place. Consider your clients; who is going to take care of them after you leave? And how are you going to monetize the business you’ve worked to build over the course of a lifetime?

Do get your younger partner involved in discussions and meetings with your larger, more significant clients throughout the transition process. Junior partners are typically brought on initially to handle an adviser’s smaller accounts. While this is all good and well in the beginning, it does not provide the new owner with the proper experience and training required to serve the bigger clients, which will be one of their primary responsibilities once ownership is transferred.

Don’t forget about the intangibles like the management style, likeability and cultural fit of the new owner. Some financial advisers still run a very formal shop with pressed white shirts and systemized client communication techniques. Others are more comfortable in khakis and a polo shirt, and prefer a more casual style of correspondence with clients. Also, does your new partner fit in well with other employees at the firm? Making sure you two see eye to eye in these categories can really smooth out the transition process, both for yourself and your clients.

Do go over the company’s financials. Not only must you teach the new partner how to handle your clients, you must also teach them how to run a business. What size client is most profitable? How does the business manage its costs? How do we manage the staff? Many new business owners overlook these extra responsibilities, which can be overwhelming at first. But as the outgoing partner, you need to make sure the business is left in a position to remain profitable. Typically, selling advisers are paid out in installments. If the business fails, these payments could stop, leaving the outgoing adviser in a sticky situation.

Don’t think you won’t need outside help. Hire a team of lawyers, accountants and even a management consultant to delegate the distribution of responsibilities throughout the process. Many times the incoming owner wishes to take over more responsibility at a faster pace than the retiring adviser is comfortable with. Management consultants go a long way in easing this tension.

Do be open to some degree of change. Relinquishing your power and watching the business you spent years creating change in front of your eyes can be a difficult pill to swallow. However, standing in the way of the new adviser’s vision will only muddy the process. You must accept that some aspects of your business are going to change under new ownership. The sooner you come to terms with this reality, the better.

No matter how much you plan, transitioning your business will almost inevitably come with a few bumps in the road. However, following this list of dos and don’ts will put your firm in a much better position to smoothly and successfully navigate the transition. Many of your clients have worked with you for decades, and you owe it to them as their financial adviser to ensure their financial futures are maintained. The first step in doing so is to make sure your business is taken care of after you’re gone. So take this transition process seriously and start early. Your clients’ well-being depends on it.

 

Stephen Brubaker

Stephen Brubaker CFP® is president and wealth management adviser at Exit & Retirement Strategies, Inc. He holds his bachelor of science from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

 


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Why Don’t People Work with You? Here Are 3 Reasons to Consider

Your firm offers a solution that people need.

So why don’t you have a line of people out your door, begging to work with you?

For one, people don’t know what you know—if they did, you could look out your window right now and see a crowd of people clamoring for your attention.

The job of good marketing is to communicate your value to people who would make excellent clients for your firm—and to do so in a way that resonates with them.

Pro tip: that might require that you talk more about your problem than your solution.

But let’s assume you’re already doing that. Let’s say your marketing does an excellent job of communicating the right message to the appropriate people at a time when they need what you offer.

Yet you still fail to get new clients in the door. What’s going on?

The Main Reasons Your Perfect Prospect Walks Away

There are countless reasons people make the decisions they do. Some are obvious and overt. Some are more subtle and harder to understand.

The first reason we, as the people making the offer, often jump to is, “people just don’t know about me yet.” Or we say, “people just don’t understand the value of what I’m offering yet.”

Those are easy. Sometimes it’s true. But many times, they’re more like excuses for yourself than reasons people don’t hire you.

If people just don’t know about you, go place advertisements in your local paper or pay to rank for important key terms like “financial planner in [your town],” or “fee-only CFP® for doctors.”

When people still don’t hire you, you can no longer say it’s because they aren’t aware you’re there for them.

When it comes to the financial planning industry, we need to dig deeper to find the main reasons people don’t work with your firm (even when it would be to their own benefit to hire you as their planner).

Here are some of the real reasons perfect prospects choose to walk away from your ideal solution for their needs.

They’re afraid of change. Going from the state of being that is called, “I don’t have a financial planner or a financial plan,” to “I have a financial planner and plan” requires a change. Some people get overwhelmed by that change.

It’s human nature to be afraid of change before you have to go through it. There’s a big unknown on the other side—even when that change is probably going to be good for you.

So we get stuck or refuse to take action, because we don’t want to deal with the discomfort of altering our current state of being.

When you market your firm, consider how you can make that change less scary. Usually, that means eliminating uncertainty and making it very, very clear what’s involved with the process.

They have a problem different from the one you’re trying to address. When you market your business, you need to understand what problems and challenges people have. Then you can offer a solution or provide relief.

The thing is, understanding the root of someone’s problem is really hard. It’s more art than science, and requires a little bit of research, a lot of empathy and a dash of guesswork.

As we discussed a few months ago, you can (and should!) ask your audience what they want from you. But you have to do that knowing people:

  • Might not know what they want.
  • Don’t want to tell you what they want.
  • Can’t articulate what they want.

In identifying someone’s problem—even when they explicitly tell you what the problem is—there is always room for error. You might misidentify the problem. You might misunderstand it and represent it the wrong way in your marketing.

