Business people joining hands

How To Navigate the Advisor-Client-Partner Relationship

In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, the success of any endeavor often hinges on the strength of the relationships between advisors, clients, and partners. Whether you’re a seasoned consultant guiding businesses through complex challenges or a non-profit leader collaborating with donors and stakeholders, fostering robust and effective partnerships is paramount.

Strong advisor-client-partner relationships are the bedrock upon which trust, understanding, and ultimately, positive outcomes are built. When all parties are aligned and working in harmony, the synergy created can be truly transformative. Effective collaboration breeds increased trust, better decision-making, and long-term success that benefits everyone involved.

This comprehensive guide aims to equip you with the knowledge and strategies necessary to navigate the intricate dynamics of the advisor-client-partner relationship. We’ll delve into the nuances of each role, explore techniques for establishing a solid foundation, and uncover communication strategies that foster productive collaboration.

Throughout our journey, we’ll touch upon the importance of building trust and rapport, setting clear expectations, and aligning goals and objectives. You’ll gain insights into active listening, providing constructive feedback, and resolving conflicts through negotiation – all essential components of a healthy working relationship.

Close-up image of business colleagues explaining the strategy on the foreground

Moreover, we’ll explore how technology and data-driven tools can streamline collaboration, enabling seamless communication and informed decision-making. Because let’s face it, in our digital age, leveraging the right tools can be a game-changer.

Ultimately, our goal is to empower you with the knowledge and confidence to maintain and strengthen these vital alliances over time. We’ll discuss strategies for continuous improvement, celebrating milestones, and nurturing long-term partnerships that stand the test of time.

So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, buckle up and get ready to embark on a journey that will transform the way you approach advisor-client-partner relationships. The road ahead may have its twists and turns, but with the right mindset and tools, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate it with grace and success.

Understanding the Roles and Responsibilities

At the heart of any successful advisor-client-partner dynamic lies a clear understanding of each party’s roles and responsibilities. It’s a delicate dance, where every player must execute their part with precision and grace to achieve harmony.

The Advisor’s Role

As the trusted guide, the advisor’s role is multifaceted yet crucial. You’re the subject matter expert, tasked with providing insightful guidance and advice tailored to your client’s unique needs. Acting as a strategic partner, your primary responsibility is to serve your client’s best interests, steering them towards informed decisions that align with their goals.

Professionalism and adherence to ethical standards are non-negotiable. You’re the beacon of integrity, upholding the highest moral and professional conduct at all times. Your clients place their trust in you, and it’s your duty to honor that sacred bond.

The Client’s Role

On the other side of the equation, the client’s role is equally pivotal. Clear and open communication is the cornerstone of a productive relationship. As the client, it’s your responsibility to articulate your goals, expectations, and concerns with transparency and honesty.

Embracing a collaborative mindset is key. Be receptive to the advisor’s guidance and feedback, and actively participate in the process. After all, this journey is a partnership, and your engagement is essential for achieving the desired outcomes.

The Partner’s Role

In many cases, a third party – a partner – plays a crucial role in facilitating the advisor-client triad. This partner’s primary function is to bridge the gap between the two, ensuring seamless collaboration and communication.

Whether it’s providing additional resources, offering specialized expertise, or simply acting as a neutral facilitator, the partner’s role is to support and enhance the advisor-client dynamic. Their objective is to ensure alignment with the shared goals and objectives, fostering an environment conducive to success.

By understanding and respecting these distinct yet interconnected roles, we lay the foundation for a harmonious and productive relationship. It’s a delicate balance, where each party’s contributions are equally valued and essential for achieving the desired outcomes.

Group of business people in a circle looking down

Establishing a Strong Foundation

With a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities at play, we can now turn our attention to establishing a robust foundation for the advisor-client-partner relationship. This bedrock will serve as the launchpad for a successful and enduring collaboration.

Building Trust and Rapport

Trust is the currency that fuels any meaningful partnership. Without it, even the most well-intentioned efforts may falter. As an advisor, cultivating trust and rapport with your clients is paramount. Engage in open and honest communication, actively listening to their concerns and addressing them with empathy and transparency.

Demonstrate your expertise and credibility through your actions and results. Share relevant case studies, success stories, and industry insights that showcase your knowledge and capabilities. Remember, trust is earned, not given – so be prepared to put in the work.

Setting Clear Expectations

Ambiguity is the enemy of progress. To avoid misunderstandings and frustrations down the line, it’s crucial to set clear expectations from the outset. Define the roles, responsibilities, and boundaries for each party involved, leaving no room for assumptions or misinterpretations.

Establish realistic timelines and milestones, and agree on the communication channels and protocols that work best for everyone. This level of clarity not only fosters accountability but also ensures that everyone is working towards a shared vision.

Aligning Goals and Objectives

While each party may have their own motivations and desired outcomes, it’s essential to identify and align these goals and objectives. Take the time to understand each stakeholder’s perspectives, priorities, and potential areas of conflict or misalignment.

Through open dialogue and collaboration, develop a shared vision and plan of action that harmonizes these diverse objectives. This alignment not only streamlines the process but also cultivates a sense of ownership and commitment from all parties involved.

By laying this strong foundation of trust, clear expectations, and aligned goals, you’re setting the stage for a productive and rewarding partnership. It’s the bedrock upon which lasting success can be built, one brick at a time.

Effective Communication Strategies

With a solid foundation in place, the next step in nurturing a thriving advisor-client-partner relationship is mastering the art of effective communication. This multifaceted skill set is the lifeblood that keeps the partnership flowing smoothly and productively.

Active Listening and Feedback

Communication is a two-way street, and active listening is the key to unlocking its full potential. As an advisor, it’s crucial to hone your ability to truly hear and understand your clients’ perspectives, concerns, and aspirations. Employ techniques like maintaining eye contact, asking clarifying questions, and summarizing their points to ensure you’ve grasped the essence of their message.

On the flip side, providing constructive feedback is equally important. Offer insights and critiques in a respectful and solution-oriented manner, always framing them as opportunities for growth and improvement. Encourage open dialogue and collaboration, fostering an environment where all parties feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas.

Conflict Resolution and Negotiation

Disagreements and conflicts are inevitable in any partnership, but how you handle them can make or break the relationship. Identify potential areas of conflict early on and address them proactively. Develop strategies for resolving disagreements through open communication, compromise, and finding common ground.

Negotiation skills are invaluable in this context. Understand the art of give-and-take, and strive to reach mutually beneficial solutions that leave all parties feeling heard and respected. Remember, a win-win outcome is always preferable to a zero-sum game.

Leveraging Technology and Tools

In our digital age, technology can be a powerful ally in facilitating effective communication and collaboration. Embrace tools like project management platforms, secure communication channels, and data analytics to streamline processes and make informed decisions.

Leverage these tools to enhance transparency, accountability, and real-time information sharing. However, strike a balance – technology should complement, not replace, the human element of your partnerships.

