FIAF Webinar: The Future of Luxury in the US

Event Overview

  • Title: Breakfast with Anish Melwani, Chairman & CEO of LVMH Inc (North America), In Conversation with Author Erwan Rambourg
  • Date: Wednesday, November 3, 2021
  • Description: In a thought-provoking conversation with author Erwan Rambourg (Future Luxe: What’s Ahead for the Business of Luxury, 2020), Anish Melwani will discuss the ever-increasing demand for iconic luxury goods in the United States.

Speakers:

FIAF biography overview for Anish Melwani, Chairmain and CEO of LVMH for North America, and Erwan Rambourg, the author of Future Luxe: What’s Ahead for the Business of Luxury (2020).

Discussion

In the early part of the talk, Melwani talked about his own background. Prior to his role at LVMH, he admitted he had not worked in luxury/prestige previously.

On creativity: He talked about his first meeting with Marc Jacobs (the actual person), and being blown away by the creativity he witnessed. He said compared to his previous experience at McKinsey, the creativity at LVMH was off the charts.

On the state of Luxury in North America: More customers are now shopping from home, leading to more access to shopping in smaller markets.

On the organization of LVMH: LVMH is decentralized, focused on Maisons (houses). That’s what makes it work — or it works despite these “inefficiencies”.

Creativity and competition at LVMH: Each Maison competes with each other to drive innovation and creativity. That’s what compensates for “inefficiencies”. From a conglomerate perspective, it would make more sense to consolidate the Maisons. But from a creative perspective, it doesn’t.

Was anything missing from LVMH? The interviewer or someone in the crowd asked if LVMH was missing anything. I don’t recall how this question ended in an answer on cosmetics or skincare, but I learned that LVMH owns Fenty skincare and Fresh. He talked about the wines and spirits division (perhaps in the context of recent acquisitions). And he mentioned that LVMH had acquired hotels and other properties via Belmond.

Fenty: A few points

  • Prior to this event, I did not know Fenty was part of LVMH.
  • He mentioned the fact that Fenty debuted with 40 shades of foundation, which was completely unheard of at the time due to being inefficient from a sales perspective because some shades sell out more than others. However, although this is the case, the point, he said, was to show the customer that they were seen (emphasis mine).
  • He also shared a comment from one of Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty shows — something about how customers can really see themselves on the stage/
  • The visibility, he said, is what leads to the idea of prestige. (Or something like that.)
  • Fenty came out of Kendo, an incubator in LA, specific to Sephora.
  • Fenty does well in the US, which is more diverse compared to Europe.

Personal side note regarding Fenty: Although they may have released 40 shades, and many of those shades don’t sell as well as others, I have had much difficulty finding foundation shades in my skin color — for years. Colors are either too red/orange, too dark, too light…if they exist at all. They recently released a new product, Eaze Drop, a blurring skin tint. It’s extremely popular. My shade, #10, has been out of stock for MONTHS. It seems to me there is some business sense in creating these in-between shades.


Tech Stuff: NFTs and Blockchain

In response to a question about NFTs, he mentioned they have joined the Aura Blockchain Consortium, which is a blockchain for luxury brands.

As he correctly mentioned, an NFT is an address on a blockchain.


Events & Experiences

There is a high-demand for events, and demand for experiences is increasing. But what he’s not sure of is if there will be larger events in big cities, or many smaller events.

Using digital can help spread the experience around, which is kind of the traditional model. But he’s not sure what the model will be in the future, given technical advances and demand, etc.


My Questions

As I was watching online, I wasn’t able to ask questions directly. The online viewers weren’t encouraged to add questions to the Zoom Q&A. But if I had been given the opportunity to ask questions, I would’ve asked this:

  • Leather/Fur: Seems like attitudes are changing about fur and meat, of which leather is a by-product. Any thoughts about that?
  • 2nd-Hand Market: I didn’t have a specific question, but I was generally curious about the 2nd-hand market.

Final Thoughts

This was a really well-done, live online event. I didn’t get screenshots, but below each presenter were names and titles to describe what they did. It was really professional.

The only downside was sometimes when audience members would stand and ask questions, they sometimes begin speaking before getting the microphone. This happens at almost every event, with audience goers believing that since the people presenting and those around can hear them, the microphone picking up the event can also hear them. It cannot. Thankfully, FIAF corrected this very quickly right after one person began speaking.

