Joe Duran

Duran Duranblog

Joe Duran

Sep 12, 2014, 1:56 PM EST

The big squeeze: End of the golden era

By Joe Duran

For most of our professional lives, independent advisers have been able to build their businesses by competing against scattered local competition from brokers working at one of the big brokerage firms and the other independent advisers in their neighborhood. In essence, the competition is really a collection of relatively small folks all offering somewhat similar services for similar pricing. When all the animals in the jungle are a similar size, and there's lots of food, everyone does OK. We have seen threats before: Remember when accounting firms, law firms and banks were all going to take away our business in the '90s? But those threats petered out and we have continued to thrive. And while technology and products have certainly evolved over the past few decades, it's been business as usual for most of us.END OF EASY PICKINGSI very strongly believe that five years from now we will look back at the past 25 years (1990-2015) as the... Read full post

Aug 29, 2014, 2:02 PM EST

It's OK to be lazy

By Joe Duran

Labor Day is as good a time as any to reflect on the way we work and whether we feel good about our work/life balance. Our country, like few in the world, is imbued with a culture of respect for hard work. We applaud the folks who slave through the summer and put in long hours at the grind. That mindset was shaped early in our history, when physical labor built the U.S. into the world's engine. Whether it was farming, mining or industrial production, for most of our country's development, the harder you worked, the more productive you were. It's a pretty straightforward linear relationship with physical labor: the more hours you work, the more productive you are in a day. WORKING IN THE 'BRAIN ECONOMY'The challenge is that most of our workforce today has shifted from physical labor to mental labor. We live in the “brain economy” and that work does not translate in the same linear way that physical labor does. That means... Read full post

Aug 11, 2014, 2:45 PM EST

6 books that changed Joe Duran's life

By Joe Duran

As we approach the final languid days of summer I thought I'd share some of the books that helped open my eyes, gave me hope and changed my life for the better. I've listed them in the order I read them and how they shaped my perspective on the world and my approach to entrepreneurship.On the power of potential“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho and “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach. Both speak to how anything is possible with hard work and by having high standards for yourself. I recall reading “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” at a very bleak time in my life. I was an awkward pre-teen living in Zimbabwe, with a very tough family life in a war ravaged country. I was a mediocre student and had little hope of anything good in my future.”The Alchemist” came a little later, but reinforced the power of potential and good actions. These books sparked a hope that has driven me ever since.... Read full post

Jul 24, 2014, 3:05 PM EST

How to deal with 'rotten apple' employees

By Joe Duran

People issues are invariably the hardest part of running a company. Great people build energy within a company and propel it to great heights. Bad people can spread their bad habits and infect the good folks. Typically, people are hired for their resumes, but fired for their attitudes. When is an attitude so destructive to your business that you must act?We know the types of folks who sap the energy from a business: the person who's always looking out for their own interests, asking for more money at every opportunity. How about the person who puts everyone and everything down? Or the person you are afraid to ask what they did all day because you know you won't like the answer? Sometimes even people with great skills turn out to be an energy drain and distraction for you and your company.A few years ago, while at a disruptive company forum at Hamburger University in Illinois, I participated in a session with a brilliant marketer and... Read full post

Jul 8, 2014, 3:22 PM EST

Adviser lessons from Dr. Dre: Long-term greedy vs. short-term greedy

By Joe Duran

Even if you aren't a fan of his music, how can you not be impressed by Andre “Dr. Dre” Young, the intrepid rapper and impresario who helped build and sell the headphone and music streaming service Beats Electronics to Apple Inc. recently? The company he and Jimmy Iovine had founded in 2006 has made billions.We all have clients who have saved carefully throughout their lives, but no doubt those who have accumulated real wealth did so by either owning a successful business or having equity in a larger successful enterprise. Unless you are born into it, there is only one legal way to get rich in America: You have to own equity in a growing enterprise that compounds over time and can be monetized. You have to be patient and take a long-term perspective. How many of us apply that logic to our own business and our choices?The large brokerage firms are in an arms war to have advisers join them with ever- escalating signing bonuses.... Read full post