By mastering these communication strategies, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate the complexities of advisor-client-partner relationships with finesse and grace. Clear, open, and respectful dialogue paves the way for trust, understanding, and ultimately, success for all involved.

young multi ethnic business people group walking standing and top view

Maintaining and Strengthening the Relationship

Establishing a strong foundation and effective communication strategies are crucial, but the journey doesn’t end there. Maintaining and strengthening the advisor-client-partner trio is an ongoing process that requires dedication, adaptability, and a genuine commitment to growth.

Continuous Improvement and Adaptation

Stagnation is the enemy of progress. Embrace a mindset of continuous improvement by regularly reviewing and adjusting your approach. Seek feedback from all parties involved, and use that valuable input to identify areas for enhancement. Don’t be afraid to pivot and adapt your strategies as circumstances evolve – flexibility is key.

Staying ahead of the curve is also essential. Anticipate changes in the industry, market trends, and client needs, and proactively adapt your services and offerings accordingly. This agility not only demonstrates your commitment to excellence but also fosters trust and confidence in your partnership.

Celebrating Successes and Milestones

While the journey itself is rewarding, it’s equally important to pause and celebrate the successes and milestones along the way. Recognize and acknowledge the achievements of all parties involved, fostering a positive and supportive environment that breeds motivation and momentum.

These celebrations need not be grandiose affairs – a simple acknowledgment, a heartfelt thank-you, or a small token of appreciation can go a long way in reinforcing the value of your partnership and the hard work that has been put in.

Nurturing Long-Term Partnerships

Ultimately, the goal is to cultivate long-term, sustainable partnerships that stand the test of time. Develop strategies for maintaining strong relationships beyond the immediate project or engagement. Identify opportunities for future collaboration, and actively seek ways to add value and support your clients’ and partners’ evolving needs.

Build a network of trusted advisors, clients, and partners – a community of like-minded individuals who share your values and commitment to excellence. This network not only provides a valuable resource for referrals and support but also fosters a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose.

By embracing continuous improvement, celebrating successes, and nurturing long-term partnerships, you’ll be well on your way to building an advisor-client-partner team that transcends mere transactions and becomes true partnerships – ones built on trust, mutual respect, and a shared vision for success.

Friendly young people working as a business team

Conclusion

As we reach the end of our journey through the intricate landscape of advisor-client-partner relationships, it’s important to reflect on the key lessons and takeaways that have emerged. This exploration has been a testament to the power of collaboration, communication, and a shared commitment to excellence.

Throughout this comprehensive guide, we’ve delved into the nuances of each party’s roles and responsibilities, emphasizing the importance of establishing a strong foundation built on trust, clear expectations, and aligned goals. We’ve explored effective communication strategies, from active listening and constructive feedback to conflict resolution and leveraging technology as a facilitator.

But our journey doesn’t end here. Maintaining and strengthening these vital relationships is an ongoing process that demands continuous improvement, adaptation, and a willingness to celebrate successes along the way. By nurturing long-term partnerships and cultivating a network of trusted advisors, clients, and collaborators, we can create a ripple effect of positive change that extends far beyond any single engagement.

In a world where change is the only constant, the ability to navigate the complexities of advisor-client-partner relationships with grace and agility is more valuable than ever before. Embrace the lessons learned here, and let them serve as a compass, guiding you through the twists and turns that lie ahead.

Remember, true success is not a destination but a journey – one that requires constant learning, growth, and a genuine commitment to excellence. Approach each partnership with an open mind, a willingness to adapt, and a deep respect for the unique perspectives and contributions of all involved.

As you embark on your next adventure, carry with you the knowledge that strong advisor-client-partner relationships are not merely transactional – they are transformative. They have the power to shape lives, drive positive change, and leave an indelible mark on the world around us. Embrace this responsibility with humility and passion, and watch as your partnerships blossom into something truly extraordinary.


Peyton is a business consultantSEO, and brand journalist. He works with non-profits, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and writers who need to improve their brand positioning and get massive traffic. Focus industries include Medicine, SaaS, eCommerce, BlockChain, Manufacturing, & Education. Peyton also volunteers for noble causes.

woman smiling and thriving at table with other business people at a big event

10 Tips for Introverts to Thrive at Big Events

As an introvert, big events and conferences can sometimes feel overwhelming. The crowds, constant socializing, and high-energy environments may leave you feeling drained. But fear not! With some preparation and self-care strategies, you can navigate these situations with confidence and make the most of the experience. If you’re an introvert, get ready to thrive at your next big event.

1. Set Reasonable Expectations

The first step is to set realistic expectations for yourself. I have an extroverted friend who is always “on”. His motto is that he’s down for whatever. As an introvert, I have the opposite motto! However, I’m always going to be me. Don’t force yourself to be “on” and socializing constantly. It’s perfectly okay, and even necessary, to plan for downtimes where you can recharge your batteries. Embrace your introverted nature and give yourself permission to take breaks.

2. Prepare Conversation Starters

One of the biggest challenges for introverts at events can be starting conversations with strangers. To make this easier, have some opening lines or questions ready to go. Simple things like “What brings you to this event?” or “How did you get involved in this industry?” can be great icebreakers. You can also ask people about their work, interests, or thoughts on the event itself.

3. Schedule Breaks

Intentionally build breaks into your schedule to give yourself time to be alone and re-energize. Use these breaks to check in with yourself, practice some deep breathing exercises, or simply sit quietly and reset. Don’t feel guilty about taking this time for yourself – it will help you show up more present and engaged when you do interact with others.

person attending big event meeting or lecture

4. Identify Quieter Spaces

Before the event, scout out potential quieter spaces where you can escape the crowds when needed. This could be a corner of the venue, an outdoor area, or even your hotel room. Having these oases identified in advance will make it easier to retreat and reset when you start to feel overstimulated.

5. Leverage Your Listening Skills

As an introvert, one of your strengths is likely your ability to truly listen and observe. Lean into this skill by letting others do more of the talking while you listen attentively and ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation going. In fact, learn to be a master at asking great open-ended and thoughtful questions. People often appreciate a good listener and conversation starter.

Push yourself to be a part of the event. Be present and talk to as many people as possible because you may never see them again.

6. Connect One-on-One

While group settings can be draining, you may find it easier and more enjoyable to connect with people one-on-one. Seek out opportunities for focused conversations, whether it’s suggesting meeting up for coffee or a meal, or simply finding a quieter corner to chat.

7. Recharging for Multi-Day Events

If the event spans multiple days, it’s even more crucial to have strategies in place for recharging your energy. Again, you’re there for a reason so push yourself to be a part of the event. Be present and talk to as many people as possible because you may never see them again. But I get it, that’s not the introvert’s way. So in addition to scheduling breaks, try incorporating some of these energy management techniques:

Energy Management Techniques

  • Practice deep breathing exercises to calm your mind and body
  • Take a few minutes to meditate or practice mindfulness
  • Go for short walks outside to get some fresh air and movement

Creating Downtime

  • Build buffers into your schedule so you’re not rushing from one thing to the next
  • Identify quiet spaces at the venue or your hotel where you can retreat
  • Be careful not to over-commit your time and leave room for rest

big conference event presentation

8. Professional Ways to Meet People

While the idea of networking can feel daunting, there are friendly and professional ways for introverts to meet new people:

Opening Lines

  • A simple “Hello, I don’t think we’ve met before…” can open the door to conversation
  • Compliment a speaker on something specific, like “I really enjoyed your presentation on…”
  • Compliment an attendee on something specific, like “I was really impressed by the question you asked during the Q&A. It made me think about [x] in a new way.”
  • Ask a post-talk question like “I really enjoyed that last speaker’s presentation on [topic]. What did you think of their key points?”