I hope they produce more webinars like this again. Part of why I could not attend is because it was at 8:30AM, which is too inconvenient for me to go to and return home in time for work. Also, 8:30AM is pretty early. 🙂

Anyway, it was informative, produced very well, and very worthy of my time. I hope they do more morning series like these.

Creating Value through Access: Franchising Exercise via edX

A report I created for an edX course, from July 2021. The exercise was an analysis on the pros and cons of a potential franchise opportunity.

For the course Introduction to Marketing, from the University of Edinburgh, from which I received a verified certificate in July 2021, I analyzed the potential benefits of a franchise as part of an assignment in Week 6: Delivering value and reaping the rewards.

I wrote this post in July to document my assignment.

Verified certificate from Intro to Marketing, from the University of Edinburgh.

Instructions

The aim of the report is to make recommendations on whether or not to enter a franchising agreement with the selected firm.

Your report should be structured as follows:

  • Executive summary – Introduce the report aim as well as summary of your research.
  • Advantages of franchise – List benefits deriving from franchising agreements.
  • Disadvantages of franchise – Identify challenges related to franchise.
  • Recommendations – Make recommendation whether it is beneficial to enter franchising agreement or not.

The instructions also specified the report should be 1 page. I went over the limit by writing 2 pages, which I don’t necessarily think is a good thing. Succinct writing has its place. Perhaps I should’ve spent more time editing. On the other hand, I did find enough interesting information to fill 2 pages. So, here is my report.


Executive Summary

This short report evaluates and recommends whether beginning a franchise opportunity with Century 21, a real estate franchisor, is a beneficial investment.

In summary, only the most experienced, well-researched, and well-funded potential franchisees should consider a franchise agreement; only those already working in real estate with a successful business of their own should consider, as the risk and costs can be quite high.

Introduction

From their website, Century 21 (C21) claims to enhance your existing “entrepreneurial spirit” with: 

  • Global Exposure
  • Comprehensive Training
  • In-Market Support
  • #bestinclass Marketing
  • The Scale and Buying Power of a Global Partner

Here is an examination of a few of these enhancements:

Advantages

  • Comprehensive Training: C21 offers their 3-4 day “International Leadership Academy (ILA) Program”, at or near their HQ in New Jersey, USA, or another location of their choice. C21 will continue to offer continuing training opportunities in the form of written materials, email, consultation, or other means. They may also hold networking events or other educational opportunities.
  • Global Exposure: The C21 website says they operate in 80 countries and territories.
  • #bestinclass Marketing: This appears to refer to the use of C21 branding materials as well as working with their real estate -focused, marketing affiliates, such as advertising placements on real estate websites (“Homes.com”, “realtor.com”, etc). They also have a customer relationship management system and access to a PR studio. Here is what Century 21 says about their new brand identity: With a refreshed color palate that stays true to our iconic gold and black scheme, the new identity is more modern and distinctive than ever.
  • Additional Advantage: Competition. C21 will not grant another franchise location within a ¼ mile radius (402 meters) of another office.

Disadvantages

  • Comprehensive Training: Training may not be free and could cost up to $2,200; additional training costs depend on the course and duration. Training must also be completed within 24 months of signing the franchise agreement. In addition, there are many sources of training related to real estate — Is the training offered by C21 high-quality or independently recognized? 
  • Global Exposure: It’s really up to the franchisee to open an office in these locations. Each franchise operator will need pay attention to local real estate laws — regulations and laws can very widely across countries, territories, states, cities, and other jurisdictions. 
  • #bestinclass Marketing: It’s not clear if access to marketing resources would be free of charge to any franchisee. Initial investment fees can be quite high for external signs ($800-$20,000), yard/open house signs ($2,000-$20,000), computer equipment and electronic data system ($5,000-$10,000), and other advertising ($0-$10,000). Ongoing use of the CRM is tentatively included, however their Lead Management System and other computer support could cost up to $5,000/year and $1,000-$2,000/year, respectively. 
  • Costs: There are relatively high costs and requirements involved in the franchise agreement, such as maintenance, royalties (6%), the requirement of a guaranty by the franchisee and their spouse (even if the spouse is not involved), and other fees. The franchisor is not obligated to provide financing for the franchisee, though they may choose to do so. Initial estimated fees to start an office could range between $106,000-$456,750. A franchisee may also consider the services of an attorney and/or an accountant, and may want to look into insurance, and related to remain in compliance with real estate laws and taxes. It’s not clear if these costs are standard or unusual compared to other real estate franchisors.