Jun 12, 2014, 11:47 AM EST

Forget fines, regulators want public scoldings

By Joe Duran

The world has changed in many ways, but the inflow of former brokers into adviser roles and the shift in perspective for our nation's regulators are two things you'd best not ignore. Fines for bad actions are yesterday's news; today, sanctions come with acknowledgment of guilt and potential for personal liability and loss.String 'em up highFor most of our careers, regulators have coerced large financial settlements from institutions that behaved badly; however, there is clearly a shift in the directive for all of these oversight groups. From the Department of Justice to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the top cops are not just correcting bad behavior but setting public examples of bad actors.Recently, Credit Suisse AG had the pleasure of not just paying over $2 billion in fines for assisting U.S. citizens in avoiding taxes, but also had to acknowledge guilt in its role. In the past, the... Read full post

May 23, 2014, 1:25 PM EST

Time is money: Quantifying the value of working hours

By Joe Duran

It's not a regulation, but it's no less inviolate a rule: your income will be completely dependent on where you and your team spend your 1,920 work hours a year. In a service business, time really is money. The allocation of work time is the engine of your productivity. We developed 'the law of 1,920' a decade ago to understand what differentiates exceptional entrepreneurs who build better businesses. If you were to work 48 weeks a year, and 40 hours a week, you would amass 1,920 hours per year. Why is this so important? Because it's an amazing tool to help you measure and improve your productivity.The rule of 1,920 simply stated as a formula is: annual revenue = hourly work value X 1,920.For those who need a refresher on algebra, to figure out what your time is worth per hour, just divide your target annual income by 1,920. Let's imagine you would like to make $1 million per year. Divide one million by 1,920, and that means you must... Read full post

May 7, 2014, 11:06 AM EST

Attack of the robo-advisers: Man versus machine

By Joe Duran

Countless books and movies have been written about the point at which computers shift from being our friend to becoming the enemy. For financial advisers, the battle lines are being drawn right now.Over the course of our careers, computers have helped elevate the services we provide to clients and have driven down costs, but something new is happening right now. Private equity firms have been pouring tens of millions of dollars into robo-advisers that have been gathering momentum. There have been several funding announcements in the past few weeks alone. These are computer-powered solutions where the adviser is being replaced by an easy-to-use machine. We are at an important intersection, like the one faced by travel agents in the '90s with the rise of smart technology (Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz).RISE OF THE MACHINESComputer as adviser started with Financial Engines (an appropriately named firm if ever there was one) and has... Read full post

Apr 24, 2014, 12:48 PM EST

4 reasons you keep losing your best employees

By Joe Duran

At some point, we have all experienced that sinking feeling when a valued employee walks in to let us know that they are leaving the firm. After the shock come the questions, the finger-pointing and the blame. Working in a service business means understanding that the value of your business is entirely dependent on the people you count on to deliver that service. As our firms grow, leaders of advisory firms become more dependent on other people to maintain the standards that they have always believed in and delivered. High employee turnover is brutal for a service business.We have almost 50 offices around the country, about 400 employees. We have partner managing directors in each office, each with their own unique way of managing people. Every year we have our employees complete a 27-question anonymous survey to get a sense of how we are doing. We also perform confidential exit interviews with every employee who leaves us. That gives... Read full post

Apr 4, 2014, 2:40 PM EST

How Lewis' "Flash Boys" will impact the financial advisory industry

By Joe Duran

There are good books that make you think differently about the world, and occasionally great books that really make you question the underpinnings of what you think reality is. I believe the new Michael Lewis book, “Flash Boys,” falls into the latter camp. The new book might be Mr. Lewis' most audacious, scary and infuriating work. For me, it might be his most impactful. I read the book cover to cover on a recent transcontinental flight. At times it felt like I was reading George Orwell's “1984”; at others it felt uncomfortably like I was reading a hidden report about the Watergate scandal. It gave me knots in my stomach. This is an important work that will create debates and re-open the barely healed wounds of the public's trust in the world's capital markets and its participants.I have been thinking about the implications and lessons that this carefully documented account of high-frequency trading — and... Read full post

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