Making Connections

  • Ask about their role, company, or how they got involved in this industry
  • Look for common interests or connections you can bond over
  • Don’t be afraid to exchange contact information to follow up after the event

A little side note for this tip is that if your event has an app, use it to connect with people before the event. It’s easy for introverts to break the ice behind the screen. It’s practice for face-to-face meetings and gets you familiar with people so your approach to them at the event isn’t entirely cold.

9. Be Authentic

At the end of the day, you’ll get the most out of the event by being true to yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not or force excessive extraversion. Lean into your strengths as an introvert – listening deeply, engaging in meaningful conversations, and being thoughtful and observant.

10. Have an Exit Strategy

Finally, give yourself permission to leave when you need to. Set a reasonable time for yourself to depart the event, and don’t be afraid to excuse yourself once you’ve reached your socializing limit for the day. Recharge, reflect on what you’ve learned, and get ready to return refreshed.

Remember, as an introvert, big events may require some extra effort and self-care. But by setting reasonable expectations, taking breaks, and leveraging your natural strengths, you can make meaningful connections and come away energized rather than depleted. Embrace your introverted self – you have so much to offer!


Peyton is a business consultantSEO, and brand journalist. He works with non-profits, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and writers who need to improve their brand positioning and get massive traffic. Focus industries include Medicine, SaaS, eCommerce, BlockChain, Manufacturing, & Education. Peyton also volunteers for noble causes.

APANO is an organization that focuses on social equity and justice for historically marginalized people. Visit Apano.org to learn more about their remarkable work in Portland, Oregon.

iphone and apps

The Few Social Media Platforms That Will Actually Get You Clients

In 2009, I created one of the first magazines on social media called Viral Ventures Magazine.

It got downloaded over 10,000 times in its first month.

Back then, that was a big deal though that’s not that impressive today.

I was inspired by a few essays I read by Andrew Chen, a tech investor and one-man digital media think tank. Needless to say, he was right. Focusing on social media took my marketing and personal branding to a whole new level.

VVMAG
 

However, it wasn’t easy.

Web 2.0

Even as far back as 2005 when social media was barely a term (everyone kept calling it Web 2.0), it was hard to convince people that it would change marketing forever.

Despite the setback and late adoption from the masses, I kept on with it and I tried to dominate every platform that came out. When I say dominate, of course I just mean being a top influencer (AKA, Power User back then) in my respective niche.

To be honest, I was so enamored with social media, I was a bit scatterbrained. I’d listen to Tim Ferriss rave about Posterous (now defunct), and then Gary Vaynerchuk would holler back about tumblr being on fire (now it’s a withering flame).

I signed up for both.

Mostly, I built my brands and my clients’ brands on a few promising platforms that have returned so much in sales that I can barely believe it myself.

Some platforms generated over 5,000% ROAS.

And with some platforms, I didn’t even spend a dime to acquire thousands of prospects that turned into hundreds of paying customers.

Moore’s Adoption Curve And Digital High-Fives

What did early adopters like me see in social media that most people didn’t?

The biggest things I saw is that previously inaccessible people were now easily accessible. I also noticed the viral nature of social media. I would spend hours researching medical epidemiology, and then writing white papers on how it fits into the digital marketing ecosystem.

At the time, I was trying to connect with a big name in social media: Chris Brogan, the author of Trust Agents. Within three public tweets, we were chummy and he wanted to turn me on to a book he thought would improve my business (Switch). He actually had a new copy in hardback and wanted to send it to me!

Feature Article By Chris Brogan [vvmag]

It blew my mind that he would do this, and the way this whole conversation happened. That year, Brogan wrote an article for my magazine that helped set the tone for the kind of readers I wanted to attract: engaging, authentic, digital entrepreneurs.

Over the next few years, numerous incidents just like this happened. The online friends and clients started to roll in. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to bypass the industrial complex that was traditional marketing — all with a few carefully worded messages sent online.

Calling It Quits

At one point, I began to get too involved with every social media platform that came out. Under the guise of research, I tried to understand and build a big following with each one.

For eight years I worked my magic on social media, and then one day decided to take a break. After a few weeks of evaluating the business utility of each one, I deleted several accounts. And for the last two years, I only focus on two main platforms for my business. (The other two are active purely for random entertainment purposes.)

Before we get to them, let me put things in context. When I quit certain platforms, I didn’t have sophisticated criteria I was going by. From a small business (a digital marketing company and my solopreneur projects), I only cared if a platform helped me acquire paid clients. That’s it.

The platform was either wasting my time or it helped move people along my sales funnel to get paid.

If it didn’t do that, I closed the account.

Careful Advertising

Now I know people use social media just to connect with friends. Many casual users are annoyed with business-only users clogging up the space with quid pro quo banter.

I get it: business chatter often ruins platforms. (How we all long for the day when Facebook and Twitter was advertisement free!)

But the thing is, all profit-seeking social media platforms eventually have to monetize, and ads are the easiest way to do so. The business model is simple. Build a platform that gets lots of eyeballs on it, then charge advertising fees to interrupt these eyeballs from doing what they are normally doing on the screen. (That’s pretty much most traditional platforms too, of course.)

In terms of revenue, this is the primary source of every social media platform. As annoying as it is, they wouldn’t be around if they didn’t make money post start-up era.

I only say this to point out that a small business guy like me posting ads or connecting with would-be prospects should be welcome — so as long as it is ethical and unobtrusive.

With that mindset, I have to say that my return on investment from using social media is too impossibly big to calculate.

At least 60% of my clients are acquired from various social media platforms.

My return on ad spend (ROAS) ranges from 300% to 6,000%. As you might guess, with these numbers I don’t see myself advertising with traditional media anytime soon where 250% to 400% ROAS is respectable.

The rest of my business comes from referrals and renewed contracts.

So what worked to get paying clients and what didn’t?

TWITTER

I ditched this platform for business, but then reactivated it because I was bored. In the beginning, I was all in on Twitter for business. I had over 50,000 followers in 2009 which was a big deal for a local business or personal brand.

In my city, Lake Oswego, I held the #1 position for years on Twitter Grader (a Hubspot tool now defunct). In Portland, Oregon I was in the top 20 one year.

Then in 2009, some young guy named Macbeth destroyed me for having the most followers in my city. I later learned that he co-founded a successful Twitter-based company called StockTwits. Users had to use Twitter to create their profile, so it made sense he would surpass me.

One year I paid a service to clean up my account and get rid of inactive, offensive, and fake accounts. That shaved off nearly 15,000 users! Then I deleted about 10,000 followers that did not fit my exact demographic, or if they never bought anything.

