An Advisor’s Bookshelf: Reading Your Way To Business Innovation

Lessons From Great Books Are The Foundation For Successful Advisory Practices
Howard Morin, Co-Founder and Partner, Helium Advisors
Howard Morin, Co-Founder and Partner, Helium Advisors

In the renowned investment classic “One Up on Wall Street,” legendary Fidelity fund manager Peter Lynch articulates a valuable perspective: “As I look back on it now, it’s obvious that studying history and philosophy was much better preparation for the stock market than, say, studying statistics.”

Reflecting on my own voracious reading habits, I can identify numerous books over the years that have significantly influenced the development of my business and, by extension, my personal life. These books offer insights that extend beyond entertainment, providing practical applications that could prove beneficial for professionals in the wealth management industry.

Here are some takeaways from books that have shaped my approach to managing people, helped me navigate my career and enabled me to construct successful businesses.

Lessons Learned From Brilliant Minds

You can never be too prepared. In “One Up on Wall Street,” Lynch advocates for combining inspiration with preparation, a principle I embraced after reading his iconic book on investing during high school. Lynch emphasizes the importance of retail investors “investing in what they know” to uncover undervalued companies. However, he also underscores the necessity of traditional investment research, including studying company balance sheets. This fundamental concept of thorough preparation guides my approach in various endeavors, be it starting companies or selecting team members.

Perseverance is more important than perfection.

Perseverance is more important than perfection. The significance of persistence surpasses the pursuit of perfection – this notion resonated with me after reading Edmund Morris’ in-depth portrayal of Theodore Roosevelt’s life in “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.” Roosevelt’s early years were marked by extraordinary resilience in the face of chronic illness, including asthma. Determined to overcome these challenges, he committed himself to remaining fit via exercise and outdoor activities, ultimately shaping himself into a robust adult.

Although my childhood wasn’t any more challenging than your average kid, I did have to navigate numerous aspects of my life independently and simply “figure things out.” Roosevelt serves as a testament that individuals can excel despite perceived imperfections or challenging beginnings. The essential lesson is to continue progressing and persevering, emphasizing grit, determination and forward progress.

Hard work and flexibility win the day. In “Grant,” Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant, the author provides a comprehensive exploration of the Union general and former president, unraveling the multifaceted aspects of his character while shedding light on the intricacies that shaped his legacy. While some attribute the Union Army’s success to being better provisioned and larger in size, Chernow emphasizes that Grant’s triumphs resulted from exceptional administrative skills, such as troop and supply movements and adept negotiation with Washington.

Grant’s strategic brilliance manifested notably at Appomattox during the Confederacy’s surrender negotiations. The biography underscores the significance of this administrative work as a linchpin that differentiated failure from success. Grant’s life imparts valuable lessons, emphasizing that strokes of genius often rest on the foundation of seemingly mundane tasks.

Success often hinges on seemingly tedious tasks.

When my team encounters administrative challenges like expense logging or information technology issues, we recall that success often hinges on these seemingly tedious tasks. This underscores the importance of meticulous attention to detail when making significant decisions, whether launching a business or engaging in M&A transactions.

A blueprint for growth.Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World” has significantly shaped my business perspective by chronicling the remarkable evolution of the investment banking firm from its 1869 founding, growing from a single proprietorship to a global enterprise with more than 40,000 employees today.

Serving as an invaluable blueprint for business growth, the book expounds on Goldman’s strategic approach – employing measurable processes involving headcount, capital infusion and strategic acquisitions. This approach offers transferable insights applicable to various industries, including the financial advice industry. In planning our latest launch and future expansion, my partners and I extensively refer back to this book, reinforcing our strong belief in the efficacy of well-defined processes in business endeavors.

The value of systems. I’ve garnered valuable insights from the writings and business methodologies of Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates. In 2011, I was able to get my hands on an early version of “Principles: Life and Work” that was circulating on the internet and it was very influential for me. The book was officially published years later and centers on the concept of creating systems for various aspects of life, management, economics and investing. A “system of systems” was a mind-blowing concept for me.

At Bridgewater, crucial management practices involved “hiring, developing, retaining, sorting and getting the most out of people based on merit and outcomes, and by doing so, creating a team that is greater than the sum of its parts.” Embracing the significance of systems, our team applies these principles to Helium, recognizing that effective business operations require well-defined systems, meticulous execution and clear communication with team members.

Never Stop Improving Through Learning

Reading has profoundly influenced both my personal and professional life, offering valuable lessons and inspiration from brilliant minds. For those of us in the financial advice industry, prioritizing clients’ needs is paramount, oftentimes extending to matters beyond finances such as assistance in personal, legal and business matters. Providing what we call “extraordinary advice” requires confidence, flexibility and a broad understanding of human nature when counseling clients on important matters that lie outside of the realm of investments.

The lessons gleaned from the pages of history and biographies are not just stories.

I advocate for continuous learning through reading about diverse histories, people and corporations to enrich my perspectives and, in turn, to offer more insightful counsel to my clients and team at Helium Advisors. The lessons gleaned from the pages of history and biographies are not just stories – they are the foundations upon which we can build more informed, empathetic and successful advisory practices.

Howard Morin is a Co-Founder and Partner at Helium Advisors, an integrated wealth management firm that combines wealth and tax services.

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