Snowballing into 2018

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” 
– Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect

“I just want to compound my face off.” 
– Wes Gray, Alpha Architect

“Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill.”
– Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway

My favorite metaphor for success is the snowball. I love the idea that knowledge compounds, money compounds, and things start getting easier as you get bigger, picking up more velocity as you roll. I love the concept of small things (such as positive, proactive decisions we take) leading to bigger things later.

To quote my pal Wes Gray, in 2018 I just want to compound my face off. I laid out some resolutions for the new year the other day…

  1. Read 25 books in 2018 (roughly two per month).
  2. Stop killing myself from 6am – 9am every weekday, get more done the night before or skip it.
  3. No alcohol Monday – Thursday nights.
  4. No coffee after 4pm.
  5. Exercise three mornings a week, one weekend day.
  6. Decrease volume of outbound links, prioritize quality / significance.
  7. Check in with people I care about, work on real relationships.

I’m going to get a little more specific on what I’m doing now in order to set myself up for success in 2018 and beyond.

First, a bit about my firm, Ritholtz Wealth Management, which has graduated from being a practice, to a firm, to a business – a going concern with a fully iterated client service model, a compensation philosophy, a path to employee equity ownership and a management ethos that extends into every crevice, seeps into every pore of our work. We don’t drink the kool-aid, we are submerged in it. In a good way 😉

The good news is, we have a lot of momentum as a business. Everything began clicking into place in the last few years after a lot of trial, error, course correcting and honest reflection. Now we know exactly what we want to be when we grow up, and how we’re going to do it. We launched the firm four years ago with about $90 million in assets and lots of open questions about how we were going to handle the business aspects of the RIA. We’re heading into the new year with over $700 million in assets, multiple offices across the country and a sixfold increase in personnel.

We’ve answered all of those original open questions, but, as with any growing business, all sorts of new questions continue to spring up. From getting to know the most impressive and accomplished players at the top of our industry, I’ve learned that there is no finish line, for anyone. Just as you’re putting one issue to bed, another sprouts up demanding to be dealt with. The good news is that by solving this stuff, we become much more valuable to the small business owners and executives we provide advice to. We’re owner-operators and executives just like they are. It’s a deeper level of understanding.

So when I talk about reading 25 books this year, you can bet that at least a quarter of them will be business books. I need to educate myself on management techniques and entrepreneurial best practices if I’m going to be the best CEO I can be. I took the CEO role reluctantly while my partner Barry assumed the role of Chairman. I’m going to drop the reluctantly part this year and throw myself into it.

And I’m not looking for fortune cookie quotes and aphorisms – I want the real thing from actually successful people. I don’t want to get any advice from a person I wouldn’t trade places with – so pop psychology and self-help guru books are off the menu. I’d love your suggestions for good and actionable business books here, so feel free to click over and post ’em here.

I’m also making some changes to the blog – all upgrades in my opinion, but we’ll see how things develop.

In 2017, more than one and a half million unique users came to this site and viewed six million pages of content here. 58% of users were returning while 42% hit the site for the first time ever. Tens of thousands of new readers signed up for my daily email blast. And they come from all over the world, according to Google Analytics, which will never not blow my mind.

Here are the cities where readers visit from:

And, most importantly, several readers became employees of the firm while hundreds of readers have become wealth management clients. I always joke with my crew internally that if people are reading Ben, Michael, Barry, Tony, Dina and myself and they don’t become clients, what on earth are they thinking?

For the last eight years, I’ve done the Hot Links post almost every weekday. It’s been incredibly taxing on me in recent years because of my schedule and priorities, but I’ve managed to keep it going somehow. Starting in January, I’ll continue dropping the best morning reads for you but I’m going to switch the format up. In the morning, I’ll only post the stuff that I think is timely to get to before the opening bell – so mostly news stories that I’m reading, and less of them (see resolution 6).

And then later in the afternoon, we’ll get to the better opinion pieces, blog posts and other stuff that I feel worthy of sharing. With a greater emphasis on quality, rather than hitting some artificially conceived quantity. Some days it’ll be a lot, many days it could be just one or two things. If you’ve been counting on me for curation all these years, I’m going to get better and more focused on it. It’s not going to be a contest of who can read and link to the most encyclopedic list of every piece of content out there. Hot Links is effectively dead starting this week.

Sorry, Linky.

I had a realization this year that most of the content being generated each day is not worth spending time on. And that I had wasted countless hours reading things written by people who have never invested or traded or run an investment firm at a high level. On that note, I’ll be “cleaning up” my Feedly Pro account later today and getting rid of lots of sources. It’s going to be a bloodbath.

It’s not that inexperienced people can’t have good insights, it’s that I’ve evolved and moved forward to a point where I don’t have the time to spend looking through the heap. If something is truly good, it’ll get to me through social media or because someone whose opinion I trust vouches for it.

Speaking of evolution, last week I ripped all the advertisements off of this blog and kicked out an ad network that was responsible for a slowdown in load time and other annoyances for my readers, like mobile popups and all sorts of other bullshit, calling attention to products and services that I didn’t necessarily even believe in. “Enough is enough,” I told them. I don’t know what we’ll do with the ad space going forward – I’m in the process of figuring that out but I wanted to start fresh.

Lastly, I want to spend more of my time this year meeting people, talking to them in person and focusing on real relationships in the industry (resolution 7). This means more face to face time in some cases and saying yes to more travel. I have a few speaking gigs booked around the country and I’ll be meeting with and seeing my advisors and the firm’s clients too. I’ll be stepping up my speaking and presentation game accordingly. It’s something I need to invest more time and energy in to hit some personal goals. I have never come away from a trip somewhere and felt like it wasn’t worth it – I truly love meeting with our clients, with other advisors and seeing how the wealth business works in different parts of the country. I always leave feeling like it’s made me better at what I do.

The snowball is rolling fast now and with every passing day I can see the power of compounding taking effect in real and measurable ways. Our services are improving and our expertise is growing – both in depth and width (look for another major announcement next month). And with some of the changes I’m planning to make personally, I believe the best is yet to come.

Thanks for reading this year! – JB

(hit my Facebook with your best suggestion for a business book, I’m going to make a list and try to read a bunch of them)

This content, which contains security-related opinions and/or information, is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in any manner as professional advice, or an endorsement of any practices, products or services. There can be no guarantees or assurances that the views expressed here will be applicable for any particular facts or circumstances, and should not be relied upon in any manner. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax, and other related matters concerning any investment.

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