Twitter “Fail Whale”

I think I attracted the wrong kinds of followers, and part of my results are a reflection of that. Even so, my last set of 25,000 followers were highly-targeted and I still came up short on clicks, leads, and sales.

For four years straight I hustled on Twitter and I only got two paying clients from all my work.

Obviously, I was using it wrong. I was butt-hurt because I thought I was using it right.

I wasn’t using it as a billboard for my business. I incorporated the old Vaynerchuk method of maintaining a give-to-sell ratio of 3:1. In my posts, I gave a lot of stuff away and only sparingly tried to sell anything.

Looking at Twitter today, I think it’s just clogged with too many things. Don’t get me started on the arbitrary banning of accounts and jaw-dropping content. From politics to pornography, all the things that can be seen is just too much.

Twitter is the firehose of digital communication to me, and sometimes the water is too dirty to drink from!

Yes, great people and businesses I deeply admire are on Twitter. It’s still great for people in oppressed countries who alert others about news-worthy events before the media machine gets to it (#MeToo, #IsraelOnFire, #BlackLivesMatter). But a lot of people I’m trying to avoid hang out there too. And a lot of my customers don’t take it seriously, so why should I?

Since I am weak at converting the bullhorn conversations to a quiet sale, for Twitter I’m out.

LINKEDIN

It almost seems like if you were to only have one social media account, this should be the one. Since we’re always trading up careers or projecting our CV onto the world, this buttoned-up platform is a staple.

I dominated this platform by being the #1 most-viewed profile in my 3,000+ organization for two years straight. I hustled on this thing like a madman. I made contacts, introduced contacts, and wrote viral articles here.

Even though I ran a digital marketing company thirty hours a week, I also taught business at a local high school and college. (We can talk about my 70-hour weeks another day.)

Humblebrag: my LinkedIn profile beat out the district’s superintendent, hundreds of principals, hundreds of coaches, and thousands of educators. My marketing business was so good that if I didn’t outsource most of it, I would have been forced to stop teaching. LinkedIn was a big part of my success back then.

The tides have changed though.

Instead of innovating within their communication platform, what did LinkedIn do with their billions? They bought an online skills development company no one cares about: Lynda. Sorry to say that without accreditation, examinations, and direct experience, no unmonitored online course will advance your career very far.

Another huge mistake they made was getting rid of the Pulse App. This was a better news aggregator than Flipboard in my opinion. Plus, from a writer’s point of view it was a great way to get massive exposure. Now the news and story feed is all convoluted. I mean, where is it?

News and articles are nowhere to be found on LinkedIn’s dashboard. The only way to view them is to click in the search bar and then “content” is a drop-down option. That’s just weird and a bad user interface.

The problem with their showcasing of news and articles, is that now people aren’t finding mine. Some of my pieces got hundreds of comments and thousands of views. These articles converted to several connections and sales. In fact, my biggest social media wins came from LinkedIn articles. People would read them and comment or direct message to inquire about my services.

But lately, the platform has changed. I still don’t know how my profile is ranked. I like a lot of features on LinkedIn, however I’ve called it quits on writing for its publications. I’d be lucky to get 100 reads today even with over 3,107 contacts.

I think a great way to get clients now is through direct messaging and LinkedIn Ads.

From what I’ve seen, those are still highly effective tactics if done right because it can be annoying too. Their ads are not as effective as Facebook’s, but they do get leads.

Now if you own a digital marketing company like me, LinkedIn is perfect for finding the right decision-makers and connecting with them directly. Despite their big mistakes in the past, LinkedIn is still a keeper and it continues to bring me paying clients.

FACEBOOK

For all its deceptive records-keeping and security breaches, no one has more data on people than Facebook. All that data creates the perfect machine to target the exact kind of buyers you want to market to.

With over 6,270 followers on my business page within one year and hundreds of interactions with prospective buyers, this is the best advertising for your dollar you can buy. At this point, I stopped counting the coaching clients and service clients Facebook has introduced me to.

I wouldn’t say I dominated this social media platform in my niche (yet), but it has more promise than any other. For one, they adapt well. They buy up their competitors to create a pseudo-monopoly. That equals massive market share in the social media space. More share, more advertising possibilities, more profit.

I’m including the power of Instagram Ads and What’s App Ads (coming soon) when I talk about Facebook since they’re essentially the same company.

As a digital marketer, the things you can do to acquire customers on Facebook are endless. In fact, with my social media company, I’m seriously considering only offering Facebook Ads as a service. I probably don’t need to go on about how Facebook is an obvious winner in marketing. As you can guess, it’s a keeper because it makes me money.

YOUTUBE

I personally did not dominate this platform in the beginning for a couple reasons.

  1. I didn’t have star power to create good videos. I personally found it difficult to make compelling videos, and I much preferred writing.
  2. I falsely assumed it was only big with the younger demographic. However, I helped some of my clients dominate YouTube because I caught on to its potential later on.

According to a study done by Brainshark, 59% of executives prefer video over text. I don’t know the context of how these videos are used, but I’m sure YouTube and Vimeo are part of the mix.

As we’ve seen, video and audio (podcasts and audiobooks) are replacing good old fashioned reading at an alarming rate.

We’re becoming less literate and more impatient: a perfect storm to transform into a video-centric society.

It’s sad, but the statistics don’t lie on this topic. In one project, I decided to help a client target an older demographic by making short tutorials. Longer tutorials were the upsell in a paid online course. Some of these YouTube videos were viewed over 60,000 times in a week, and they were a great way to acquire qualified leads.

One feature about YouTube I love is the pre-roll ads. These are the ads that play before the main content. As a consumer, they are annoying but again as a marketer they are valuable. You can research videos with similar keywords (using vidIQ or TubeBuddy) and interrupt your competition’s content. It’s kind of sneaky, but that’s what’s I see happening.

In terms of ROI, it’s an effective way to market especially if you have a compelling offer that makes them want to click off the regularly scheduled video. YouTube is a definite keeper for me since I want to make more online courses. It continues to send me leads and that turns into profit.

Pinterest

I wish I got into Pinterest sooner. I think learning that at one time 80% of its users were women sort of turned me off of it. My demographic was split right down the center. However, in hindsight there was no reason why I could use one platform to do segment marketing.

From a consumer’s point of view, one thing that bugs me about Pinterest is how it keeps showing up in Google’s image results. It acts as a gateway to get you to login (or sign up) on Pinterest. Chrome has a special extension to prevent this from happening so you get pure search results. But from a marketer’s point of view, getting these Pinterest-linked images is smart. I’m sure their click-through rates are off the charts.

When it comes to blogging or content marketing in general, Pinterest is a clear winner for traffic. I didn’t learn about content upgrades until a few years ago, but this tactic sends my sites massive traffic. Also, I keep forgetting the pack-rat nature of humans. We want to save and organize stuff ad nauseam. We’ll sign up for stuff and never use it — but we sure have it! We can use this little quirk to our advantage in marketing for sure.

Pinterest is a social media keeper because it will get you clients, and I’ll be turning more attention to it over the following years.