Neither advantage nor disadvantage

  • Licenses and Regulation: Real estate is a highly regulated industry. If a franchise owner is not a licensed broker, they must retain a “responsible broker” who must comply with all applicable laws and regulations. The broker will need to go through their own training to obtain their license.
  • Terms: Each franchise is offered an initial term of 10 years. There are no renewal rights, though they may extend under different terms.

Recommendation

Depending on the location, it may be worthwhile to go into a franchise agreement. Some real estate markets could offer high enough returns to offset the costs related to fees, royalties, maintenance and upfront costs. For others, there may not be enough demand, or the demand for homes may not be consistent enough to justify costs. It would be up to the franchisee to do their own research to understand the potential and return of their desired market before getting into a franchise agreement with C21. In addition, the owner should have some knowledge of the rules and laws for their geographic location, to remain in compliance with the law. 

[Choosing to franchise] is an option only for the most experienced, well-funded, and well-researched franchisee, probably already involved in the real estate market and potentially already a licensed broker of many years. Others should get more experience in real estate, in their area, before entertaining a franchise option.

Sources: 

https://www.century21.com/about-us/franchise

https://www.franchisedirect.com/realestatefranchises/century-21-franchise-09094/ufoc/


So, there you have it! The findings are that franchising can be a good idea if you’re already experienced, know your market, and have the money to invest (or lose). But for new brokers, it not might be worth the investment until they’ve gained more experience.


Thoughts about the exercise

This was an interesting exercise. I liked the structure and the positives and negatives. It wasn’t as difficult as I might have thought to learn more about this franchise option. And in the end, making a recommendation was easier than I thought; the answer seemed obvious.

A few thoughts on the course

[Nov 2021] At the time I originally wrote this post, I’m not sure I was planning to pay for the certificate. It wasn’t my first marketing course. I decided to pay for the course because the lessons I learned kept popping into my head — particularly the importance of innovation and staying differentiated from competitors. I decided to get the certificate because I felt the lessons of the course were valuable enough to justify the purchase.

Netflix, SWOT, Best Practices

For my final Capstone project in a specialization course on Coursera, I completed a SWOT analysis. The full assignment was to select a business or organization and conduct a SWOT analysis. Specifically, we were to choose one item identified in the weakness or threats analysis and propose a solution. The final project was to create a 10-15 minute presentation, with the idea that it would be presented to executives at the company. For my SWOT analysis, I decided to analyze Netflix.

Why I Chose Netflix

Netflix is one of the most valuable US tech companies right now. In addition to that, I have been aware of their Culture memo, first published in 2009, which emphasizes a “treat employees like adults” approach to management, including as a “keeper test” approach to retention. I really wanted to dig deeper into this. My theory was that although Netflix’s (stock) seems to flourish with this approach, my intuitive sense was that there was more to it than that.

In addition, I’ve recently come across a few articles about Netflix in the news such as one about a Netflix-turned-Twitter exec who clashed with the culture at his new workplace. This one seems to be about trying to take what works for a culture at one company and injecting it directly into another.

I was also once a Netflix DVD + streaming customer, from about 2006 to 2012. I completely quit Netflix in 2017. And Netflix has become the “N” in the list of FAANG workplaces tech workers supposedly aspire to join. Having had these experiences with the company, I was happy to find an opportunity to evaluate their business in a structured way.

I intended to include my full report here. Unfortunately, I felt there were a number of students plagiarizing other students’ work, writing suboptimal reports, or having an essay writer complete their project. For that reason, I won’t include my full report to avoid that fate. But I will include snippets from my main submissions.

The Assignment

The entire assignment was meant to be put together in six weeks, include the SWOT matrix, report, and presentation. The audience for each section was meant to be executives from the company, so everything should be written as though it were going to be presented to C-Suite executives.

An overview of the 3-part assignment is below. Following that, I have included snippets from each section.

Part 1: SWOT Matrix

A 1-page visual presentation of the SWOT analysis. (We could use a template supplied by the course, as well as our own software or tools, which is what I did.)

Part 2: Report

The report should be 7-10 pages, “(double-spaced with 12 point font and 1 inch margins)”. The report should consist of four distinct sections:

  1. Introduction: Introduction and content setup.
  2. Description: SWOT analysis. Visual should be included.
  3. Discussion: Select one problem identified in the SWOT analysis and propose a solution.
  4. Conclusions and Recommendations: Recap key findings and proposed recommendations.

Part 3: Presentation

“Create a 15-20- minute presentation to senior management…to enhance and reinforce your audience’s understanding of the most important points in your written report.”