As a result, your perfect prospect is going to walk away thinking, “this firm doesn’t understand my actual challenge.”

Always work to hone your message and your market research. Obsess over understanding your market and take consistent action to get deeper and more accurate insights on how they think.

They don’t trust you. When it comes to the financial industry, this is the reason of all reasons that a prospect won’t work with you. They just don’t trust you.

They don’t trust that you have their best interests at heart, they don’t trust that you’ll deliver on your promises, they don’t trust you can do what you say you can do… the list goes on.

It’s a very simple problem that can feel impossible to solve. It’s going to take time and a lot of effort—but you can win people’s trust before they work with you.

Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Always be authentic. Strive for transparency and full disclosure.
  • Use content to show people who you are (don’t just tell them). Share personal stories and experiences. Deliver that content as if you were sharing it with just one person (so be personable; don’t act like you’re delivering an address full of facts to a faceless crowd).
  • Make it easy for people to learn more about you and understand how you work before they have to commit.
  • Don’t carefully guard your processes, knowledge or ideas. Share them freely and distribute them widely. People who are open and generous with their knowledge attract far more paying clients than those who are mysterious, secretive and stingy.

If you’re struggling to get clients in the door, don’t just assume it’s a failure on the part of your target market—like a failure of being aware you exist or a failure to understand how fantastic your firm is.

Consider taking responsibility instead. Consider if one of these reasons might be the cause. Doing so will lead you to far more productive action than just shouting louder for attention, or arguing more aggressively to make your case that you’re better than the other guys.

KaliHawlk
 Kali Hawlk is the founder of Creative Advisor Marketing, an inbound marketing firm that helps financial advisers grow their businesses by creating compelling content to attract prospects and convert leads. She started CAM to give financial pros the right tools to build trust and connections with their audiences, and loves helping advisers find authentic ways to communicate in a way that resonates with the right people.


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Lessons from Benjamin Graham

When I was growing up in 1997 in a South Carolina town (population 2,070ish, plus two stop lights), every year around this time my class would be asked to write essays on people we admire—people who have influenced us and helped shape our world.

The answers were generally our mothers or fathers, with an occasional Michael Jordon, Mia Hamm, Britney Spears or, for those who sat in the back of the class, Kurt Cobain, thrown in the mix (it was the 90s, after all).

It might be force of habit, but once the weather starts cooling off, I begin to think about people who have had an impact on my world. This year, beyond friends and family, I began to think about someone who has had a major impact on my—and probably everybody else’s—life as a financial professional.

Benjamin Graham. The one who is called the “Father of Value Investing” or, by me (being the financial geek that I was and continue to be) “the Michael Jordan of Investment.”

Graham, who was born in 1884 and died in 1976, documented his ideas and methods on investing in his books Security Analysis (published in 1934) and The Intelligent Investor (published in 1949), which has sometimes been called the “Bible of Value Investing” and is still considered to be one of the seminal texts on investing for the modern era.

Warren Buffett himself said that The Intelligent Investor changed his life. “If I hadn’t read that book in 1949, I’d have had a different future,” Buffett said in a Business Insider article. High praise, indeed.

His philosophy is so second-nature these days, it’s hard to believe it was once revolutionary. His concept was value investing, the principle that any investment should ultimately be worth more than what the investor paid for it.

The lessons I’ve learned from Graham are lessons I both practice and preach.

Look for investments thought to be undervalued. Simply put, buy $100 worth of assets for $50.

Understand the “margin of safety,”—the difference between the stock’s current market price and its intrinsic value.

Understand the health of the business you’re investing in—its earnings, dividends and assets.

Understand market volatility and profit from it. It’s not a question of whether the stock will fluctuate. It will. The trick is how you respond. Invest in the business, not just its current value. When you value invest, you will stop worrying about the market.

Understand what kind of investor you are: enterprising or defensive. Will you commit to the research, monitoring and attention to your portfolio or is your chief emphasis on the avoidance of serious mistakes or losses?

Over the years, market developments have borne out the wisdom of Graham’s basic principles. His core tenets of value investing remain relevant today. Here are some of my favorites. The pages noted refer to The Intelligent Investor, Fourth Edition.

  • “Experience teaches that the time to buy stocks is when their price is unduly depressed by temporary adversity. In other words, they should be bought on a bargain basis or not at all.” (p. 98)
  • “Have the courage of your knowledge and experience. If you have formed a conclusion from the facts and if you know your judgment is sound, act on it—even though others may hesitate or differ.” (p. 524)
  • “This may be set down as a fundamental law of the stock market – that the enterprising investor concentrate on the larger companies that are going through a period of unpopularity.” (p. 63)
  • “Any approach to moneymaking in the stock market which can be easily described and followed by a lot of people is by its terms too simple and too easy to last.” (p. 195)
  • “Much bad advice is given free.” (p. 270)
  • “To achieve satisfactory investment results is easier than most people realize; to achieve superior results is harder than it looks.” (p. 524)
Harper Tucker
Harper Tucker is chair of the Financial and Legal Innovation Practice and vice-president of Authority Marketing for ForbesBooks and Advantage Media Group.