Miscellaneous Misadventures

So here are a few social media sites that I gave an honest try but failed. A couple are now defunct.

I was really excited for live stream apps like Periscope, Meerkat, Busker, and Blab. However, they just didn’t adapt fast enough.

2015–2016

I was early to use Periscope and I saw a lot of promise in it. I was first introduced to it via a recommendation. This source was telling everyone to watch the live boxing match for free using Periscope.

The video was grainy, but the interaction was unbelievable. This event was so big and thousands of Periscope users were watching. The voluminous comments and stream of hearts made the actual event seem bigger than it was.

This wasn’t the effect I got when I started to use it. Crickets. All I can say about that is without star power, any video medium is going to be difficult. I just didn’t have it back then and barely have it now!

Speaking of videos, I never gave Vine a try but I downloaded the app and spent a few off-task hours on it. Vines were funny, but like TikTok, it was for kids. I don’t think any serious small business considered advertising on it.

The one social media platform I never gave a real shot was SnapChat (though I have written about its potential despite Kylie Jenner taking it down a notch).

I don’t have anything against them, it’s just the wrong demographic for me. Plus, I never believed that the user content ever truly disappeared. Everything is kept on a server these days.

Platforms To Focus On

My advice to personal brands, small local businesses, and online entrepreneurs is to focus on one or two platforms and forget the rest.

Seriously. Master one platform as it’s natively used. When you get big (or when you have more marketing money), hire someone to upcycle your long-form master content to be displayed natively on other platforms where your customers are.

For personal brands, coaches, consultants, and digital marketers my picks are Facebook and YouTube. If you do a lot of B2B work, dominate LinkedIn instead of YouTube. Got a younger demographic and you have a physical product? Instagram is perfect for you.

If you can only choose one social media platform because of the millions of things to do, choose Facebook. From there, you can join special groups to learn or do research, build your own following, do live or pre-recorded videos, chat, and most importantly — post cheap, but highly-targeted ads.

When Personal Brands Are More Powerful Than Startups

How One Tweet By Kylie Jenner Cost Snapchat $1.3 Billion Dollars

With celebrity and personal branding comes power. But how much power? Last week Kylie Jenner put out another tweet that sent shockwaves to the company Snapchat.

According to CNN Money, following this tweet Snapchat’s stock immediately fell 6% which equaled 1.3 billion dollars!

Now that’s star power.

Reading this tweet made my jaw drop. I knew the Kardashian brand was strong, but not that strong. It made me think about how little startups control some outside forces.

Maybe we should update Porter’s Five Industry forces to include a sixth component:

The Rise Of The Celebrity Influencer

Celebrities have been aptly compared to Greek gods and goddesses: teenagers with too much power.

Kylie, fresh out of her teenage phase, simply has too much power. I’m not saying she doesn’t deserve some of it, but do you think any government official would have that much effect if they said something similar online?

Not a chance.

This is the world we live in. Celebrities are key influencers, entrepreneurs, and entertainers/actors. In fact, currently I can’t tell the difference between the three. (I’m more interested in Matt Damon’s political opinion than a news anchor’s comments.)

Kylie is part of a long list of actor-entrepreneurs that includes Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Oprah Winfrey, Ashton Kutcher, Paul Newman, and dozens more.

It’s amazing how these people have leveraged their popularity and the media to help shape entire industries.

Stars have always had this power. However, in the age of transparency, in many cases it’s more prevalent and believable than ever.

So can we really fault Kylie for her radical honesty?

She didn’t do anything wrong.

She just voiced her opinion. It was only a comment.

(Now her official endorsements, that’s where the real money starts rolling in. Over $386 million to be more precise.)

How To Build Your Star Power

What this means for you is that it can serve as a blueprint for your success and influence.

One of the things they don’t teach in school is personal branding and Kylie has it in spades. I’m not agreeing with what she does, but the basics are all there.

    • Build a (good) reputation by providing unique, in-demand value.
    • Build a tribe of followers by authentically connecting with them.
    • Sell, promote, and support others by leveraging high-traffic platforms or media outlets.
    • Do this for several years and then reap the rewards.

The blueprint is simple, but the process is hard.

The first two steps are the hardest and where most people give up. Do we have a signature talent that others can’t get enough of? That’s not easy to find for most people.

Surely, Kylie fell into a great slipstream of influence and power from her family. However, the value she offers is all her own.

“I’ve always been the ‘different one’ among my sisters.” ~Kylie Jenner | Image Source: Instagram

“I’ve always been the ‘different one’ among my sisters.” ~Kylie Jenner | Image Source: Instagram

Document The Journey On A Big Platform

I can’t believe I’m saying this because I know relatively very little about Kylie. What I can tell is that she does provide a lot of entertainment and fashion value to millions of her fans.

That’s good enough, and documenting it all appears to be eye-candy.

Reality TV, Twitter, Instagram, and Podcasts: These are all platforms anyone can use. As you know, they enable anyone to be instant editors and publishers.

This is where it gets weird.

Without a formal editor, there seems to be no filter on anything people send out these days. And influencers have a way with giving news legs.

Target Influencers Too

What businesses often forget is that some of the greatest influencers in their world are actually their ideal customer. They must be kept happy too.

I can imagine the Snapchat team putting together their user personas in the early days of the company. I bet even a revised version does not have a picture of Kylie Jenner or any other celebrity depicted as personas.

Big mistake.

These kinds of people might not be the typical user, but with their influence and reach, they should definitely be part of the target demographic.

It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback on this one. However, current startups and personal brands should learn from this Snapchat debacle nonetheless.

What Snapchat Should Do

What startups need to know is what should Snapchat do now, after this temporary setback?

[Snapchat, if you’re listening: Do this immediately!]

Privately co-create an app feature with Kylie.

That’s it!

Pick her brain, nail the unaddressed pain, and offer an elegant solution.

There’s a reason why many people stopped using Snapchat — find out what it is!

Lately, it seems like Snapchat isn’t talking to enough of its users. Lots of people outright hate their newest update and it has been petitioned by 1.2 million users to change it. (Frankly, didn’t know you could do that. Viva, vox populi.)

I find it so interesting how companies will spend a lot of time and money beta testing their product with typical users. Maybe they should test their product with influential users too.

This isn’t anything new.

Build A Better Kitchen

Nike and countless other brands have been doing this for decades. On the Nike campus, the most protected space is the Mia Hamm building.

I had a guest I invited to one of my business classes one afternoon. He is a legend at Nike named Tinker Hatfield. He designed most of the Air Jordan shoes we know and love today.

Tinker told us that few people can get past the building’s foyer because everything created and tested there is top secret.

There’s even a special name for the space where all the magic happens: “The Innovation Kitchen”.

Watch Tinker Hatfield on Netflix’s “Abstract: The Art of Design”, S1 E2.

People who do have access to the kitchen are star athletes, physicians, engineers, and designers. Each has a special role in creating the next hottest shoes and sports apparel.

