Monday, August 27, 2007

Fence and fund

I've been AWOL for too many days, spending time on my fence and a fund. The former's a 340-foot, permit-grade, fill-the-pool-by-Friday-or-else monster. With help from my friend Nievas -- whoever thinks Hispanics lack work ethic deserves a long dip in a deep trench -- we erected the first 300 feet. The latter's a work-in-progress, more-to-report-soon early-stage investment fund. Great model and partners, and I think it's going to fly (fast).

Fences and funds can suck the blog out of you. In my belated writer's remorse and ching-ching of my Visa, I'm reminded of a tip I garnered from my first stockbroker. It went something like this: Invest in companies you know and from who you buy. Makes sense, but it was too logical/obvious at the time. It's a concept that's so succinct and valuable it's swept aside.

Digging deeper (not the pool or fence posts, but the idea), it's even more sensible. If you invest (your time, your money, your sweat) in something you know, you're a step ahead. You have a good idea about what a customer wants, what they're willing to pay, how the competition stacks up, and what sells (and what doesn't). Here's a simple exercise: Look around your life (tangible and intangible stuff) and think about what you own. Dig deeper ... take a look at your credit card statement to recap what you buy. Lots of food and fluff and staples, and some nice-to-have luxuries.

I drive a Toyota; my wife shuttles a Volvo. We employ Fidelity and Lazard to manage our money, First Horizon for our mortgage. We buy groceries from Trade Joe's, books from Amazon, teledata from AT&T. We bank at Wells, eat take-out three or more nights a week, and engage architects and house cleaners and contractors and gardeners and pool builders and accountants to keep our lives in order and enjoyable. We drink Coors Light, Diet Coke and Gatorade, live and die by our Macs, eat Lara and Luna bars, listen to iPods, and communicate with iPhones.

How and why do we decide? And, more interestingly, what can we learn from our purchasing and consumption habits to start and finance and back new companies, or to invest in established enterprises? Lots. An investment portfolio composed of companies you know and support (i.e., spend money on) is sage. So too is a vocation invested in what you know and enjoy; you commence with a head start, and it's a lot easier to navigate tough times where you believe in what you're doing and selling. Sounds a lot simpler and painless than building a fence.

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