Part 1, The Report: Weakness Identified and Proposal

The full requirements were to write a 7-10 page, double-spaced report about your chosen company. My analysis revealed that in contrast with their competitors, they only have one income stream. I proposed offering online courses that represent their values as a way to seek secondary income.

Identified Weakness: Only one type of income stream or business offering
Proposal: Offer Online Courses that Represent their Values

Part 2, SWOT Matrix: Weaknesses

Based on my research, I identified the following weaknesses:

Netflix SWOT Matrix: Weaknesses

Part 3, Proposal Presentation

My proposal was related to internal training. I’m only including a few slides from my presentation, which I created in Google Slides using a presentation template I’ve used in the past.

Table of contents for presentation
From the proposal section.
Recommended steps, from the conclusion.

Project Outcome

Well, I really do wish I could share my final SWOT matrix, report, and presentation. I worked hard on it and I’m really happy with how it turned out.

But, as I mentioned, due to rampant plagiarism, I don’t feel comfortable putting up any work. I suspect there will be people using my work anyway.

In any case, my reviewers gave me full marks on my final submission. The rubric includes points for:

  • Integrates and incorporates many practices, concepts, methods and techniques found in Career Success Specialization coursework.
  • Reflects extensive use of company research to provide considerable insight into the organization.
  • Demonstrates a thorough understanding of how SWOT analysis works.
  • The target problem chosen is well-defined and clearly stated.
  • Demonstrates considerable ability in applying a logical approach to finding a creative solution.
  • Information and ideas presented are consistently and critically analyzed, synthesized and well-supported.
  • The report is well-written, with exemplary use of logic, organization, flow, style, and mechanics to conform to good business English formats and practices.
  • The presentation slides reflect effective use of content, structure, textual and visual graphics to convey the intended message.

I got 3 points for each rubric item. 3 is the maximum.


One person left this feedback, “This was by far the best project I have graded. Well done!” So that’s nice.

Although I kind of wish I’d selected a different font for the report, I think the best way to conclude this is to say, Yay for me! 🙂

Self-Regulation and Cognitive Distortions

I recently completed a class on Emotional and Social Intelligence, also known as ESI. One part of the course was about self-regulation (or self-management), one of four competencies in emotional and social intelligence.

Self-regulation includes self-control and adaptability. It builds on self-awareness — we have to recognize our emotions in order to regulate them. One way we can use self-regulation is to recognize and think about our feelings to avoid becoming a victim of emotional hijacking.

A thought pattern of emotional hijacking is called Cognitive Distortion. Cognitive distortions are ways our mind convinces us of things that aren’t true. This way of thinking can reinforce negative thinking and emotions, keep us feeling bad about ourselves, and interfere with our ability to self-regulate.

I wanted to share this post about cognitive distortions because I recognized some of this type of thinking in myself. By sharing, maybe others will recognize this type of thinking, too, and learn how to address it before it gets out of hand.

In this post, I’ll provide a few examples of cognitive distortion, plus a few humorous examples from pop culture. I’ll then share 6 strategies for self-regulation and a few resources to find more information.


Examples of Cognitive Distortion

A few examples of cognitive distortion provided by the class include:

  • Polarized Thinking
  • Overgeneralization
  • Labeling
  • Jumping to Conclusions
  • Personalization and Blame
  • Magnification and Minimization

Polarized Thinking

Seeing only in black and white.

An example of cognitive distortion includes polarized thinking. That is, instead of seeing variation, this line of thinking excludes all possible outcomes to only black or white options: success or failure, win or lose, friend or foe, etc. But there’s often more nuance than those two extremes.

Overgeneralization

Something is everything.

Another example of cognitive distortion is overgeneralization. In this case, it means taking the negative outcome of one event or experience and concluding all similar experiences or events will result in the same outcome. Or concluding that the one bad outcome was due to an inherent character flaw. Ex: Going on one bad date means you’re terrible at relationships.

Labeling

You are not a clumsy fool.

In this example, you identify with your shortcomings. This is the same as tripping on a broken sidewalk and instead of saying, “The city should fix this sidewalk. It’s dangerous,” you say, “Oh, of course I tripped. I’m clumsy!”

Jumping to Conclusions

You are not a psychic.

There are two examples of this. One is called mind reading. This is assuming other people are reacting negatively to you, even though there’s no evidence for it. Ex: The security guard at work didn’t say hello this morning, so you assume it’s because they don’t like you anymore. It could be because they were distracted or having a bad day.

