The following guest post is courtesy of Diane Harrison who is principal and owner of Panegyric Marketing, a strategic marketing communications firm founded in 2002 specializing in alternative assets.
What habit is as old as time itself? It has to be making all kinds of ‘do-better’ resolutions at the beginning of the year, only to see them falter before the birds start building their nests each spring.
NBC News ran an article online in January discussing this annual phenomenon, 2017 New Year’s Resolutions: The Most Popular and How To Stick to Them: “Research shows that only about 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s goals”; said Dr. John Agwunobi, chief health and nutrition officer for Herbalife. “After the holiday tradition of over-indulgence, we set out to rid our cabinets of junk food, hit the gym and start fresh, but some people tackle the problem too aggressively, with overly restrictive diets, or exercise regimes that they can’t commit to, and soon give up their efforts.”
WALK THE WALK, DON’T JUST TALK THE TALK
Saving more, spending less, investing smarter all tend to find their way onto most people’s lists year after year, proving that it’s far easier to make a resolution than it is to keep one. Whether it involves food or finances, people tend to revert to their mean and do the same thing over and over.
According to Statisticbrain.com, the top resolutions people “committed” to for 2017 are: losing weight/healthier eating (21.4%), a general catch-all category of “other” (13.8%), life/self improvements (12.3%), and better financial decisions (8.5%).
If we define ‘making better financial decisions’ more narrowly, resetting alternative assets objectives may lead to a stronger long-term commitment to investment plan health. For money managers trying to raise assets, this process can help connect more successfully with investors by addressing their investment issues meaningfully.
CHART YOUR COURSE
Typically by March, people have already given up on their New Year’s resolutions to do better, but if you plan to change your thinking to a long-term commitment to investment health, the new direction you set becomes more of a habit than a short-term fix.
Peter Bregman, writing in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, advocates creating an area of focus rather than setting specific goals. “An area of focus taps into your intrinsic motivation, offers no stimulus or incentive to cheat or take unnecessary risks, leaves every positive possibility and opportunity open, and encourages collaboration while reducing corrosive competition. All this while moving forward on the things you and your organization value most.”
Here are common pitfalls involved in resolution failures, and suggestions for how to get them back on track, from an investment management perspective.
LOSING WEIGHT <———> STEMMING INVESTOR REDEMPTIONS
Many studies show that, after a relatively short period of time, most people get tired of following a strict diet regimen and go back to eating pretty much what they ate before. Diets fail for a variety of reasons, but most people will rebel against feeling deprived, punished, or overly constrained. The attitude of exclusion creates a negative connotation to a process that ultimately makes it unsustainable for most people.
In terms of investment management, attracting investor capital and keeping this capital is more easily achieved through creating a positive and encouraging environment. This is central to building solid rapport with investors. It encompasses the whole experience of partnership, from performance of assets to management and information flow at every stage.
Smart fund managers will create detailed and informative communication channels for their partners, including regular fund updates, insightful analysis on timely market topics, and a flexible range of options for investors to choose how to receive this information. While a fund’s performance can and will vary, consistency and dedication to the communication process should not. Make being an excellent communicator a lifestyle choice as a fund manager, and investors will reward this good behavior with loyalty.
QUIT SMOKING <———> UPGRADE YOUR SALES EFFORTS
If you are a smoker, odds are you already know the unfavorable health impact of your habit. But if you are waiting for that perfect day to just stop being a smoker because you promised yourself you would, you won’t. Quitting smoking is better thought of as living without being a smoker. Change your habits around smoking for the best chance at becoming a nonsmoker for good.
In equating this perception to success at investment sales, imbuing business development efforts with good habits can increase managers’ success rate for attracting capital. The sales effort requires linking a number of positive outcomes through several steps along a continuum of business development.
The outreach effort should be focused and targeted on the most likely candidates; the messaging needs to be on point and convincing; the relationship management with these prospects must be consistent and persuasive; and the sales close must deliver on the promises made throughout the process. Improving only one or two of these areas is not enough to carry the total sales effort to successful completion. Most managers get part of the process right, and work to fix the weakest link in their sales chain. But for long-term sales success, all of the stages need to be top-notch for a fund business to really grow to capacity.
GET MORE EXERCISE <———> FINE TUNE YOUR BUSINESS EDGE
People say they need to exercise more because they want to be in better shape. The problem is, this is too vague as a goal, and has little to no context. Do you need to improve overall health? Lower your blood pressure? Complement a weight loss regimen? Get ready for a marathon? Focus on the reasons why, and don’t underestimate the importance of making the process enjoyable, or at least not overly unpleasant. Otherwise, you will find yourself back at the number one reason for failure of most improvement goals, which is that of being unsustainable as a lifestyle change.
Fund managers similarly need to view their business model with a critical and introspective eye. Does the strategy offer investors something valuable and discerning from an investment perspective? Is the process proven and repeatable? Is the fund’s investment and research team expertise up to the quality level required for success? Has the appropriate investment been made into the business infrastructure and employee retention practices for long-term sustainability?
MEASURE THE RESULTS
Once the resolution to improve has been made, managers need to be accountable to the process and progress achieved. Commitments require both initiative and follow through. While habits can be modified, human nature is resistant to change. Creating a path to slow, steady improvement will ultimately lead to greater long-term success in both personal and professional goals.