The kitchen itself is unique. There are rooms and test areas that can simulate any weather, terrain, or condition imaginable to test out new products. Athletes are hooked up to monitoring equipment and the data is projected onto dazzling displays to analyze.

It very much looks like a set-up for a sci-fi movie, but more performance-driven.

As Tinker told me: if products don’t pass the kitchen test, Nike doesn’t make them.

Set An Extra Place Setting

Now apps don’t need extreme testing as I just described. But what does the feature-vetting process look like? Is it designer and engineer-driven or consumer driven? How deep and comprehensive is that UX/UI study?

Something like Nike has done on a digital level would be interesting for an app like Snapchat. I think it could change the face of digital media and news aggregation even more.

The point is, the Kylie Jenner’s of the world need to be invited to the innovation conversation if they ever want their product to win. No one is saying they will dictate any product outcomes, but they are one of many important factors.

As we can see, not inviting influencers to a company’s kitchen table could cost billions.

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[This article originally appeared in Medium’s #1 periodical, The Startup–where 443,255 subscribers go to read leading stories on entrepreneurship.]

old airplane decomposing crashed

The #1 Reason Why Businesses Fail And How To Prevent It

Admit it. You’ve thought about it. You’ve thought about creating a multi-million dollar business.

The thought of being your own boss and raking in the money is intoxicating.

Maybe you even had a few good ideas of your own.

So how do you do it?

Just start.

Okay, maybe it’s not that easy.

Let me fill in the blanks.

I’ve been in the tech startup and online business space for over nine years. I failed my first startup too.

My biggest mistake was making elaborate plans, but rarely pulling the trigger.

Default To Taking Action

You can take courses, listen to podcasts, and read epic content on how to start a business. However, after you’ve done that for a week maximum, try something.

Try it and tweak it. Write down your findings.

Try something else, and tweak that. Use the scientific method. Don’t philosophize or copy-cat other online business people.

You’ll never know what works for you and your target market until you test it and retest it. This is an ongoing process full of micro-failures.

It takes thick skin to be an entrepreneur.

It takes deep focus.

It takes failing.

Delay Marketing

With building a business, sometimes you have to focus on the really boring stuff.

This brings me to the second biggest mistake I see with people who do business online: marketing.

Everyone wants to get to the fun stuff first and start marketing out of the gate.

Suddenly they need a logo and website. They need great copywriting and a clever sales funnel. Oh wait, now they need to take a course on email auto-responders or content marketing.

All of that is delaying the inevitable: Market Demand.

Listen To The Marketplace

Let me tell you something about the market, your future consumers. It doesn’t care about you, your website, your logo, your freebies, or your blog posts.

The market only cares about itself.

Provide value to the market that is in-demand, different, and lucrative. If you got that (which you find out through tests and research), then start thinking about marketing.

I said, “start thinking.”

Don’t actually do anything about it. Instead, try to sell more of what you’re testing out. Interview more target buyers and co-create something truly valuable. There are many things you can do besides marketing that matter more.

I know businesses that started with just a Facebook Page or a blog on Medium.

Put it this way.

If you came across some amazing wisdom about life that shook your soul to the core, would it matter if it was barely legible because it was written on an ancient wall of a cave?

Of course it wouldn’t. The platform can always be improved. It’s the value (i.e, wisdom in this case) that really matters.

That’s what marketing is to a startup. You’ve got plenty of ways to pretty it up later with whiz-bang marketing tools.

First, create real value. People won’t care that it’s not polished.

The #1 way people fail their business is that they start making things people don’t want.

However, there are so many other ways to fail your business even if you do have market validation.

What other business components do you have to nail?

Get The Big Picture With A Business Model

Because I’ve been a business adjunct for many years, I went through all the exciting and boring stuff about startups. I even contributed to a best-selling book on web platforms.

One of the things you’ll encounter in my space is people talking about business models. I’m not talking about 20+ page business plans (boring!). I’m talking about their replacement, the one-page business model (boring at times, but not near as exciting as marketing).

After studying dozens of master templates, I never found one that would satisfy my students and clients. They all had gaps.

It’s like a car.

You want the features of one car added to the features of another car. If you could only design your car yourself! (Maybe in the future that will be true and you can have it all.)

Over the years, I was in search for a business model that was complete. It just wasn’t there. (Some came very close like the models from the authors Ash Maurya and Dr. Nathan Furr.)

Of course, the model is just one of several components that make a business work. The right people (“team dna” as Sequoia Capital puts it), opportunity, and a dozen other things all need to line up. However, a working business model is a major component.

Study Failure Too

When starting a company, it’s easy to get inspired from the latest magazine articles, videos, or podcasts highlighting billion-dollar exits. If most businesses fail, then what you’re hearing about are the positive outliers.

But who wants to hear about the 80%+ of the companies that burned through all their money and left them penniless?

That’s just a downer.

In addition to learning about all the things that makes a company succeed, we also need to learn about the common ways companies fail — and do everything in our power to avoid those traps.

One of those traps is failing to create (and keep recreating) a good business model.

In my experience, people that ignore business models fail their companies in record time.

The problem is, it’s hard to find one that addresses all your needs.

So by experiencing this problem first-hand with countless clients, I created my own. It’s not as pretty as the others — it could easily be sketched on the inside of an ancient cave.

It’s the only one I know that addresses the essentials in the proper sequence, and accommodates the biggest reasons why businesses fail. (BTW, marketing is not why most fail! That’s barely in the top 10.)

[N.B., You will see that ironically, the need or lack of a business model is #7. However, my argument is that a great business plan would help you avoid most of the reasons why businesses fail.]

It blew my mind how some business models (also known as business model canvases) were making people fulfill components that didn’t even matter in the early stages of business.

I know that this is a minority opinion about the famous Business Model Canvas enterprise. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very smart and I’m incredibly grateful for the movement it started.

However, year after year countless students and clients fail to make the pieces work. It’s more than a people problem.

Part of this failure is in the selection of the business components.

Most canvases have you think about Key Partners for your business. In reality, without business validation most partners would laugh you out of their office.

Also, where is the lead generation or marketing component? Is that clearly depicted in all these popular business model canvases? My students were stumped too. Just try and find it in the image below.

The Business Modal Canvas | Creative Commons

[Note: Maybe you pointed out Channels, but it looks like that signifies a Distribution Channel, not necessarily a marketing platform. Isn’t marketing and lead generation important? Maybe you said Customer Relationships. Okay, that’s better but that sounds a lot like Customer Service. Key Activities? Still pretty vague for a big business component. What is that figure doing anyway? Burying the word “marketing”?]

Avoid Pivot Fatigue

In my startup labs, workshops, and courses I stumbled upon a common mistake.

People are obsessed with pivoting their business.

That is, if they’re not making big changes to the business model — a pivot — they are not improving.

A pivot, like focusing on women instead of men with their products, is significant. Data and tests will tell you if that’s the right pivot.

However, as Tim Ferriss has said in his talk with the legendary venture capitalist Marc Andreesen, just because you’re not pivoting doesn’t mean you’re not learning. Sometimes you just have to wait things out instead of giving up so easily. Sometimes you have to tweak the secondary elements and not the primary element.

