When I recently interviewed Michael E. Gerber, author of The E-Myth, on the Goldstein on Gelt show, we spoke about the techniques for running a business that can be applied to managing your own money. Interestingly enough, Gerber uses the famous McDonald’s fast food chain as a great example of optimum business management.
Gerber told me that, “Given the failure rate of most small businesses, he [Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's] must have realized a crucial fact: for McDonald’s to be a predictable success, the business would have to work, because the franchisee, if left to his own devices, most assuredly wouldn’t!…Once he understood this, Ray Kroc’s problem became his opportunity… Forced to create a business that worked in order to sell it, he also created a business that would work once it was sold, no matter who bought it… a foolproof, predictable business…. A systems-dependent business, not a people-dependent business.”
I believe that investors need to see their own portfolios as a franchise opportunity. It’s not that they will actually franchise their stocks and bonds. Rather, they must have a portfolio that is scalable, based on a dynamic asset allocation that can be quickly adjusted if their goals change or if the market situation varies. All of their investment decisions must be based on a set of rules that can be easily documented and explained to someone else. Financial plans and investment policy statements correspond to the manual that an entrepreneur would write about how to run every aspect of his business.
Additionally, you should follow the principle of, “Work on your investments, not in them.” Just as The E-Myth advocates business owners working on their businesses, not in them, investors should concentrate their efforts on the larger picture of the goal of the investment portfolio, and not become bogged down in the daily details of researching stocks and funds and making decisions on trading. Study after study has shown that when people manage their own accounts, they do more damage than good. So why do individual investors continue to be their own money managers? It’s because they think that they must oversee and trade their investments themselves. That mistake alone has cost people billions of dollars.
In summary, managing your own portfolio is like managing a small business. What other comparisons can you think of? Send me an email about other types of comparisons you have seen between running a business and running your portfolio.