The other example of jumping to conclusions is fortune telling, which is predicting things will turn out badly, also without evidence. Ex: You decide not to apply to a job in which you’re objectively qualified because you tell yourself you won’t get it anyway.

Personalization and Blame

Who really done it?

In the case of personalization, you may blame yourself for an outcome that you weren’t entirely responsible for. For instance, you’re on a creative team for a big client. Unexpectedly, the client decides to cancel all accounts and withdraw from the agency entirely. While there are multiple people working on this client’s account, you put all the blame on yourself for their decision.

Blame is when you overlook how your own behavior could have contributed to an outcome. For instance, perhaps the security guard from above didn’t say hello to you this morning because you never say hello back, and today was the day they just stopped trying.

Magnification and Minimization

Live in a van down by the river! or Tis but a scratch!

In magnification, this is an example of taking a single bad outcome and blowing it way out of proportion. Ex: You went on a date that went poorly, so this means that for the rest of your life you’ll never find someone to settle down with…which means you’ll die alone and no one will come to your funeral. Or you didn’t get a perfect score on the SAT, which means you’ll never get into Harvard, which means you’ll have to go to community college…which of course you’ll fail out of and then end up homeless on the street.

Minimization is taking something that should rightly be of concern and shrinking it’s importance. Ex: You have pains in your stomach, but tell yourself it will go away on its own. A child in 3rd grade is still reading at a 1st grade level, but it’s overlooked instead of trying correct it or understand why this is the case. There’s find incontrovertible evidence a spouse is having an affair, but it’s dismissed. You discover financial fraud at work, but say it’s no big deal.

If you want to read a few more examples, there are links at the end. But first, here are a few examples from pop culture.


Pop Culture Examples of Magnification and Minimization

I guess this type of distortion can seem so wildly ridiculous it can seem hilarious to others, and we can find examples in pop culture. It is funny, but it also shows that it’s not uncommon. It happens so often, to so many people, and going back so many centuries…we can all be in on the joke. (So if you find yourself identifying with one of these examples, remember to not identify with your shortcomings: you’re not a magnification-ist!)

A few examples of magnification and minimalization are from Saturday Night Live, Monty Python, and Shakespeare.

Example 1: The Saturday Night Live skit, Van Down By The River, is a funny take on magnification. A motivational speaker is brought in to talk to the teenagers about drugs and their future, but he blows everything out of proportion and says that if they keep making bad choices they’ll live in a van down by the river — just like he does.

Example 2: Monty Python and The Holy Grail has a hilarious take on minimization in the Black Knight scene. Arthur reaches a “bridge”, which is defended by a knight dressed in black. He’s offered a position at court, but the knight doesn’t accept and refuses to let Arthur pass. A battle begins, with Arthur eventually cutting off one of the knight’s arms. Instead of conceding the battle the knight says, “Tis a scratch!” and continues fighting. Despite further devastating injuries, the knight remains obstinately defiant, saying things like, “I’ve had worse.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Knight_(Monty_Python)

Example 3: There is a similar line from Romeo and Juliet, after Mercutio and Tybalt duel. Mercutio says, “Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch. Marry, ’tis enough. Where is my page?—Go, villain, fetch a surgeon.” Ironically, Mercutio is not engaging in minimization, as he promptly asks for a doctor. He has recognized the seriousness of his injury. But, by calling it “a scratch”, he uses irony to convey his message which perhaps causes others to minimize the seriousness of his wound, because they assume that he’s joking.


Self-Talk: Where Cognitive Distortion Begins

Part of the reason we begin engaging in this type of thinking is because we let our self-talk get out of control. Self-talk is that inner voice we all have. But sometimes it can become negative and damage our ability to self-manage. We let our inner voice create our outer reality.


Strategies for Self-Regulation

The course discussed a few strategies for self-regulation.

  1. Take control of your self-talk. Recognize when you’re doing it and when it’s getting out of control.
  2. Focus on your freedoms, not your limitations. Getting stuck on your limitations is demoralizing and can conjure negative feelings. Focus on remaining flexible and open.
  3. Find something to learn from everyone you encounter. This can be hard, but try to do it even after encountering people you find irritating, annoying, or critical of you. Perhaps you will learn patience from those people. Try to find something to gain from every encounter.
  4. Stop and think. Take a moment to stop and think before responding. Hard to do in the moment! Try to think about how you can learn from the situation.
  5. Focus on a purpose. I strongly recommend this Coursera course on learning to live a life of purpose: Finding Purpose and Meaning In Life: Living for What Matters Most. I wrote two posts about my experience with this course. Read Part One and Part Two.
  6. Talk less and listen more. Listening doesn’t mean agreeing, but it does mean making an effort to understand. This effort will demonstrate empathy and make for a better relationship.
Journaling

Another strategy is to try journaling. Journaling can help you become more aware of your thoughts and help you catch destructive or counterproductive self-talk. You can write about concerns, accomplishments, disappointments, interactions with other people, and positive and negative incidents in your life.