I’ve seen people pivot their way out of a decent business concept, only to see someone else succeed at creating the same business later.

With business models, there are only three options:

  1. Pivot — big changes
  2. Iteration — small changes
  3. Quitting — stop and do something else

There is no shame in quitting to execute on a better idea. That’s just optimal time management and resource allocation in my book.

And in regard to pivoting, the market will tell you when that’s necessary. It rarely needs to be forced. Some lucky companies only pivot once!

Get The Sequence Right

Sequence is also very important. You must start with the critical components. If you don’t nail those items, nothing else will matter. There’s no need to waste time with the other components.

Zig-zagging your way through the BMC and thinking about money last. [?!] See failure reason #2 and #5.

While value creation is an important first step, the market is more important. You’re creating value for people, a market.

The question is, who do you want to serve and what do they need?

I’m a big fan of the Start With Who tribe (which is pretty much just me and my assistants).

My Start With Why (Simon Sinek) comes much later because it’s a lot like passion. Sometimes it all comes to me after I’ve realized I could genuinely solve a problem for people.

As MIT’s Cal Newport and Stanford’s Tina Seelig imply, passion is romanticized in business. It’s made out to be the single biggest factor in your success.

It’s not.

Why do you do what you do? Because you’re passionate about XYZ, right?

Does the market care about that?

Unapologetically, no.

The science clearly shows that in business the market matters more than we’d like to admit. Take another look at that graph on why businesses fail. Passion is way down the list, #14 in this study.

My why is so broad in the early phase of business creation — and almost always generically altruistic — it’s not really helpful. Most people like me want to create something meaningful. I know why I get up in the morning!

Your real first job is to find out what pains your target market is having that are not filled by anyone else.

That’s step number one.

Begin with observing an industry or market you want to address. That way you get a head start on the founder/business fit problem.

In fact, you don’t even need a business idea (and often your ideas are not what the market even needs).

Remember my advice about the market? That’s where you start since it’s the #1 reason why businesses fail.

Don’t make what you want unless it coincides with what the market is screaming for you to make. Again, the market only cares about itself.

So here you go, all the right questions (IMHO) in the right sequence. Below is my BMW — Business Model Worksheet.

BMW-colored-Image

There is a whole class, massive training, lots of research, and tons of business hypothesis testing to be done. This model is not The Answer or The Solution for business.

Like the revolutionary Business Model Canvas, there’s definitely room for improvement.

This is just a start.

It’s one of several pieces you need to get right to create a lucrative business. But so far, it has worked for thousands of my students and clients.

Use it.

Pull the trigger.

Godspeed.

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[This article originally appeared in Medium’s #1 periodical, The Startup–where 343,255 subscribers go to read leading stories on entrepreneurship.]

Excited bearded man in plaid shirt looking at money banknotes

I Took A Couple Years Off Of Work To Swing Trade. Here’s What Happened.

This is what I thought it would feel like swing trading:

 

This is what it often really felt like:

 

[A Quick Note: I am not a licensed broker or investor. This is not advice. Stock investing is a risk: you can lose your money. Please consult a licensed stock advisor before investing.]

Is it possible to make a living swing trading?

Yes, you can. The question to add is What is a good living in your book?

If your answer is $1,500-$6,000 a month part-time, then yes. It’s possible. However, it’s all dependent on a few major requirements:

  • You have capital to work with. Ideally, you should open a broker account with at least $50,000 — $150,000 in my opinion [1]. You have to buy a lot of shares to make any real money. Losing some of this initial capital is the price of learning, so keep that in mind!
  • You have patience to learn the craft. Learning the technical side of trading can take ten weeks or ten years. It all depends on your aptitude, attitude, and discipline to master the skills.
  • You have to be level-headed: that is, you’re not easily swayed by emotion. Technical trading is about spotting patterns and taking action. You can’t be influenced by the news or make emotional buys/sells. And, you must be able to mentally handle inevitable losing streaks and financial losses.
  • You have the access to technology. Many stock screeners are free, but some advanced ones you pay for really make a difference. All you need is a computer, software, and the internet to do this work.

There are a few more things you’ll need in your investment quiver, but these are the basics. Below is my experience with trading.

Context

I got into stock trading because I took a year off from teaching college and high school business courses. It was like early retirement for me. I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted. I didn’t know if I was ever going back to education. Being frugal, I still wanted to dabble with money-making opportunities at my disposal.

Swing trading was one option, so I tried it.

As a business teacher, I already knew a lot about trading and personal finance. But that didn’t matter much because you could teach a ten-year old how to trade.

It was really the technical aspects that I had to learn. (In trading analysis, there is the fundamental side and the technical side. View this 2m video of you are not familiar with the difference.) I took a short course on charting, read a couple swing trading books, and then I was off to the races.

I predominantly did swing trading, not day trading. I’ve done some day trading (buy and sell in a day). However, my biggest wins have been from swing trading. I’d buy and sell a stock after holding on to it for a few days or weeks.

I got scared a few times and a little fundamentalist theory influenced my buying. In the beginning, part of my criteria was that I’d buy “long swing” (I don’t know if this is a term) stocks that were severely undervalued from a fundamentalist’s point of view. That way if I was wrong about the stock, I could hang on to it for a few months and at least break even.

This was a terrible strategy. Technical traders should never look at the longer term horizon. In fact, the company could go bankrupt in the few months and it wouldn’t matter. As long as you time your entry and exit points correctly, you’ll make money.

This was an aspect I didn’t like about technical analysis, but enjoyed about fundamental analysis. With fundamental companies, I could talk about them to other people and (maybe) predict their future growth. It was exciting to read about these companies in the news and keep up with their innovations.

With technical trading, all the knowledge you learn about a company was meaningless outside of swing trading. Patterns come and go, like companies come and go. I felt like I was filling my head with random data that wouldn’t matter a few days later.

Early Swing Trading Efforts

At first, I did extremely well. It was late 2014 and the market was robust. As mentioned, I traded a lot of obscure stocks. I also traded a few popular stocks and made thousands on them. They include NFLX (Netflix), AMZN (Amazon), ATVI, (Activision Blizzard), and MU (Micron Technology).

I mainly worked with technology and pharmaceutical stocks. Having a narrow industry focus was a crucial lesson I learned early on.

I made a mistake of listening to the Motley Fool guys (I had a one-year subscription to their basic stock advisory service). My mistake: they are not short-hold swing traders. They are interested in growth stocks you hang on to for months or years. They suggested you buy at least 10 stocks, possibly 20.

For any new trader, I wouldn’t buy more than five different stocks at a time. In fact, three is just fine unless you have lots of time and money to work with. The reason is that you’re trying to know these stocks inside and out. It’s hard to process the reams of data on just one company. Now think about doing that with several stocks (long or short-term).

Swing traders are looking for a pattern, but a lot of criteria is put into the mix. We can talk about trade volume, standard patterns (like “cup and handle”), and stock price — but that’s for another time. Basically, you have to decide which of these patterns make the most sense for the company at hand, plus the patterns of your previous wins.

