What money can’t buy, and what to do about it
- December 1, 2023: Vol. 10, Number 11

What money can’t buy, and what to do about it

by Geoffrey Dohrmann

The most common complaint I hear from private wealth advisers and the people at their firms responsible for investment program selection is that they constantly feel overwhelmed by the demands on their time. This is true even for those blessed with large staffs — although for most of you, you also feel plagued with a lack of suffi­cient staff resources. Many of you effectively are one-person shows. And some of you have no staff at all, running the whole shooting match by yourself.

By the way, I totally understand how you feel. No matter how our staff has grown over time, I have always felt like my job would be easier if I only had more time. And I have always felt that if I only had more staff, I would have more time.

The problem is, the more staff I acquired, the more bogged down I became in managing those people and the less time I had left over to focus on developing and implementing business strategy (which, after all, is my real job here at Insti­tutional Real Estate, Inc.). Maybe you can relate to that, particularly if you are managing a lot of people these days.

Regardless of whether you’re managing a department or are a one-person show, the buck still stops with you. Your future depends on the quality and consistency of the investment performance you deliver for your clients. And no matter who you are, you still have the same number of hours available in any 24-hour period. Is it any wonder you might be feeling like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day?

Years ago, management guru Peter Drucker wrote extensively about how critical it was for executives to recognize the difference between “doing things right” and “doing the right thing.” When you stop and examine what you are doing on a daily basis, for instance, you most likely will discover that a lot of what you are doing isn’t really contrib­uting to your or your clients’ bottom lines.

Take one simple area, for example: client reporting. Instead of focusing on reporting on everything that’s going on in your clients’ portfolios, you and your firm might want to stop, take a step back, and ask yourself, “What decisions actually are available to me and my clients that will have an impact on the performance of my recommendations (and their portfolios?)”

If you do ask these questions, you most likely will realize that the kinds and num­ber of decisions that actually are available to you and your clients are quite limited.

Let’s face it: You, your firm and your clients have collectively delegated most of the daily decisions that will affect those clients’ portfolio performance.

Once you have grasped that fact, you may also come to the realization that you are spending way too much time focusing on things you and your clients can’t really control. You also may discover that if you stop focusing on those things and start focusing solely on the things you and your clients can control, your job will become a great deal simpler — and your power (and available time) actually will start to increase. You then might want to ask yourself, “What information do my firm and I really need in order to make the decisions that are ours and ours alone to make? And what information do my clients really need in order to make the decisions that they and only they can make?

If you go through the process of answering those questions, you almost certainly will recognize many if not most of the things you have been reporting on don’t contribute much to the perfor­mance of your clients’ portfolios.

Reporting, of course, is just one example of how your time (and your clients’ time) can be wasted. But spending so much of your time focusing on such non-impactful things and activities undoubtedly has been eating up a great deal of your most limited but also most precious resource: your time.

It always has been puzzling to me when I hear that an adviser or the senior executives they rely upon for investment program selection and monitoring don’t have enough time to break away from their daily routine in order to connect with their peers once in a while to explore and think about the most important strategic issues facing them in advising their clients’ about the structure and management of their portfolios. Isn’t that the one of the most important things you all could be doing at any given time?

Perhaps, as Peter Drucker suggested, the reason so many of us feel that we don’t have enough time in our day is because we’re spending far too much time trying to do things right, instead of focusing on spending most of our time doing the right things. Of course, no matter how or where you’re spending your time, it’s still important to be careful. It’s important to be very, very careful. It’s a wacky world out there.


Geoffrey Dohrmann is president and CEO, publisher and editor-in-chief of Institutional Real Estate Inc., parent company to Real Assets Adviser.

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