Greater Good Magazine has several articles on journaling for gratitude, to avoid rumination, and to help get through hard times. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/search?q=journaling


Summary

  • This post began with a brief introduction to self-regulation as a key component of emotional and social intelligence, or ESI.
  • I introduced cognitive distortion which is a way our mind can convince us of things that aren’t true.
  • A few examples of cognitive distortion include polarized thinking, overgeneralization, labeling, jumping to conclusions, personalization and blame, and magnification and minimization.
  • Pop culture examples of magnification and minimization show that cognitive distortions can be very common and widespread. No one should feel unique if they find that they’ve been thinking this way. (Don’t label, overgeneralize, or personalize!)
  • I explained that cognitive distortion can begin with negative self-talk — that is, we let our inner voice become negative.
  • Finally, I gave a few strategies for self-regulation, to help get back on track.

Self-Reflection: As I mentioned at the top, when I learned about cognitive distortion, I recognized some of this type of thinking in myself. Although it’s better to avoid this type of thinking, it was a comfort to have a name for it. And the pop culture examples helped me see it’s so common we can joke about it. I hope this post is helpful for someone else.

I plan to continue learning more about cognitive distortions. I’ve included a few additional resources below with more information.

Learn More About Cognitive Distortions

Web

There are more cognitive distortions than the ones I included. Find out more about cognitive distortions here: https://www.healthline.com/health/cognitive-distortions

Book

David Burn’s Book “Feeing Good: The New Mood Therapy” (New York: William Morrow & Company, 1980, Signet, 1981), is apparently a seminal book on the topic. More information about this book can be found on the author’s website, feelinggood.com.

Purpose

Web: As I linked to above, Greater Good Magazine has many helpful articles which can help with self-regulation. Find them at greatergood.berkeley.edu.

Course: I took a great course that explained purpose and how to live a life with purpose. It is offered by the University of Michigan on Coursera. Finding Purpose and Meaning In Life: Living for What Matters Most. I highly recommend this course. Greater Good Magazine also has a course on finding happiness in life, though I have yet to sign up.


Cover image: Photo by Elina Krima from Pexels

The #1 Lesson in Constructive Communication

When I signed up for the course, Basic Skills in Constructive Communication, I have to admit that I was initially judgmental about what I thought the quality of the course would be. A few things I noticed about this course made it seem different from the many courses I’ve taken online.

It was from a university I had never heard of and didn’t know the reputation. Also the instructor had a strong accent and sometimes chose strange words to convey his points. I questioned whether this class would provide high-quality information.

Despite my initial impressions, I eventually did come to appreciate the lessons as having high-value when it comes to improving my ability to verbally communicate.


#1 Communication Advice: Ask Clarifying Questions

To distill this course down to a single lesson, it would be this: ask clarifying questions. You will not get better advice when it comes to verbal communication.

The reason why this is such good advice is because we have a tendency to misunderstand and miscommunicate. There can be a substantial gap in understanding between what we think we’ve heard another person say and what they actually meant for us to understand.

Sources of Misunderstanding

Here are four reasons why we might misunderstand:

1. Presumption

Assuming we know what someone else means to say before they’ve finished their message. This may result in interrupting or trying to finish their sentence, because we think we know what they’re going to say. Not only could our assumptions be wrong, but the other person doesn’t get to finish their statement.

2. Move Too Quickly to Judgment

Making a judgement on someone’s statement before we’ve fully understood what they mean. We don’t like what they’re saying and want to argue against it. Instead of listening to the meaning of their message, we start thinking about how we’re going to respond.

3. Rejection Based on Communication Style

We discount a person’s opinion because they’re expressing their opinion in a style that we wouldn’t choose for ourselves. Maybe they have an accent(!?), or they chose words we would not have selected.

4. Ego Stops Us from Listening

We simply believe our opinion is more important than theirs. We don’t listen because we think we don’t need to listen. Our opinion is already right, so what’s the point. A decision will be made, without even letting another person speak.