Trading is like playing a game of chess with a giant countdown timer right in front of you the whole time. It can be very stressful as you process data and make your move in real-time.

The goal is to get into a trade at the right time (at the very start of its up-trending) and get out at the right time (at the very start of its down-trending). Your profit is the difference.

So if I came in at $100 and exited at $105, I would net $5. Now multiply that by the amount of shares you bought. Say it was 100 shares — you just walked with $500. (If I exited at $95, I would lose $500!) A kid could do this.

There is a broad continuum of where the trade lands and you get better at timing as you gain experience.

If you “short sell” a company, it’s basically the same strategy in theory. Short selling is like betting against a company: you predict their stock will decline and when they do, you recoup the difference. Short-selling and options were too technical and risky for me, so I usually steered clear of those kinds of trades. As I mentioned, I’m not a pro at trading by any means.

Good Data, Not More Data

What I learned quickly is that it’s not the amount of data you collect on a company or trade. What matters is the quality of data. You can spend days or hours just on one trade, but it makes better sense to act on a solid trading strategy augmented by high-quality data.

I lost a lot of money because I was comparing dozens of patterns for one stock in one time period. It made my head explode. Eventually, I came to my senses and focused on just a few patterns and a few companies. I set up watch lists and alert systems. I even had my trading day all planned out.

In the end, I only traded 2–4 hours a day maximum. I did this just a few days a week. I think I did alright for myself considering I was working on so many other things in my life (micro-businesses, hobbies, travel, writing, etc). In total, I traded about 15 hours a week.

I was thinking about substitute teaching at a local college or high school, but the simple math stopped me. Subs make $155-$180 a day. I was making that and more before 11 am. Ultimately, when I got consistent at this subbing just seemed like a waste of time. Some days I made more in three days than a full-time teacher would make in a whole month!

Bad Trading Moments

I’ll never forget late August 2015. I lost over ten thousand dollars in a single day and it was unnerving. The whole financial world felt the shockwaves of this day as a massive sell-off commenced. But in a few months, things bounced back. I recouped most of the money.

Another time I’ll never forget is when VRX (Valeant Pharmaceuticals) dropped 40% in one day. It’s been puttering along ever since. I was slow to liquidate the stock I bought at $250 and that’s now worth $13 today. I lost thousands and it was painful to see the drama all around this unfold. It was like watching a home burn down. They are going to rebuild it, but it will never be the same or as great as it was. (Note to self: set a Stop Loss trigger price.)

 

Just recently, I was watching a diabetes medical device. This one was made in my home town and it had lots of promise (DXCM, DexCom). I bought DXCM stock right before it got FDA approval. I felt great about the buy. Then a day later Abbott Laboratories releases a similar glucose-monitoring product and DXCM tanked. And that’s part of swing trading. You can’t know everything and you’re destined to lose trades.

Less Trading

A few years into swing trading, and I can say I learned a lot. I’ve made more than I’ve lost. I’m up about 16% ROI year to date. I’ve had way better years, but that’s decent.

You can look at my 16% ROI and think, wow that’s great. But it’s not that great really. There are dozens of non-swing trade systems that completely blew my results away. Many are incredibly passive (that is, low maintenance).

Also, my ROI percentage for one year doesn’t make as much sense as my average weekly income. It was a goal to average at least $300 a day trading 3 days of the week. If I was on target, that became a decent monthly income you could live on in most places. I look at it more like that.

More importantly, I now have an odd skill set that produces results, most the time. In fact, I recently bought two Apple laptops and paid cash from two short trades I made. I hate debt and credit cards, so it was empowering to do this.

Was It All Luck Or Skill?

Deep down I think that even though I spent hundreds of hours learning to swing trade, my success was partly due to two things beyond me:

  • The bull market cycle.
  • Beginner’s luck.

I got into trading during an economic cycle that has been one of the longest bull markets in history. (BTW, it’s likely to end soon.) Granted you can make money swing trading in any kind of market, the bull was on my side for sure.

As far as beginner’s luck, I had it. I placed small investments and kept adding to what worked. Some trades would only be $1,000 worth of shares. I was experimenting with scientifically-informed decisions.

Sometimes I got lucky when I double-downed on a stock, and I can’t always say it was because I knew what I was doing. I think a lot of confirmation bias comes with winning trades.

I’ve always been a fundamentalist at heart. I’ve idolized Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger in the past. I see their trading style as 70% Value Investing and 30% Growth Investing (though that ratio is highly debatable). These billionaire investors are in it for the long hall, decades even. There is something to be said about their phenomenal success.

Then there is the analysis from one of the most celebrated investment books of all time: A Random Walk Down Wall StreetIn it, the economist Burton Malkiel talks about scientifically testing the efficacy of technical trading:

Put another way, if I never did any swing trading and invested all my money into a handful of diverse Vanguard or Dimensional funds, I would have gotten 8%-14% ROI from sitting on my butt!
No learning, no headaches, no problem.

 

Plus, you have to factor in all the mental anguish some trades has caused me. I had many sleepless nights. This wasn’t because of the massive eye strain staring at screens did to me (though I did wear special eye glasses for this). Losing trades really took a toll on me. Sometimes I couldn’t be level-headed. I didn’t want to jump off a ledge, but there is a lot of anxiety that comes with swing and day trading. The financial crisis of 2008 caused 5,000 suicides. Many of those people were traders.

These days, I trade less to keep my sanity. Trading doesn’t improve the world much or add value to something great: it only adds to your bottom line.

Life is more than padding your wallet.

If your personal life is starting to look like a crazy candle-stick stock chart that swings from one end to the other, what kind of life have you created? It’s just not worth it in the end.

ABC: Always Be Capitalizing

I believe what Robert Kiyosaki believes. You should always be investing, whether you’re an employee or a business owner. However, you have to invest the way that makes sense to you. It doesn’t have to be the center of your world or cause you massive mood swings.

If you have the capital and you’re interested in picking your own stocks, you could start with only investing 5%–10% of your funds. With the rest, have it professionally managed by people with Ph.D’s in economics and advanced degrees in asset management.

Teams of people who do this for a living with decades of experience are smarter than just you at this game. Let them worry about the details. Have them set up an ideal portfolio for your situation. You’ll sleep fine at night.

So what should you do with your time instead of mastering swing trading?

Find what you really want to do with your life that adds value to the world, and get to work!


[This article was originally featured in The Ascent, a top publication in Medium.]

NOTES

  • Investment Ideas — I got some good info and stock ideas from what they were doing at TraderHR.
  • Broker Accounts — I recommend MerrillEdge or Schwab’s High-Yield Investor Checking account. BofA’s MerrillEdge will give you lots of free trades (no fees) if you open an account with over $50,000. You can start a Schwab account for as little as $1,000. It conveniently connects a broker account to a checking and savings account. Plus, all ATM banking fees are reimbursed.
  • Schwab Advice — The quarterly print magazine Schwab mails to you is worth its weight in gold. I’d seriously pay for it, but it’s free with your account. It has great articles for long-term investors of every stripe. Contact me directly if you want a referral to a great advisor I trust.