Value #2- Business and Digital Disruption: Communication, Much Like Investing, Should Be Direct

I had a peer in the early part of the last decade whose idea of selling life insurance was to hold a Bic lighter up, sparking it, and then looking at the flame say, “this is your life.”  Promptly extinguishing it he would add “and then you die.”  As blunt as that little ‘show and tell’ was, I was never sure what point he was trying to make.

I’m sure you’ve had experiences of what I have always called ‘smoke and mirrors’, where frustratingly you’ve been brought through a process, all the while waiting for the sales pitch and a presumptive close.  I’m not talking about sitting through a couple of hours trapped in a time share seminar, desperate to leave only to be confronted by the toughs guarding the door.  As often as not, those ‘toughs’ are our own value system and respect for the time and effort of the person pitching us.

I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into the tiny offices of the back of a bank branch, to sit down with the manager, only to have him or her ‘hmm’ing and um’ing” staring at their computer screens, clicking the keys, repeating the same sub-verbal noises.  Don’t you just want to reach over and rip the screens around so you can see what personal financial pornographic images he or she are staring at?

Instead, I sit there growing increasingly irritated to the point where their behavior has so masked communication I don’t hear much.

I suppose that given my years of experience in my industry coupled with snow white beard and head of hair in a ponytail I have a little more leeway than younger professionals.   You can ask my peers, who seemingly wait during and after a corporate presentation for me to say something blunt or outrageous.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m always prepared and pursue a genuine line of questioning because I’m interested.  At the same time, if I remain silent it sends a stronger message to those that know me.

If you look at what appeared to be a frothy real estate market in Toronto earlier this year, or the trials and tribulations of Home Capital Group (HCG), Warren Buffet’s rescue of HCG, or the recent run up in block chain currencies, I am blunt if I’m asked.  But I don’t elaborate my response because I am a fundamental investor and every one of those is at best highly speculative.  I’ve worked through the Asian Currency Crisis of ’98, the dot com bubble burst of ’00, corporate malfeasance of ’03 and the biggest of all, the financial crisis of ’08, and been burned on the more speculative aspects of the market.  That is not the market I choose to be in.

Blunt talk means nothing.  Direct communication on the other hand is formulated around issues of audience interest and suitability.  I don’t like communication that panders to the seven deadly sins.  And I don’t like communication where a seller is trying to hide their motive behind ritual and stealth.

The digital marketplace is fascinating in that rather than dealing with people in close geographic proximity the whole of the market is open.  And as focused as I want to be, I can let my message narrowcast into a market that is sufficiently large, albeit specialized, that I can make a good living in it.

And I can be direct and honest in my writing.

If ideas are my currency, plain and direct communication is my mode.

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This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of IAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about IAS, please consult the official website at David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.