The Investment Coach

Attention business owners, professionals, key executives, breadwinners, spouses. Google the word “control,” and thought-provoking synonyms pop up: power, authority, command, dominance, jurisdiction, mastery, leadership, rule, supremacy, ascendancy, management, direction, supervision, etc.

Control means many things to different people under varying circumstances. Control can be positive or negative depending on the context.

Control issues often cloud human relationships, whether in a couple, marital, parental, family setting; a business or professional setting; a volunteer or community situation. Some people like control while many resent being controlled. Therein lies the rub.

WSJ.MAGAZINE, March 2018, interviewed six luminaries on the subject of “control.” Some of the ruminations have profound implications for financial life planning. Musician Moby opined, “The story of human history is one long effort to exert control over everything, from food to temperature all the way down to our genome.”

We see it in children as they test parental authority while seeking little measures of independence. Good money habits start early. Overindulging children’s wishes and demands raises the question, “Who’s in control?”

Actress, dancer, and singer Rita Moreno detailed her 46-year marriage to a “very controlling” but now deceased husband. She loved him and recognized that “in his perception, he was helping.”

Now 86, she said, “Woman of my generation were brought up to believe that they needed to be taken care of, that they needed a guardian.”

With far more women working outside the home than in past generations, and with growing numbers of women as primary breadwinners, money relationships are changing. Moreno admitted that friction with her spouse started when she “wanted to do some ‘growing up.’”

Married to a controlling husband, my mother used the term “mad money,” funds handy for impulse purchases, minor items, or emergencies. The term originated with the idea that a woman on a date needed “bail out” funds so she could reach home if her escort was quarrelsome, a bore, jerk, or more. Everyone should have funds he or she controls as a sign of respect, if nothing else. Call it a “freedom fund,” a “not ask your spouse” fund.

Chef and entrepreneur Michael Schwartz said he had to learn the art of “surrendering control.” We see that frequently in business and professional settings. Uniquely talented and innovative people often have trouble delegating responsibility and building teams.

Recently in India, I saw an elaborate puppet show, as the sole artist behind the curtain manipulated a number of characters at once. If you are trying to build an enterprise with growing and ultimately transferrable value, you must master the art of team building. A “puppet show” gratifies the puppeteer but does not foster independent and value-growing thinking.

As he was advancing Schwartz noted, “Chefs were not very good at mentoring and nurturing. They just did everything themselves.” It isn’t just chefs. It’s managers at all level of business. It’s closely-held business owners. Tight control and supervision may work for awhile in an early stages of an enterprise or effort, but as it grows, trouble arises. In “surrendering control,” Schwartz “had to learn to direct people in ways that convey my intentions and expectations, especially as we continue to open more restaurants.”

The oldest baby boomers turn 72 this year. Across the business spectrum we will have a wave of retiring executives, leaders, business owners. If the enterprise is to continue to prosper it should not be overly “owner dependent” or “key executive dependent.”

That’s especially true in the case of a buy out, merger, or sale. The new owner or operator wants to see a dynamic and cohesive team that will continue to deliver and grow enterprise value.

Of all the businesses offered for sale each year, roughly 80 percent fail to sell. That’s startling and sad as you realize that someone failed to harvest the value of his or her potentially life’s work!

Chef Schwartz said, “The sooner you resist the urge to control everything, the better you become at delegating and mentoring and creating better employees.” The millennials do not want a boss. They want a mentor and a coach. Per Gallup, the key is “engagement.” You want engaged employees, a strengths-based culture, if you are to grow an enterprise.

The 5Ds—death, disability, divorce, distress, disagreement—are major factors in loss of control and forced transfer of assets. If you control things excessively, what happens to those impacted, including loved ones, heirs, business associates, stakeholders? One or more of the 5Ds is absolute certainty at some point. What’s your “transition plan?”

Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial planning and investment strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603. Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA which is otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. Lewis is a Certified Exit Planning Advisor® (CEPA) and a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

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