The Damage of Presumption, Judgment, Style, and Ego

There can be a few problems when we don’t listen or take the time to clear up potential misunderstandings. Imagine how a decision maker could miss out on potential opportunities or make poor decisions in the following scenarios:

  • Cutting someone off before they’re done speaking, because we assume we know what another person means.
  • Discounting a good idea because didn’t like how someone said it.
  • Making decisions without gathering enough information, because we haven’t given others an opportunity to speak.

For example, I initially judged the course based on style. If I had let my judgement prevail, I would’ve missed out on very good information.

In addition, miscommunication can be seen as rude and lead to interpersonal conflict. A conversation can easily become derailed, as the communicator responds to the response, rather than the substance of the conversation.


Asking Clarifying Questions is a Sign of Emotional and Social Intelligence

When we ask clarifying questions, we get away from our assumptions and our ego. We listen to what another person has to say. We take their message for what it is and we try to understand. Only after we’ve fully understood, do we decide how we want to respond based on our own values and judgements.

You may think that asking someone to explain themselves could be seen as annoying. However, making an effort to show that you’re interested in understanding another person’s point of view, whether you agree with it or not, can deepen relationships and is a sign of emotional and social intelligence.


Types of Clarifying Questions

It just requires a little imagination to come up with clarifying questions. These are a few questions I’ve found useful:

  • I’m not sure I fully understand what you mean by ____. Can you explain a little more?
  • I’m not sure I fully understand what you mean by ____. Could you describe an example of what you mean?
  • Thank you for sharing that feedback. I want to fully understand you, but I’m not exactly sure I do. Can you elaborate a little bit?
  • Thanks for that question. Just so I’m clear, when you said ____, did you mean ABC or XYZ?

This is not a comprehensive list, just some examples. As you can see, I try to emphasize that my intention in asking the question is to understand their meaning further. This generally leads to a very positive response.


Summary

In a conversation, it’s easy to misunderstand another person’s message.

If there’s any doubt in the meaning of another person’s message, ask a clarifying question.

Presumption, premature judgement, style, and ego are four reasons why we might miscommunicate, intentionally or not.

Clarifying questions will not only help to clear up any misunderstandings, but the effort alone can help deepen relationship. It is also a sign of emotional and social intelligence.

In my experience, asking questions that emphasize your intent to understand are the best framework to use.

Event: NYPL Financial Planning Demonstration

Overview and notes from a financial planning demonstration, provided by the business center at the NY Public Library.

Introduction

I recently attended the online seminar, Financial Planning Demonstration, which was presented by the NY Public Library, Thomas Yoseloff Business Center.

The webinar covered a lot of great information and much of what I jotted down seemed quick and easy to remember. I thought it was really helpful, so hopefully others will learn something.

Here’s what I have to share:

  • Overview: A bit about the presentation and the speaker
  • Presentation Notes: Presented in Q&A style
  • Final Takeaways: The speaker’s wrap-up and final thoughts

Then I’ll share a few of my own concluding thoughts and where to find more events.


I. Overview

Event Name

Financial Planning Demonstration (Eventbrite)

Webinar Description

You have probably heard about “Financial Planning”, but do you know exactly what is involved in the process? Learn how the financial planning process can be used to quantify your resources and how you can then best use those resources to reach your financial goals.If you have been curious about what, exactly, a financial plan is and how it can be used to navigate turbulent markets, then, this is a webinar you will not want to miss.

Presenter

Charles Failla, CFP®

Chuck understands the importance of working as a Fiduciary and uses those standards to oversee the financial planning and investment management work done at Sovereign Financial. As a Board Certified Financial Planning™ practitioner, Chuck understands that shepherding a client’s financial and retirement plan requires more than simply “picking investments”. In addition to working with clients, Chuck is a regular speaker and commentator on financial topics and has been featured in Forbes, The New York Daily News, Reuters, CBS Market Watch and numerous other media outlets. Chuck is also committed to the financial planning community and advancing the cause of financial literacy. To that end, he currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Financial Planning Association of Connecticut as the Chairperson of their Pro Bono / Public Outreach Committee.


II. Q & A Notes

What is financial planning?

Determining how much money is needed, and when it is needed.

Why do financial planning?

2 reasons:

  1. Avoid Sequence of Return risk
  2. Helps you optimize investments conservatively vs aggressively

What is Sequence of Return?

This impacts people in retirement, but not people while they’re saving in retirement.

Sequence risk is the danger that the timing of withdrawals from a retirement account will have a negative impact on the overall rate of return available to the investor. This can have a significant impact on a retiree who depends on the income from a lifetime of investing and is no longer contributing new capital that could offset losses. Sequence risk is also called sequence-of-returns risk.

Investopedia, Sequence Risk, Nov 2020: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/sequence-risk.asp

The short answer is running out of money in retirement. Apparently, a lot of people have never heard of this before. (I understood the concept, but this was my first time hearing this term and the first time it had been demonstrated so clearly.)

What is Long-Term Care Insurance?

A long-term care insurance policy helps cover the costs of that care when you have a chronic medical condition, a disability or a disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease.

NerdWallet, Long-Term Care Insurance Explained, May 2019, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/long-term-care-insurance/

Doesn’t recommend for someone who is: a.) Very wealthy or b.) Already pretty sick.

How do I optimize my investments?

This image shows a computer screen, with bar charts that increase from left to right.
Split money into buckets, based on when you need it.

Split money into buckets, based on when you need it. For instance, think of how much money will you need in:

  • 1-5 years
  • 5-10 years
  • 10+ years

This gives more control and helps protect money from risk.

When should you rebalance a portfolio?

  • It could be on a regular schedule: quarterly, annually, etc.
  • Setting and forgetting is a mistake!

How do you use buckets to protect your portfolio from sequence risk?

You want money you will need in 1-5 years to be the most secure. Money that’s needed 10+ can be treated more aggressively. Aggressive portfolios will always provide the most returns, but they also have the greatest risk.

Here’s a breakdown of how to think about the buckets in relation to portfolio types, based on when you need the money:

  • Conservative portfolio: 1-5 years
  • Moderate portfolio: 5-10 years
  • Aggressive portfolio: 10+ years

Ex: Money that’s needed in 1-5 years would be in the conservative portfolio. It won’t grow as much, but it won’t lose as much. Money that’s not needed until 10 years from now can be put in the aggressive portfolio.

What’s a good site to find a planner?

plannersearch.org

If I’m looking for a financial planner, what should I look for?

  • Talk to 2-3 advisors
  • Get to know their fees
  • Know their bias

Bias: A good planner will sign a fiduciary agreement, meaning they are required to treat your money as their own. If you work with a bank, which tries to sign you up with one of their products, they might have bias and not be willing to sign this agreement.

What does “cash” mean on a portfolio statement?

Generally cash is saved/safe. It’s in that conservative bucket. Rate of return is lower. Could be in a CD, a structured CD, money market, etc.

Is there a difference between money management and financial planning? Could the same person do both?

The answer to both is Yes! A financial planner helps create the structure. A money manager directs the money, helps select the products, etc.

It’s possible to find someone who’s able to do both, which could be cheaper than getting 2 people. Often it’s the money manager who does not do financial planning, vs the other way around.


III. Final Takeaways

The purpose is to emphasize that taking a look at finances can lead to small changes, that can have big impacts later.
Small tweaks can lead to big changes.

Small Tweaks → Big Changes

Small tweaks to your plans could lead to big changes. These changes could be, for instance:

  • Choosing to retire later: Instead of 60, retire at 64
  • Downsizing: Selling a large house for something smaller can lead to more money available to reinvest
  • Living on less money: Reducing the amount of money you expect to need per year; instead of $130,000, go to $100,000

Other Planning Tips

Selecting a Planner: You don’t need to know everything before choosing a financial planner. But, when they’re explaining things, you should feel comfortable that you know everything. Know enough, to know what to ask.

Bias: Make sure you find a CFP who will sign a fiduciary agreement. The worst stories come from people whose planner had bias.

Buckets: Use the buckets to protect money in the future. People who start off with the exact same amount of money in retirement can run it down too soon, if their money isn’t protect from unexpected losses.

Rebalancing: Setting and forgetting your portfolio is a mistake because markets change. If you don’t adjust, or rebalance, your portfolio from time to time, changes in the market could mean not protecting your investments or missing opportunities to get good stocks at low prices.


Conclusion

So, those are all of the notes I had to share! Hope they were helpful.

To recap: I shared an event overview, my Q&A notes of the presentation, and the speaker’s final wrap-up comments.

My thoughts: As I mentioned at the beginning, I thought it was a very informative webinar. For instance, I hadn’t heard of long-term care insurance, so that was good to know.

Additional events: There are more webinars related to money management and finance on the NYPL website. You can also subscribe to their email list, and they’ll send announcements of upcoming webinars or other resources.